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Questioning authority or raising concerns can be the litmus test to see if your pastor is spiritually abusive or not.
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Oh boy, is this a biggie. I was really moved when this topic come up because this is such a common one, yet as you can read in Chris’ comment below, the end result can be absolutely devastating:
Hope nobody here minds if I have a quick vent for my own personal benefit.
Woken up with a huge sense of the injustice of it all.
Have given 27 years of my life and my family’s life to this church. Have loved and been loved. Trusted. Followed. Endorsed. Helped. Supported. Facilitated. Led the worship, led services, led music group. Taught (always asking Pastor if what I had brought was ok – after every session), Helped church become a charitable trust, served as chairman of trustees. Inner circle material!
I don’t think there’s a malicious bone in my body – if I have any failings it is my tendency to be overly loyal. (Hence, I suppose, my position as chairman – others on trust board are all fiercely loyal co-dependents) My one fault was raising concerns with the Pastor privately last January.
And now I am not only forced out of the church through systematic manipulation and fear, but my name is spoken against not only by my Pastor but by my closest friends, whom he has poisoned with his manipulative lies. I have no community and am now shunned. I’ve never spoken a word of any difficulties to my friends – and yet they refuse to talk to me.
It’s not fair! It’s not right! It’s not just!
There. Rant over. Quite mild really.
Time to forgive again.
Thanks for listening. I’m ok now ………
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Those of us who have been shunned know the heartache and pain. How can those people, who once were so close, abandon you based on someone else’s lies and manipulation. How can someone have so much power over others that they cause a whole church to completely shun? How can someone have so much power that they don’t even check to see if there is any truth to what the pastor is saying?
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Why do we share our questions and concerns? What is our motivation?
Raymond went to his pastor because he saw a potential legal problem with the sewer system at his church (Raymond’s field of expertise). That questioning eventually cost him his marriage because his wife was employed at the church and believed the pastor over her husband. We tried ask about the firing of our friend, we asked about the repetitious sermons that were driving me crazy, we discussed that we weren’t hearing/seeing grace, we mentioned that people were shriveling up spiritually. Why did we do that? Because we cared about the Body of Christ. Why did Chris go to his pastor? Because of concerns, because of care, because of his love for his church family.
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All of us who questioned authority or shared concerns seemed to have one common motivator: love for the Body of Christ. And yet, what was the end result? Spiritual Abuse
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We became the victims of emotional pain, broken relationships (some that will remain broken forever), some of us experience spiritual crisis, apathy, never go to church again, etc.
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But what really happened when we asked those questions or shared the concerns? What did it say to the pastor?
I think it said any of the following:
- Who are you to question my God-given authority?
- God placed me as your spiritual authority. If you are questioning me, you are questioning God.
- Don’t touch God’s anointed.
- Why are you lacking respect for those God has placed in authority over you, one who cares for your soul?
- You doubt me and my giftedness?
I’m sure we can add more to this list. But if we look at Scripture, we will find that this pastor has put himself in a position of authority that was never his to begin with. No pastor has the right to rule over someone else and use a position of authority to control others.
The person who questions authority represents a real threat to the system the pastor has created for himself. Most likely, Chris represented someone who identified a flaw that his pastor had not seen, identified, or chosen not to deal with. If that flaw became public, then the image of the pastor of having it all together is also flawed.
So, what do abusive pastors do with that perceived threat? They remove it. They squelch it by spiritually abusing, removing someone from ministerial positions, spreading lies about the questioner, and the worse case is probably shunning. But they must get rid of the threat or their image and reputation will be tarnished. The pastor will lose some of his perceived authority when people see those flaws. It’s all about pride, arrogance, self-assumed position of authority.
And now the lingering question to ask is: where do we go from here? How do we do this again when we gave so much of ourselves at our former churches? Our concern was for the church and look where it got us! Can we risk again?
I think this is where so many of us get stuck. Now that we know what has happened, how it happened, what next? How do we use this new information? How do we make sure this doesn’t happen again? How can we protect ourselves and our family? When will all of these negative feelings end?
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