A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

When the Abuser is a Pastor

Jeremiah 23:1-4 ESV (1)  “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. (2)  Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. (3)  Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. (4)  I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.

Increasingly we are hearing from abuse victims whose abuser is a pastor.  Emphasis upon “increasingly.”  These reports are common enough that we are beginning to wonder if one major reason abuse victims are being treated with such injustice in churches is because their pastor is an abuser himself.  Yes, many pastors are just plain clueless about abuse.  They are fearful when an abuse report comes their way and they morph into self-protection mode.  But the plain, biblical truth is that false shepherds creep into the body of Christ and destroy and scatter Christ’s sheep.  They scatter Christ’s sheep.  Not other sheep.  But the lambs of Christ.

When an abuser is a pastor, he uses his position and pulpit to effect his power and control, lording it over the people, and has a secondary purpose as well: to cover his own wickedness.  He covers himself by:

  • Demanding abuse victims remain with their abuser
  • Forbidding divorce for abuse with “biblical” arguments
  • “Confessing” his own sins in sermons and announcing how his wife always lovingly forgives him
  • Making divorce out to be the unpardonable sin
  • Warping the doctrines of marriage, including the concepts of head and submission
  • Puts on a “pastor persona” especially in the pulpit that can even parade as humility but in fact lords it over the flock
  • Twisting the doctrines of regeneration, justification, and sanctification to excuse sin in the believer
  • Fills his sermons with tradition, with his own ideas and stories and experiences which actually become the “meat” of his sermon rather than Scripture
  • Deals with Scripture superficially and in passing, then pronouncing his own interpretations and applications with little or no biblical support
  • Mocking women, often in a manner of “plausible deniability” in case he is ever called down for doing this.  “I wasn’t serious.  I was just being funny.”

We should expect abusers to seek the position of pastor.  Why?  Well, what better venue for doing the things he loves the most: putting on a godly facade, being the center of attention, controlling others, getting onto a track for increasing his power and fame.  No wonder Jesus warned us about wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Paul did as well and so did Peter and so did…almost every book of the Bible!

Did you ever see the recent movie “Bernie”?  It is based upon the true story of a guy who blew into a small town and soon became the most popular personality in the whole community.  He was a funeral director, stage director, professing Christian, talented singer, and he knew just what to do at just the right times in social settings.  And then he enamored himself to an elderly rich widow, took her money, and murdered her.  He put her body in a freezer and kept right on spending her money for months before being found out.  In spite of overwhelming evidence – including his own confession that he shot the woman – many people in the town still think he was treated unjustly in being sent to prison.

Human beings are capable of incredible deception.  And the most masterful at this trade seem to choose the arena of the church to carry out their devilish, self-serving plans at the expense of the sheep of Christ’s pasture.

Jude 1:4 ESV
(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.

Acts 20:28-30 ESV(28)  Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.(29)  I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;(30)  and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

There are faithful, genuine shepherds out there who are truly pastoring Christ’s flock.  But this is how they are going to look:

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ESV (1)  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.

And again:

1 Kings 22:7-14 ESV (7)  But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?”(8)  And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” (9)  Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah the son of Imlah.” (10)  Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah were sitting on their thrones, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria, and all the prophets were prophesying before them. (11)  And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘With these you shall push the Syrians until they are destroyed.’” (12)  And all the prophets prophesied so and said, “Go up to Ramoth-gilead and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.” (13)  And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” (14)  But Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I will speak.”

See it?  All the mass of “preachers” were telling the king exactly what he wanted to hear.  Micaiah stood alone.  He would not compromise God’s Word, no matter what the consequences to him.  This should deliver a powerful “light bulb” moment to our thinking.  We can expect many – the mainstream – to be carried off with error and to be preaching error.  So when it comes to this whole matter of abuse hiding in the church, we should pay close heed to the Lord’s warning.  “Many will come in My name….”.  MANY.

And it would seem that now, in our day, we are witnessing this very thing.  Micaiah was what?  ONE in 400!

1 Kings 22:6 ESV (6)  Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.”

Why would we expect that ratio to be any different today?

66 Comments

  1. Lynette D

    What I have seen is that pastors who are super passionate (screaming from the pulpit about it) about some sin are usually doing it themselves.

  2. Song

    Wow, Jeff! Thank you! This was very clear and a great description of an abusive pastor. The reference to “Bernie” was a good example of how it can look.
    Great scriptures and great explanations. Thank you!

  3. Katy

    “Why would we expect that ratio to be any different today?”

    This would explain most of our experiences in the modern church, frankly.

  4. Here are some other characteristics of abusers in the pulpit that I have observed from personal experience and from reading or listening to recorded sermons by pastors whose wives have disclosed to myself or to colleagues I trust, that their husband is abusive in the privacy of the marriage.

