Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

We Must Use the Discernment the Lord Has Given Us

Joh 13:34-35  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  (35)  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
1Jn 2:10-11  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.  (11)  But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

As I look back over many years of Christian ministry now, I am seeing with more clarity one way in which I was frequently duped by the enemy and his servants. As I have grown wiser in this regard, I am accused of being “too judgmental” and of “over-reacting.” Nope. I’m not.
Let me explain by illustration.

The first church that I was assigned to pastor was way out in the Rocky Mountains. We were sent there by a home missions organization that we had joined after coming into contact with them at a missions conference. They had quite a large number of pastors throughout the U.S. and Canada and focused on serving churches in small rural areas where perhaps a church had closed down years before. And of course we were quite excited about going.
Now, as I look back on that experience (we were with them for eight years), I have come to realize that the founder and director of that missions agency was actually a rather mean individual. He was given to chewing out the pastors on both an individual basis and at the annual conferences. People who had known him for very long had experienced his “gruffness” as it was often referred to. His district ministers more than once had to smooth over the hurt feelings he caused.
What I am saying is, this fellow was not a kind man. Oh he was quite smooth when he wanted to be. I heard him more than once give a kind of “sales pitch” when he was putting across one of his ideas and he could be quite flattering at those times.
And yet, in my naivete I failed to discern that there was a real problem there. I did not see that his behavior and character were not in agreement with what the Bible says characterizes a real Christian. That is to say, I did not understand that I did not feel loved by him as a brother in Christ. But because of the traditions and teachings that had been laid upon my in my Christian life and education, I failed to discern. I failed to apply the tests Christ has given us.
This man was by no means the last mean Christian I would meet in my years as a pastor. I could go on giving more true stories of many, many more who were quite often “pillars” in the churches I served as pastor.
This mean spirit spreads like leaven in a church. A person like this draws others like himself or herself and often an entire team is formed that lords it over the flock. I can remember, for instance, at one annual conference one of the mission director’s right hand men addressing everyone in a corporate session. He was slamming us all because in his view we were not giving big enough offerings to the mission (most all of us were pretty poor and were required to raise a good chunk of financial support ourselves). In retrospect, th0se conferences always laid lots of guilt on everyone and I inevitably went home discouraged about being a failure.
What was really happening? Mean people are not Christians. It is long past time that we stopped making excuses for them. Christ has told us what one primary badge of His people is: love. Do you feel and sense that you are loved? If not, then realize this – the one who does not love Christ’s people does not belong to Christ.
And this, more than any other reason, is why so many of you have been treated so wickedly in the “christian” world.


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  1. donaglofland


  2. Rowan on the high mountain

    “Mean people are not Christians.” Thank you for that clarity!
    It’s too easy for abusers and wrongdoers to blur the boundary between “discerning” and “judgmental” when called out on their behavior. I’ve learned the hard way over years to understand that “You’re too judgmental” can mean “You’re too perceptive” for those who are trying to hide who they are in a world where many people mistake superficial niceness–their own or others’–as evidence of inherent goodness.
    Pseudo-Christians sometimes admonish others to be “meek” (and give in to them), but the word translated as meek in the King James Bible comes from a Greek root that meant gentle/disciplined, which is not incompatible with the courage to discern and speak the truth (just as “helpmeet” translates a word that meant “strong, compatible partner” and not “doormat”).

  3. Leonie

    Thank you Pastor Jeff! You are so right, it has taken much of life to figure this out. Now it is plain as day! I see many ‘mature’ well respected christians not seeming to grasp this concept. One day I sat through a bible study where we were asked to pray for a woman’s cruel sister who was a Christian and I walked away recognizing the cruel sister is no Christian! The poor woman in the bible study was dreading visiting her family because of the evil sister and the chaos that always came with her!
    In another instance a former pastor’s father (and husband of the above bible study leader) was an abuser and had beat his mother a few times. He had described his foul moods and bad treatment of others through his father’s life and yet at his funeral the pastor was saying he would see his father in heaven someday!
    I thought to myself that I was pretty sure he would not! I am so thankful for having found your ministry!
    These are dear dear loving fellow believers in Christ who helped me escape from my abusive relationship and are in ministry together and are gifted bible teachers and loving believers but they have not seemed to grasp this concept and if you try to call out evil in their presence they insist that the evil person is a brother or sister in Christ and the evil person becomes the point of concern and help!
    Your posts are so incredibly helpful, thanks for simply outlining this basic concept that Jesus and scripture clearly taught !

  4. Notlongnow

    It’s a pretty simple test that we have been taught to over complicate or nullify. Basically does someone have Gods love or not? (Not fake wishy washy love, but real love).
    For we know that we have passed from death to life if we have love for the brethren.

    • Jeff Crippen

      There you go! Yep.

      • R

        What would you say about “Christians” who appear to love others in the church but are mean to coworkers? Can a Christian be mean when he/she is feeling stressed but still be a Christian?

        • Jeff Crippen

          We all sin at times. More often than we like. But whenever a quality is characteristic in a person – ie, it is their character- then they cannot be regenerate. And when there are two sides to a persons character – one evil and one that appears good, the evil one is the real character. Sheep do not disguise themselves as wool, but wolves love to wear wool. This is not the same battle a Christian has with his/her flesh. Our flesh is no longer our person and essence – we are new creations and by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the flesh.

  5. katkollies

    I’ve been reading 1 John for the last couple of days, asking the Lord to make it clear to me, and poof! This post. It’s something I’m getting my head around slowly but surely!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Absolutely. Its vital to be clear on what John says. Bad teaching fogged most of us up for a long time.

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