When Your Religious Leader Falls Off the Pedestal

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Cindy Kunsman responds to fallen spiritual leaders and spiritual abuse after the Doug Phillips scandal.

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Note from Julie Anne:  This article, by Cindy Kunsman was originally posted at her blog,  Under Much Grace, and she has given me permission to post it here.  Cindy has an encyclopedia of information at her blog on spiritual abuse she has studied and observed in the Homeschool Movement subcultures.  She has greatly benefited the Spiritual Abuse Survivor community and I’m so thankful for her work in this area.  ~JA

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Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 10.59.13 PMMost people walk away from high demand religion on their own because some event or series of them bursts the bubble of wonder that such systems create. A vital part of that process for me involved “gradually waking up” to see the very negative side of my pastor – the side that I denied through most of the time that we were in contact. I was moved to write this after reading about Peter Bradrick’s experience who seems to have had a more abrupt awakening and a much longer indoctrination period during a more impressionable time in his life.

In my mid-twenties, my husband and I relocated to a new state, and we soon found new friends and people who seemed to us like family. In fact, the pastor heard a “word from the Lord” when he first fell into the role after a church split, telling him to treat congregants “like family.” (This was not true of everyone, but it became true with me – up until very near the end of my four-year experience at the church.) One of the things that I grew to love about this man was his genuine interest in people and an ability to appreciate them, even if he didn’t identify with them. He was gentle and compassionate, though I didn’t even really think of him as charismatic, save that he had a father-like appeal for me. Before he started pastoring full-time, well before retirement age, he shared the same profession as my own father and was the same age. Oddly, his daughter and I were both nurses and also were the same age.

Soon after we started attending the church and without any social contacts after moving to a completely new place, I would often stop in at the church to help with whatever happened to be going on there on days off from my job. To prepare for babies that I waited to come (that never did), I only ever committed to work on an ultra part-time basis – a minimum of two shifts per month. This gave me much time off, more weekends off to get involved at church, and I could work full-time hours if we needed extra money. This way, we wouldn’t get dependent on the money I brought in, and I could easily transition into parenting.

I’d fallen in love with the church so much, and lacking any social contacts at that point, I often went over there to offer help with the different things that were going on there. I also would pop on Mondays quite frequently because I would stop in to ask the pastor about things that didn’t make sense in Sunday’s sermon. (That’s another aspect of my experience, for these discussions became cognitive dissonance sessions.) Within five months of joining, I was asked to become the fill-in secretary, a position shared by the pastor’s wife and her sister. I loved it, and it helped me build relationships with many people at the church. I ended up working as many as ten days per month and at least one day per week for well over two years.

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During this time, of course, I enjoyed many long conversations with the pastor, and I developed what, for me, became a close friendship. I trusted him on a personal level, and I loved feeling special through that.

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Many times, I heard him speak about other people very kindly. Once, we mentioned New Jersey, and he talked about someone from there that he’d met in the Army during the Korean War. I was struck at how he admired things about this man who most people would normally not even notice, decades later. He was very attentive to people, and I loved this about him. In the middle of the “good” period at this church, I considered him among my closest and truest friends, a list of honor that was not that long. I felt so loved – something I believe was true even after I left that church. I strongly denied anything seriously negative about him throughout the first three of my four years there as a member, but during that last year, my good opinion of him gradually deteriorated until I saw a part of him that I could barely believe.

The Star Chamber

Near the end of year three, my husband and I noticed that the youth program seemed a little unstable. The guy who used to coordinate things must have had a change in his job and was around much less frequently. We were a little concerned about a couple of kids that we interacted with through the music program, and my husband decided to write a letter to the elders about what he observed. We were not at all interested in offering to take over, but we did offer to help do anything that we could. My husband taught at a local seminary, and he offered to do some teaching with them, if this was needed. He wrote a letter, believing that this was more respectful of the time of all of the elders, a few of whom we knew little, save to greet. My husband was then summoned to an elder’s meeting one evening in April, right about the start of our fourth year at the church. He walked through the door of our kitchen after the meeting and said, “We have to get out of that church.”

They tried to accuse him of questioning leadership’s wisdom in a session that he dubbed “the star chamber.” He also said his experience giving expert testimony on the stand in court when grilled by attorneys made their interrogation seem laughable, but he then said that he imagined that the average person would have found the experience pretty horrible. (I thought that he looked shocked enough that it had to have been horrible for him, just because he had no idea that his letter could have elicited such a response.)

Sadly, I found this really hard to believe. We had only been married for almost six years at that point, and I was young and much more idealistic then. My husband did have some history of getting intimidated if not angry in these kinds of challenges, and he was young then, too. I had to make sense of things in my own mind, and I assumed that he had just misinterpreted something and saw the meeting as adversarial. I was head over heels in confirmation bias, wanting and needing for the leadership of that church to be honorable.

Looking back on it after things when sour, I am ashamed and disappointed in myself that I wanted so much to believe that the church was good that I was more willing to doubt my husband’s experience. But this was an early moment of awakening for me, and I didn’t want to face it. I fought it with all that I had in me. (My husband and I would eventually put a date on the calendar, and if things had not turned around with the leaders, we agreed together to leave. I’m glad that my husband lovingly and graciously gave me that time to accept things as the were, not as I wanted them to be.)

I went on an extended fast after that, and things seemed to get immediately odd on almost every level. (I think that it had more to do with my desire to see the truth than with the fast, in hindsight.) I started to learn that the elders’ wives were instructing women in the church to endure physical abuse. I learned of two women who suffered this, and at least one of these husbands was permitted to remain in a prominent role in the church. I’m really not big on church discipline at all, but if a man is beating his wife, this is definitely something that should draw his work within the church into question. It’s a felony, for heaven’s sakes, and it was never reported to police because the “church handled it.” (???) Then, I learned that wives were blamed if their husbands fell into sexual sin – and I’d already heard a little of the weird teachings at a woman’s meeting about giving a husband enough sex. The wives were blamed for their husbands’ infidelity, all while nothing seemed to change for these abusive men. How is it that the pastor, my friend, could tolerate such things? Maybe he didn’t know about them, but I couldn’t make sense of that idea, either. He had to know. The pastor had to know.

During that last year, I filled in as secretary much less frequently, but I found that things had changed. They took on a full-time assistant pastor, and because there was so much more activity there, I learned little things that disturbed me. One Monday morning, I arrived early, and the phone started to ring and ring. It was a friend of mine who was desperate to talk to the pastor but would not talk to me. He finally arrived, and I gave him the messages she’d left for him to call her. Before noon, she called a couple more times. When the pastor went to lunch, I asked if it was appropriate to ask what was going on, because I was upset that she was in so much distress. Was there something I could do? The pastor told me where he was going and when he’d be back, and then said that this woman’s husband had locked her in the basement, but that she was fine. He said it rather glibly, so I could only assume that this was something that had happened since I saw her at church the previous day. She had access to a telephone, so I could only assume that she was calling to get emotional support after the fact but was in a great deal of distress.

Long story short, I would eventually learn in a month or so that this woman was calling from the basement of her home while actively confined where she access to a phone. She was confined at the time of the call, and she was instructed not to call the police to report her husband! She called the pastor for help, and his best advice was to “wait it out” (while her three boys fended for themselves upstairs). Her husband was dealing with her in the best way that he saw fit, so the pastor didn’t want to interfere. (???!!!) I was so shocked at the time that I didn’t even know what to say to this woman. I later told her that I would have been there with the police and an axe if I’d had any knowledge that she’d been pushed down the basement stairs and locked there. If I had any doubts before this point, I could no longer deny them.

Not more than a few weeks later, the pastor called me on the phone at home and talked to me for a little over half an hour. He told me that the elders were thinking of “splitting the church” to form a new one because of the growth we’d had recently. (I’m not even sure why he phoned me that day.) When I mentioned this in public with the pastor and another elder, the pastor denied that he’d talked to me about this. He gaslighted me!

In the meanwhile, I had written a letter to the pastor about unreasonable “directives” that the elders gave to us a few months earlier concerning my first service music team. (I’d also voiced a complain therein about the switch of red grape juice for communion to white so that no one would stain the carpet. I found this to be rather serious, and I framed it as a pattern of control with the music issue as another example.)

I then was called into the pastors office, about two months before we walked away, to experience my own star chamber session with the pastor and two elders. At that meeting, the pastor was angrier than I could have ever dreamed, for it was said that I’d challenged the authority of the elders, a grave and serious matter. The pastor, seated at his desk, kept pressing his palms down on either side of the blotter, and he kept slowly leaning on his hands as he pushed them forward, over and over. By then, I think that I’d started “detaching” from him, but I was still profoundly shocked at his emotional display while trying to play “Mr. Nice Guy.” I’d done nothing wrong, and I’m not even sure what that meeting was supposed to accomplish. What they said was not true, so I didn’t let it phase me very much. I found their bravado quite telling, however. (I’m not so sure that they knew what they’d wanted to accomplish in that meeting.)

