Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Beware of the Popular Domestic Abuse "Advocates" Who insist they can Fix Abusers

1Co 5:11-13 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one. (12) For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (13) God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

One of the reasons I am not very popular with the “bigger” names in the domestic abuse ministry realm is because I maintain that we are not to waste our time and energy with programs and “ministries” designed to “fix” abusers. In fact, I maintain that abusers as we have defined them here in this blog do not change. They do not repent. And, in fact, they play us for fools when we try to “save” them.
And yet this is not the message most professing Christians want to hear. They like a “they all lived happily ever after” ending to the story. That is why things like this gain popularity for their practitioners:

…we offer a twelve-week course for church leaders and biblical counselors who desire to grow in their ability to respond to abusive men with the help and hope of the gospel. By completing this course participants will be equipped with the knowledge and skills required to call abusive men to repentance and provide necessary accountability.

On its very face, such a claim is foolishness and looking just a bit deeper you will see that it is absolutely contrary to the “gospel” it claims to proclaim. Think this through:

  • Anyone can spend just 12 weeks (certainly not a full 7 days each week, I am sure) taking an online course and they will have all the knowledge they need to deal with deceptive sociopaths, psychopaths, and narcissists.
  • They will be able to hold these abusers accountable. What? “Now Bill, did you abuse your wife this past week?”

This is not the gospel. This is a false gospel that replaces Christ with a man-made program that will legislate heart change in a wicked man.

[Our Program] is a twelve-week, long-distance, biblical coaching program designed to help Christian men move from destructive patterns in their lives and relationships to healthy, supportive alternatives. In addition to weekly coaching sessions [online], participants are required to form a local Shepherding Team, involve an Advocate for their spouse, and complete weekly assignments. 

These kinds of hotshot programs gain all kinds of popularity for the “experts” who invent them. But can you see the insanity in this? Do you see how ridiculously unbiblical this is? This is sheer use of Law to conquer sin! But all the Law does is empower sin (see Gal 3:10-13 and 1 Cor 15:56). Furthermore, notice the bald statement that abusers are “Christian men.” Impossible! And finally notice that this cure-all program is really nothing more than “couple’s counseling” in that it requires the abuser to identify an “advocate” for his victim! We all know that abusers only recruit allies for themselves, never true advocates for their victims. And yet this program is being widely received in churches. Do not be duped by it.
You will notice in the Scripture quoted above that the Apostle Paul includes in his list, “revilers.” That is what an abuser is. A reviler. A man who accuses. Who makes his victims out to be villains. He villifies them. And what does God’s Word tell us to do in regard to such a man who claims to be a Christian? Hold him accountable? Offer him the gospel? No! We are to put him out from among us and have nothing to do with him.
The Corinthians were dealing with the wicked man in their midst in really the very same way these modern day abuser-fixers do. They were arrogant. They boasted about how gracious they were even to the likes of someone who was sinning worse than the pagans. Paul called them out on it and commanded them to humble themselves.
Largely what we are seeing today is a pastor here and there, a supposed biblical counselor, and others climbing the fame ladder by promoting their books and programs that promise fixes for abusers. Oh they may throw in a caveat that not many abusers reform, but they claim to have some success stories and they tell us that it is the Lord’s will that we offer the gospel to abusers. Really? Is that how the Scriptures tell us to deal with someone who has crept in among us, claimed to be an eminent saint, and for years behind the scenes cruelly abused his wife? Of course not.
But if you want to become a popular guest speaker at the big conferences, if you want to mix it up with the usual suspects among evangelicals in this arena of domestic abuse ministry, then you absolutely must do a couple of things. Here they are:

  • Don’t talk a lot about divorce. In fact avoid the word if you can. Oh, slip in a get out of abuse by divorce card subtlely in a side comment or a foot note, but if you can get by without mentioning it at all, so much the better. Talk about “separation” instead.
  • Offer “healing and hope” for the abuser. Assure everyone that wolves can be shepherded into sheep and if you have a program designed to do that, by all means tell the audience where they can get their copy for only $19.95

Now, if you think that my words indicate that I am all jealous and bitter because I am not “popular” with the in-crowd of Christian domestic abuse “experts,” let me set you straight. I gave up being popular long ago. One Friday I was a police officer, well-respected and good at my job. The next Sunday I was a pastor and viewed by most as a fool. And so it has been for the last 36 years.
But I can tell you this before the Lord – I have not compromised His Word in order to be popular. And I won’t compromise His truth in this area either. Handling domestic abusers – especially the ones who claim to be Christians – is not to be done with fix-it programs. Such men are incredibly evil. They have tasted of the goodness of the Lord and in return they have trampled under foot the blood of the cross. They are Esaus, for whom repentance is impossible.
Where are our energies to be put then? On the victims. With the widows and orphans who have been the targets of wolves. There we will find ears to hear and eyes to see.
Finally: Here is a quote from a counselor/abuse survivor that illustrates exactly what we have been talking about in this article –

I was reading this article about domestic abuse that looked like it was going to be good. But on the last page, it talked about how there’s hope for abusive marriages! It gave an example of ONE couple that were reconciled because the abuser was held accountable. It doesn’t talk about how rare that is, and it gives victims false hope that there’s hope for their abuser to change.


