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Spiritual Abuse: Is This Worth Dividing the Church Over?

Spiritual Abuse, Jonathan Hollingsworth

spiritual abuse, Jonathan hollingsworth

This is the sixth and final blog post referencing an article by Jonathan Hollingsworth, What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Been Hurt by the Church. The article resonated with a lot of people, so I thought it might be a good idea to discuss these unhelpful statements one by one here, and give people the opportunity to share their experiences.

Here are the previous articles highlighting Hollingsworth’s key statements/questions of what not to say to someone who has been hurt by spiritual abuse:

Here is the final question on what not to say to someone harmed by spiritual abuse, followed by Jonathan Hollingsworth explaining why it is not helpful:

“Is This Worth Dividing the Church Over?”

How it might affect the congregation should never be the deciding factor in whether or not to expose abuse.

This one especially hits home for me. When I escaped my abusive situation in Africa, my pastor wanted to sweep the whole ordeal under the rug. My silence, I was told, was for the greater good of the Gospel. It wasn’t a suggestion—it was an ultimatum. If I didn’t keep quiet, he warned, I would bring division to the entire congregation.

One of the most effective ways to silence a victim is to fill them with a false sense of guilt. The victim is led to believe that talking is only going to make things worse, and whatever happens as a result is their fault.

Certainly, exposing spiritual abuse can divide a congregation. But that’s not a consequence of the victim talking. It’s a consequence of the abuse perpetrated in the first place.

There’s one thing that’s even more important than knowing what not to say to someone who has been hurt by church. And that is to simply listen. Source


by Julie Anne

When someone exposes abuse, it creates conflict. Let’s face it – not many people like conflict. Some people like to avoid it all costs. When someone is exposing spiritual abuse, they are putting the abuse (conflict) on the table for all to see. It’s not pretty. It shows people that the church which is supposed to be safe, trusted, and a refuge – is no longer.

For some, it is much easier to shove it under the carpet to get rid of it. It’s easier to act like it never happened. Come on – let’s just move on because otherwise, this could turn into a huge mess.

Does it divide the church? Yes, it may. Some will stick on the side of remaining silent, while others decide that a foundation of lies is not something they want to be part of, and so they leave.

What have you noticed when exposing critical abuse issues? Is it worth dividing over? Who wins?

18 thoughts on “Spiritual Abuse: Is This Worth Dividing the Church Over?”

  1. I have been thru 2 church splits. From where I sat as a congregant, the reasons given did not seem to justify either of the splits, but it was also possible that important info was kept quiet. All I could do from where I saw was hunker down and pray about it and try to figure out which side seemed to be acting in faith the most each time. I did ask spokespeople from each group why they were doing what they did as they shared as they were able to explain their actions. I ended up not joining the group leaving in both cases. And then eventually something happened where (I believe) God told me it was fine to leave, so I did, but I left as an individual, not as a part of any group. My point in all this is there can what seems to be much less valid reasons for a church split that overt spiritual abuse. So once I detected spiritual abuse, I would leave.


  2. When Jesus cast out a demon, the religious leaders didn’t deny the man was demon-possessed; they attacked Jesus for casting out the demon by the power of the demon. Jesus is being attacked for letting Satan divide the church by healing and restoring a victim of demonic abuse by the power of Satan! How evil!
    So when you protect and support abuse victims–publicly calling out the predator–within the church, attacks will come, often by the leaders, that you are allowing Satan to divide the church by going public. What you did, however, was to support and provide healing for a victim from the diabolical evil of abuse while being accused, by going public, of allowing Satan to heal the victim of the diabolical abuse! How evil!


  3. Publicly exposing the demonic evil of sexual abuse by a predator who Is a member of a church not only does not divide the church, it actually unites and strengthens the church with the light of the gospel!


  4. Isn’t it a characteristic of the c’hurch that numbers is more important that the truth – that is, unless the leader says that the truth is more important than numbers. Wait…maybe it’s a characteristic of the c’hurch that it’s all about doing what the leaders say?

    So, whether to split the church or not is a side show to the important truth being conveyed – that whatever the leader wants is more important than whatever you want.


  5. I belonged to a church for several years where the preaching pastor and the youth pastor were both involved in sexual sin (the youth pastor should have been in jail). I didn’t know anything, but people kept leaving. It was always blamed on the latest new “fad” church to begin in the rapidly growing and developing small town. When I moved away to take a different job, and found out what was actually occurring from some friends who had mover out of town before I did, I felt physically ill. Everything was carefully hidden and orchestrated by the church leadership. When it did finally explode, most of the people left, some never to return to church again. The people hurt the most were the ones who knew and left early without saying anything. The folks who stayed behind blamed them for the near-demise of the church; the ones that left when all the filth blew out the top of the volcano felt that they should have been warned much earlier. I’m not sure there is any way these types of situations end well.


  6. “The folks who stayed behind blamed them for the near-demise of the church; the ones that left when all the filth blew out the top of the volcano”

    If you shouldn’t hang out in sleazy clubs why should you hang out in sleazy churches? Many pervs can quote the bible. That does not make them and their slop Christian.