After I left the church, I heard more from friends who remained there that only confirmed what I’d learned, and this intensified my grief. It was clear that the pastor was the ring leader of the group, and I think that little went on in that church without his knowledge, approval, if not according to his instruction.

He had double standards. He treated certain people in different ways that showed both favoritism and disdain.

He took an active role in supporting a physically abusive and unfaithful husband, a role that he continued in family court concerning custody and divorce. He cursed my best friend when she and her husband left the church, weeping on the church steps, because they told the couple that God’s judgement would result in the demise of their children. They’d disobeyed the elders, so God would punish their whole family for going against their “covering.” This came out of the pastor’s own mouth. (My own cursing, the pronouncement of impending doom for exiting the “umbrella of protection” through submission to the church leadership, came from one of the elders.)

The comprehensive experience of this church was absolutely devastating for me, but the worst part of it for me also was the deep personal betrayal that I felt in my relationship with the pastor. It’s true that we were never given accurate information about the beliefs of the group, and we learned the unpleasant ones as a consequence of breaking the rules that enforced those beliefs. I had to cope with the shame and grief of even getting involved with such a group so deeply. Knowledge of doctrine was of no protection to us, for the problems were all related to the politics and socialization – so we were unsafe and unaware which was disturbing in and of itself. But perhaps nothing is as painful as the day that I learned about my friend whom my beloved pastor left locked in a basement. Then the gaslighting experience. And then came his display of anger. I fell from grace, and I could have well become a person that he abandoned, like my friend had been. I ignored the hints until I couldn’t anymore. The world that was once safe and the safe people in it were not anymore. I was vulnerable and had been for a long time. He betrayed the precious trust I vested in him.

For a few months, I had nightmares about him. They were disturbing enough that I don’t want to describe them here, but the dreams became a primary item of discussion in counseling that I sought for help. (Read more HERE.) On top of running into people from the church who might kiss me or curse me, depending on who was in earshot, I dreaded possibly seeing the pastor in public.

My whole faith seemed rattled, as I no longer seemed to be able to correctly discern anything. If I’d been so wrong about him and about the system and if he loved this system…. How could I know anything about anything or anyone? What would prevent this from happening to me again in the future? Why did God let this happen? Why did God let such a skilled man get away with these deceptions so well? How would I ever begin to trust a pastor again? How would I trust a church?

No one seemed to understand. (You can also read more about that in the previously mentioned link.)

Making Sense of the Betrayal

Most everyone has experienced aspects of this in their life, no matter who they are, but perhaps not as intensely. If we are optimistic people, especially if we are Christians, we are taught to give people the benefit of the doubt – particularly if they are an authority figure. It’s even worse when we consider that religious authorities are supposed to represent truth and that which is the most ethical. If they aren’t the best of people in our society, who then can we trust?

We also believe positive things about the people who have treated us well and those whom we like. The more we admire and respect them, the more likely we are to disbelieve negative information about them. Don’t fault yourself for this! It is an aspect of being human, and a very good one at that. When circumstances turn out well, those people whom we trust are deserving of the esteem we give them, this natural trait serves us quite well.

A few years ago, a very naïve, spiritually abused leader in homeschooling told me that he would have never believed that his life could have been so devastated by the way others in the movement had treated him if he had not experienced things himself. If someone else had told him that they had suffered what he had suffered at the hands of spiritual leaders, ministers, and other devoted Christians, he told me that he never would have believed it. He had to live it and feel the pain because his desire to believe that others were good and credible was so strong. This is called confirmation bias, explored at length in this post. It is an aspect of being human, and it is something that is helpful to us, particularly when it comes to having faith. Christians walk by faith, not by sight – probably the best example of how confirmation bias can help us. The problem comes in when we’ve been deceived, and that goodness in our character that helps us believe becomes a weapon that is used against us. Understanding this process helps us recover.

Hopefully, such betrayals in high demand religion will push us to ask more questions about whether the system facilitated the leader’s abuses. High demand systems are always built around the needs of the leader, one who usually manifests certain negative personality characteristics discussed in this recent post.

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75 comments on “When Your Religious Leader Falls Off the Pedestal

  1. Mark Twain defined faith as believing what you know isn’t true, and suitably adorned with mush, that is the prevailing religious view.

    The Bible view is that faith is believing what you know is true, so it is developed by putting everything to the test, as Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5. The word of God is gold refined seven times in a furnace on the earth, the proverb says. Walking by faith not by sight does not mean that we refuse to believe our eyes, and that we credulously believe what we’re told. Rather, we know that our sight can’t be trusted – as we may confirm by optical illusions and by the experience with the pastor described here – so we need the truth confirmed by God in various ways. We do have Jesus stating that if anyone wants to do God’s will, he will know whether Jesus is speaking from God or from himself, and this applies to other speakers than Jesus, including our own eyes and ears.

    So confirmation bias is nothing good, from a biblical viewpoint. It’s presumption and partiality, both harshly condemned in Scripture, and it leads inevitably to deception. We know from life that the more we’re supposed to rely on something, the more thoroughly and skeptically it needs to be tested. A bus is one thing; a space shuttle is another.

    The Bible gives no reason to trust religious authorities. Flipping through the gospels ought to make that clear, if running an eye over Jeremiah and Ezekiel doesn’t do it. If we do trust them, we’re blowing off the whole Bible, and that’s not Christian faith.

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  2. Cindy, thank you for writing clearly and powerfully about your experiences. If my daughter or son told me they were treated as shamefully, I’d be having a talk with that pastor. There would be no mistake by then end of the discussion about my condemnation of their tactics.

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  3. Thank you for this! Although my experience lasted less than two years, I am still dealing with the effects. Reading through this made me “rise up” inside. HOW DO WE STOP THIS????? When we KNOW that a pastor is capable of these things, how do we stop him??? I pray daily for the protection of the people still attending. I have heard first-hand from others who who have been abused by him. He has yet to actually break a law. So HOW DO WE STOP THESE GUYS?????

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  4. Disbelief. That was my initial overwhelming response when the darker side of my pastor was presented to me. How often I excused his behaviour. His apparent rudeness was merely cultural. His harsh words were biblical rebuke, rather than criticism. Not many other church leaders would be bold enough to speak in such a way so as to get us out of our comfort zone! His twisting of scripture was nothing of the sort, but simply a reflection of his difficulty with language as a dyslexic.

    The unveiling of the truth regarding this man was gradual and devastating.

    He was, after all, a man of profound love and fatherly care. I had benefited so much from his attention.

    Looking back, from a place no longer under his authority, I am astonished at what I let myself believe. The abuse was blatant and shocking. And yet for so long I simply could not (would not) see it. Why? It was almost certainly a residual from my insecure and dependent younger days. In my eyes, he was surely a man of God!

    This helps me understand the shunning process. Those who are left are deeply dependent and are therefore blind to the obvious. They are only doing what I once did. Such a perspective helps me to view them with compassion rather than condemnation.

    And it all highlights to me how easy it is to deceive and be deceived. And how we commit so readily to the things we simply want to believe, despite evidences to the contrary.

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  5. ” He cursed my best friend when she and her husband left the church, weeping on the church steps, because they told the couple that God’s judgement would result in the demise of their children. They’d disobeyed the elders, so God would punish their whole family for going against their “covering.”

    This happened to my friends several years ago but they were told that God would kill their children. What kind of a controlling jerk would do this to a couple? Yes them and us were into the covering crap also.

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  6. Here are a few scriptures our pastor used (with a few accompanying quotes) to leave us in no doubt of the precariousness of our standing before God if we left.

    Just as well the pedestal broke, or we might be believing them still ….

    Matt 25:45 He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.
    “If you don’t turn up to meetings you are spacing out on your brothers and sisters. And Jesus tells us that spacing out on your brothers and sisters is spacing out on Him. You are separating yourself from Christ”

    1 Cor 5:5 Hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
    ” All sin is equal and that although this verse is addressed to a man involved in sexual sin, it applies to all sin, including knowing the right thing to do and not doing it. Those who separate themselves from the security of the body of Christ fall prey to Satan and will be destroyed in their pride. When you know you are sinning, you don’t want to be with others. You don’t want to come to meetings. You are prey to Satan”

    Ex 12:22 And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.

    Josh 2:19 If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible.

    Acts 27: “Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, they cannot be saved.”

