How to Create an Abusive Church

I don’t like to think about spiritual abuse, or abusive churches, or abusive pastors.  I don’t like it.  For one reason, this is because the abusers I have had to deal with over the years as a pastor LOVE to accuse me and our elders and our church of having abused them.   So I am sensitive to this subject.  Sometimes when it comes up, my self-doubts kick in.  Maybe I am guilty?  Maybe we have abused people?  But then, and I think it is the Lord helping me at those moments, I go back and remember what those abusers did and how they abused.  And I realize that the mere fact that I am presently anxious about the horror of us as a church abusing people is probably not an attitude to be found in a truly abusive church.

I think we are a church, and I am a pastor, who has certainly made mistakes in handling people in the past.  There have probably been instances in which we have even sinned – and in those cases I hope that we have confessed to anyone we have wronged.  No pastor can truly study the subject of domestic violence abuse and not conclude that there were instances in the past that he would have handled at least somewhat differently – and in some cases, entirely differently.  Oh, and one other thing that comes to my mind when I study abuse and think about abusers in the church and how they are to be dealt with – I realize that we were blind to them far too long and let them do their evil far, far too long.  If anything, I think that has been our major error in this regard.

I don’t like to think about spiritual abuse.  But we MUST think about it, see it, and reject it, lest we become like it.

Well, that’s the rather rambling prologue to the subject – How to Create an Abusive Church.   Listen once again to those verses in 1 Cor 2 –

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ESV And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. (2)  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (3)  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, (4)  and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (5)  that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

I highlighted verse 5 because that is the one I want us to think about.  How do you create an abusive church?  How do you build a “thing” that has all the “Christian” exterior frills, but is devoid of the presence of Jesus?  Well, Paul says that one way to do it is to build it on a man’s (or woman’s) personality.  Charm.  Charisma.  Call in Pastor Golden-Tongue.  Team him up with Pastor Novelty.  What will happen is that as this cult of personality expands, the faith of the populace will be based upon (have its object as) – these ring leaders.  The church bookstore will be filled with Golden Tongue’s books and sermon tapes.  He has plenty to say on any subject you can think of.  The youth group and children’s ministries and even the senior ministry will have that flair that only Pastor Novelty can pull off.

And it will grow.  Oh, how it will grow.  And the money?  The buildings?  Who can argue with success, right?

Yet none of it, NONE of it is of God.  The “faith” there rests upon the so-called wisdom of man (which is foolishness in reality), and is totally devoid of the saving, regenerating power of God.

And the POWER.  Feel the electricity of the power.  Listen to it in the voice of Golden-Tongue and in the excitement of Novelty.  It streams through in the music too.  Tears flow.  Hallelujahs are shouted.

And none of it is of Jesus.  None of it.  So guess what you have.  You have a thing, a monster, that is devoid of the love of Jesus.  You have created a house made comfortable for some uninvited guests, who most certainly are going to show up one day –

Matthew 12:43-45 ESV “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. (44)  Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. (45)  Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

Victims of abuse simply will not find mercy and justice and kindness in such a place.  Furthermore, the widespread experience of the many Christians who have been victimized by abuse and who have told us their stories of how they were mistreated and rejected by their churches, tell us something else.  It tells us that perhaps Pastor Golden Tongue and his associate, Pastor Novelty, are not only to be found in the huge mega-churches.  They may well be standing in far more of our pulpits today than we would even want to admit. How many of Jeremiah’s words here apply to the condition of the evangelical church today?

Jeremiah 6:14-19 ESV They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. (15)  Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,” says the LORD. (16)  Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ (17)  I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’ (18)  Therefore hear, O nations, and know, O congregation, what will happen to them. (19)  Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people, the fruit of their devices, because they have not paid attention to my words; and as for my law, they have rejected it.

 

Fantasies and Fictions that Keep Victims in Abuse (Part 2) – Loving our Enemy

Luk 6:27  “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

We saw an example in last Friday’s post of how “christian” fiction and fantasy does great harm, especially to victims of abuse as it hides in the church. That example, published at Our Daily Bread (odb.org) referenced a fictional book that portrayed a suffering Christian man touching his persecutor and thereby healing the wicked man’s physical ailment. Wow! How incredible!  Yes, it is IN-credible. UN-believable. Because it is fiction. Yet, how often are victims of evil given these kinds of fiction to make them stay in the abuse, supposedly so that they can heal the evil heart of their abuser?

What did Jesus mean? When He tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us?

Continue reading “Fantasies and Fictions that Keep Victims in Abuse (Part 2) – Loving our Enemy”

The Good Samaritan Story Exposes Most “Christians” as Counterfeits

1Jn 2:27  But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

1Jn 3:10  By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

These things John wrote about are true of every real Christian. Everyone who is born again, everyone who is in Christ, has been given a new creation nature and now loves God, loves God’s people, and loves God’s Word. No exceptions. No, we aren’t perfect and never will be in this life. But the very essence of who we now are has been radically changed.  This is why Christ said that a good tree bears good fruit and a tree that bears bad fruit is a bad tree to be cut down.