    * Smooth and appealing on the surface, insidious, malicious and cunning below the surface – His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords. (Ps 55:21)
    * Occasionally glorifies violence in sermon illustrations using militaristic expressions, and may even boast about his own impulses to violence, but with plausible deniability
    * Can use an angry, pointed and demanding tone during sermons
    * He humiliates the weak and oppressed, yet does it in a way that makes most people think that he is a kind, sincere person; this tactic can guilt-trip the bruised reeds and shame the smouldering wicks in the congregation.
    * Uses oratory to manipulate the audience’s emotions and attentiveness: dramatic changes of volume and tone used to aggrandize himself or to waken those in the congregation who are falling off to sleep; despite the apparent surface meaning of his words (which may be glorifying God) the glory is actually being drawn to himself.
    * Often delivers his sermon quite fast: jumping from text to text and illustration to illustration so quickly that listeners cannot mull over his logic or the soundness of his applications. It’s a running patter that is designed to whip the listeners along and over-ride the more deep-thinking people in the congregation who might want to pull back and analytically reflect on the content of the sermon.
    * Uses crass jokes and humor to glorify and boast about himself, and to subtly put down his wife.
    * He may recount, in the midst of all this running patter, an incident that happened at home between his wife and himself, casting it as an illustration of some point he is supposedly explaining from scripture. The story he recounts is told in a way that is ever so slightly humiliating to his wife; it shows her in a negative light, but not so much that the rest of the congregation will sense his real hatred for his wife; more likely they will just chuckle a bit and maybe the more godly members of the congregation will have a slight sense of discomfort for a micro-second, but not enough to really remember afterwards. However, the wife listening to the sermon from the pews can read between the lines and knows her husband is giving her a warning: “Don’t do anything like that again or I’ll humiliate you once more before the entire congregation.”
    * False humility
    * Condescending sarcasm
    * Talking down to his audience as if they are stupid (boys and girls)
    * Cheesy or coarse illustrations that disparage Christians and dumb the application down to the lowest common denominator of our modern selfish materialistic entertainment lifestyle, or treat all Christians as if they are battling the most basic fleshly temptations all the time (When a preacher does this it makes me suspect that he, the preacher, is constantly tempted by the flesh, and cannot imagine that it would not be the same for everyone else. I think he may be unwittingly letting his habitual sins be known – to those who have ears to hear.)
    * Arrogance – he talks about himself as if he has “been through it all” and now “arrived”
    * He secretly thinks his congregation is obnoxious, and he may not be shy of making that clear – though with plausible-deniability so he can squirm out later if challenged
    * Poor exegesis, poor reasoning, self-contradiction
    * He distorts and even ravages the meaning of scripture, often as a way of defending himself or setting up for a loophole for himself so that if and when he gets caught for a misdemeanor or a crime, he has prepared the ground so that his sins will be overlooked and he will be easily forgiven
    * Ignorant, goofy, dishonest conveying of Bible facts

    • Anonymous

      You have said this in there somewhere, Barb, but I just want to accentuate this:

      They accept simple apologies without any evidence of change, for true repentance, between abusers and their victims, but they themselves expect groveling and never really forgive people for anything, no matter how much you ask.

      and one more;

      They believe they hold a power above God, and use it to actually destroy people who do not abide by their plans, or bow to their demands. They consider themselves above questioning and will even go so far as to say that if you don’t accept their counsel, then it proves they are “right” about you.

      I really recommend the book by Johnson and Vonderen, “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse”. It has taught me so much and I can see so much clearer, the mess I was in and should have gotten out of much sooner, but unfortunately, didn’t. Here are a few good quotes from the book: “The individual is left bearing a weight of guilt, judgment or condemnation (Rom. 8:1) and confusion about their worth and standing as a Christian. It’s at this point, we say, that spirituality has become abusive”.

      “It’s possible to become so determined to defend a spiritual place of authority, a doctrine or a way of doing things that you wound and abuse anyone who questions, or disagrees, or doesn’t ‘behave’ spiritually the way YOU want them to. When your words and actions tear down another, or attack or weaken a person’s standing as a Christian–to gratify you, your position or your (OWN PERSONAL) beliefs while at the same time weakening or harming another– that IS spiritual abuse.”

      “There are spiritual systems in which what people think, how they feel and what they need or want does not matter. People’s needs go unmet. In these systems, the MEMBERS are there to meet the needs of THE LEADERS; needs for power, importance, intimacy, value — really, SELF-related needs. These leaders attempt to find fulfillment through the religious PERFORMANCE of the very people whom they are there TO SERVE AND BUILD. This is an inversion of the body of Christ. IT IS SPIRITUAL ABUSE.” (all emphasis mine)

      • MeganC

        I have GOT to get this book. These are incredible quotes, Anon! Thank you.