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  7. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11, “You come together not for the better but for the worse.” It’s good to examine the context. In the gospels we see a lot of coming together not for the better but for the worse, and this is all written for our instruction today, not to fill up space. You’re not “spacing out on your brothers and sisters” by not going if it’s worse than nothing. It can be worse than nothing for lots of reasons, such as passing by on the other side because you don’t want to miss a meeting.

    Where does the Bible say that all sin is equal? Flip through the pages, and you will find that there is sin unto death and not unto death; high handed and unintentional; swallowing camels and swallowing gnats. All the world knows better than this crap. Only Bible teachers and their deluded followers can be persuaded to tolerate such nonsense, just as George Orwell pointed out that some ideas are so ridiculous that only an intellectual can believe them. If everybody who commits some sin is supposed to be delivered up to Satan, then where will we find anyone left to do such delivering up?

    At the time of the Passover this instruction applied. Other times in Bible history it did not. Can they show us how their meetings fall into the category of that one night and not all the other times?

    Can they show us how Paul’s instruction in that shipwreck applies to staying in their assembly, and not maybe the instruction to depart given regarding Babylon?

    Such question-begging is so disgusting that the unrighteous world identifies it as dishonest and shameful; you can lokk it up among the logical fallacies on the internet. If they were of God, would that be that dishonest?

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  8. This was hard to read, as I see a lot of what happened to me.

    From the article-“My whole faith seemed rattled, as I no longer seemed to be able to correctly discern anything. If I’d been so wrong about him and about the system and if he loved this system…. How could I know anything about anything or anyone? What would prevent this from happening to me again in the future? Why did God let this happen? Why did God let such a skilled man get away with these deceptions so well? How would I ever begin to trust a pastor again? How would I trust a church?”

    This is exactly where I am at right now. I have come to realize that every male authority, spiritual or not, father, husband, pastor, has caused me pain. How do you continue to submit to authority when all it does is hurt?

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  9. Overwhelming. I learned a lot there. I wasn’t even aware of such a thing as “confirmation bias”. I will read that link as well.

    And I was most struck by,perhaps, something that may seem minor: ,i>”Knowledge of doctrine was of no protection to us, for the problems were all related to the politics and socialization”

    Yet Wisdom is proved right by her deeds..

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  10. It is good to see Cindy’s post here on your website.
    I have been helped so much by the information on “Under Much Grace”. It has been a year since we left the group (our former church).
    God has been faithful to me and my family. He has made us stronger in our faith and more sure of His unconditional love for us.
    What Satan intended for evil, God used for our good and His glory.
    He has placed people in our lives who understand what we have been through.
    There are many valuable resources listed on Cindy’s website, two that have been incredibly helpful to me, (besides all the information on her site) are: “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse”, and “Rooted in God’s Love”.

    “The Spirit of the Lord has made me, the breadth of the Almighty gives me life.”
    Job 33:4

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  11. Cindy, this was an excellent post! There are so many things to touch on. Confirmation bias is very interesting issue and I can see where I employed that myself. I see it employed in so much of evangelicalism. It is as if we don’t want to believe what we see. But I also thought later that it meant for me that I was focusing on man and not the Holy Spirit. It was a huge wake up call for me concerning my relationship with Christ.

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  12. “And I was most struck by,perhaps, something that may seem minor: ,i>”Knowledge of doctrine was of no protection to us, for the problems were all related to the politics and socialization”

    Greg, I don;’t see that as minor at all! It is a huge issue. Cindy has something on her site about this by Dr. Paul Martin:

    According to Paul Martin’s analysis, the 210 verses found in the Bible that refer to false prophets, priests, elders and Pharisees deal with the following:

    99 verses (47%) concern Behavior
    66 verses (31%) concern Fruit
    24 verses (12%) concern Motives
    21 verses (only 10%) concern Doctrine

    Only 10% of those verses concern doctrine

    http://undermuchgrace.blogspot.com/2012/01/considering-biblical-model-of-examining.html

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  13. I do want to point out that in some cases leaders remain very aloof from members so it is hard to get to know them well. They have their stage persona and everyone believes that is who they are but in reality, they don’t know them personally at all. I will never attend another church with an isolated, insulated celebrity pastor. In my experience working at megas these pastors employed had “walkers” which doubled as body guards but looked as if they were just close friends to the pastor. The celebrity walked through the church with them during weekend worship so when people stopped the celeb to talk, the “walker” could say, oh, we have to get to such and such. That way, the leader never looked as if he was blowing someone off. He had someone else do it for him. So the net effect was he looked like a very busy man who really wanted to spend more time with you but could not. It was all staged.

    So much of what people think is real is staged or totally fake.

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  14. “Why did God let this happen? Why did God let such a skilled man get away with these deceptions so well? How would I ever begin to trust a pastor again? How would I trust a church?”

    Lynette, I can relate to your comment. After many years of working through this (with a lot of help from Cindy!!!) I have changed my questions. I think God is asking us to take a deep look at why we let it happen to us. I think God is saying to us: Trust me! I believe in complete free will and a big part of my healing has come from taking responsbility for what happened and not blaming God. He was there all the time I just chose not to seek Him and listened to man instead.

    The above comment is for thinking adults only. I am not suggesting this fits with child abuse, being raised in legalism, etc. The child suffers because the adults in their life follow man or have disorders of their own. It goes back to free will and how our choices affect so many people for good or evil. For it to be anything else means God is the author of evil and if we even toy with that idea, we are lost in the muck and mire never to heal and see our loving Father with His arms open wide to us.

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  15. Shawn,

    In addition to featuring Julie Anne, that American Prospect article features a profile of a woman named Sarah Hunt. (Click on her name to read her profile). She grew up in a sister church to mine, about twenty minutes away. In fact, the pastor I reference in this piece once pastored her church before deciding to plant a another one where I met him years later.

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  16. Shawn, I had to crack up this morning when I saw your first comment and now this most recent one. I have a post in draft mode linking to both the Homeschool Apostates article, Swanson’s, AND your article 🙂

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  17. Lynette, you wrote:

    How do you continue to submit to authority when all it does is hurt?

    I learned about the process of spiritual abuse, I grieved and mourned. I started moving forward and healed as I went. The process was painful, and I remember thinking all the time that I had to find a way to speed things up so that I wouldn’t have to feel the pain so intensely. It was just something that I had to walk through and own, gleaning its lessons. For me, I didn’t have a problem submitting to authority. My discomfort involved figuring out who I could trust. That became a journey out of the dark with many different offshoot paths to meadows of different types of information and reflection. I also was forced to learn about how to manage anger in a healthy way, learning that this was a vital part of forgiveness. After the shock and pain of grieving came the anger. Forgiveness was a future destination that I had to work at, and sometimes I had to pray multiple times a day about it.

    In terms of trust, when we do invest our trust in someone, we put ourselves at risk. Sometimes we can discern warning signs that can tip us off, but the best of charismatic leaders are so good at deception and manipulation that we are never given any substantive clues. The best con men rip off their marks without them even knowing what happened to them. And because the deception happens over time incrementally, you start to lose perspective. If you were given informed consent about what you were agreeing to in the beginning of the relationship, you would have never signed up for it, and realizing the real dynamics of the relationship becomes more difficult once you’re more deeply involved.

    I gained a special appreciation for two key Scriptures through that process of healing. Matthew 10 became real on a number of levels, and were it not for this passage, I might still be a member at that church! I was taken before the counsel and examined, but God put His words in my mouth when my time came to speak. I’d been trained to be as innocent as a dove when trusting pastors, but I was never taught to be as wise as the serpent. (I classify the information about spiritual abuse as part of that wisdom.) And I found liberty in that passage to kick the dust off my feet.

    Though my confidence in Bible study suffered, I also found a great deal of liberty in Romans 14. “The kingdom of God is not meat or drink; but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” The only references that I could find in Scripture talked about the Pharisees and legalism.

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  18. Cindy – Thanks again, so much, for allowing your article to be shared here. The working through of the recovery process can be so challenging. I had to call a support person last night in tears. Some of this stuff just sucks. There aren’t nice words to say about it. Understanding the process is so helpful and having you here telling us there is hope is so important. Sometimes that dark hole of despair is very daunting.

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  19. As I have said MANY times before Cindy thanks for all you do and thanks for being there by phone and email for my family when we came out of all this stuff years ago. The information you provided and your willingness to just listen helped me in more ways than you will ever know! Thank God for people out there like you who are truly doing the work of Christ it makes dealing with all the wackos a little easier!

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  20. Having a listening ear from someone who understands spiritual abuse is so helpful!

