Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Listen to Me! – A Common Demand of Abusers

2Co 11:20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face.

One of the worst abusers I have ever known, a man who caused all kinds of grief with many attempts to portray himself as the finest saint we ever met and yet worked tirelessly and by nature to enslave those around him, was heard to say more than once, “you didn’t listen to me! All these bad things have happened because you wouldn’t listen to me!”

This of course is a common trait of this kind of wicked person – he or she demands to be obeyed. We all need to step back and take a long look at what is going on whenever we find ourselves constantly wondering, “What will Joe say about this?” “What would Jesus say?” gets replaced with Joe. It sneaks up on us and usually we aren’t aware of just how much of this is going on.

Years ago in our church a very wicked sin was committed and how to handle it was not an easy matter. Ultimately we chose a course which I still know was the right one and what the Lord would have us do. Not everyone was happy (“everyone” never is), and there were various kinds of fallout. Some months later in a meeting, this man in his arrogance and anger because he had not been obeyed, said “If you had done what I told you, none of this would have happened. But you wouldn’t listen to me.” He was right in a sense. If we had listened to his demands, none of the positive outcome of obeying the Lord would have happened!

The level of wicked arrogance in these kind is incredible as you think it over. Here was a man who would gladly look at a pastor, elders, godly grey-hared church members, and tell them all, “Listen to me! You should have listened to me!” Let that soak in. What level of evil does such a thing require? It is designed to revile. The abuser is a reviler. He villifies, ie, makes his target the villain. The Lord says plainly that revilers will not inherit the kingdom of God and we are not to even eat with such a person, let alone permit them to be among us in the church.

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.”

I am sure that every domestic abuse victim has heard this rhetoric a bajillion times. “Listen to me! You should have done what I told you! Now this is all your fault!”

I have also seen this same type of arrogance revelaing itself often in people who contact me and say they are looking for a church to attend. Sometimes of course those questions are genuine and come from real Christians who are frustrated by not being able to find a group of true Christians to fellowship with. But my red flags start going up when someone right off presents themselves as a real authority on theology, a follower of….(you fill in the famous preacher names), and evidence a lot of Bible “verbage” (christianese as I call it). There are more warning signs too but in the end I just realize that they leave me with an uneasy feeling.

So I test them.

I tell them, for instance, that one of our church’s important missions is to help domestic abuse victims and expose abusers. I advise them to read one of my books to understand more about us. If one of their favorites is the kind whose teaching oppresses abuse victims (ie, “no divorce for abuse”) I point out that person’s error. I tell them that our church requires that someone be with us for about a year before we would consider them becoming a voting member, and that we require a background check for people who attend regularly here in order to protect children and others.

Guess what happens?

In every case of a person of this kind, I know that the inevitable scathing email response will be forthcoming. It always is. How dare we require a background check – Jesus would never require such a thing! (Hmmm, “Test the spirits to see if they are of God, for many false spirits have gone out…). How dare we be so divisive as to be critical of a preacher who simply holds a different point of view than us on divorce for abuse. And in all of this verbage, they ooze accusation and guilting, exalting themselves. “You need to listen to me!”

One of the most common pieces of wisdom that the Lord gives us and which we have suffered very much for many years because we were not wise in this way, is that we are not to quickly trust people just because they claim to be a Christian. In my early years of being a pastor, I was foolish in this regard many times. We wanted to see the church grow. We wanted people to come and to hear and to be saved. So we too readily believed, accepted, invited, and ….suffered the consequences of evil coming in among us.

Many pastors and church members and “church experts” would call us too rigid, too hard, and unloving for these safeguards we have in place. But I can tell you this – failing to exercise these wise cautions in the past resulted in years of trouble, division, and evil creeping in among us. If those “church experts” and others would be honest, they would admit that their system in fact produces counterfeits and trouble. But they aren’t honest and I don’t look for them to be.

I know that probably the majority of people who learn about our practice and realize that no, we aren’t going to listen to them (ha! a demand that we listen to them when we don’t even know them!!), are going to be done with us.

And I consider that a win. We wouldn’t listen to them. We listened to the Lord.

1Jn 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.


The Matriarchal Kingdom of Abuse


A New Book by Cindy Burrell – Reformulating the Christian Marriage Counseling Model Where Abuse is Involved


  1. background checks?
    never thought of that one
    great idea; totally makes sense
    why not!
    going to ponder.

    • Jeff Crippen

      You would be surprised how many “christians” freak out and get angry when we tell them this. BUT I have never had an abuse victim who has been trashed by their church disagree.

  2. emmellkaycee

    There are far too many who sit in chairs/pews on Sunday who willfully choose to underestimate the evil within the hearts of mankind; they do not show themselves approved by the wise discernment of God’s written word, nor by the diligent discipleship of His Living Word. Instead, they prefer their naïveté and blind ignorance…and they that do, are complicit in the harboring of Shadow Wolves in their midst. It is a terrible wickedness, this willful spiritual complacency, for it has deeply harmed and devastated many innocents.😖

  3. Free

    I do believe the background checks are a must, just like any other volunteer or non-profit organization, but caution that it will not catch the most refined perpetrators, particularly those that have paid their way out of being caught…
    It was only after I filed for divorce that I learned of the abuser’s DECADES of a variety of abuse to minors and adults – and the abuser walked away…. yes….remained a church volunteer, on committees, professing their righteousness and teaching, etc. and all the while was literally a gross criminal who slithered out of accountability each time and to this day. It was beyond horrifying.
    But… just ask him – he will / does tell you he is right, even promoted himself to God’s level at times when proving that only he “and God”… etc. – and just as you have pointed out – was quick to reprimand that we need to listen to him ….. or so he commanded those of us that were beneath him (which was everyone). Back to 1Cor5:11….. “with such a man do not even eat.” That is meant in the most basic sense – do not even sit next to them when going for a quick lunch or to grab a coffee nearby…. move on and DO NOT give into their smooth talk or self-promotion.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Do the check- actually the truth is that the main purpose of telling people we do background checks is that just that statement weeds out all kinds of trouble. I have had them tell me “you won’t find anything on me” and then they leave never to be seen again!
      You are correct in saying checks won’t catch every perpetrator but it is a start. Then we follow up be being wise to other red flags that inevitably arise.

      • Free

        Agree! Understand – and can almost see the whole thing unravel. I am glad you are putting it out there as a frontline filter, regardless if they are done or not – you have left that option open and can watch their response.
        Be assured of this – if you had done your test and put your church’s mission out there for that particular abuser I mentioned – he would have been running for the door! Yes, you would’ve heard about how this that and the other was so wrong on his way out – but inside the truth is – your filtering test would have worked!

  4. wingingit

    My father and his brothers were pedophiles who had a voracious appetite for children.
    One was a youth pastor. One was a boy scout leader. One trained and managed young people in a pizza business.
    All of them would have passed background checks.
    But I agree running the checks will at least weed out those who have slipped up and gotten caught.
    But there is a reason we are taught in scripture to keep our children close, even at church.
    My father considered himself wise above all others and could quote the Bible backward and forward, as it served his purpose at the moment.
    It was his arrogance that exposed him, every single time.
    Good post, Jeff.

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