        They remind me of something I read last night — a chapter in “In Sheep’s Clothing” that describes a pastor just like that. The chapter was entitled “The Unbridled Quest For Power”. The author writes:

        “James” is a covert-aggressive personality. He uses the “cover” of serving the Lord and ministering to the needs of others to satisfy his ambition for prestige, position and power. His character is deeply flawed. . . Serving the needs of others is really the furthest thing from his mind. Serving his own ambition is James’ true agenda.

      • Anonymous

        Hmmm… I really need to get THAT book! The book I refer to is pretty easy reading and it also covers people who are already being abused, being further abused by these pastors/leaders and why it happens so easily to them. It is great for helping someone to realize they are being abused, but also to aid them in not setting themselves up for it again.

        Pastors and leaders just need to realize, that once they step over the line, they have forfeited any and all authority under God and are only operating in their own power. BTW, I love your new blog~

      • MeganC

        Thank you, dear Anon. We are excited about it. :)

        Downloading that little gem onto my Kindle presently.

      • Mama Martin

        “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” was the first book my counsellor suggested that I read. It was eye-opening! I did not have to deal with abuse in the church but in our home and this was a safer start since it didn’t talk about abuse ‘here’ but ‘there’. That said, I still was uncertain about ordering it in through the public library in our small town AND it was well hidden among the stacks of books while it was in the house since it has the work ABUSE in the title. When I took my notes, I could not write that word at that time and just used an abbreviation.
        I did not deal with abuse in the church but I did meet ignorance (hey, I’d been ignorant and I’d lived with it so what do you expect from others?). Several things the pastor did and said put me into danger – but I do not consider that abuse since it did not come from the mindset of entitlement, centrality, superiority. When you meet those attitudes, you find abuse.

  5. Lynette D

    Just to clarify, preaching with passion is not what I meant. It’s one thing to be passionate but I am talking about spit flying screaming in your face stuff. What I meant lines up more with Barbara’s recent comments.

    • Anonymous

      Like slamming the Bible down, only if you were three feet closer, it would have been slammed on your head?

      • Anonymous

        Should have read: Like slamming the Bible down on the pulpit…

      • Jeff Crippen

        That’s called raging, only it is “spiritual.”

      • LynetteD

        pretty much.

      • Mama Martin

        Does this ‘raging’ have any relation to addiction? I know that people exchange addictions such as alcohol or pornography for a ‘spiritual’ addiction and can exhibit the same behaviours as a ‘dry drunk’.
        Addictions are no excuse for abuse. The abuser does not abuse because he is angry or because he is an addict. The abuser is often angry because he is an abuser. An addiction can be an problem IN ADDITION TO abuse and dealing with the addiction often makes the abuse worse (because it does not deal with the entitled mindset of the abuser). The ABUSE must be dealt with, not just the addiction.
        It is so hard to discern if the actions come from the mindset of entitlement and desire to control (never,never admitted verbally!), but abusers cannot hide for long for their actions give them away to those who both look and listen. Their words do NOT line up with their actions.

  6. Anonymous

    All I can say is, Amen! Come Lord Jesus and save us from the false shepherds who secretly desire our souls’ destruction.

  7. One ex pastor worked together with my husband to break me down (whether knowingly or unknowingly). He would try to get me to force my teenage son to drink the wine they served for communion- he had a very arrogant demeanor, sitting in a chair like Lord of the manor- would definitely put down his wife in subtle and not so subtle ways- I actually reprimanded him a time or two for it and the look of shock in his eyes was priceless. His poor wife would spend 2 or 3 days at a time in bed with migraines fairly often. His daughter once told my daughter when they were pretty young that she was afraid she might marry an abusive man one day. I’m sure this girl had no idea consciously that her father is probably abusive, so that seemed very telling.

  8. Ah- another pastor used to love to talk over the people’s heads-using terms like Lordship Salvation and the Regulative principle- knowing they wouldn’t understand what he meant and they would never admit it-so I would usually speak up and explain the terms to them and he would just at me with daggers in his eyes-but there was no way I was going to let him get away with that!

  9. MeganC

    This is such a good post, Jeff C. That last bit especially affected me: Why would that ratio be any different today? Very sobering.

  10. Karen R.

    I wanted to see this film because it features Jack Black as Bernie. It is based on a true story.

    According the Wikipedia “The film is based on a 1998 Texas Monthly magazine article by Hollandsworth, “Midnight in the Garden of East Texas,”[5] that chronicles the 1996 murder of 81-year-old millionaire Marjorie Nugent in Carthage, Texas by her 39-year-old companion,[6] Bernhardt “Bernie” Tiede. Tiede proved so highly regarded in Carthage that, in spite of having confessed to the police, the District Attorney was eventually forced to request a rare prosecutorial change of venue in order to secure a fair trial.”

    Excellent post and one comment that you made especially stands out to me:

    ■“Confessing” his own sins in sermons and announcing how his wife always lovingly forgives him.