    And that’s why what goes on here on the blog – – the interactions between people who have walked this road – – is so important. It is the Body of Christ working together.

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  21. Chris, you wrote:
    Looking back, from a place no longer under his authority, I am astonished at what I let myself believe. The abuse was blatant and shocking. And yet for so long I simply could not (would not) see it. Why? It was almost certainly a residual from my insecure and dependent younger days. In my eyes, he was surely a man of God!

    Every really good lie has just enough truth in it to make it seem very plausible and reasonable, and the process of sorting out the good from the bad is horribly difficult. It’s nearly impossible when you’re still a member of an abusive church. The shock, pain, and just plain aggravation is so daunting, and it’s easier just to think well of people. It’s work to think about, and it hurts. We don’t want to embrace bad ideas about people that we trusted and who once appeared to be good. It means that we were duped — and that makes us vulnerable.

    When you get out of the abusive process, sorting out the good from the bad is also a laborious process. While watching footage of survivors of Hurricane Katrina when they returned to their devastated homesteads, it occurred to me that this much like what we do in recovery. You have to sort through the rubble to decide what is now rubbish from the items that are redeemable and valuable to you. The oddest things tend to make it through the storm. There are good things that happen along with all of the bad experiences in a spiritually abusive group, and another part of recovery involves taking stock of the good and claiming the good for yourself again. Somewhere in that process, self-forgiveness becomes a theme, too.

    (Another theme I had to work on which I believe took a full decade involved forgiving God for letting the Pharisees remain in power. I didn’t understand this and don’t know that I do now, but I learned to find peace with it while growing deeper in trust in God’s provision as I healed. If I were in charge of these matters, I would have divested my old leaders because of all of the harm and collateral damage they created. But God’s ways are higher than mine, and we can all be glad about that.)

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  22. Thank you, everyone, for your words of encouragement. As I’ve said many times before, I’m just passing on to others what was shared with me.

    Still thinking about Chris’s comment, I’m reminded about something my exit counselor told me that people often said to her. It is bad enough when a person takes advantage of your weaknesses. You tend to expect that to happen in some sense, because experience prepares you for it, even if you’re in denial. In spiritual abuse, your weaknesses are exploited, but what I and others have found to be so disconcerting is the exploitation of one’s strengths and talents. By capitalizing on the pitfalls of human nature, spiritual abusers use your own goodness against you. I found this very hard to reckon.

    That again hits home with vulnerability. We don’t like to think of ourselves as that vulnerable, and if it happened this time, what’s to stop it from happening again? And that’s where learning about spiritual abuse comes in. Once you learn the dynamics, you will learn to spot the patterns. Learning about the pitfalls of human nature also helps tremendously, as does looking into the reason why you were willing to keep on believing in a person or a group or an ideology.

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  23. Shawn – You are definitely ahead of me with your blog post. I just need to put it all together for an article that is in my mind, but not typed. But I’m in the midst of busy choir season and between rehearsals and performances and mothering/laundry, yada yada, I can’t put the post together. 3 performances down, 5 to go!

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  24. Cindy K.

    THE ONLY AUTHORITY A CHRISTIAN SHOULD SUBMIT TO IS THE HOLY SPIRIT. Anyone who claims to be in authority over another Christian is a false teacher, and is lying.

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  25. I really, really like what An Attorney says at 9:09. It fits in with my conviction that all relationships between Christians are to be based on Love, never authority. Paul encourages us to submit to one another, but I contend that such submission is to be founded always and only on love of God, love of neighbors and love of one another–never on the basis of the supposed authority of the one to whom we voluntarily submit. To submit on the basis of supposed authority would enable sin, the sin of those who are violating Jesus’ instructions against lording it over others.

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  26. Attorney and Gary W,

    I believed this and still believe it. This was not so much a problem of doctrine but of conditioning through subtle rules. After the honeymoon phase of group membership, the vaguely communicated messages of fuzzy logic and unstated assumption enforces the idea over time that we must obey leaders as God’s representative. This rarely stated directly, particularly in the beginning of group involvement.

    I would also argue that submission is a choice of willingly yielding to one another. Paul tells us in Ephesians to submit to one another in love. What I was eventually asked to do was obey the demands of the church leadership. At one point when discussing the domestic abuse and adultery issue with my pastor’s wife, I was admonished to refrain from telling my husband anything about what other women in the church suffered under these circumstances. Obedience was asked of me without question on the basis of authority alone, not submission. Personal rights were deemed as sinful, and they were replaced by blind trust and obedience as dictated by the group. It was this kind of pressure that strengthened my resolve to leave.

    If you look at the embedded links in the post concerning cognitive dissonance, it describes Steve Hassan’s model in particular as a framework for understanding the concept. By establishing control over just one element of a person’s self, divided into thought, emotion, and behavior, the rest of the elements will be easily dominated because the dissonance created is so stressful. In other words, if my behavior can be controlled in a group setting, I’m very likely to just get overwhelmed and agree with the group. If I can be shamed, my behavior and my thoughts will follow suit. This is how ideas like submission subtly get past a person’s critical thought processes.

    It’s also true as well that a group and leader will state a formal principle and then do everything but follow that principle. The power of the group is generally enforced though the informal code of conduct — how the group really behaves — what is sometimes called the “hidden curriculum.” And like the Pharisees who quibbled over whether one swore by the gold of the temple or in the temple, a slick leader can generally explain away concerns when directly questioned (through a host of techniques).

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  27. Lynette

    You ask @ DECEMBER 12, 2013 @ 3:28 PM…
    “How do you continue to submit to authority when all it does is hurt?”

    I’ve been there. I know that pain. Tried “submitting” to Mere Humans. 😦
    Many Years. Many Tears. Lots of Pain. This submission stuff sucketh…

    I’ve been out of “Todays Abusive Religious System” since the early 90’s.

    I have seen the dangers of “Titles,” of “Pastors,” and of “Church Leaders.”
    Spiritual Abuse – for both the “leader” and those “being led.”
    IMO – The Title/Position “pastor/leader” is very, very dangerous for both.

    And, NOT one of His Disciples took the Title/Position, pastor/leader. Huh?
    And I still can NOT find the term “Church Leader” in my antiquated KJV.
    Or “Spiritual Authority.” Or “Church Authority.” Jesus is now my Authority.

    In my experience with pastor/leaders, having been ordained, in Leadership,
    No matter how loving… eventually…
    No matter how humble… eventually…
    No matter how much a servant… eventually…

    The pastor/leader will “Exercise Authority” like the Gentiles. 😦
    A No, No. Mark 10:42-43. KJV

    The pastor/leader will “Lord it over” God’s heritage. 😦
    A No, No. 1 Pet 5:1-5 KJV

    And that is always the beginning of “Spiritual Abuse.” 😦

    “Pastor/Leader” = exercise authority = lord it over = abuse = always

    So, in answer to your question…
    “How do you continue to submit to authority when all it does is hurt?”

    A little comic relief – For a very serious subject that took me years to believe.
    “How do you continue to submit to authority when all it does is hurt?”

    “STOP IT” – JUST STOP IT!!! Bob Newheart

    I’m now in agreement with An Attorney…

    THE ONLY AUTHORITY A CHRISTIAN SHOULD SUBMIT TO IS THE HOLY SPIRIT. Anyone who claims to be in authority over another Christian is a false teacher, and is lying.

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  28. That’s little too categorical. For instance it is written in Hebrewsthat we are to be in submission to our leaders. Our “leaders,” obviously, are those that are leading us to Christ, so we ought to note anybody that is following Jesus and follow that person, too, in that respect. As Paul wrote, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

    And Romans 13 says to be subject to every human institution in the fear of Christ. Clearly that doesn’t mean in contradiction to what he says in any way, on the contrary only so far as we have his leading. It’s impossible to obey human authority, especially religious authority, correctly except as we are first obeying the Holy Spirit, as you say. But our default position ought to be submissive, just as we would like others to be submissive to us unless there is some reason not to be.

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  29. As far as no titles, there are titles in the bible. IE teacher, apostle, etc. Unless you are coming from the doctrine of those positions only occurring in the early church? Anyway…thank you Cindy for your kind words and your advice. I’ve always been the ‘observer’ in the crowd. Much more of a watcher than a participant. I see a lot of things people don’t see right away, and often I have people come back and tell me ‘you were right’. One other thing I struggle with is how a few friends I have left from there know how I was treated, agree it was wrong and still attend that church.

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  30. “As far as no titles, there are titles in the bible. IE teacher, apostle, etc. Unless you are coming from the doctrine of those positions only occurring in the early church?”

    My belief is that teacher, apostle, overseer, etc. are not titles. Rather, they are job descriptions, like janitor, truck driver, ditch digger, engineer &c. Rather than use the word positions, it would be better to refer to jobs.

