Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Hard-Hearted and Heartless

Rev 2:1-5 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. (2) “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. (3) I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. (4) But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. (5) Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

I am reformed in my theology. I love the historic reformed confessions of faith. They have been a great help and encouragement to me.

However, I have experienced more than once a real stronghold (and not a good one) among pastors, Christians, and denominations that are “reformed.” I agree with the sound doctrine found among most of them (a few exceptions), but over the years as I have tried to join them in fellowship – for example, our church joining a reformed denomination – one recurring obstacle has reared its ugly head. What shall I call it? Well, I will call it “the Ephesian church sin.” You can see it in the scripture above, our Lord’s letter to the church at Ephesus.

He commends them for their faithful adherence to sound doctrine. They were faithful in testing so-called “apostles” who were wolves in wool.

BUT, the Lord tells them that He has something against them. He charges them with a serious, sinful offense against Him. What is it? They had left their first love. What does that mean?

I think it means the very thing that happens to “champions of the faith” who focus on jot and tittle but who forget mercy.

Luk 11:42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

These are the kind of people who crave position and power in churches and denominations. They CRAVE it. God’s real chosen leaders don’t even want the job! (Think of Moses’ reaction when the Lord called him, as an example). These evil men rise to power while the sheep foolishly let it happen. And WOE to anyone who dares oppose or even differ with them. They have left their first love – love for Christ, love for His people. Gone. Abandoned. Jot and tittle are the only thing now.

What does Jesus say to them? “Repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”

We saw this very thing when we for a short time were association with ARBCA (Association of Reformed Baptist Churches in America). It looked very good at first and there were indeed real brothers and sisters in Christ in its ranks. But there was evil cancer under the surface. Diotrephes type power-hungry men had risen to power and they loved that power. In addition, they covered up for one of their own for many years until his crimes were exposed (he is in prison now). God removed His presence from among them. The denomination is now a ghost town of what it was.

I do not judge any church or pastor or church member who chooses to be part of a denomination or other association of churches. For all of its flaws (which we all have) I have been very blessed by Ligonier Ministries and the ministry of R.C. Sproul who, as he grew older, became increasingly outspoken to his audiences (some of whom were all pastors) – “Many of you here right now are not born again and you are an inch from passing into an eternity in hell.”

But, for myself, I will never again formally join a denomination and it is my opinion that those places provide a seedbed for little popes to arise. I mean, think about it – where did Rome originate? It started when the bishop of Rome began to think of himself as better than the other bishops and THEY bought into his arrogance!! Where ever there is a “career ladder to climb,” you can expect Diotrephes (see 3 John) to show up and start climbing it. And he will turn those who follow him into heartless, loveless places which Christ ultimately departs from.


Tender-hearted, Forgiving, Believing the Best


Up Against the Red Sea


  1. Janet H

    Agreed! Servant leadership with an eye to Christ is indeed rare these days. . . both for the pulpit and the pew. May we hear Jesus words to Peter, “ . . . what is that to you? You, follow me.”

    Thank you so much for your work!

  2. Veronica Miyake

    Very few people who become prominent in ministry are able to avoid the pitfalls of the pride and arrogance you describe here, Pastor. I would say R.C. Sproul avoided that trap and others throughout history such as J. C. Ryle, Martin Lloyd-Jones, Charles Spurgeon, etc. stayed true to God’s word and preached the Truth. I think of the secular saying, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It’s not scripture but very true. And it seems to be the path of those in leadership who follow Jesus and are not afraid of calling out evil wherever they see it, especially of those “at the top,” to walk (mostly) alone. I think of the book we read, “Prepared to Stand Alone” about Ryle’s struggle within the Church of England facing exactly what you described. My previous pastor in Colorado Springs faced the same situation. He desired to meet with other pastors but realized that most of them were just interested in numbers and growing their churches by entertaining people and preaching sermons that “tickle the ears.” It seems to me that the path to being a true under- shepherd requires walking on the narrow path and being unafraid of the church decreasing in numbers. I am glad CRC is not part of any denominational association, and I commend you for having the courage to endure the criticism of others by walking away from it.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you Veronica. It took years and years for me to learn this – I kept trying to have our church be part of some denomination or association. One after another these efforts met the same end with us finding out that the “top-dogs” were wicked, bullying men – little popes if you will. It was always like some Hollywood celebrity event where the same old suspects kept being worshipped. The whole thing was one big narcissistic swamp. Never again. Individual churches have enough to do to keep the wolves out of their own ranks.

  3. Lynn

    It comes down to how leadership is interpreted. For most people, leadership positions are associated with power, which is why the wolves flock to them. Without Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, what happens is that those who love leadership tend to love power and control and then act on that love. It ends in the abuse of others.

