Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

**The Quest for Power and Control – the Heart and Mind of the Abuser+2

3 John 1:9-10 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. (10) So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.

At the heart and in the mind of all abusers – be they domestic, sexual, or spiritual – is this profound mentality of entitlement to power and control. You see it in this Diotrephes who the Apostle John is going to take on. Diotrophes “likes to put himself first.” And so it is in an abusive marriage. The abuser is to be top dog, or else.

This is quite different than mere selfishness. We all have a streak of that in us. Much of child-rearing entails teaching and discipline that is designed to teach the child not to be selfish. To care for others. To be generous and kind. But the abuser is another creature entirely.
Entitlement. There is the key word. Domestic abusers for instance actually believe that they deserve power and control. They deserve to be made the center of the universe. They deserve to possess. And the flip side of this thinking is that their victim does NOT deserve – anything. This is the essence of the abuser’s worldview. This is who he is. (or in some cases, who “she” is). Of course this no excuse! The Lord holds the wicked accountable for their evils. Diotrephes might be an abuser but John is going to confront him in front of everyone.
As you begin to understand these things, you are helped. If you are an abuse victim, then you are helped as the truth of what you are dealing with comes into clearer focus. Abusers, you may know, love to keep things foggy. They confuse those around them with their seemingly unpredictable behaviors, with their excuses, with their blaming and what we call “crazy-making.” But as Jesus said, and boy is it ever true! – “The truth shall make you free!” “Oh, so THAT’s what he has been doing to me!” The lights start to come on.
Those who deal with pedophiles know that everything a pedophile does is motivated by a desire to have sex with children. It’s an ugly, ugly truth – but there it is in all its stench. The car they buy. The career they choose.The CHURCH they choose. The “friends” they make. All of it and more – everything they do – is done toward that heinous goal.
The mindset of entitlement to power and control in the abuser is what drives and defines him. There seems to be a kind of sliding scale of abuse. Some abusers are apparently worse than others in other words. Nevertheless they are all defined by this view of themselves and the world. Entitlement. Power. Control. And therefore, it is their very person who drives them to do what they do. Their schemes and tactics are all used for the same goal – power and control over. Marriage and who they marry. Economic rules they impose. The isolation of their victim that they enforce. The lying. The list goes on and on but just as a football team’s entire playlist is designed and practiced with the goal of crossing that end zone line, so the abuser has his wicked playbook.
Are you a pastor, a church leader, a church member? Then you are very foolish if you think that you know all you need to know about this subject. Foolish not only because you don’t know much at all about such wicked people who creep in among your flock, but foolish because if you are a genuine pastor who truly knows Christ and really desire to serve Him, then YOU are being targeted by spiritual abusers like Diotrephes. I know. I was. And it took years for the lights to come on. They almost drove me out of the ministry I am called to. That church pianist/choir director who rules “her” music kingdom, that elder or deacon who insists that you “come on over to my place on Monday mornings so we can talk about the church,” or that Bible class teacher who everyone thinks is just the most wonderful Christian in the world (but who makes it clear you are not going to tell him what to do), all of these characters and more are lusting for the power and control that THEY are entitled to and to which YOU are a threat.

Isa 14:13-14 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; (14) I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’

Entitlement. Power. Control. Mark those terms down well. They really explain everything.


**The Unholy Charade of the Domestic Abuser in the Church+1


Unholy Charade is Not Affiliated in any Way with the A Cry for Justice (ACFJ) Blog


  1. Sarah

    And also workplace bullies…I have yet to work in a place without, at least, one.

    • Jeff Crippen

      That is what I found in my workplace- the church! All the bullies are gone now after years of battle. We have peace in our church

  2. Notlongnow

    Excellent article. Sums up the abusers motivation very well. I will never fully understand it, why one would want that power over another, but it’s guess that’s what insidious pride does to one. The sin of the devil.

  3. Schari

    Their sense of entitlement is beyond belief. My ex husband, from my 40 year abusive marriage, did everything for his own pleasure at the expense of myself and our children. He had no problem crushing whomever was in his path. I told my counselor I simply did not understand how he could do the things he did. My counselor said I never would because I don’t think like that.

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