A Cry For Justice

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

Abusers in the Church Hinder People from Coming to Christ and Growing In Him

Matthew 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

I was headed out the door the other day to take a month’s long accumulation of garbage to the recycling center (ie, the dump) when the subject of this post went off in my head. So I went back to the keyboard. (The imagery of hauling a pile of accumulated trash to the dump would probably make a good post as well, applied to recovery from abuse, but that one will have to wait).

So here is the subject for now: Abusers who parade as Christians and who are permitted to continue to work their evil in a local church, are one of the chief stronghold obstacles preventing people from coming to Christ and from Christians growing in Christ. It is the task of the church to use God’s truth to demolish any such obstacle:

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:4-6)

Abusers alienate people from truth. They alienate people from Christ’s true flock and true shepherds so that they stand off from God’s truth and are cast into a fog of doubt and uncertainty. As I have shared in a previous post about how abusers work to discredit us in the sight of others, we know from 2 Corinthians that this ancient evil method was alive and well in Paul’s day:

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. (2 Corinthians 6:11-12)

We know from the rest of this epistle that the source of the Corinthians’ distancing themselves from Paul and the true gospel lay largely in the fact that they were listening to wicked false brethren who had crept into their assembly. The tactics of Satan never change.

I can announce from hard-learned experience for some three decades now in pastoral ministry, and specifically from the experience of dealing with and being targeted by abusers, that these wicked ones operating in the local church spread a poison that, as long as it is tolerated, alienates people from truth and from the true people of Christ. They cause those who might be seeking truth and salvation to question the good news being preached, and more, to distrust those announcing that good news. In many cases the wicked gather these weak ones around them and eventually even lead them off to promises of green pastures and still waters, only for them to find spiritual famine and drought there in the end. Abusers are adept at casting a wicked spell upon the minds and hearts of people, and those spells are always, always, always designed to hide the glory of Christ:

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

As I look back over these many years of ministry, I can think of scores of people who were led astray from the light of Christ by just this kind of wickedness. And that can be very discouraging. Thankfully, Christ is Almighty and His light overcomes the darkness as He draws His people to Himself. Just this week I was reminded of that very powerfully through two Christmas cards I received. Each was from people who were in churches I pastored many years ago and really, in each case, I did not have all that many years of ministry together with them. And yet, here they were some 25 and 30 years later writing and saying how thankful they are to the Lord for how he used myself and my wife to show them the light of Christ. In each case there were many, many evil forces at work in those years long ago that were striving to quench the ministry of the Spirit in those people. The enemy failed and these people are standing for Christ today.

Abusers are one of the chief kinds of wickedness infecting local churches today. Pastors, elders, church members…are you desirous of seeing people come to Christ and grow strong in Him? Then learn to identify the abuser, and put him out from your midst.

21 Comments

  1. kathy

    My faith in Christ has been what has always keep me able to hang on. I have known Him for 40 years. Yet, I cannot find him now. All my life my mother told me I was a waste of skin. When my grandfather raped me as a child, she didn’t care. I was raped again as a young adult and told, “I deserved it”. Then i married a man who lied that he was a Christian and began abusing me on our honeymoon. My first child died from abuse during pregnancy. My 2nd child I protected by allowing my bones to be broken to give the child time to hide. No DVO or Court order ever stopped the two murder attempts or the police and clergy from blaming me for the events and considering me as my husband’s property. If I am indeed a part of the Body of Christ, I must be the Asshole. I have had cancer since age 16 and never been in remission. Why? Just to live life of hell on earth? With pain every day and to be such a c*nt? Too many scars . . .too much pain. Every man I’ve ever known has been cruel . . .does Jesus hate me, too? He must! I never thought he did., but this hole is the darkest and deepest I’ve ever been in. I cannot get out.