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  31. Cindy

    So much I can identify with in what you write. Sifting through the rubble to see what’s redeemable and what needs to go. So much work–yes, at times it does seem to be an exhausting business, but very important. I think it’s too easy to bury it all and pretend you’re starting out afresh. But revisiting, sifting and sorting is not, as some might suggest, holding on to the past or bearing grudges!

    And this: “In spiritual abuse, your weaknesses are exploited, but what I and others have found to be so disconcerting is the exploitation of one’s strengths and talents. By capitalizing on the pitfalls of human nature, spiritual abusers use your own goodness against you. I found this very hard to reckon.”

    How true! My pastor was banking on his assessment that I was a quiet, loyal individual who wouldn’t rock the boat even if he were to preach against me publicly (without mentioning me by name, but nevertheless making it obvious to all who was the intended recipient!) He removed me from positions of service and conducted a merciless campaign against me, all the while knowing it could go horribly wrong for him if I had dared to question him publicly. He played a coward’s game. One that he would not have attempted if I had a more outspoken personality.

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  32. @Gary- okay, ty for clarifying. That actually does make sense when you consider we are all parts of one body but have different ‘jobs’.

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  33. lynetteduquette71,

    Just as a bit of followup, I think it noteworthy that in 1 Cor. 12:4-6 Paul does not speak of titles associated with what we call the spiritual gifts. Rather, he speaks of service and activities:

    “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” (ESV)

    Likewise, in Rom. 12:6-8, it is clear that Paul’s emphasis is on doing and not on the tiles and/or authority of those to whom the gifts are given:

    “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (ESV)

    One of my frustrations during the 40 some years I participated in organized religion was that people with titles would crowd out everybody else, so that people without titles were not allowed to serve according to their God-given gifts, talents, training and experience.

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  34. Pingback: A pastor who told an imprisoned woman not to call the police | A Cry For Justice

  35. This is a terrible situation for a church to be in or should I say cult. Why would the woman who had been locked in the basement need the opinion of her pastor? Why didn’t she feel that she could just call the police? When you need that much approval from a man there is something seriously wrong. The flock was not being lead appropriately. This was a religion made by man, not a church. This pastor had no compassion for the members. He was evil.

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  36. Peter Attwood

    I think we’re pretty much on the same page
    But – some questions, some push back… 😉

    You write…
    “That’s little too categorical.”

    And “That’s” is in reference to what?
    And – What means this – “categorical?” What means this – “Too categorical?”

    You write…
    “it is written in Hebrews that we are to be in submission to our leaders.”

    In Hebrews; Who are “our leaders?” In His Ekklesia, His Church, His Body?
    Did any of His Disciples call them self leader? Call another Disciple Leader?
    How do WE, His Ekklesia, His sheep, His sons, know who are “our leaders?”
    What qualifies those who claim to be “our leaders?” To be “Our Leaders?”

    Haven’t you ever wondered? Why? In the Bible?
    NOT one of His Disciples called them self “Leader?”
    ALL of His Disciples called themselves “Servants.”

    Maybe, because, Jesus taught His Disciples NOT to be called Leader… 😉
    For you have “ONE” leader – the Christ. Mat 23:10 NASB

    Mat 23:10-12 NASB – New American Standard Bible.
    Do NOT be called leaders; for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ.
    But the greatest among you shall be your “Servant.”
    Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled;
    and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

    Could His Disciples have been following Jesus, as man?
    Who humbled Himself, made Himself of NO reputation,
    and took on the form of a “Servant.” Phil 2:7-8.

    If Jesus taught His Disciples NOT to be called Leaders?
    And someone calls themself leader? In opposition to Jesus?
    And allows others to call them Leader?

    Are they one of His Disciples?

    And, If they are NOT one of His Disciples?
    Do WE, His Sheep, have to submit to them?

    NOT any more – Thank you Jesus… 😉

    When you believe the lie you start to die…

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  37. Peter Attwood

    You write @ DECEMBER 13, 2013 @ 2:07 PM…
    “we ought to note anybody that is following Jesus and follow that person,”

    Naaahhh!!! I’m NO longer Trusting, or Following, Mere Fallible Humans. 😉
    I’m NOW learning how to Trust, and Follow, Jesus. The “ONE” Leader.
    And Jesus, The Word of God, kinda confirms that for me.

    Psalm 118:8-9 KJV
    It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
    It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.

    Jer 17:5 KJV
    Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man…

    Mat 24:4 KJV
    …Take heed that no man deceive you.

    Col 2:4 KJV
    And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.

    2 Pet 2:3 KJV
    And through covetousness shall they with feigned words
    make merchandise of you:

    Pro 29:25 KJV
    The fear of man bringeth a snare:
    but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.

    It was after I left “The Corrupt Religious System” of today,
    tore up my papers, and walked away from “Church Leadership,”
    I realized Isaiah, had prophesied about my “Leadership skills.”
    And the “Leadership skills” of todays “Church Leaders.” No really… 😉

    Isa 3:12 KJV
    …O my people, *they which lead thee* cause thee to err,
    and destroy the way of thy paths.

    Isa 9:16 KJV
    For *the leaders* of this people cause them to err;
    and they that are led of them are destroyed.

    Some legacy todays “Church Leaders” are creating for themselves… 🙂

    Why Follow – Mere Fallible Humans?

    When you can Follow – The “ONE Leader…

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

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  38. Amos Love,

    Have you noticed that in your absolute opposition to following humans you cite as authority such leaders as Paul the apostle, Solomon, David, and Jeremiah? And the words about leaders leading astray are certainly support for leaders being dangerous and having to be put to the test like everyone else, but other scriptures such as 1 Samuel 11 – not to mention those that followed David – do give us a time and place to follow leaders.

    But when Paul writes – you wnt to follow him in this? – “put all things to the test,” all things includes leaders of every sort. So if we fail to take that advice, let’s not be surprised when bad things happen. If your engine seizes up, you can’t blame Toyota if you didn’t put any oil in it.

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  39. As I said previously, emphatically:
    THE ONLY AUTHORITY A CHRISTIAN SHOULD SUBMIT TO IS THE HOLY SPIRIT. Anyone who claims to be in authority over another Christian is a false teacher, and is lying.
    That is not to say we should not listen to theologians, pastors, and other teachers, while consulting scripture and resources that help us to better understand scripture. But they are not in authority over us (though civil authorities are, btw). Rather, they and we are to be mutually submissive, they to us as much as we to them!!! That is why I say the only authority over a Christian is the Holy Spirit. Mutual submission does not imply that one has authority over another, to command obedience to them in matters of theology, church polity, etc.

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  40. Since Peter rightly said that leaders are not to lord it over anyone’s faith, and Jesus has a few unflattering words about the Nicolaitans, there’s no dispute about that. But Paul certainly asserted that he had authority as an apostle, which was not the authority to lord it over anyone’s faith.

    Maybe the best non-biblical treatment I’ve seen on the two kinds of authority is a movie called The Dead Poets Society. If you haven’t seen it do. But I don’t say this to boss you around!

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  41. Peter

    Thanks for your comments in response to my posts. Astonishing and tragic how the ‘unrighteous’ world is often more righteous than the church in it’s perspective on what amounts to appropriate authority.

    And that’s a subject I’m having to rethink. As you say, some Scriptures do give us a time and a place to follow leaders. And I have to assume that Paul’s ‘Shall I come to you with a whip?’ was not said out of narcissistic motives. It appears he did have a God – given authority to bring discipline in some situations. And yet it is the same Paul who warns us against ‘super-apostles’ and entreats us to test them. And what about all those Scriptures to which A. Amos Love refers us which warn against trusting in man.

    There is surely a place of balance between two extremes here?

    Much to think about!

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  42. Hi Peter

    You write @ DECEMBER 14, 2013 @ 3:49 PM…
    “Have you noticed that in your absolute opposition to following humans you cite as authority such leaders as Paul the apostle, Solomon, David, and Jeremiah?”

    Well, “Have you noticed that in your absolute opposition” to what I said…
    You mis-interpret, what I said… Oy Vey!!! 🙂

    “Naaahhh!!! I’m NO longer Trusting, or Following, Mere Fallible Humans. 😉
    I’m NOW learning how to Trust, and Follow, Jesus. The “ONE” Leader.”

    And – You name a bunch of “DEAD” guys. Kinda hard to Follow them. 😉

    And – I was quoting “God’s Words” ALL scripture is given for reproof…
    Most of the guys you named probably didn’t even know they were writing…
    SCRIPTURE … 😉

    NOPE. I’m NOT Following, DEAD guys, Paul, Solomon, David, Jeremiah.
    I’m “Learning” how to Trust, and Follow, Jesus, and, The Word of God.