Who do we Really Want in our Churches? – Is "Everyone" Welcome?


The Abusive Marriage Wrongly Seen as Pious Asceticism


  1. Amy

    I used to dread the Christian marriage conferences that our church encouraged all married couples to attend. The message was basically to spend more time together, have date nights and more sex and everything would get better. It was a joke!
    And the Christian movies like Fireproof or War Room — you pray hard enough, and poof!, all your problems are resolved and the abusive spouse is suddenly loving, caring and no longer abusive.
    Your message is a breathe of fresh air!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Right on Amy!!!

    • Stormy

      They always blame the woman.

    • Carol

      So true! I did not watch either one of those movies. I left my abuser after 21 years. He trashed me to EVERYONE. The church we had shortly been attending threw me under the bus. He ended up being found out and they excommunicated him and apologized to me. Now my heart is broken bc my middle son is exactly like him. He was abusing his sweet Christian girlfriend. She finally opened up to me after 2 years and I told her to leave him and not look back. Neither of my sons talk to me now, but she is safe and didn’t marry him. It’s just all so sad.

  2. katkollies

    Thanks for harping on this, Pastor Jeff! I believe that God can do anything, but He also gives us wisdom for discernment. Sometimes I need a little reminder!

  3. Praying Lady

    Those who promote programs and ministry models to “fix” abusers do not understand the nature of the evil they are offering to help. Wolves in wool are evil, completely evil. “Assure everyone that wolves can be shepherded into sheep” is exactly what they are doing and it is impossible! It is false hope and very damaging to the victim of the abuser. It is like telling a sheep, “Don’t worry. That wolf over there is going to live with you, but he is not going to attack you and eat you alive, because he says that he wants to be a sheep lover now and we are going to help him become one.” Ridiculous!
    You can no more turn a wolf into a sheep than you can turn a narcissistic sociopath in a genuine follower of Jesus Christ. I know. I tried for over three decades to no avail. My ex, who is a professing Christian and an ordained minister, repeatedly asked me over the years to help him, pray for him, pray with him, and minister to him in order for him to receive freedom from numerous ungodly behaviors and addictions. We also attended many Christian marriage and/or healing conferences, classes, seminars, Bible studies, etc. However, my ex lied constantly and became increasingly abusive. He always thanked me and pretended to be doing better, but the Lord exposed the truth time after time. Nothing ever helped, because he was willingly continuing the sin and lying about it. When the truth was revealed, my ex always said he was sorry and promised to change. The more his hidden sin was exposed to me, the more abusive he became towards me until the day he tried to kill me by strangling me in front of a policeman. He was arrested and we are now divorced. I thank God every day that I am no longer living with that evil man.
    Narcissists are narcissists. Sociopaths are sociopaths. Wolves are wolves.
    Thank you again, Pastor Crippen, for another truth-filled article based on God’s Word!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Praying Lady- true words. And these truths are hated by most professing Christians. They want to be able to get the devil himself saved.

  4. Z

    I love that you don’t and won’t compromise your messages nor bend Scriptures to be popular. It’s why you are a “safe person” to us victims. We’ve already heard and been further victimized by all the twisting of Scriptures and the outright false teachings and bad “christian counseling”. All to brush under the rug the inconvenience of dealing properly and Scripturally with this subject of evil wolves/counterfeit/christians/
    abusers within our churches.
    I hate that so many church people “idolize” blanket forgiveness of evil, by victims damaged by it, above all else and conveniently forget all the other Scriptural commands about how to deal with the wicked person posing as a Christian.
    What’s so great about being “popular” anyway? Better to hear Jesus say the words to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” That’s the popularity I want!

  5. anonymous

    I think there needs to be recognition as to who is doing the teaching, too. Most of these speakers are men. Wifebeating, and domestic abuse comes down to value. In our culture, women are not valued the same as men because men hold all the power in society, control the vast majority of the resources and men are deferred to as though they are mini-gods. Misogyny is everywhere. And who does that serve? Men. Helps perpetuate the death strangle they have on all the power in society.
    Physical child abuse seems to be taken more seriously than wifebeating. And what’s taken more seriously than both of those? Animal abuse. Car theft. Steal a car and you’re going to prison. Beat your wife and you’ll go to a ‘counseling class’.
    There are no wolves into sheep stories in the OT. When Tamar was raped, did her other brother say, ‘well, the rapist must be misguided, he must be helped to be a better person, counseled into not being evil’? Nope, he was killed for his evil. In the OT there was capital punishment for rapists, if I recall correctly, and I think (although please do correct me if I am wrong as I don’t want to misstate God’s Holy Word) the rapists were taken to the edge of town and stoned to death, with the directive being to remove the evil from you.
    Also, there was the directive to put to death, (again, if I am incorrect, please correct me as I don’t want to misstate God’s Holy Word) anyone who tries to lead you away from worshiping God and tries to get you to worship other gods/idols, and I think about abusers and what they want is to be worshiped as gods…..seriously, that’s their bread-and-butter, to be ‘god’ and everyone completely subjugated to them, 100%.
    Kind of like suffocation and strangulation drive home the point to battered women that they breathe because their abusers allow them to, and such a ‘privilege’ can be revoked at any time, for any thing. It’s a demonstration of willingness and ability to murder. It’s also torture.

