Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

How the Wicked Use "Christian Servanthood" to Gain Control of People

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. (Proverbs 22:7)

I was talking with a friend and was relating an experience I have had more than once with people who turned out to be revilers/abusers parading as Christians. My friend referred me to something that Gavin DeBecker wrote in his book, The Gift of Fear:

May I note two observations that I took from your scenario? 1) The handyman initiated the contact and offered his assistance. DeBecker in his book, The Gift of Fear, would call this tactic — Loan Sharking. He explains that some men know that if they help you that will “place you in their debt, and the fact that you owe a person something makes it hard to ask him to leave you alone.”

I cannot tell you how vital this is for ALL of us to get a firm grip on. Our local churches almost always have these kinds of loan sharks circling about in their pews and quite often these sharks have become “pillars” of the church they are in. You know the drill. The most “godly saint” in the whole church. The go-to guy whenever there is a need. “Just look over there at the church building most anytime and there will be good old (insert name of shark here) working away for the Lord.”
And this is how it works.

Just as DeBecker says, many sociopaths, abusers, and wicked people know innately that they can enhance their control of people if they can get those people into their debt. They can also use this tactic to prevent anyone from confronting them – “Oh boy! We can’t accuse Jack of abusing his wife. Why, look at all the fine service for the Lord he has done here.”
In EVERY church I have served as pastor (four of them in 37 years) one or two loan sharks were well entrenched when I arrived. Someone once said to new pastors “Watch out for the guy who picks you up at the airport when you first arrive in town.” That person was right. In every single case in these scenarios the “most godly servant of the Lord we have ever known” turned out to be a loan shark. All of their “service” was designed with one thing in mind – control and power. They wanted people to be in their debt, especially the pastor. “Anything you need, pastor, just give me a call. I’m always glad to help.”
Many of you will connect with this because your abuser used the same tactic. Abuse victims tell us with some regularity that their abuser was “always ready to help” others. He wouldn’t lift a hand to help his wife at home, but watch him go when he spotted a chance to “help” others and thereby get them into his debt. That debt may be nothing more than simply giving him praise and being duped into disbelieving any possibility that the abuse his wife might report one day could be true.
Let’s call the worst loan shark I have ever known, GW (stands for Great White).
GW lived to present himself to the world as the finest example of sainthood and humility ever given to this world by the Lord. And he was largely successful. “Hey, do you know GW?” “You bet! What a fine, Christian man!”
The first few times GW offered his help, I got one of those unsettled gut feelings that tells us “something is wrong here.” I of course thought that it was simply a matter of GW’s personality quirk. “He’s just a Christian brother with a couple of abnormalities, but his heart is in the right place.” But then, on multiple occasions, I observed GW blow a bit of a gasket. I mean, he was angry and that anger was completely out of place and unexpected. It flared up when the person GW had “helped” offered to give GW a gift or do something in return to thank him for his assistance. Normal reaction?  “No, no that is not necessary. I am glad to help.” GW’s reaction – “NO! NO! You will cause me to lose my reward with the Lord!!!” Spoken heatedly in anger. Now, that is not simply just plain weird. It is just plain evil and I will tell you why.
GW blew a fuse and used his anger to punish the one offering the gift because GW’s strategy of putting that person in debt so as to control them was being short-circuited. This really ticked him off, though he was able to throw in a Bible concept, use it to punish and demean the one offering a gift, and thereby remain “saintly.”
I understand now what GW was doing. But I will never comprehend it. What I mean is, I simply cannot comprehend the depth of wickedness in people like this. Nor can I fathom how that evil so fully and completely defines who such a person is that they can craft these schemes from the pit without even breaking a sweat.
Water is wet. Heat is hot. Abusers abuse. It is what they do. It is who they are.