    Any believer today, who calls themself a christian leader, can go take a hike.
    Can you name one of His Disciples, apostles, who called themself “Leader?”

    And, I can NOT find, in the Bible, Paul calling himself a leader…
    And, I can NOT find, in the Bible, anyone calling Paul a leader…

    Why do you? 😉

    Where, How, did you learn to do that?

    Mark 7:13 – Jesus warns WE, His Disciples, His Sheep, you and me…
    NLT – you “cancel” the word of God to hand down your own tradition.
    KJV – Making the word of God of “none effect” through your tradition…
    ASV – Making “void” the word of God by your tradition…
    NIV – Thus you “nullify” the word of God by your tradition…

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  43. Peter

    You write @ DECEMBER 14, 2013 @ 5:01 PM…
    “Since Peter rightly said that leaders are not to lord it over anyone’s faith”

    I think you’re referring to 1 Peter 5:1-5 KJV – Verse 3. 😉
    “3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, being examples to the flock.”
    But, Peter is talking about elders. Peter NEVER mentions leaders here.

    1 Peter 5:1-5 KJV
    1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder…
    2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof,
    not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
    3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, being examples to the flock.
    4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear,
    ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
    5* Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder.
    Yea, all of you *be subject one to another,*
    and be *clothed with humility:*
    for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

    Seems, Peter is NOT talking about leaders – Peter is talking about elders.
    Peter is NOT talking about “not to lord it over anyone’s FAITH”
    Peter is telling elders NOT “as being lords over God’s heritage.”
    God’s heritage? His Sheep, His Ekklesia, His Called Out Ones? You and me?

    Elders, in 1 Pet 5:3, are examples to God’s Flock.
    Elders are NOT to “Be Lords Over” God’s Sheep, God’s Church. You and Me.

    “being lords over” is Strongs #2634 katakurieuo. “control,” dominion over.
    4 times in KJV – exercise dominion over 1, overcome 1,
    be lord over 1, exercise lordship over 1.
    Thayers Greek Lexicon has “katakurieuo” as…
    1) to bring under one’s “power,” to subject one’s self, to subdue, master
    2) to hold in subjection, to be master of, exercise lordship over

    In my experience: Those who promote themselves as Christian and Leaders. Want you under “Their Power” and “Their Control.” And they take Titles/Positions, pastor/leader/reverend, NOT found in the Bible to maintain that “Power” and “Control.”

    And, How many pastor/leaders do you know who are willing…
    To submit one to another. And be clothed with humility. Verse 5.
    Humility – Dictionary – a modest or low view of one’s own importance.

    Ever meet a pastor/leader/reverend with “low view of one’s importance?”

    Peter – Now, I do NOT think Peter, in the Bible, ever mentions leaders…
    but, I cudda missed it.

    Can you tell me where, in the Bible, does Peter ever mention leaders?

    What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

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  44. A Amos Love:
    Every year this time I like to remember a couple of “leaders” following Hebrews 13:7.
    40 years ago they “led” me and some other students on some special Christmas caroling, followed by hot cocoa. He managed a Chrisitan bookstore near campus and she was a graduate student. 40 years later, he manages a Christian bookstore near a different campus. She’s a professor at a third campus, and active with Christians for Bibilical Equality. And at one time long ago, they gave me examples to follow. Leaders! But neither ever had the all-important title of pastor/reverend. 😦 😦

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  45. Dave A A seems to have answered the leader question pretty adequately. It is in the nature of shepherding that one leads.

    The difficulty is that we see things today as described in Ezekiel 34, which deserves careful study, just so we know what to expect and what to be on guard against. It’s pretty offensive to see things as they are, but it helps our faith a good deal when we see the Bible telling us that’s what to expect. Wouldn’t it be a real problem if things were not as it tells us?

    In Ezekiel 34, the remedy is not that shepherds should not exist. Rather, we need shepherds after God’s own heart. I suppose that what I have to do about that is to get equipped by God to recognize the real thing when I see it and honor such people appropriately, and to become this missing ingredient myself as much as possible.

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  46. I totally agree that anyone seeking to be an authority OVER other believers is a false teacher.

    Amen! Anyone who wants to be “over” people automatically outs himself as a false teacher because the attitude should be of a humble servant leader.

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  47. Hi Dave A A

    It’s been awhile – And – I always appreciate your style and analogies. 😉

    And I certainly like your idea about singing together and the Hot Cocoa.
    I think I would enjoy having a cup of Hot Cocoa with you. And talken bout Jesus. 😉

    I think the Jesus in me, would like the Jesus in you. 🙂

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  48. Peter Atwood – Dave A A

    1 – Peter – ” It is in the nature of shepherding that one leads.”
    2 – Dave – “they gave me examples to follow. Leaders!”

    Well – Where I’m at now, I would say it just a little different. 😉

    1 – Peter – ” It is in the nature of shepherding that one “Serves.”
    2 – Dave – “they gave me examples to follow. “Servants!”

    Didn’t Jesus, as man, model shepherding for WE, His Ekklesia, His Sheep?
    Jesus, as man, referred to Himself as “Servant,” one who “Serves” – a Lot… 😉

    John 13:15 KJV
    For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

    Luke 22:27 NASB
    who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who “Serves?”
    Is it not the one who reclines at the table?
    But I (Jesus) am among you as “the one who Serves.”

    Mat 20:24-28 NASB
    v 28 – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, “but to serve,”
    and to give His life a ransom for many.

    John 13:16 KJV
    Verily, verily, I say unto you, *The Servant* is NOT greater than his lord…

    Luke 12:37 KJV
    Blessed are those “Servants,” whom the lord
    when he cometh shall find watching…

    John 12:26
    If any man “Serve me,” let him “follow me;”
    and where I am, there shall also “my Servant be:”
    if any man “Serve me,” him will my Father honour.

    Jesus, as man, humbled Himself, made Himself of NO reputation,
    And took on the form of a “Servant.” Phil 2:7-8.

    And His Disciples NEVER referred to themselves as Leaders.
    ALL of His Disciples called themselves “Servants.”

    Jer 50:6
    “My people” hath been “lost sheep:”
    **their shepherds** have caused them to *go astray,*

    1 Pet 2:25
    For ye were as *sheep going astray;*
    BUT are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

    I’m Blest… I’ve returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul…

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

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  49. Thanks *Rev* Love! Chances are I’ll be in your neighborhood next year. If you’re in the city I seem to recall, you might actually know the gentleman I mentioned as a “leader”. That is, if you frequent Christian bookstores. For all I know, he may have fallen off his pedestal or gone off the rails since I knew him. But I can “remember” how he spoke the word of God to me — without preaching any sermon!

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  50. Julie Anne, This may not directly tie in to today’s topic but when I read this I thought it might encourage the women who’ve been beaten down or marginalized by men. It’s a daily devotional I get from Ransomed Heart Ministries:

    The Crown of Creation
    God sets his own image on the earth. He creates a being like himself. He creates a son. The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Gen. 2:7)

    It is nearing the end of the sixth day, the end of the Creator’s great labor, as Adam steps forth, the image of God, the triumph of his work. He alone is pronounced the son of God. Nothing in creation even comes close. Picture Michelangelo’s David. He is . . . magnificent. Truly, the masterpiece seems complete. And yet, the Master says that something is not good, not right. Something is missing . . . and that something is Eve.

    The Lord God cast a deep slumber on the human, and he slept, and He took one of his ribs and closed over the flesh where it had been, and the Lord God built the rib He had taken from the human into a woman and He brought her to the human. (Gen. 2:21-23 Alter)

    She is the crescendo, the final, astonishing work of God. Woman. In one last flourish creation comes to a finish not with Adam, but with Eve. She is the Master’s finishing touch. How we wish this were an illustrated book, and we could show you now some painting or sculpture that captures this, like the stunning Greek sculpture of the goddess Nike of Samothrace, the winged beauty, just alighting on the prow of a great ship, her beautiful form revealed through the thin veils that sweep around her. Eve is . . . breathtaking.

    Given the way creation unfolds, how it builds to ever higher and higher works of art, can there be any doubt that Eve is the crown of creation? Not an afterthought. Not a nice addition like an ornament on a tree. She is God’s final touch, his pièce de résistance. She fills a place in the world nothing and no one else can fill.

    This is from Captivating by John and Staci Eldridge. This doesn’t just cover Eve’s physical beauty but her mental and emotional capabilities. Women are God’s crown of creation in every way.