  6. walkinginlight

    Pastor Crippen, You are spot on! I was just reading Colossians 2:8 last night before I read your post. It is confirmation. “See to it, then, that no one enslaves you by means of the worthless deceit of HUMAN WISDOM, which comes from the teachings handed down by men and from the ruling spirits of the universe, and not from Christ. Amen!! All of these 12 week help yourself programs are man made wisdom. All they do is try to put a band-aid on the real problem.
    These abusers need a HEART TRANSPLANT plain & simple. But they would never seek that with the Lord because they cling to their distorted view of control and power and would not want to give it up. Satan has already infiltrated their minds. Even Lundy Bancroft has stated that they have a distorted perception of right and wrong. If Lundy were a born again Christian he would know exactly the cause of the distortion. The so called nominal “Christians” who peddle these self help programs will answer to God for it someday soon. I 100% agree, there is no way a abusive man is a “Christian”, it is impossible. I would like to call them a “Pseudo Christian”. That is the terminology discernment ministers call a apostate.
    Regarding the reviler- just the other day the anti husband tried to accuse me and make me feel guilty for mentioning a item that needs repair. I thought about it for a few minutes and the Lord had me go back to him and very nicely say “The bible tells me that I am indwelt with the Holy Spirit and that when I sin, He convicts me and let’s me know what I have done that is wrong”, (he winced when I spoke this by the way) So, if I have sinned against you in some way Jesus will let me know right away. When the anti husband heard this he made a face and just walked away. He could not argue the truth with me! Yes, these wicked souls are the accuser of the brethren.
    Pastor Crippen I praise God you have not compromised the word. Every one of us know the Lord put you in our path to help us gain knowledge and come out of the fog. I am praying the Lord will show me a way out of the 35 year so called “marriage” I have been in.

  7. Helena

    I was at a conference about DV in the church a few years ago and the keynote speaker was talking about how his program was changing abusers. I talked to him alone later and he admitted that some men stopped hitting their wives but that the emotional psychological abuse continued. And that was good enough for him. AAARGH.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Was that Chris Moles?

    • Elizabeth

      Lundy Bancroft says that most of his clients are only interested in becoming “kinder, gentler abusers,” with no intention of giving up their one-up position or any of their power and control. Don Hennessy says batterers use the exact same grooming methods that pedophiles do, grooming both their victims and those around them, as part of a long game. The calculating aspect of the abuse is what is so hard to believe when you are in a relationship with one of these wolves; as a genuine, loving person it is hard to imagine the one who professes to love you could be full of such evil.
      That is why it is so hard to leave and why victims keep going back. The beautiful, loving side of the man who hoodwinked you into a relationship in the first place by presenting a false self always seems just within reach… If only you could do everything right and keep him happy. It’s exhausting and oh so impossible to achieve, but you don’t know that until it’s too late.

  8. IamMyBeloved’s

    I love how they believe they are the Holy Spirit and that they can change and bring abusers to repentance. That it is not a gift that God gives someone, but that they are able to “coach” someone into repentance. Funny that they, as doctrinally sound as they “think” they are, cannot see how deceived they are,. But in order to see it, the Spirit would have to be at work in them., but they have denied Him and are doing it all on their own works, with law and stupidity., endangering the lives of victims. God laughs at them.

    • Jeff Crippen

      And this gives us reason to ask if such abuser fixers even know the Lord at all. They sure don’t appear to be led by His Spirit.

  9. Christina

    Thank you for your true ministry to abuse targets. I was in an abusive marriage for over forty years (physically abusive on occasion the first four years, for which I left him the first time for a few days; verbally abusive for the remainder, for which I left him the second time).
    I, too, was one who believed that if I behaved better and prayed more, etc., he would stop it. I also believed that if I left him, I would somehow be out from under God’s protection.
    Both notions were unbiblical.
    I left him and divorced him over seven years ago, now, and I have been surviving, healing, and thriving all of this time.
    It’s never too late.

  10. I only wish there was a ‘love’ button …
    Thank you for speaking truth. This needs to be shouted from the mountaintops!

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