Financial Abuse – a typical tactic of the Abuser


Do not Take Your Guidance from Fables Like this


  1. GW! I laughed out loud, Pastor Crippen!! You present the truth in such a Scriptural, down to earth, understandable way and pepper such serious issues with a bit of humor. Thank you. Exposing this wicked behavior in the “church” must continue to help those who have been tremendously wounded and devastated by similar “loan sharks.”
    I have seen this dynamic repeatedly used by people who were wolves in sheep’s clothing. It is disgusting and evil, but they have absolutely no consciences and pursue their goals with cold and heartless resolve. The narcissists and sociopaths among unsuspecting genuine Christians must be exposed. Their abuse has become an epidemic in the “church” and God will not be mocked. His justice will be pronounced on every one of the abusers one way or another.
    Thank you and God bless you and your family.

  2. E M

    I just read a thread about something like this on our neighborhood site. Someone posted a warning about a worker who had taken a large sum of money up front and then didn’t show up to do the on-going work. The worker who was accused came on with a song and dance about how hard he was working to help people and was just overwhelmed with all the work he’d taken on. Then a whole group of people came on to berate the initial poster and called her a bully for “shaming” this “poor” man. Ironically, the last post was from someone saying he hadn’t shown up to work for her, either. It’s amazing how easily people are taken in by abusers, and how quick they are to condemn those who call them out!

  3. Stormy

    Abusers follow the same guidelines. I’ve been learning more about Narcissists on You Tube. Victims tell their abuse stories and it’s very instructive because there is a pattern all narc abusers follow in their interactions with others.
    The doing good deeds or giving gifts can be compared to the love bombing stage of narcissistic abuse. During the love bombing stage the target is overwhelmed with goodness from the predator. It is really easy to be conned into feeling indebted to these characters.
    The Christian leader, music minister, prayer coordinator and bible study dude aka —evil man domestic abuser masquerading as a Christian gave me a ring —with strings attached of course. Only so I would be indebted to him.
    When I didn’t respond accordingly the abuse began. It was horrible he managed to smear campaign me to the other phonies in ministry. They all supported him and I was Unofficially excommunicated from the group.

    • J. D. Gallé

      ‘Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall exclude you, and shall insult you, and shall cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man.’ (Lk 6.22, Berean Literal Bible)

  4. no one down here

    This helps something make sense to me.
    A long while back, I was asked to go in with another lady and help provide a meal for someone in the church. In the planning of it, part of my responsibility was to provide a dessert. Really long story short … In trying to coordinate with the domestic abuser in my life (who, coincidentally, was also providing a dessert same weekend for a different function), he demanded that I provide a very specific type of dessert that didn’t make sense for a number of reasons. I suggested that we wouldn’t have enough actual time to accomplish this along with the other things that had to be done at home, not to mention not even room in the fridge to keep both items. I had to ask permission to make a different type of dessert was better suited for my time and resources, but in the process, I was berated up one side and down the other for not being spiritual enough to show hospitality. I was told that in order to show true hospitality, I had to inconvenience myself. I was told that by simply wanting to make a dessert that made sense instead of one that did not make sense, I was fighting my responsibility to show servant-leadership as wife of a “leader” in the church. Additionally, one of the reasons why the one dessert was a problem, was I had planned and paid for an (exceedingly rare) outing for the family that week. So, in addition to the above, I was also selfish for wanting to spend time together as a family.

    • Jeff Crippen

      The wicked always trash their victim and exalt themselves. Woe to any such person who ever tries to sneak into our church ever again!

    • Stormy

      No one down there—Urgh reading your post brings back cringe worthy memories. This was exactly what the abuser phoney christian used to do to me.
      The good old double bind. You can’t win. Abusers love this. They do it because it gives them a power rush. They get off on hurting the innocent. Sick twisted reprobates. I’m sorry you had to endure this. May Gods perfect justice be served today to your abuser.

    • I Woke Up


  5. God is now obliged to honour the ‘good works’ of conniving persons who perform their deeds for gaining leverage and otherwise self-serving purposes?

    • no one down here

      J.D. Galle…
      Christ said… those who do their good works to be seen of men already have their reward.
      Stormy – some day. the day is not yet, but some day. I’m so sorry that you also saw the side of evil.

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