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  51. A Amos Love: Of course I was illustrating just one tiny verse– a “leaders/those who led/rulers/prelates” verse! Again it is written, “and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”
    And “He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.”
    Warning! Hireling alert! No wonder hirelings like to be “running” things! ‘Cause when the wolf appears, they be running!

    Like

  52. Dave A A
    “if you frequent Christian bookstores.”

    Yeah – I used to frequent Christian bookstores – a Lot. – Learned a lot. 🙂
    Most have gone out of business in my neck of the woods. 😦

    They were great places to “Fellowship with ALL Believers, meet new folks,
    and talk about Jesus.

    Kinda like here, and some other blogs, You can actually discuss, or dis-agree.

    NOT like “Today’s Abusive Religious Corporations” at all.
    Where WE, His Sheep, His Kings and Priests, His Disciples, His Ekklesia…
    Dare NOT ask questions that are to difficult for the Anointed ones. Our Authority…
    Or, Dis-agree with the self proclaimed “Church Leaders.”

    Because – “Church Discipline” will be on the way… 😉

    Your story, of 40 years ago, reminds me of me, and the journey I’ve been on…
    And the wonderful folks who were there to encourage and be an example…
    And – “Almost thou persuadest me” to again play follow the leader. 😉

    But – Most of my hero’s of the faith, those I’ve learned from and respected…
    “have fallen off his pedestal or gone off the rails”

    Lots of pain and discouragement and disappointment when you “Elevate”
    someone, a Mere Fallible Human to “pedestal” worthy.

    Seems man’s downfall has always been the three G’s – Glory – Gold – and – Gals.
    I have seen to many, starting out humble, succumb to the Power, Profit, Prestige, Glory, Honor, Reputation, Recognition – that comes with being known as…
    pastor – and Leader – and Reverend… 😦

    I think There is only “ONE” who can overcome that “Pedestal” and His name is…

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    Like

  53. Dave A A

    Like…
    “No wonder hirelings like to be “running” things!
    ‘Cause when the wolf appears, they be running!’

    Yes…
    “and the sheep FOLLOW HIM because they know HIS VOICE.”

    Like

  54. Peter Atwood – Dave A A

    I can find, many times, Jesus asking WE, His Sheep, His Disciples, His sons,
    To Follow Him, Jesus, The “ONE” Leader. And be “Led” by the Spirit. 🙂

    But – Hey – If WE, His Sheep, want to follow DEAD men – Be my guest. 😉
    If WE, His sons, want to follow Mere Fallible Humans, who cause WE to err?
    Who take the Title/Position, pastor/leader/reverend NOT in the Bible?
    WE, His Redeemed, His Kings and Priests, are free to follow others.

    But, Jesus said, If WE, His Ekklesia, His Church, Follow Him, Jesus…
    He, Jesus, will make WE, His sons, fishers of men. Yup – Jesus does it. 😉

    In the Gospels, the only one Jesus asked His Disciples to follow was himself.
    Except once – they were to follow a guy with a pitcher of water. 🙂

    Mt 4:19 …*Follow me,* and I will make you fishers of men.
    Mt 8:19 … I will *Follow thee* whithersoever thou goest.
    Mt 8:22 …*Follow me;* and let the dead bury their dead.
    Mt 9:9 … *Follow me.* And he arose, and *FOLLOWED him.*
    Mt 16:24 …let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and *Follow me.*
    Mt 19:21 …thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and *Follow me.*
    Mr 2:14 …Levi… *Follow me.* And he arose and *Followed him.*
    Mr 5:37 he suffered no man to *Follow him,* save Peter, James, and John…
    Mr 6:1 …came into his own country; and his disciples *Follow him.*
    Mr 8:34 Who will come after me, let him deny himself…and *Follow me.*
    Mr 10:21 …One thing thou lackest…take up the cross, and *Follow me.*
    Mr 14:13 …meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: Follow him.
    Luke 5:27 … Levi… said unto him, *Follow me.*
    Luke 9:23 And he said to them “ALL” If any man will COME AFTER ME,
    ……let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and Follow me.
    Luke 9:57 …Lord, I will *Follow thee* whithersoever thou goest.
    Luke 9:59 And he said unto another, *Follow me*…
    Luke 9:61 …Lord, I will *Follow thee;* let me first go bid them farewell…
    Luke 18:22 …distribute unto the poor… and come, *Follow me.*
    Luke 22:10 …bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house…
    John 1:43 …Jesus… findeth Philip, and saith unto him, *Follow me.*
    John 10:4 …and the sheep *Follow him:* for they know his voice.
    John 10:5 And *a stranger will they not Follow,* but will flee from him…
    John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they *Follow me:*
    John 12:26 If any man serve me, let him *Follow me*…
    John 13:36 …Whither I go, thou canst not *Follow me* now…
    John 13:37 Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I Follow thee now?…
    John 21:19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.
    ……. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, *Follow me.*
    John 21:22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come,
    …… what is that to thee? *Follow thou me.*

    Can you find, in the Bible? – “Lead” one another.? – “Follow” one another.?

    I can find – By love ”Serve” one another. Gal 5:13 😉

    John 12:26
    If any man serve me, let him *Follow ME*…

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    Like

  55. Does anyone have a comment to make about Paul’s view of himself as a man with authority (to build up rather than tear down, of course) and who therefore felt entitled to come to the Corinthians with a whip, should it have been necessary? Was he, in some sense, ‘over’ the Corinthians? Discipline implies authority. Good shepherds lead as servants and by example – but here is a man believing he has the right to bring correction, painfully if necessary, to a church he had invested in.

    There is no doubt that my own ex-pastor led, in the early days, by example and invested hours in serving members of the ‘flock’ (mixed motives aside.) Is it possible he felt that through that very service he had been placed in a position of responsibility for us, and therefore was constrained to bring discipline and rebuke if he felt it was needed?

    One certain thing in his case, however, is that what he might have perceived as Godly rebuke and discipline was, in fact, self serving, controlling, paranoid abuse.

    Like

  56. Chris

    Resonable questions and insights – You can answer this for your self.

    Think about Jesus. Read about how Jesus used Authority.
    The Women caught in adultery? Those with little faith? Money changers?
    Read more of what Paul said, and how Paul reacted…

    Read Jesus, over and over, and then again – How did Jesus use Authority?
    What He taught His Disciples about Exercising Authority like the Gentiles?
    Then read Paul. Read more of Paul. NOT just one verse.

    You questioned “shall I come unto you with a rod.”
    But, isn’t this part of a question Paul is asking those in Corinth…
    “What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love,
    and in the spirit of meekness?” – Or In Love? – Spirit of Meekness? And…
    This was about “fornacation” – “one should have his father’s wife.” 😦
    Annd – “It is reported *commonly* that there is fornication among you,”

    1 Cor 4:17 – 1 Cor 5:3
    17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son,
    and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance
    of *my ways which be in Christ,* as I teach every where in every church.
    18 Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.
    19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know,
    not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.
    20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
    21 What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love,
    and in the spirit of meekness?
    5:1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you,
    and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles,
    that one should have his father’s wife.
    2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, t
    hat he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.
    3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit,
    have judged already, as though I were present,
    concerning him that hath so done this deed,

    Does this sound like Paul wants to use a rod, a whip, when he comes?
    Seems Paul is rather kind – reported *commonly* …fornication among you.

    Here some other verses about Paul

    2 Tim 2:25
    *In meekness* instructing those that oppose themselves;
    if God peradventure will give them repentance
    to the acknowledging of the truth;

    Gal 6:1
    Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault,
    ye which are spiritual, *restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; *
    considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

    2Th 3:14-15
    And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man,
    and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
    Yet count him NOT as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

    2 Cor 10:1
    Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ,
    who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:

    Gal 5:22-23
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering,
    gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: a
    gainst such there is no law.

    Like

  57. I can find “reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching,” and that our leaders are those who have to give account for our souls. There’s no question that God appoints leaders for us, such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The question is not whether God appoints leaders, but what leadership consists of. It’s not lording it over people or their faith, as Jesus emphatically taught, but being examples to the flock. Leadership is enabling people to follow Christ by going there first yourself.

    Like

  58. Peter Attwood

    “There’s no question that God appoints leaders”

    NOPE – There are lot’s of questions – I will question – Got lots of questions. 😉
    Could – “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.”

    ALL be – “Servants?” 🙂

    “Leadership is enabling people to follow Christ by going there first yourself.”
    NOPE – “Leadership” is NOT mentioned i the Bible. But, I cudda missed that.

    Are you making that up? Leadership? 😉

    If “Leadership” is NOT in the Bible –
    Then anyone can interpret “leadership” in many different ways.