  7. My point in all this is there can what seems to be much less valid reasons for a church split that overt spiritual abuse.

    Did I miss him talking about a church ‘split’? I suppose I thought ‘divided’ just meant people with differing opinions. (I agree church splits happen for all sorts of reasons)

    On the topic, if people are divided they are divided regardless. Keeping quiet about real issues does not unite, it just keeps people who might have moral qualms about something in the dark. That’s not a good thing.


  8. I have come to the conclusion that many Christians are more double-minded than they think they are. I think it’s a fantasy world we all inhabit when we think that it “can’t be that bad because it hasn’t yet affected me personally.” I also think people are afraid of change, even when it would be better. It took my mom 20 years to finally leave my abusive father. She just couldn’t imagine life any other way. She shared that with me several times when I was old enough to ask why we stayed with him so many years.


  9. “What have you noticed when exposing critical abuse issues?”

    The most common response I have encountered is wilful ignorance. People don’t want to know that abuse is happening, and they sure as hell don’t want to get involved. (One woman literally said to me, “I know you’ve been hurt, but I don’t want to get involved.”)

    To be honest, if this is the way a church responds to abuse, then I think it is already divided – divided from the gospel it purports to be representing. And if it is exposed for selling a bankrupt product, then that’s a win for all those who might otherwise have been harmed by it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hmmm?

    “Spiritual Abuse: Is This Worth Dividing the Church Over?”

    Was wondering…
    Which church are WE, His Sheep, His Disciples, be talken bout?

    The Church of God? The Ekklesia of God? The Called Out Ones of God?
    Where Jesus be the head of the Body, The Church?
    And those “Led” by the Spirit of God are the sons of God?

    The “ONE” Leader
    The “ONE” Teacher
    The “ONE” Shepherd

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


    the church of man?

    The 501 (c) 3, Non-Profit, Tax $ Deductible, Religious $ Corporation?
    That the IRS calls church?

    where mere fallible humans be runnin the show?
    where the qualifications for overseer in 1 Tim 3, and Titus are “Ignored?”
    where man takes “Titles” NOT found in the Bible for one of His Disciples?
    where only those willing to be “Led” by mere fallible humans

    are allowed in the pew?

    If it’s the church of man?

    Divide away…

    Maybe, just maybe, this corrupt organization will go away…


  11. Spiritual Abuse – AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH

    I suffered through Spiritual Abuse…

    And eventually, the Pain of the Abuse had a great benefit…

    I left the corrupt 501 c3, IRS Corporation church.
    To find Jesus.

    AAAHHHHHH Freedom….


    I once was a “NONE”

    Now I’m glad to be “DONE”

    With this sad, sad, form

    Of “Christian-Dumb”

    Where “Titles” become “Idols”

    And “Pastors” become “Masters”

    Where you can NOT tell the deference between

    The “Church Leaders” and
    The “Deceivers”

    Where your Spiritual Authority is NOT The Spirit of God
    But a mere fallible human taking a Non-Biblical Title
    To be glorified

    And the name of Jesus is just a way
    To become a wealthy celebrity preacher
    And collect your pay


    Jesus asks those Titled pastors today

    Why call me Lord?

    And NOT do what I say?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. AMEN A. AMOS LOVE to everything you said! Every single time you post here at SSB, for some reason (I call it the Holy Spirit Calling! :)), I feel genuinely built up in my faith in Jesus Christ, alone, for me own personal salvation. I feel set free and experience the true liberty our LORD offers in abiding in His Ways…….the chains of the “lords” who love to “lord it over others because of their self proclaimed religious importance,” crumble to dust when I read the Words of Jesus Christ; and also, now that He is my true “pastor, Master, the One and Only Good Shepherd,” the human “titled and entitled” c’hurch leadership hates the freedom seeker even more, because they no longer influence your faith nor the direction of your life! And when you do not compliment, flatter, and wait on every need of the c’hurch leader (the titled and entitled), well, they will literally hate you for it because their religious importance and significance isn’t recognized by the lower laity.

    The Pharisees and Sadducees are very much alive within the corporate, business-model 501c. 3 c’hurch…….and they love it so. And the Body of Jesus Christ, His Ekklesia, experiences the true joy, the true freedom and liberty to proclaim His Word anywhere and everywhere, apart from organized religion and it’s walled systems. The Holy Spirit moves and does His Word/Work every single day of the week and every single second of each day, according to His Will and no human being can stop His Holiness.

    I’m still reminded often of Jesus asking this question, “Who do you say that I Am?”

    I miss you here, A. AMOS, and am so thankful of your truthful, genteel reminder! His Blessings to you, sir!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Amos?
    Are you related to “Sopwith” or “Sopy” who comments over at Wartburg Watch?
    Because you two have a similar and BIZARRE style.

    Liked by 1 person


    Hmmm? – “…BIZARRE style.”

    Thank you for the compliment.

    Compliment – a polite expression of praise or admiration:

    And noticing a “…BIZARRE style.”

    BIZZARE |bəˈzär|


    very strange or unusual,
    especially so as to cause interest or amusement:

    And I’ve always appreciated…

    Your “…BIZARRE style” HUG…

    Looks like we have something in common. 🙂


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