Marriage is Made for People, Not People for Marriage

The teaching of the church has compounded much of this hurt rather than alleviating it. Victims of continued abuse have been told they must stay married, and if they do get divorced, they have been told they cannot remarry until their former partner has died. And sometimes those who have divorced and remarried are told by their church that they must now divorce their new spouse because in God’s eyes they are still married to the person who abused or neglected them. Thus the church makes them a victim for a second time. (Instone-Brewer 2003, [Kindle] Location 1795)

One of our readers asked if we could post the following paragraphs from my book, A Cry for Justice*, pp202-4 as she found them so helpful.  So, here they are! Thanks to her for typing them up for us:

Continue reading “Marriage is Made for People, Not People for Marriage”

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.

 

The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 7)

Matthew 6:1-8 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. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

As we continue to examine the religion of the modern Pharisee, let’s remind ourselves that the first place to look for it is within ourselves. It is the religion of sinful flesh, and we all have plenty of that remaining in us.  Pharisaism is form without reality.  It is the motions of religion devoid of the presence of Christ.  And it is heartless.  Don’t expect love or mercy or real kindness from it.

As our Lord warns us here in this second chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, Pharisaical religion is about show. It is about self-glorification, not about the glory of God.  The Pharisee craves to be seen, and he has numbers of ways of getting that attention.  He gives money to the church and makes certain everyone knows about it — or at least those who are in a position to exalt him.  In Jesus’ day trumpets sounded as the hypocrites dropped their money in the box.  How much do you want to bet that the more you gave, the more trumpets sounded!  Pharisees crave praise, and all too often they receive it in their churches.

Continue reading “The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 7)”

The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 6)

Matthew 5:17-20, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Let’s remind ourselves once more that the New Pharisaism in our churches is, in my opinion, responsible to a large extent for the sorry treatment that abuse victims are receiving at the hands of their fellow Christians.  That is the reason for this series of articles.

What do we find here in this second mention of the Pharisees in Matthew’s Gospel? Well, the Lord Jesus says that the “righteousness” of this religion is deficient.  It is not a righteousness that can bring a single person into the kingdom of heaven.  You can’t be saved by it.  And that means that anyone who is an adherent of this religion has embraced a false gospel and cannot be saved in it.  That is not to say that genuine Christians cannot be affected and mislead by it.  I am sure this happens more than we would like to think.

Continue reading “The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 6)”

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 Holy Spirit Calls us to Expose Evil — People Tell us to be Quiet About it

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21)

All through my life I have seen evil and injustice. Like most of you, I have seen it personally in the workplace and in the church. And every time I have seen it, I have been told to be quiet about it. Not by the Lord, but by people. When you are told often enough that you are exaggerating, that you are too judgmental, that you need to just overlook things, you start to believe it. You think that you must be “a problem.”

Here is the thesis of this article that I want to state and support:

The Holy Spirit inhabits and leads every Christian. Because He is the holy Spirit, He reacts against un-holiness. When the Christian is in the presence of evil, the Spirit in him tells him “something is wrong here. This is not right. This is sin. Here is what God’s Word says about this.” 

And then what happens? When the Christian, led by the Spirit, speaks out against this wrong and exposes it, pressure from the enemy comes against him to be quiet about it. To minimize it. To feel a sense of guilt for even thinking badly about someone else. And this opposition to the Spirit, this quenching of the Lord in us, is particularly effective when it comes from the mouth of someone who claims to be a fellow believer —

“Now, Jeff, that is just how Mrs. Smith is. She is really a very good woman and fine Christian. So just be patient with her tantrums and steer a wide path around her and try to get along. We try not to talk much around here about her foibles. After all, she is such a fine pianist and choir director.”

Mrs. Smith has been the pianist and choir director in that church for 40 years! And for 40 years Mrs. Smith has thrown those wicked tantrums whenever she doesn’t get her way. This is sin. It is evil. Mrs. Smith is an agent of the enemy, but the “godly folk” there in the church make it clear that you must not speak of her sin or talk about the Bible saying we are to deal with sin in the church.