    Pastors/preachers use sermon illustrations to show how their wives lovingly forgave them or they will give an illustration about how a woman came to them for counseling about a “difficult” (read abusive) marriage and how she decided to “trust in the Lord” and keep hanging in there. It is often told in such as way as to demonstrate that the wife is wlling to “redemptively” suffer and the implication is that this is what truly Godly woman would do.
    I have been a Christian for over 39 years and I have never heard a sermon illustration where a man went for counseling in a difficult situation who decided or who was counseled to stay (certainly not saying that he should….women can be borderline and abuse too) or more importantly, I’d love to hear the illustration where a woman in an abusive situation was told “Run! This is not was God has called you to. It is not God’s desire for you to be abused. That is not his heart.”

    • Jeff Crippen

      Karen – I can’t think of one either. It is always the woman who comes, does what she “needs” to do, stays, etc. She is told and we are told that if she will just persevere, submit more, pray, be a better wife, she will win her husband’s love and his repentance. And she is supposed to do all of this so that the marriage “models Christ.” Hey wait a minute, so, we are supposed to earn Christ’s love for us by…..??

      • Anonymous

        Also, I have never heard a message, where the husband was actually called the sinful party and HE went off and went to counseling and then admitted to all his abuse of his wife and family and then repented and changed and came around. Has anyone else ever heard that sermon?

        Or, what about this one — The man was sent to counseling BY the Pastor and leaders of the Church, because they so highly disapproved of his sin against his wife and family, and when he did not repent and change (key word there – “change”), the Pastor and leaders lovingly took the wife and children and walked them to the divorce lawyer, and offered to help her and the children in anyway they could. I’m guessing no one has ever heard that sermon before, either.

        Maybe only if you are in the Church where Ps. Jeff watches over Christ’s flock.

      • Even with all the work I do in this area, I’ve never even even imagined such messages being taught, let alone heard of one for real. We need to keep imagining and dreaming this stuff, and sharing the dream, till it comes to pass.

    • Exactly so, Karen.
      When a pastor told me that there is a “Biblical principle of fleeing” it nearly knocked my socks off. If it were not for that pastor giving me true teaching and validation, I don’t know where I’d be today.

      • Urszula

        Very encouraging, Karen and Barbara. Thank you. This “Biblical principle of fleeing” is like a breath of fresh air–a breath of new life!!

  11. Urszula

    “So when it comes to this whole matter of abuse hiding in the church, we should pay close heed to the Lord’s warning. ‘Many will come in My name….’. MANY.”

    Thank you, Jeff! Your perceptive scriptural and personal insights in this message have profound ramifications. This line in particular is one I have mulled over often since leaving my abusive situation–especially when pursued by those “many” as they call me out on my degenerate, unchristian behavior and attempt to explain my culpability in a horrendous nightmare of their very own creation. I’m sure this Lord’s warning is one so many of us will carry in our hearts forever–and thank Him for that!!

  12. LynetteD

    I just want to share something that is a tell tale sign of someone abusing the flock. Often wives are told to submit in everything. But wives will say their husband won’t let them tithe, and the pastor will tell her to go behind his back to ‘find a way’. Can anyone say hypocrite? I know its a bit off topic, but just an example I personally had.

  13. As I See It Only

    Jeff, you are bang on. When I finally got up the nerve to go to my pastor and ask for help with my abusive relationship, he said ‘Don’t go there’. A short time later I was handed a forced resignation from the church and I have been a wandering exile ever since. Does this not make God see red? When will He rise up and defend all these oppressed and powerless women and children?

    • Jeff S

      As I See It Only,
      I am so sorry for your experience. When the people we go to for help instead turn on us . . . it’s such a painful thing- especially when we are talking about our support network in a time of crises (which for many people is all tied into their church).

      I’m sorry that you are in exile from that body, but rest assured you are not in exile from believers on this site or, more importantly, Jesus.

    • Jeff Crippen

      As I See it – I think maybe He is starting to rise up. It is possible that more voices are speaking. His wrath is certainly against all oppressors and they should fear. You were not put out of a true church. You are like the blind man Jesus healed in John 9. They threw him out of the temple, but the chapter closes with him finding Jesus, the true temple. That is where you are.

      • Still Scared( but getting angry)

        What a blessed thought Jeff!! The true Temple!! Speaks to my thirsty soul

      • As I See It Only

        You are right, I guess. Funny though how every church around ‘just wants to be consistent’ with the first one. How does anyone else out there find a true fellowship of believers? I’ve stopped looking. My children have stopped looking. Maybe Still Scared has it right–Get Angry. Forget about church, just go help somebody else.

