A Cry For Justice

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

A Key to Real Church Growth — Rebuke the Wicked

These also are sayings of the wise. Partiality in judging is not good. Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,” will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations, but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them. (Proverbs 24:23-25)

I am pretty certain that over the last 30 years or so we have seen an increasing disinterest in “church.” Oh sure, you have the mega-churches and the church growth seminars, but I am talking about the man or woman on the street. It seems to me that when I first became a pastor over three decades ago it was not all that difficult to invite someone to come to church, to present them with the gospel, and see at least some results. Some would come. Some would listen. I am not saying that none listen today, but I am proposing that nowadays people increasingly seem to simply have no interest in Christ, in church, in Scripture, or any such topics. Some hate Christianity, but most seem to simply see the whole scene as unnecessary, unneeded, and irrelevant to their lives.  They are fine.  Doing just fine. Even if their life is a wreck, they don’t need Christ.

Now I am sure there are many reasons for this hardness. The hardness of the human heart, increasing wickedness in this world, American prosperity, blinding by the devil, and numbers of other elements all designed to keep the sinner dead in sin. But I think there is another very significant factor out there that has contributed enormously to convincing the lost that they don’t need Christ, don’t need Christians, don’t need the Bible or any church. And that factor is identified in the Scripture above. Specifically, it is the common scenario of local churches, pastors, church leaders, and church members saying to the wicked, “You are in the right” rather than rebuking them. Partiality in judging is all too common among us, and I think that the world knows it. Just think of the sickening frequency of pedophiles being protected and harbored in churches.

Think of it. What do we deal with all the time here at ACFJ? INJUSTICE! Where? In the church! What form does that injustice take? The church says to the wicked abuser, “you are in the right.” Partiality and favor is shown to the wicked one while the oppressed are oppressed.  And what does Proverbs say is going to be the result of such justification of the wicked? “You will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations” rather than being blessed.

Want real church growth? Want to adorn the gospel with our lives, with our churches, with our preaching? Then rebuke the wicked. Expose the abuser. Put him out from among us. Lift up and protect the victim.

And good blessing will come upon you.

 

16 Comments

  1. Valerie

    Throughout the OT there was a persistent theme of God removing His blessing from the Israelites when they aligned with the wicked in some manner- from taking foreign wives or building an alliance with a wicked nation in exchange for their assistance. Expel the wicked from among you (Deut 7:17, 1 Cor 5:13) was a message God repeated due to their perpetual inclusion of those whom God made clear He did not want included.

    “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” 1 Peter 2:9 NASB

    “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you.” 2 Cor 6:7 NASB

  2. Sarah

    This sounds like a healing balm. Recently, the pastor did a sermon on grace and “admonished” the congregation to forgive or else, the people in prison who have done heinous crimes. Some people walked out of the service, I triggered the whole time. I don’t attend anymore and that service is stuck in my mind. At any time, my abuser can walk into the church and be welcomed. So they can have their cheap grace, I believe Jesus said the opposite…

    • E

      You are not kidding. And the ripple effects are unbelievable, affecting friendships of those we were close to, who do not even know the abusive family, who are sure we exaggerate (“that’s one side of the story”) when trying to explain why a child may be working on some healing (“he just needs to forgive”). And they don’t know the tenth of it.

    • What many Christians, including pastors don’t get is what forgiveness is. They assume that to forgive, one must welcome the person who wronged you back with open arms and continue whatever relationship there was before the offense. In some cases, that may eventually happen, especially with minor slights, but it isn’t forgiveness. We may forgive someone, by letting go of resentment, but it does not mean we have to trust or restore them to the same relationship.

      I forgave my mother for her abuse to me and my siblings many years ago, but our relationship never was close as a mother and son should be. It just could not happen. I hold and held no resentment, but the relationship was forever damaged.

    • Still Reforming

      Sarah,

      I had a similar experience in a church immediately following the shooting in a church in South Carolina this past June. The music director at the church lead the congregation in prayer for forgiveness for the shooter. He went on and on about how the shooter needs salvation and never mentioned the victims or their families at all. It galls me how many people just keep their heads bowed and then all chime in and say “Amen.” I gritted my teeth the whole time.

  3. Kandyce Brothers

    i have no use for church after the treatment i rec’d when the abuse came out in the open, i was called a gold digger by the pastor, shunned by other church members all the while they exalted, protected and esteemed my abuser. To me church is all show and pomp & i find very few in church who truly are Christlike

  4. Still Reforming

    Pastor Jeff,

    THIS –> “pastors, church leaders, and church members saying to the wicked, “You are in the right” rather than rebuking them.”

    I was thinking just this morning about the members and pastor of the church I left in the past year, and I pondered how some have acknowledged that ‘no one really knows him’ (referring to my ex-husband), yet they are all they too happy to have the unbeliever among them, even knowing what he’s done based on my testimony to many in confidence and tears over the years for nearly a decade. They want to ‘love him to Jesus.’

    But if he hasn’t proclaimed the Lord and lived it in his life for this long having sat in those pews, why do they think that he’s going to have a ‘come to Jesus’ conversion in the future? I suspect they think it depends on them. They must surely strive and strive to make some difference in the life of a lost soul rather than defend a sister in the Lord.