    Like pastors, calling themselves the “Leader” of the Leadership” Team”
    When NOT one of His Disciples called themselves pastor or leader… 😉

    Or – “” Every thing rises and falls on Leadership” – a popular lie for todays church.

    And – Do you consider yourself – A Leader?”

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say? – Everything rises and falls on

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    Like

  59. Chris,

    I think that your conclusion of Paul is common. However, I don’t see it the same way.

    Paul STARTED local church’s. It was NOT unusual for Paul to REVISIT those same churches that HE started. He was NOT a LEADER.

    Paul did not consider himself as a leader. He thought of himself as a NOBODY. It’s all about Jesus. And that was Paul’s point in 2 Corinthians 11-13.

    Ed

    Like

  60. Is there ever a place for believers to exercise any form of control or authority? I read that believers will ‘rule the nations with an iron rod’, presumably carrying out the wishes of Jesus Himself. Admittedly that’s nations, not the church.

    Is it appropriate for a pastor of a local church to bring order into the proceedings if the dynamics of a meeting get out of hand or if a persistently disruptive and contentious voice is present? Does such exercise of control go beyond ‘leading by example’? Is there a place for fathers / mothers not only leading their children by example, but if necessary correcting, even controlling them? As a teacher I must bring order into my classroom. Simply being a good example here doesn’t cut it.

    The rulers of this age lord it over others and require pre-eminence. This is clearly not how it should be in the church. And yet, Timothy is instructed to ‘rebuke with all authority’.

    I have too many questions and not enough adequate answers.

    Like

  61. Chris, In the END, Jesus is the King of kings, Lord of lords. In the END, we all sit on the Throne of God. WHO will we rule OVER? We are all the same rank. We are brethren. Do you see “Eternal Life” as you working FOR someone, who will have others WORKING for you? Who is going to tempt anyone to sin? Will there be lawbreakers in eternity?

    When you say that Timothy was instructed to “rebuke with all authority”, let’s break down the word “authority”. It’s not man’s authority. The Word of God is the ONLY Authority, so if Timothy is going to rebuke, he had better QUOTE the word of God when rebuking…not his own word…not his own opinion.

    And…was Timothy the Pastor of THAT church? Was he a MEMBER of THAT church? No…he was an OUTSIDER. A Christian that was NOT a member of THAT church. How would you like it if some outsider came to your church and bad mouthed the beliefs of YOUR church? Exactly. You wouldn’t.

    The Pastor of THAT church needed the rebuking himself that Timothy was giving. But, do pastors allow a rebuking of themselves, or do the pastors elevate themselves above the congregation. Generally, in “some” churches, the pastors think of their congregation as the little people, the peasants.

    If Paul and Timothy are rebuking churches, who do you think was teaching those churches before the rebuking? The preachers were feeding things to the congregation that will make you throw up, instead of digesting. The rebuke was for the so-called “leaders” as well as the congregation…but I would say, MORE FOR the so-called leaders, to not think of themselves as more than a human being.

    As I showed in 2 Corinthians 11-13, Paul thought of himself as a nobody, not a leader. The same goes with the pastor. He is not a leader, either. His job is to feed, and to serve, not to be served.

    Ed

    Like

  62. Leadersto Christ do think of themselves as nobodies – these are not incompatible. For instance, John the Forerunner led people to Jesus through his preaching, and his leadership consisted of decreasing while Jesus increases. Leadership is about decreasing, about working yourself out of a job.

    Someone who is exalting himself and becoming more important in people’s lives rather than less is more likely a usurper.

    To some degree I am a leader. When I do it right, people keep needing me less.

    Like

  63. You keep contrasting serving and leading, but the biblical thought is that it’s both are neither. Read the scriptures you keep quoting on the matter, and you’ll find it evident. “You call me Lord, and so I am” and then points out that he came to serve.

    It appears that like the world you’ve missed this point.

    Like

  64. Chapmaned24

    “When you say that Timothy was instructed to “rebuke with all authority”, let’s break down the word “authority”. It’s not man’s authority. The Word of God is the ONLY Authority, so if Timothy is going to rebuke, he had better QUOTE the word of God when rebuking…not his own word…not his own opinion.”

    Quoting the Word of God was part and parcel of my ex-pastor’s abuse. In his eyes it lent weight to his abusive treatment of me. Having the ‘authority of God’ behind it made it even more cruel and difficult, at first, to identify.

    I don’t think I’ve missed the point. I am simply trying to find a way to accommodate the exercise of discipline within the context of serving. As a Father I serve my children. They are not there for my benefit, I am there for theirs. Unless I am hideously mistaken, my children have, from time to time, required rules and boundaries, which entails the exercise of discipline. And yet I am very aware how easy it is to abuse that responsibility. Perhaps in writing this I am answering my own questions.

    I am not trying to push any particular view or agenda – just trying to readjust after living under an abusive system. It has left me feeling rather insecure and wondering what it is that I actually know for certain!

    Much appreciate your responses.

    Like

  65. Hey Chris,

    I really understand what you are saying…very much.

    I haven’t commented on this topic for quite a while on this blog, but I have commented on this topic before, to wit:

    I do not buy into the “organized religion” version of discipline. I do not believe in discipline, I believe in discipleship.

    Many wish to use Matthew 18 as a means of a discipline pattern, and I do not agree that Matthew 18 is about discipline. In a nutshell, this is the way that I see Matthew 18:

    First and foremost, it’s about forgiveness, not discipline.
    Second and most important, it is about personal sin that was committed upon YOU and you alone. You are accusing someone of sinning against YOU. You try to handle it between you and the person that you are accusing. Then, if that doesn’t work, you MUST bring “WITNESSES” (a minimum of 2 or 3). If you cannot come up with witnesses, then LEAVE IT ALONE…move on. But if the 2 or 3 cannot convince this person of repenting, then you take it to the church (Ecclesia). You do NOT take it to the leaders…not the pastor…not the elders…but you take it to the whole church body. If this person repents, FORGIVE. If the person does not repent, then the church makes a decision to kick the person out of the church.

    Third, and final…This is about “SIN”. What is sin? If someone is accusing you of the catch all “rebellion”, then it needs to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to ALL of the congregation, without the “YES MEN” involved. By YES MEN, I mean the Pastor/Elders. This is a whole congregation decision, based on facts, and a good knowledge of what sin is.

    There is no discipline. NONE. There is only two options. Forgive, or kick out. There is no reciting of “3 Hail Mary’s”, etc. There may be restitution involved, but is that a form of discipline?

    If you see a brother doing something that he shouldn’t, you help bring him back on track, and that is discipleship. Forgiveness is the #1 topic of Matthew 18…not discipline.

    Now, in regards to Paul and Timothy, they were NOT disciplining. They were preaching to the WHOLE church, not singling out anyone. In a nutshell, they were telling people that “Hey guys, this isn’t the good news that we preached to you…get back on track”. Yes, sometimes Paul was pretty forthright about it, but it wasn’t discipline. Paul’s job was to edify, which means to UPLIFT.

    I hear some religious nut cases oppose the “feel good” doctrines. Well, my goodness…UPLIFT feels good, does it not? If it doesn’t FEEL GOOD, then it’s not the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s gotta feel good. Feel good brings CHEER.

    In the Calvinism ranks, you are taught to always feel bad about yourself, calling yourself to chiefest sinner. Christ set us free from sin. But the leaders still want to sin, thinking that they are saved. Watch out for those…such as the title of this blog post. They have much more to account for than the average sinner saved by grace.

    Always be critical of the preacher/pastor/elder, and know when there is potential of being abused before it even takes root.

    Ed

    Like

  66. A dear lady in my church, who very recently went Home to Heaven, was a birthright Quaker. From her, I learned a lot about listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit which is in each one of us. Maybe her Quaker upbringing gave her a special insight into the danger of listening too much to other voices who seek to drown out that Inner Voice….In any case, this has been helpful to me. It reminds me that, whatever other people (including those in leadership) may say, that what God says must always come before what they say–and that includes the cherry-picked scriptures that such folks often throw at us.

    And then, there is this childhood lesson: The Holy Spirit is not “easy” on us when we need toughness–but His voice never, ever, makes us feel worthless, stupid, or anything negative. Instead, He encourages us. Always.

    🙂 Hope that helps someone.

    Like

  67. zooey111

    A Big Amen

    John 14:26
    But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost,
    whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things…

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be ALL taught of God.

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven he made thee to *hear His voice,*
    that *He might instruct thee:*

    Psalms 32:8
    I will instruct thee and teach thee
    in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.

    It does take a step of faith to believe and trust
    that Jesus “can speak to you” and **teach you** “ALL” truth.

    Like

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