      • Jeff Crippen

        As I See – Yes, I agree with JeffS’ words. Be encouraged. Just think of how the “church” was in Jesus’ days on earth. It appeared to be the temple system at Jerusalem, but turns out it wasn’t. Jesus, the true temple, came and the true church was His “mother and brothers.” All who do His will, that is. There He is over there eating with the outcasts and sinners. And there He is being persecuted and ultimately killed by “the church.” So it really has always been the same. Some visible, local churches are true churches. But many are not. Those who are truly Christ’s are not perfect. They may be ignorant about abuse and duped by the abuser, but Christ’s Spirit will lead them to the truth and they will start to do right. Just last week I mailed a copy of A Cry for Justice (our book) to a pastor of a small church in Idaho. He had never heard of me. But guess what? He called me the next week and told me he loves the book and he is going to buy copies of it for his elders and all of them are going to go through it together. Don’t know where you live, but that church is in Idaho.

        So even though it is tempting, we should none of us despair. Christ is the King of His Church. His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. And He does hear our prayers. We need to press on and keep pleading with Him to do a great work and raise up more voices that are saying “enough of this oppression of the weak! This must stop! Look, see that evil guy in your church? He has you fooled, but I will show you what he really is!” And His sheep will hear.

      • Jeff S

        Ouch- that’s tough. I know the church I went to after I left my church over the divorce issue actually did contact them to see if I was under church discipline, and thankfully I wasn’t. They didn’t say they wouldn’t let me join if I was, but it meant there were no questions to worry about.

        I understand wanting to protect the integrity of church discipline, but those churches really can’t just accept it without really understanding what the discipline was for and measuring it against their own theology. In my case the elders took the time to meet with the elders of the old church (after asking my permission).

        I’d suspect none of these churches would be good for you, but I know that doesn’t make it feel any better. I honestly don’t know that I’d have had the energy to keep looking if I hadn’t found an accepting church right out of the gate. I briefly considered going to a more mainline church just to find people who would accept me.

        But rest assured, God sees you and loves you whether you are able to find folks to worship with or not. I’ve actually considered doing a broadcast worship service (just music) for folks who can’t find a church, but I’m not sure how well that would work. At the very least, check out Jeff Crippen’s sermons on abuse. You can have church with him for a while!

  14. The Persistent Widow

    I have experienced, that in addition to the other red flags mentioned above, it is no surprise that an abusive pastor cultivates an environment of secrecy. At my previous church, when a marriage problem was brought to the attention of the church leadership, there was an unspoken code of silence and to discuss the issue out of concern was seen as gossip. Eventually, the parties involved would leave the church, and not another mention would be made of them. When I reported the abuse in my marriage to the leadership, the same thing happened to me, and I was warned that if I should discuss my situation with anyone, I would be divisive. Only one elderly lady from that congregation called me when my children and I stopped attending that church, and when I see the other members in this small town, they seem tense and uninterested in knowing why we left. Almost a “don’t tell me-I don’t want to know” attitude.
    Now that I am meeting the others who were sent outside the camp, we are comparing notes. Really interesting…it turns out that they also were roughed up by the leadership-emotionally and spiritually leading to guilt, feelings of betrayal, confusion and even stress related health issues. When I see that pastor around town, he never fails to make a disgusted look at me. I have to smile about that, and that makes him all the more aggitated.
    There is a pattern at that church. When someone brings their problem to the leadership, they evenutally disappear, and all mention of them stops. I am so glad that the Lord delivered us from that spiritual oppression! It was painful at the time, but God certianly worked all of this for our good!

    • “Eventually, the parties involved would leave the church, and not another mention would be made of them… When someone brings their problem to the leadership, they evenutally disappear, and all mention of them stops.” .. this is called ‘giving the silent treatment’.

      I’ve lost my copy of The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans, but maybe one of our readers can find a good quote from that book about how Giving the Silent Treatment is one of the forms of verbal abuse.

      It shows immense contempt for a person, when you don’t even deign to respond to them.

      • Anonymous

        I believe the best book to read on this subject of Spiritual Abuse, is “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” by VanVonderen and Johnson (quoted above). I have one exception I have found with it, however. There is a portion where they talk about spousal abuse and say that they believe the abused should protect themselves from the abuser, but stay in relationship with them. So, just beware of that. However, later they talk about forgiveness and do agree that forgiveness does not mean reconciliation, so it can be a bit confusing to have both thoughts going on. For the most part, the book is good and deals with all the dynamics of being spiritually abused, how to identify it and why it is so hard to get out from under this junk. It deals with “silent treatment” among numerous other abuses performed by leaders in the “c”hurch. I would highly recommend it, but with the caveat mentioned above. I am not completely through the book yet, but I have learned immense measures concerning what to look for, next time around.