As you can see from the verses above, there is one particular fruit that evidences the new birth. That fruit is love. And specifically love for Christ’s people. Love for one’s neighbor. Where this love is absent, Christ is absent. Understand? The Spirit of Jesus is in us and teaches us to love as He Himself loves us. This is why, as a reminder, it is absolutely impossible for a domestic abuser to be a Christian. The thing is unthinkable. Not even a possibility. When abuse victims come to understand this truth, they have taken a real step toward freedom.

Now, the Good Samaritain:

Continue reading “The Good Samaritan Story Exposes Most “Christians” as Counterfeits”

Where Should we Expect to Find the Enemy?

Jude 1:4  For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

As a Christian, where has the major portion of suffering and persecution come at you? What has been its most typical source? We are usually taught that we should be looking for attacks from the world, and certainly that is one common base of the enemy. The world, the flesh, and the devil, you know.

But I want to show you from my own experience and from Scripture that the most typical locale for the enemies of Christ to attack from is not “out there.” Rather, it is within the walls of the visible, local church.

Continue reading “Where Should we Expect to Find the Enemy?”

When Men as leaders Forfeit Their Right to Lead

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment. (Jdg 4:4-5)

I am no expert on the era of the Judges and I do not claim to know with certainty why a woman, Deborah, was chosen by the Lord to be the judge of the nation in those days. I do know that it was a dark time “when every man did what was right in his own eyes.” But certainly one explanation could be that the men of the nation had forfeited their right and duty to lead.

Sin in the life of a leader in the household of God can mean forfeiture of his position of leadership. God could have removed David as king, though for His glory and His faithfulness to His covenant, He did not. In Saul’s case, kingship was removed. And so it had been in the history of the kings of Israel.

Recently I read an article by the boys over at The Gospel Coalition, for whom I have no respect. I do not respect them because they continue to rally to each other’s case when one of their “buds” is in trouble. See the whole CJ Mahaney, SGM fiasco as an example. TGC fellows have been sounding the “anti-abuse” trumpet lately it seems to me, and in this article I just read you have them going on and on about how the Bible and Jesus in particular show the value of women.

It is true that the Bible and Jesus in particular show the value of women. Jesus highly valued women and the examples given in the TGC article are accurate. Then the article moves on to its main point —complementarianism. Men are to be the leaders in the church, in the marriage, in the family, and so on. I don’t want to get into that whole debate here. I hate people demanding that I embrace the label “complementarian” or “egalitarian” for myself. I prefer to say “I believe what the Bible teaches about men and women and marriage and family and church.”

My point here is this. Ok, let’s say that the Bible teaches that men are to be pastors and elders in the church, not women. And that men are to be the leaders in their marriage and in their home. That women, all things being equal, are not to be in those positions. Then here is my challenge to the men.

Why should the Lord continue to entrust any man with the oversight of Christ’s church when that man continues to cover for and enable wicked abusers? What makes you so certain that the Lord would not appoint a godly woman in the place of such an ungodly man? It is evident and plain for anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear that evil, wicked, oppressive abuse IS being enabled and covered for by church leaders, many if not most of whom are men. Do you really think that male leadership in the church is more important to the Lord than justice and mercy and courageous defense of the oppressed? Do you think that the Lord would rather have a “good ‘ol boy” who protects evildoers leading His flock than a woman who is a true daughter of Abraham?

Evil, power-and-control hungry, wicked men ARE being protected and covered for in many if not most local churches. Those who want to deny that, well, we have nothing to say to you as long as you choose willful blindness. Will the Lord be with any such “shepherd” who feeds himself and not Christ’s lambs? Of course not. To the boys at TGC and really to all men who are leaders in the church and who protect abusers and add to the oppression of victims, I say: You should take a very hard look at yourself and your ministry to see if the glory of the Lord has not already departed from you and that shepherds after His own heart are not being raised up elsewhere in places you might never even think to look. You may well find yourself and your ministry “Ichabod.”

And then one final note. Just because a woman is a woman does not guarantee that she will be a friend to the oppressed. Notice that in my above statements I specified that the Lord may use a GODLY woman — a woman who truly knows Christ and who knows His Word and possesses His wisdom. Many professing Christian women, like many men, do not. Many of the abuser-friendly comments which side with the abuser are made by women.

If the Lord does raise up a woman to lead, she will most certainly be a woman like Deborah, full of His Spirit and His wisdom. One of the chief signs that she has those qualities is how she responds to evil and the victims of evil.

Patriarchal Abusive Marriage is a Counterfeit of Marriage — and thus is very Deceiving

My husband does not permit me to sin. When I sin, he sends me to my room and tells me to stay there until my attitude is godly again.