    • Jeff Crippen

      kathy – I recently was reading a sermon by J.C. Ryle (an English pastor in the 1800’s) and he said something that is very, very true: “The thoughts I am going to describe are not the thoughts of many. I admit this most fully. It would be vain to deny it. The number of right thinkers about Christ in every age has been small. The true Christians among professing Christians have always been few. If it were not so, the Bible would have told an untruth. “Strait is the gate,” says the Lord Jesus, “and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.—Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.” “Many walk,” says Paul, “of whom I tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction.” (Matt vii. 13, 14. Phil. iii. 18, 19.)

      Christ’s people are real, but the false ones are many. If you belong to Christ through genuine faith in Him, then not only does Christ NOT hate you, He loves you more than you can imagine. Satan’s scheme is always to get Christ’s people into that black pit you are experiencing, and he does it through his lies. He lies about you. He lies about Christ. He lies and tells you there is no hope. But all of it is a lie. Satan is a liar and the father of lies. He has sent his emissaries to you over the years to abuse you and pull you down, and they came to you looking like “sons of righteousness.” They weren’t.

      I would very much recommend that you seek out a counselor/therapist who understands trauma and PTSD, and the nature of abuse to help you on the road to recovery. We are very glad you are here at this blog and joining in with us at ACFJ. Blessings in Christ.

    • Yes, Kathy, He does love you! But Satan loves to have you believe otherwise. I know!

      Even though I haven’t been through nearly as much pain as you must have lived through, I can empathize with you a bit. I too was called the most horrific names by my mother, sexually assaulted (and blamed for it, even after sharing with my “husband” years later (who said well, I probably looked older than my actual age, so my assailant wasn’t as bad as I thought).

      My mother said “God is a supreme being” and convinced me He was ruthlessly keeping track of every little slip up I made with little hope for redemption, and then I married a man I met at a Bible study who convinced me I was hopelessly worthless and was every evil woman in the Bible rolled into one. And of course (IMO, anyway), female abuse victims so often align Jesus with their abusers…at least I did. If my husband felt such contempt for me, surely the Lord did, too.

      He does NOT hate you. The fact that you are so troubled and even asking such a thing, surely shows that you have a heart for Him. And you could not have that, unless HE loved YOU, first.

      I’m sorry if I am not much help…I just wanted to respond because your post makes me want to cry, and I wish I could offer some comfort. (((hugs))) to you…

    • anotheranon

      Oh Kathy, dear one, Jesus loves you so much He laid down His life for you. He was crucified to pay for the sins of the world, and raised from the dead so we might have eternal life. I can’t answer why you have suffered so much, but I will pray that you can be freed from it. Please take comfort in Is.61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners;” This is what Jesus came to do. He is Immanuel, God with us.

    • standsfortruth

      Hi Kathy, my heart goes out to you.
      And I know that God loves you because his Word declares for us “That i am for you, not against you.”
      So whoever is against you as you are trying to serve the Lord, is acting as an enemy of God.
      I am sorry your abusers have been so cruel to you.
      It is not right, and you did not deserve any of that.
      They have serious problems , and I hope you can distance yourself from them because you deserve better.
      Perhaps find a safe place where you can heal.
      Perhaps a womens shelter?
      You are a strong woman to have protected your baby like you did, and I admire you for that..
      I will pray that doors be opened for you to be free of your tormenters.
      I care for you Kathy, and so do many of us on the blog so please know that you deserve to be away from those abusive types, and to be around kind and gentle people that treat you like the child of God that you are.

    • Dear Kathy, please accept my apologies for not responding to this comment of yours sooner. I have been very busy writing.
      The abuses you have been subjected to have been awful. Heinous. Abominable.
      Rape in childhood, and then contempt from the person (your mother) who you went to for help! That experience on its own would be more than enough trauma for one lifetime!
      And then another rape, and being falsely blamed for it!
      And then trapped by a liar into an imprisoning ‘marriage’ [dungeon of abuse, violence and terror]. And having your first child murdered in utero by the abuser. And having your bones broken by this same monstrous anti-husband, while you were trying to protect your second child from his violence. And all of this on top of a serious disease that has not gone away and which must give you ongoing stress and worrry, deplete your energy and give you pain and fear as well.