      • Thank you so much, Anon. I’ll put that book on our Recommended Resources page and add a link back to your caveat here. This is good stuff. I love how we all work together as a team.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Barbara – Jeff VanVondoren has another closely related book called Tired of Trying to Measure Up and it is excellent as well. It is primarily about how other people and our churches and families can become shame-based systems that shame us and that is how they get us to be in bondage to them. It is another highly recommended book too.

  15. This comment was sent to me by email by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous. Here is what she wrote:

    I wanted to share with you all this video on Mark Driscoll ‘talking’ to men in his church about abusing their wives. While abuse is horrible and a serious problem in the church it has been my experience that those who approach a sermon in this manner are usually doing it themselves. At the 4:30 mark he starts his tirade. However it seems very phony to me. Then at 4:50 he he says ‘we are now going to take offerings and communion. And before you do, apologize to your wife or God may strike you dead right here.’ There is just something so off about this.

    But if you read this
    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2012/09/20/mark-driscolls-bizarre-world-of-queen-esther-the-bachelorette/ In that blog there are comments directly from Mark’s sermon. I cannot find a transcipt of the sermon on Esther. You will see some of his true colors come out. Esther has been called one the greatest women in the bible, but not according to him. I don’t know how you can rail against men abusing their wives and then preach a sermon such as this. The bigger issue is that millions follow this man. I find that frightening.

    • Note: the reader didn’t send me the link to that video but I think I’ve found the right one:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkaeAkJO0w8
      TRIGGER WARNING – Driscoll yells and rages and points his finger. Such things may remind you of your own abuser’s rage and finger-pointing.

    • Jeff S

      Regarding Driscoll on Esther, he did end up slightly recanting what he said, admitting he might have been wrong in his view that Esther started off unrighteous in the book. Which of course is so not enough, and it appeased few people, but it’s at least worth mentioning. What was quoted in that link was not an actual sermon, but his statements from his preview on Esther. Basically, he was trying to sell a sensationalized view of Esther and people called him on it. Sad when the Veggietales version of Esther is more accurate than Mark Driscoll.

      If anyone has questions about Driscoll being an abuser, here is a video where he calls beating a subordinate’s nose to get him in line “brilliant”:

      There’s another one (which I can’t seem to locate at the moment) in which he laments that the laws of our nation do not allow him to physically assault people.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Was this the one he preached just before he fired the two pastors who criticized his new by laws?

      • Jeff S

        I’m not sure. I do know the “Drink your juice box” sermon (you can google it) was preached after a woman asked him about that situation (and I believe she was subsequently removed from the church).

      • Barnabasintraining

        Yes, this was the one. Unless he’s said this more than once.

      • Katy

        oh wow. the more I see and read about this guy, the more I can’t believe he has such a huge following. Something I find particularly telling is the way he describes himself on his own website: “is one of the world’s most downloaded and quoted pastors.”
        ” His hour-long sermons received 10 million plays and downloads in 2011, with another 5 million views of his sermon clips on YouTube and other channels.”
        “Pastor Mark founded the Resurgence, which services Christian leaders through books, blog posts, conferences, and classes, with theResurgence.com receiving close to 7 million visits annually. ”

        What exactly are we supposed to take from this? That he’s the most popular and successful pastor ever? Does that automatically mean he’s preaching the truth?

        It seems to me more and more, that the more “wildly popular” a pastor is, the less likely he is preaching the true gospel. Of course there is the opposite side of the spectrum, where marginal churches like the Westboro Baptists are tiny and shunned (for good reason).. but being wildly popular and sought out by the mass media seems like an endorsement I would not trust. ?

      • Jeff Crippen

        Katy – I am amazed too, and so was the Apostle Paul. There is just something in people that make them want to follow blindly after someone like this -

        2Co 11:19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves!
        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.

      • “the more I see and read about this guy, the more I can’t believe he has such a huge following.”

        Don’t be surprised. I once knew a youth minister with a thriving youth ministry. He was aggressive and abusive, and he taught the youth how to be very “on fire for Jesus”. His ministry exploded, going from a handful of youth to a couple of hundred. He ended up leaving the church because he couldn’t get along with the adults of the church. The pastor once told me after all of this, “Yes, the youth ministry thrived- it turns out it is not great trick to teach youth how to be rebellious”.

        See, a rebellious nature in the name of Jesus is still rebellious, and Driscoll is doing the same thing, just on a larger scale.

      • Anonymous

        I have to say, that while Mr. Driscoll says some good things here and there, he does have a past worth mentioning, where he was searing in one his messages and talked about certain acts of sex and told the wives they all needed to go home and do this for their husbands, because it was written in the Song of Songs. I hate that people use this book in the Bible, to gratify their own personal lusts. Talk about twisting Scripture! So, there are links to that message on-line, but I would actually not recommend watching it because it will just upset everyone. I too, felt that his message to men about abusing their wives, was a little “off”, especially in light of knowing about his other messages, where he told the wives they had something wrong with them, if they would not participate in some of those sexual acts. Very strange and I imagine any women who had ever experienced a sexual assault, was probably just about losing her mind listening to Driscoll’s sermon on that fine Sunday morning. John MacArthur, went up against Driscoll over this and was demanding that someone who mentors Driscoll, step up and take issue with Driscoll’s behavior. Piper was one who was called on to do that, but I do not know if any of that ever happened.

