1Pe 5:1-3 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: (2) shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; (3) not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
It is amazing to me how often I receive reports from Christians regarding the abuse of power on the part of their pastors. Power abuse occurs whenever someone exercises authority that God has not given them. Such pseudo-authority is always evil and its intent is to fleece the sheep for personal gain of some kind. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were a prime example.
These are the kinds of things that are happening in the churches and of which I have credible reports:
- A domestic abuse victim goes to her pastor for help, shows him one of my books, and he orders her to destroy the book and throw it away. She is not to read it, he commands her.
- Abuse victims are told that they must obtain the permission of their pastor/elders before they can divorce their abuser. Many times this requirement is disguised and very covertly exercised. “Meet with us and we will discuss your case and your options. We love you and we want to help you.” Yeah, right.
- Church leaders insist that the abuser is a Christian and order the victim to remain in the marriage because “she is a sinner too.”
Recently when I was telling my wife about how a pastor commanded an abuse victim to destroy her copy of my book on domestic abuse and how he ordered her not to read it…and how she obeyed these illegal and wicked commands…my wife said “how can anyone think that a pastor can control people like this?” It is shocking. But the answer is this – they have essentially been brainwashing their flock with false teaching and lies. And when people sit under that kind of abusive false shepherding evil, they often end up believing that if they disobey the pastor, they are disobeying God and incurring His wrath.
Another person told me recently that he lives in fear that he will be thrown out of the church if he disobeys his pastor’s orders. Such a place is no church – it is a toxic environment to be left in the rear view mirror.
Christians and truly Christian churches and true, authentic pastors do have authority. We have Christ’s authority to expose and rebuke evil. If you read the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 you will see several commands by Christ that the churches are to expel false teachers that they have been permitting to be in their midst. Look at 1 Corinthians 5 for Christ’s command that we expel a so-called Christian who is walking in habitual, unrepentant sin. And of course this authority from Christ is the basis of godly, right church discipline as outlined in Matthew 18. But notice – this authority is authority over evil, not over the victim of evil. I suppose you could say that we also have a positive authority – the authority of scripture’s promises and truths which we can proclaim and believe with authority. But this authority as well is for the good of Christ’s people, not for oppressing them.
So to anyone who might read this article and who realizes that they are in a church where the leaders are wielding abusive authority that of course God has never given them, leave. Or stand and fight if that option is open to you. But don’t just go on living in a toxic environment that is disguising itself with Christ’s name. It is not better. That is to say, it is not better to remain in a place where the air is poison that to get out of it and breath pure air.