      Oh my. What a lot of trauma, heaped upon trauma.

      God does not blame you for any of this. We don’t know the answer to “Why?” but we do know that the trauma you have suffered is not your fault and God is not doing this to ‘punish’ you or to show you that He rejects you or despises you. God despises the proud, the arrogant, the oppressors. The sins lie in the abusers’ courts, they are the ones who did the harm and they bear the guilt. God is angry with the wicked every day.

      But God is tender and gentle with the afflicted —
      a bruised reed he will not break,
      and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
      he will faithfully bring forth justice.
      He will not grow faint or be discouraged
      till he has established justice in the earth;
      and the coastlands wait for his law. (Isaiah 42:3-4 ESV)

      a bruised reed he will not break,
      and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
      until he brings justice to victory;
      and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” (Matthew 12:20-21 ESV)

      ((hugs)) from Barb

    • Also Kathy, if you haven’t already done so, please make sure you read our New Users Information page.

  2. healingInHim

    The title of this post sums it up quite well. Praying that the last paragraph would be heeded. Your referencing another post on ‘hauling away the trash’ would resonate with many … The church I left long ago had several admitting that dirt was being swept under the carpet and the lump was beginning to show!

  3. a prodigal daughter returns

    Thank you Jeff for posting this I believe it goes along with your other writing about “evil” something church leadership does not address and by their ignorance and silence enable it to thrive. I don’t believe a church without solid teaching on evil and how to resist it is a safe church.

    Churches are excellent places for abusers to hide because leadership remains woefully ignorant of their devices and the red flags that indicate an abuser is at work. With a religious emphasis on don’t judge others, all have sinned therefore be forgiving and turn the other cheek its the perfect set up to enable an abuser to prosper, thrive and find more victims.

    People who do not make a practice out of abusing, exploiting and damaging others don’t have a construct in their mind that another person is intentionally doing these things. Therefore, when a victim comes forward asking for help from church leadership from an abuser the automatic default is to minimize the abuse, find reasons to excuse the abuser and take very minimal token action if any action is taken at all.

    As a Christian DV survivor I never remotely found any help at church at all, the place where my abusers where enabled to get worse and worse. When I was finally free of domestic violence I moved to a new town and started life over. My new neighbor attended the local church I attended. I noticed a disturbing tendency for her to gossip about neighbors. She went beyond gossip to accusations of neighbors mental illness, child abuse, alcoholism and other disturbing claims. We walked together regularly and after a period of time I gently said “as believers and an example to the neighborhood gossiping isn’t a good thing to do”

    She quit speaking to me at that point even as she was appointed a deacon in the church. I could write a book about the harm she did in her position as a deacon, the level of lies, exploitation and ruination of lives by her mouth. Sweet good Christian at church a holy terror when not there and enough skill in her Narcissism at all times to create “plausible” deniability.

    Rather than take legal action as the police suggested when she called in yet another false report about me (thankfully they were smart enough to know lying when they heard it) I asked to speak to the senior pastor. I was not believed, the deacons power base included the pastors good graces and favor and she created havoc, pain and real trauma for anyone that was vulnerable in her vicinity while maintaining friendship with the pastor. I’d encouraged other neighbors to go to the pastor with their complaints about the abuse. Nothing changed. Her harassment of me got so bad I left the church, the neighborhood and the state.

    Any church that doesn’t have a policy about reports of abuse in which they are taken seriously and victims handled with respect isn’t a place I want to waste my time. It is one thing to have the trauma of abuse and another to have it compounded when the response to reporting it is indifference at best.