Those words were spoken by a pastor’s wife to a group of Christian women/wives. Their response?  “Oh, what a model of a godly marriage.”

It was anything but that. And yet, these ladies believed it. They craved it for themselves. They believed that this woman’s husband was high and holy, far above their own husbands. Why? How could they possibly believe that such a thing as this pastor’s wife described is biblical, Christian, genuine marriage? In part, I suggest that the answer is that the enemy is a master counterfeiter. He is a liar and a deceiver. He sends false Jesus figures, false Christs, false pastors, false pastor wives, false Christians into our midst and these counterfeits are quite often, outwardly, genuine in appearance.

Patriarchal abusive marriage is a counterfeit of biblical marriage. It boasts of “submission” but runs with that idea and turns it into slavery. It lauds “headship” and presents the abuser to us as a model of that headship. He tells her what clothes to wear and she wears them, and only them. He tells her she must obey him, and she obeys him. He tells her what the true interpretation of Scripture is, and she believes him. The children appear to be a model of obedience to their parents, and the rest of the families in the church wish their children and homes looked like that.

But the whole thing is false. It is a sham. The marriage. The home. The family. The whole thing is bogus, an imitation, but only an imitation, and a very deceptive one. It is an idol created by man to bring us into bondage.

Do you envy some marriage or family in your church? Are the objects of your envy regarded by the church as a model of godliness? Take care. You may very well have been duped by a deception. The genuine is often in the background, unseen, following Christ humbly rather than blowing trumpets on street corners.

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Mat 6:1-4)

 

The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 5)

The Pharisees were the representatives of the Divine law — not only of that given to Israel on Mount Sinai, but also of those more secret ordinances which were only verbally communicated to Moses, in explanation of, and in addition to the law. “(Edersheim)

Their numbers were incredibly small…. Yet this inconsiderable minority could cast Judaism in its mold, and for such terrible evil gave its final direction to the nation!  Edersheim)

Acts 23:12-13, When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who made this conspiracy.

Part of the very nature of Pharisaical religion is tradition.  The Roman Catholic church is very much today’s prime example – it has a body of tradition that it openly declares to be the authoritative word of God.  It has its priesthood and its rites.  It adds works to the gospel.  I realize that in this era of extreme ecumenicity, those words sound harsh and judgmental.  But there it is. Rome is a counterfeit church preaching a counterfeit gospel led by a counterfeit bishop and priests exercising counterfeit sacraments.

However, the expression of the religion of the Pharisees that we particularly want to expose here is not that of Rome, but that which has infected the evangelical, professedly Bible-believing church.  Man-made traditions accepted as God’s Word.  A false priesthood.  The elements are to be found among us as well as in Rome.  As it was in Jesus’ day, as Edersheim notes, so it is today — the small numbers of the Pharisees have pressed us into their mold and are giving direction to our churches. And this needs to change.  It will not change easily.   Pharisees don’t go down without a fight.

Let’s return now to Matthew 3 where John the Baptist encounters this breed of religionist and see what more we can learn about them:

Matthew 3:1-10, In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Alright, what characteristics of this false religion can we identify in this passage? Remember, we can expect to find the very same qualities today wherever the religion of the Pharisees is “sold” –

  • As soon as the true Gospel of Christ comes, expect the Pharisees to show up shortly.  The Gospel makes the way of the Lord straight.  It makes Christ’s way clear and visible.  It opens up the way for Christ to come to us.  It invites Him to meet us and speak to us.  Pharisaism hinders the Word of God and the work of His Spirit.
  • The true Gospel of Christ is preached by those who are foolish.  John is a kind of mountain man.  His clothing is wild.  His food is wild.  Everything about him is wild as he preaches in the wilderness.  The Gospel is not traditional.  The religion of the Pharisees is robed in fine garments, adorning the exterior of men.  Its adherents exalt themselves.  Their religion appeals to the world.
  • The true Gospel of Christ is at war with the religion of the Pharisees.  It has nothing in common with it and it loudly exposes Pharisaism for what it is – poisonous and devilish.  A viper den.
  • The true Gospel of Christ is concerned with the heart — with faith and repentance.  It calls people to repent of their sin and turn in faith to Christ.  The religion of the Pharisees has no concern with heart issues like repentance.  It is exterior in its nature.  It hates the call to repentance and it shows no fruit of repentance.
  • The true Gospel of Christ gives birth to children by faith and regeneration.  Pharisaical religion rests its confidence in externals, including heritage, nationality, and culture.

So then, what can we expect Pharisaical religion to look like today?  Why don’t you tell us?  Take these qualities of the Pharisees, contrast them with the true gospel of Christ and the true church, and describe for us how these traits are evidencing themselves in our churches today.  Give us examples of how the way to Christ is being hindered by it, and how it appeals to the world.  In what ways do you see its lack of repentance evidencing itself among us.  And how does “Cultural Christianity” appear among us today?  Let’s see how many of these things we can expose.

Go to Part 5 of this series