    Denominations are ripe for abuse because of the hierarchy/leadership opportunities available. They pedestalize their leaders treating them as superior to the members. They are breeding grounds for apostasy. Many are synagogues of Satan masquerading as real churches. Those who chase those leadership positions tend to love power and control, who desire to build their own earthly kingdom while calling it God’s kingdom.

    Jesus showed us that Christian leadership is one that serves others. It doesn’t seek the spotlight. It washes the feet of its brothers AND sisters in Christ. It is humble, gentle, and selfless. It loves its sisters in Christ just as much as its brothers. It stands for truth no matter the cost. It repents when evidence of their sin is shared. It perseveres.

    Not so in today’s denominations. We see prime examples of just how far off denominations like the SBC are because those in positions of leadership only want power. They refuse to repent. They refuse to offer restitution to the victims of abuse in their midst no matter how loud the cries of God’s people are for justice.

    The longer I watch the behaviors of denominations, the less I am convinced they are able to operate in a godly manner. Too much power and control. Which draws all the narcissists out from their hidey holes for the chance for power.

    I’ve chosen to focus on finding genuine Christians, though it is challenging in today’s day and age, and give very little credence to denominations. Too much opportunity for abuse and corruption. Let us walk in truth, testing what we see against scripture. Be wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves. For whom the son sets free is free indeed.

    • Z

      All you say is 100% truth. The denominational system is like any other “system” that is a breeding ground for the grasping for power and control, abuse, covering up all kinds of evil in the churches, apathy or downright additional spiritual abuse when presented proof of abuse or other evil in the church…
      I don’t know if you face the same dilemma that I do as a result. I too look for REAL Christians for fellowship and godly human interactions. Both I and my husband are long retired so the well of work acquaintances is dry now. We live in the quiet suburbs so unless one has children in schools, the opportunity for neighborly interaction seems to also have dried up especially since Covid. People seem to be “locked down” voluntarily!
      I live in a small state where all the Christian church people know each other. And they know my ex-family of fake christian abuser wolves who always church-hopped. Loved to carry gossip from church to church. So I don’t feel comfortable going to any of those churches for human fellowship. My ex-family did a vicious job of falsely smearing us with vile lies to cover up their arrest by police for attacking us. (But facts are facts!) The smear campaign continues to this day and will never end. Many of those “church people” are extended family and lifelong church friends who have known us for all our lives. And they’ve also always known of the history of violent abuse in my ex-family. Yet they all chose to stay silent, neutral and ambivalent not only when I was an abused terrorized child, but also about the felony weapon attack by them on my husband and me as adults more recently! Not one person reached out to us. Not the kind of church leadership, relatives or friends I want.
      So you once told me to “reframe” my feeling that I-the victim-am the one being punished with isolation while the proven criminal perpetrators live their life with the same church crowd and “christian” friends as always. You said to see it more as “solitude” like Jesus often sought to commune with His Father. And I like that practice and the reframing. But Jesus also had many friends and gathered for meals and gatherings and fun interaction often too. We aren’t wired for complete solitude. Especially when it’s been imposed intentionally by my abusers’ smear campaign. Not one person was willing to disassociate themselves with proven evil by falsely professing “brothers and sisters”. As the Bible commands. So I had to remove all “fence sitters” from my life so the abusers and their enablers that I am in permanent No Contact with can’t have ANY access to my info or life. It’s like “rodent-proofing any possible entry points in a house” to keep them out.
      All this to say, I pray all the time for the Lord to send good, godly people into our lives if He wills it. I understand He sees what’s ahead and I don’t. So maybe He is protecting me from more betrayals and harm from people. If so, I’m happy with that. But it is SO HARD to create a “family of choice”, a support system, Christian fellowship…later in life when most have their expanding families and longtime friends already set in place and don’t seem open to new people. Casual, superficial friendliness-yes. But finding new true Christian friends? I haven’t been able to have that happen organically without having to try to force it-which never works.
      I know I’m blessed to have my godly, SAFE husband to walk loyally and supportively beside me. And we do have fun together. It’s what I prayed for from my childhood. And God answered that prayer better than I could have imagined! And I know others don’t have even that. So I am grateful to God. But it gets lonely for us both. And IS unfair that WE have to walk through this life as the “lepers” when we were the victims of the wickedness of abuses, a vicious physical attack and then the mass betrayals and abandonments by pretty much everyone who chose known lies rather than stand up for truth. (But then, we don’t bribe and groom, flatter and con everyone we meet like the abusers know they have to do.)
      So I totally agree with all you say about the denominational hierarchies’ lust for power and control that we victims have had quite enough of. And we are so blessed to have this online congregation and Pastor Crippen’s true shepherd’s heart. But that flesh and blood human fellowship has been nearly impossible to find. So I leave it in the hands of Jesus to sort out. He knows the beginning to the end of things and we don’t. So I’ll let Him lead. And protect. God bless you, Lynn. And thank you for your always valuable insights.


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