Abuse of Pastoral Authority is Rampant

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.

Info: Here is a link to an Excellent Bible course by G.K. Beale

Those of you who follow out midweek Bible studies on the Gospel of John and on Revelation, will recognize the name G.K. Beale. He is my favorite theologian and his books have helped me tremendously in my understanding and study of the Bible. This link is to a series of lectures he has given on the big story of the Bible and how the Bible progressively tells this story from Eden lost to Eden regained in the New Heavens and Earth.


The Lie of Toxic Positivity – A Guest Post

Luk 16:25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.

“It’s all good and you need to get your negative thinking straightened out!” That is the lie of toxic positivity. It is toxic because it is poison to the soul like all lies are. It denies evil rather than being wise to it. It calls evil, “good.” Yes, God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, but the TP people twist this truth to guilt and shame and deny.

The following is an excellent essay written on this subject by one of our blog followers and online church members. Many thanks to her for writing and shining more light on this common “just keep on the sunny side of life” business. Here she is:

Recently you were preaching about toxic positivity.  That got me to thinking… 

Why in Luke 16:25 does Jesus say that the poor Lazarus was being comforted by Abraham, while the rich man was in hell?  I mean, if Lazarus was supposed to always “count it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…” then shouldn’t Lazarus’s life have been one big rollercoaster of joy because of all his trials?  Why would he need to be comforted after all the terrible things he suffered here on Earth?  The “you be joyful right now you loathsome sinner” crowd would say that Lazarus should have been over-the-moon to have been “chosen by the Lord” to suffer all that he did.  And according to them, Jesus should have been calling Lazarus out for his sin of “bitterness,” since he could not transcend his circumstances to reach a higher “joy” plane — either by using positive thinking, “keeping an eternal perspective,”  practicing some sort of christian-y Zen, or aggressively ignoring everything that was happening to him and forcing a smile.  

Like I was told by my “c”hristian counselors — while being stalked by my ex, my church putting me under church discipline and shunning, being thrown under the bus by my own lawyer, medical providers taking me to court to sue me for medical bills “himself” had not been paying for years, losing my home and everything I ever owned, “himself” confiscating our joint checking and savings accounts (even though I paid into them), “himself” refusing to pay child support, me having to move back in and live with my abusive parents, being harassed and shamed by my abusive brothers, losing my job, losing all my friends, and my daughter’s genetic, chronic illness suddenly making the full force of its brutal self known in her body — I was counseled to focus on their “train analogy” to help me find joy.  You see, the engine is your thoughts, the coal car is your actions, and the caboose is your feelings.  If you’re in a bad state, just think happy thoughts.  Change… your mind. Change your mind, change your life!  Repeat/(chant) pieces of verses from the list they gave me.  You know those memes… “if you’re feeling this, then read that piece of verse,” those things that go around on Facebook.  Happy, holy thoughts will get the engine turned around and get it heading in the right direction. And it will start to pull everything else onto the “right” track.

Then, make yourself do happy actions.  Make yourself sing praise songs (but not in the choir anymore because they kicked me out of choir and all ministry).  Read good Christian books (but only from their “selected authors and publishers” reading list).  Cook or bake (but don’t indulge the flesh or self-medicate with food).  Exercise (but don’t do it from the sins of pride or vanity).  Take extra good care of my kids (but do not inform them about abusers’ tactics, do not discuss their fear, rage, and anger for what “himself” had done to them and what pastors and church kids were still doing to them, do not read to them what I was learning from *secular* [*whispered tones*] Lundy Bancroft or have them listen to *angry* Jeff Crippen sermons on becoming wise to evil — because, even though they were heavily abused too, it was all just me “dumping my baggage” on my 17, 15. and 13 year old kiddos, poisoning them against the father who they “secretly loved [they didn’t — they were afraid he would carry through on his threats to kill them and collect their life insurance to pay off his credit card debts], and who they secretly wanted to see often [they were terrified of even seeing his vehicle across a parking lot], but I made them too afraid to say their secret desires out loud.”)  

But, if I think (their prescribed) happy thoughts, do (their prescribed) happy actions, then eventually my feelings would be dragged around into the opposite direction, get aligned to the “correct” position, and my happy train would get on the right track, and I would be joyous all the time.  Pain and suffering, even that of my kids, would no longer affect me!  My problems would melt away in the light of my eternal perspective….  Blush *squee….!!!!*   

    All that to say, Jesus tells his disciples that Lazarus is being comforted in Paradise for all the trauma he went through.  And Jesus holds this formerly miserable man up as an example of righteousness in His parable — someone resting blissfully now and eternally.  Jesus did not use him as an example of failed faith or failed joy.  To quote the kids nowadays, Jesus “ain’t even mad” that Lazarus needed comforting and was being held in the arms of his father-in-faith, Abraham.  So if Jesus makes a man who needs comfort after trauma, out to be the protagonist — the hero, if you will — in His parable, then why does the “toxic positivity” squad think that they know better than the Lord they say they serve?