  16. Katy

    Isn’t Driscoll the one who really likes MMA (cage fighting?)
    I am really curious what he’s like behind closed doors. I wonder if he abuses his wife. Anyone who preaches violence and kinky sex …. makes me wonder

    • Katy, as I am forever the optimist my hope is that he gets his narcissistic supply from his church and doesn’t abuse Grace. She did “coauthor” the sex book with him, though as I understand it he comes off as blaming her for a lot of his problems in it. I haven’t read it, though, so take that with a grain of salt.

      I do know that in the book he talks about finding out that she cheated on him before they were married (in a vision- he claims he can see people’s past sexual sins) and says he would have never married her if he’d known. There’s also a clip where he talks about driving several hours to her college before they were married when she didn’t call him to tell him she was OK. And in the same clip he recalls how he physically threatened all of the men living in her dorm and held that up as the way men are supposed to protect their wives.

      Driscoll practically wears his abusive behavior as a badge of honor, and he’s training up a who generation of men to be like him. I only ever started looking into his ministry because I was looking for a new church with a reformed base and found an “Acts29″ church which I hadn’t heard of. Driscoll has actually stepped away from that organization, but it made me wary of the church anyway. On paper, that church looked better than the one I ended up joining (no surprise- Driscoll and his folks have a lot of good theological stances- do you know that Driscoll does believe in divorce for abuse?), but when I experienced my new church in person, I knew that it was the place. Theology is important, but behavior is even more so.

      • Barnabasintraining

        do you know that Driscoll does believe in divorce for abuse?

        Really??????

      • http://marshill.com/media/1st-corinthians/divorce-and-remarriage#transcript

        Hmm, I guess I was wrong. He says that REMARRIAGE in abuse cases may be OK, not divorce. I kind of equate the two, so that’s why I got it wrong:

        “What if I divorce my spouse because of domestic violence, child abuse, or abandonment. Can I remarry?” This is an elder call. This is an elder call. The Bible doesn’t speak of this issue. Abuse – doesn’t speak. Doesn’t mean it’s okay; it means it’s an elder call. Pastors meet with you, say, “Okay, what happened? Why did you marry that person? How did it go sideways? What have you learned? How are you doing? Who do you want to marry?” Sometimes we’ll meet a gal who picked the wrong guy. It fell apart. She picks another guy – he’s the wrong guy. We say, “We’re not gonna bless this. You’re making the same mistake twice.”

        So the elders, again, we reserve judgment. Is it the right time? Have you healed from your past relationship? Emotionally you’re recovered? How are you doing?”

      • Jeff Crippen

        An elder call? Please!! Sure pastors and elders can provide counsel and hopefully it is godly, wise counsel. But he is claiming authority here that I do not believe church leadership possesses. Ok, if a pastor decides that based upon his own study of Scripture, he cannot in clear conscience preside at a wedding for them, fine. But this business of the church saying yea or nay troubles me when it comes to abuse cases and “gray” areas. If the re-marriage follows an plain, obvious act of adultery and the guilty party is the one re-marrying, then it is a BIBLE issue, plain and simple. But when elders and pastors put themselves in the position of “you come to us and we will examine you and we will tell if you we will let you do this or that” I think they have crossed the line.

      • “But when elders and pastors put themselves in the position of “you come to us and we will examine you and we will tell if you we will let you do this or that” I think they have crossed the line.”

        Yes, I agree completely. This is the thing with Driscoll- he is all about the church (and since he is the pope, by inference him) controlling people’s lives. It doesn’t matter whether his soteriology or theology is any good when the way he applies these things is so oppressive.

      • Katy

        Jeff S -
        I feel sick and mortified when I read that Driscoll went into detail exposing his wife’s history/sexual sin in a book that is going to be read by masses of people. Now I suppose that you could hold to the view that Grace went along with it, but the whole thing feels odd. What woman wants to be exposed and humiliated on a grand scale like that? I haven’t read where Driscoll exposed his own sin in this way? And if the whole story was to paint Driscoll as the prophet and “seer” of her sins…and how he forgave her and now she’s his happy little sex slave, sodomy and all… The whole thing makes my stomach turn. I am not as good as Barbara and Jeff at putting these things into words and naming what’s behind it – but I have to trust my gut on this one. I feel a little scared for Grace.

      • A man who is sodomising his wife is abusing her, in my opinion. It’s unnatural. Even if the woman thinks she likes it, that doesn’t mean it’s good or right. When people are demonized they can feel pleasure when engaging in perversions. It is the demons in them who are feeling the pleasure. The demonized person may not realise this.