In the very first church that I was a pastor in, I knew by the third day that something was very, very wrong. I wasn’t wise enough to know exactly what it was, but I knew. I felt it. I met with the church board consisting of some six or seven people and I simply did not see Christ in them. Oh, perhaps one or two were believers, but not the rest (time would prove that assessment to be accurate). And there were other issues evident that plainly contradicted God’s Word regarding life in His church.

We were sent to this church by a home missions board that we were with. I phoned our regional director and gave him my assessment of the situation. In just a few hours I received a phone call from the head of the missions agency and he was irate! He told me that “of course the people in that church are unsaved. Don’t try to change anything. Just be patient with them, get to know them, and they will get saved.” In others words, “Jeff, just shut up about these things you see that you say are contrary to the Lord’s truth. You are just going to cause trouble.”

Well, I was in that church for eight years. I assumed the missions director knew what he was talking about. I didn’t want to be a trouble maker. So I preached Scripture and taught the people and. . . what happened? Trouble. Attacks. Constant division and fighting. Rank immorality. A terrible testimony to the community. And why was that? Because the Holy Spirit had been trying to tell me from the very start that this “church” was no church at all because there were but maybe one or two genuinely converted people in it.  That is to say, my first conviction that I needed to announce something like this to a congregation of the wicked was right, and that missions director was dead wrong —

When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations — I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:12-17)

You see, these were not mere unbelieving pagans. No, these were church members who claimed to be Christians! That “church” needed to be reduced to a small handful and genuine believers, and then begin a real ministry.

The Holy Spirit leads us to expose evil. People, especially false Christians, pressure us to hide it, excuse it, and cover it up.

And that brings us right back round to why abusers are able to operate and hide in most churches. Evil is not called evil. Those who call evil out are labeled as trouble makers. Just like most of you have been called trouble makers, unloving, unforgiving, and judgmental because you dared say that your abuser is a wicked person parading as a Christian. It has taken me decades, but the Lord has finally gotten it through my head. I will not be quiet when the Spirit of Christ shows me evil in His church. I will make trouble for that evil. I will not minimize the circumstances and excuse it with some blow off statement like, “well, you know we are all brothers in Christ here and we just must love and forgive and be patient.” No! Where in God’s Word does the Lord instruct us to keep quiet about Satan in our midst? Nowhere. That’s where.

These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude 1:12-13)

“But King David Did it” A Line we Hear Repeatedly When Some Leader’s Evil is Outed

Recently we had a bit of a go ’round with a fellow who has been a Bill Gothard follower for years. He still wanted to defend Gothard by insisting that we must withhold judgment until “the facts are in.” We maintain that the facts ARE in and Gothard is to be rejected now as still another example of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Anyway, this fellow pulled the King David card on us and I think it is important that we carefully think through this typical tactic used by people who simply will not admit that their idol is in fact an evil person hiding behind a facade. Here is what he said:

A man [i.e., King David] committed adultery then murdered to cover it up. Pretty bad. In time, God’s prophet confronted the man, he eventually repented and now and for all time, God says “David is a man after my own heart”.  And the episode, though destructive short term, did not invalidate all the good that David did before the adultery.

There is sooo much wrong in these words. First of all, it is erroneous to compare someone like Gothard with King David. Why? Because, yes, David did in fact repent. Genuinely. Authentically. We have seen none of this in Gothard, nor do we see it in most all the big name “Christian” celebs and leaders who get exposed for what they really are. What we do see in them is denial, superficial tears, and even more telling, their insistence that since “God has forgiven me, you all must forgive me too and let me keep right on in ministry.” David did none of this. David knew he deserved nothing but death. He knew he didn’t deserve to be king. Furthermore, God pronounced longstanding consequences upon David and his family for David’s sin. Yes, David WAS a man after God’s own heart. And that is the fundamental difference between him and these scandalous icon types we see so frequently today.

So don’t let anyone pull the David card on you. Abusers do this all the time, as most all of you know. You have to forgive them, they say, no matter how evil they have been against you, because God forgave David. Well, Mr. Abuser, here’s the catch. YOU are no King David whose Seed would be Messiah and of whose throne there will be no end. You are not, unlike David, a man after God’s own heart. Unlike David, you do not authentically repent. And therefore, not only does your victim not have to forgive you, God Himself does not forgive you.