  4. Suzanne

    How many times have followers of Jesus heard from someone to whom they were witnessing that they could not believe in Christ because of the hypocrisy of Christians? It may be just an excuse for many who simply have no interest in hearing the Gospel, but it’s also a genuine hindrance to those who see so-called Christians abusing others and want no part of them or their religion. Churches that refuse to purge abusers from their congregations may as well shut their doors because they can offer no promise of peace or spiritual security to the lost. And Kathy, my heart is broken over the pain and abuse you have suffered at the hands of the children of the evil one. I will pray for you that God will heal your heart, mind, body, and soul and that He will give you the joy that only comes from Him. Please don’t despair. Our God is a God of miracles and He loves you more than you’ll ever know. He has pulled many of His own from that dark pit and He will do it for you. May God richly bless you and all those you love.

  5. bright sunshinin' day

    Amen! To bring the wounded and lost to Jesus does involve speaking truth in love which includes exposing the abuser (dark ways and patterns). Often, when a spouse chooses to remove herself (or himself) from the destructive patterns, the truth and beauty of what God intended for relationships can be seen more clearly without the constant, and oftentimes, unbearable attacks from the wicked. Perhaps, in some cases, if the spouse “left behind” takes a serious look at why his family has left, maybe then he will turn to God and repent. This stepping away to preserve one’s own and giving the other party opportunity for self-reflection not only takes courage, but is really a gift to the offending spouse. Whether or not the abuser will “unwrap this gift” and turn to God seeking His forgiveness and help, only God knows.

  6. Still Reforming

    And sometimes the abusers are among the church leaders themselves. *shudder* I have been in such a church and am glad to be out. It tends to permeate the flock and numb them into a kind of “whatever” or “anything goes” mindset. I have seen where it dumbs down the sheep and there is just a mindless simplicity or naivete that’s rampant. Some of the flock leave, but many don’t – for whatever reason. And some (such as myself) stay – all the while praying for an exit, which thankfully the Lord gave me in His time.

    • Joy

      Yes- sometimes they are among church leaders. Amazing how quickly they can gather a following of groupies because of their charming ways or gift (such as beautiful singer or writer/speaker). Wolves can slip in easily and look and act like a sheep– the innocent and vulnerable tricked and abused. It’s sad how evil can slip in and use even the church, a place that should be safe, to abuse others. I am fighting and still attend, but being in any church is a tremendous trigger for me. Working thru C-PTSD and experiencing such grace and hope- and experiencing the majority of believers who are true and kind and love well.

  7. Sunflower

    This article made me think of the many people who attended and helped with the ministry of the Big Red Book. I just read on one of the sites for home-schooled adults, a story of someone who had a dream where he shouted at his mother something like, “All the problems in our family stem from one thing — misogyny!” Probably true.

    You’re right, the tactics are always the same……..why did it take me so long to see it?

    Kathy — I’m crying for you. I don’t know what to say. I want to hug you. I pray you find a way out and real support. I had a dream a few months ago where I lived in a house and the floor of the second story collapsed because it had no supporting wall on the first story. So I moved and the same thing happened. A stranger walked up to me and said, “You need support.” So then I went out of my comfort zone and started calling ladies and inviting myself to spend time with them and tell them about my life. They don’t always give the right advice but I get that here, and I just enjoy getting out and being with them.

    I don’t often pay much attention to dreams but sometimes one seems to stand out with a message.

  8. Ann

    How does one recover from C-PTSD from abuse from the lead pr, and elders who were aware, amounted during serving in the church – hearing and seeing abuse, control, condemnation, deception directed at you firsthand? Hard enough when it’s you, compound that with hearing and seeing it done openly or subtly to others, behind others’ back, etc… Many questions, Simplistic advise and answers from ‘well-meaning’ people caused more wounding than help. Attending services triggers popcorn of memories – trust in ministry is nill. Why? Why? Why? You name it, fill-in the blank of a given situation, it was there……why?