      • Anonymous

        At Jeff S. & Ps., Vonderen and Johnson’s book likewise deals with the issues of elder/pastor control/abuse on issues and what drives that. My personal belief, reinforced by the book, is that we alone stand or fall before God, so why should we allow elders/pastors/friends/counselors of anyone else, make decisions for us, that are about our own lives and that WE and WE alone will be held accountable for, before God? I think we can ask for counsel, and then pray, but just to have an elder/pastor or anyone else say to us, “THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO DO – NOW DO IT!” is just ridiculous and cannot, in anyway, be supported by Scripture! Just talking denomination stuff there.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Right on, Anon. Each individual is free. Each believer has the Spirit and we have the Word. If I as a pastor don’t think someone should divorce, the bottom line is that I don’t have to give account for them — unless it is obviously open and gross sin, like adultery or such. The main case we should deal with in the church is the guilty party! Not the one who files the paperwork.

      • Anonymous

        Yes Ps. Crippen, and the Bible says, “as one who watches out for your soul”, not “as one who will give an account for your soul”, when it comes to pastors/elders.

        “If I as a pastor don’t think someone should divorce, the bottom line is that I don’t have to give account for them — unless it is obviously open and gross sin, like adultery or such”

        So, is what you are saying here, is that if you look the other way when gross sin is involved and just, for example, remarry someone you know was adulterous in their first marriage, then you would have to give an account to God for performing that marriage, right? I don’t think you are saying you would give an account for the people involved, but just for your part in it, right?

        So, if this is so, then why do elders/pastors get so up in arms about divorce for abuse? I mean, even if they believe no divorce for any reason (some even include adultery now as no excuse!) it isn’t them divorcing, and as a pastor/elder, they would not really be involved in that anyway, can’t they just walk away saying that they gave their counsel and the people didn’t take it?

        My ex pastor/elder told my husband, that if he divorced me, they would make certain he had the right to remarry, but not me. I have not committed adultery, nor abandoned, nor abused him! I understand now, that this is just more spiritual abuse but if they have to give an account before God for me, as they believe they do, then I fear they made be at odds with God on that day – but not because of me!

        The book on spiritual abuse teaches that leaders like this, like to depend on the Father, Son and Holy Bible, instead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! The Word is our guide for all of life, they do not deny that in anyway, but as individuals, we are to be led by the Spirit and a Church that stifles the Spirit, cannot find its way. On the other side of the coin, there are those who are so Spirit only, that they deny what is given to us in the Word, and make it up as they go. That is no good either. Leaders that place themselves as the final authority on anything, are not godly leaders at all. None of us can give those kind of answers to people, (like no divorce for abuse) we just have to walk it out before the Lord and follow Him, as best we can see His leading. He has a way of stopping us, if we are not following Him — even if it means Him allowing us to be thrown out of the false church — so we will stop following ungodly leaders! So, yahoo for that!

      • the Bible says, “as one who watches out for your soul”, not “as one who will give an account for your soul”, when it comes to pastors/elders.

        Very good point.

    • I have not paid close attention to all the stuff about Driscoll that is out there on the web. I’ve just let it be on the periphery of my notice most of the time, The scripture that seems relevant to me whenever I think of Driscoll is Jude 1:23b hating even the garment stained by the flesh (ESV). The entire verse in the NIV reads snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

      The passage is actually about saving people, and I don’t have any desire to get involved in saving Driscoll from his sins… a likely impossible task, and a waste of my time when I have so many other things to do where I can make a difference. So why do I think of this scripture when I think of Driscoll?

      The garment polluted by the flesh seems to me to be a picture of what appears to be going on with people like him. Everything they speak, everything they do, is stained and contaminated by the impure fleshly drives that they clothe themselves in. And to touch even the clothing (let alone the person’s body) is a disgusting experience. Hold your breath, use your fingertips preferably with gloves on, keep the thing you’ve picked up at arms length, drop it into the ‘infectious waste’ bin as quickly as possible, and wash your hands really well afterwards! [you can see I've been a nurse :) ]

      When I read that verse in Jude about the stained garment, I also think of all sorts of body fluids that could have been expelled or wiped onto it… and I think of sexual abuse and other horrors …. ’nuff said.

  17. LynetteD

    He also has a program for getting people out of sex trafficking. Which is also odd considering his views on sex. His book “Real Marriage”, is mostly about sex. Just makes one go ‘hmmmm’.

  18. Katy

    wow – in Driscoll’s eyes Esther is a big slut who used her sexual sorcery on the King. :) LOL! These guys are so funny. (as long as you’re not married to them)

  19. LynetteD

    Re Barnabas- sadly what one preaches and what one lives are often different.

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