    • healingInHim

      I hear you Ann …”trust in ministry is nil” Praying for you and others. We must remain focussed on Christ and not man.
      Ann – I would recommend you listen to the sound Biblical sermons that ACFJ has offered in their Resources. Pastor Jeff and others “get it” … These pastoral teachings/preaching keep my eyes on the Saviour even though the earthly battles rage on. I haven’t been part of a local church for years because I can’t trust them:-(

    • Ann. (((hugs)))
      … how does one recover? It’s a long slow process. In the early stages, its a lot about recognising, remembering, and nailing the abuses: what happened. And feeling the grief and anger and all the other emotions. Un-numbing at the rate one can bear it. Grief is never easy. Anger is tough to ride the waves of. Complex PTSD is really difficult, and moreso when the abuses are still continuing.

      I encourage you to pat yourself on the back for the sheer fact that you are treading water; don’t expect yourself to ‘move ahead’, just praise yourself for treading water and not drowning. Let the tears flow, if you can. That helps. And take as many hugs from us as you need. 🙂

  9. NotHeard

    Kathy, I’m glad you reached out to A Cry For Justice, it shows your strength and determination to rise above your horrific situations. I’d like to share something I find helpful, from Romans 8.35,38, 39, about how strong Jesus love is: the question is asked: Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? The following verses go on to show, no, even the worst circumstances or people cannot separate us from God’s and Jesus love for us: they are committed! I hope you find support here at ACFJ in your questions and journey, as I have. Sending a BIG (((hug)))!

  10. Ann

    Thank you HealingInHim. Slow, slow, slow recovery, crawl at best.
    Many questions; could haves, should haves…..would it have made a difference?
    More than likely, would have made it worse. So sad, so sad, numbing.

    • healingInHim

      Ann – Yes, it is all very numbing but don’t give up and be reassured that NOW that you have made your plight known to many via the ACFJ blog that there will be others praying for your strength IN THE LORD.

  11. Karen

    Dear Kathy,
    Jeff’s post touched a nerve within my soul because he mentioned the words “garbage” and “trash,” which sent shivers down my spine. For when abuse occurs, we are left alone, feeling no better than that garbage and trash, and worse yet, we feel lost because that precious Hope in Christ is being burnt at the alter of the abuser’s self worship. Then I read your painful life story, I cannot help but be broken before our LORD. I am so very sorry this happened to you, so very, very sorry. For some reason, when I read your testimony, the parable of the lost sheep came to my mind. Please bear with me, for I too was physically abused while seven months pregnant by the father of our child, and hid in the closet when he came of from his work, shivering and shaking in fear of him.

    And Jesus said,
    “Take heed, that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.
    What do you think? If a man has a hundred has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?
    And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.
    Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:10-14

    Precious, precious Kathy, please hear me out, for like those brothers and sisters in Jesus who have commented above, we love you and are reaching out to you in helping you heal, by the power of His Holy Spirit. And like you, there are times when I feel like one of those lost sheep Jesus was talking about. This is why I love Jesus’ words so much, not because we are unsaved, we are saved by the blood of the Lamb, but because when we are traumatized by violent abuse, we are left behind like lost little children, the least of these in trying to cope with the pain and suffering. And we often stray away, to suffer and struggle alone, for many reasons as discussed in other posts here at A Cry For Justice.

    Please know that Jesus has not left you, nor forsaken you, He loves you deeply and gave His very life for you, it is His glorious promise to us for all eternity and we must cling to that Hope with every fiber of our being. I do, I have too, for our survival depends on Jesus, our only HOPE. Pastor Jeff has offered some loving, wise counsel to you in encouraging you to seek good and godly help in coming alongside of you for your own well being. God does love us so much in that He also provides the proper resources here on earth in helping us heal, so we can find comfort in knowing we are not alone. We are not rotting, disgusting trash, and we do not belong in a human waste dump.

    Kathy, we are human beings, children of the MOST HIGH GOD, who loves us more than anything in that He offered His Son as a ransom for us, Jesus our Savior. He loves you, we love you here at ACFJ, and I love you, Kathy. You are my sister and I am praying for you too.

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