    Why do they think it’s still going to happen… it’s still going to happen… it’s still going to happen…. ? People love to invest in the lost souls more than the downtrodden saints. I suspect that has to do with ego more than any submission to Christ. Were it the latter, they’d be investing in the brethren (inc. sisters).

  5. Kay

    Like the thirty-something-year old “Christian” man who was dating my seventeen-year-old niece. Because she met him in church, and because he claimed to be a Christian, people, including family members thought is was okay. In fact, they thought that maybe he was just what she needed as her own father abandoned her and her mother. He got her pregnant and said he couldn’t marry her or even move in with her until she lived on her own and grew up a little. So she got an abortion and wants nothing to do with Christianity even though her life is a mess. She is relying on instead on secular counselors to help her get her life back together. She is twenty-six now. All I can do is show her love and acceptance, but she is completely closed off from the Gospel.

  6. cindy burrell

    All of this is sadly true. Not only does the contemporary church often embrace the wicked, but as many of us have experienced, it simultaneously shuns and condemns the innocent! How ironic.

  7. Anonymous

    2 Thessalonians 2:4 “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.”

    After witnessing all the truth posted in the above comments and post, I was thinking how easy it would be to insert a man of this caliber (one who puts himself in place of God) into the current church system because after all, this is exactly what is taking place right now. And it appears that it is those who are like him in nature and character who are being welcomed and taken care of in the church while those that Jesus came to help, are being ousted. No one will probably even notice how “wrong” this person is because they will be so far removed from what is right according to scripture.

  8. Herjourney

    How many people would be left sitting in the pew? If the righteous would be bold enough to rebuke the wicked in the modern church today?
    Not many! I dare to say.
    I am being hated for rebuking an evil pastor.

    Being told I am crazy.. from my kids.
    Because it was way past time to finally expose their fathers lies to them.
    At present
    The struggle continues as I am trying to expose more truth to a deceived member of a cult I was attending with my abuser.
    No longer there!
    Thank God!
    There are days
    Like this morning
    When I wanted to stay home and isolate.
    The enemy thought he had me.
    I shook it off
    and went to church.
    Please pray for those who are in the trenches of spiritual warfare.
    We need support!
    Praying for this outreach.
    It’s a breath of truth.

  9. a prodigal daughter returns

    Thank you Pastor Crippen, church history bears out your statements. After Ananias and Saphira lied to the church leaders they were taken out of the congregation in a very visible and frightening way. (see Acts 5) Rather than diminish church growth the church grew exponentially. The bible states that church attendees were in “awe” and that great crowds were added to their numbers daily. One would think the story of people being struck did would diminish church growth. Perhaps, instead, new converts weary of the hypocrisy of the religious system in that day were gladdened to know that hypocrisy would no longer be a way of life in church.

    What greater hypocrisy is there than to beat and batter the gift of God to man and then sit in a pew pretending all is well? I believe as well that God honored the apostles obedience to root out hypocrisy by releasing upon them signs and wonders. Powerless churches reflect the compromising hearts that God cannot bless. There is no fear of God in those places that turn a blind out to the abusers among us.

    • Valerie

      Great insight APDR! I don’t recall ever hearing those two facts tied together before. Its interesting because many people will comment on how they like a person who “tells it like it is” (truth in love, not just saying whatever comes to mind). People like to know where they stand and there is a sense of comfort when someone is willing to call you out on things or willing to disagree (in an agreeable manner) because then when they are in agreement with you then you also know its for real. I think you’re on to something with the link you put together of people being drawn to the anti-hypocritical nature of this event.

  10. Sarah

    I don’t know where to put this post so if you would like to move it please do so. I need advice from YOU GUYS, because nobody else will get this. My church has an amazing Domestic Violence group that really gets it. We are sequestered in the back room under a cloak of protection because abusers can walk in the church. However, I can’t even attend Sunday services because I trigger too much. They do say leave if you are in a DV physical relationship, they do say you can divorce for this. But they do love the sinner and will do anything to help him repent. The sin leveling is taught; emotional abuse is dumbed down to a normal marriage problem etc. I get conflicting messages. I have written the pastor and he will not teach on DV up at the pulpit or evil in the church.

    Anyway, we in the DV group were offered a chance at telling our testimony during a service. I have a tragic story where I met my abuser in this church, moved away, was betrayed by my new church and many many Christians. Came back to this church and still don’t feel like I belong anymore. I can help women in the church with this testimony but
    1. I’m not sure they wouldn’t edit my testimony to sound prettier and neater
    2. They may not even allow it.
    3, I do believe I will have backlash from people before during and after and maybe even my ex. So I’m looking at a boatload of hurt when I’m trying to still heal from being severely betrayed with huge consequences with the last go around at church.

    But I do want to help the women. Should I save my testimony for a different avenue? I have dreams of changing church culture but am very skeptical that this would actually work. If by some miracle it would work, the ripple effect would be phenomenal. So far my experience has been anything but..
    Ideas? thoughts? suggestions?

    • It seems to me that the DV group is seen as window dressing in that church. They only have it to show they support DV victims, when in reality they don’t. It is as if you are all shoved into a corner and expected to deal with things yourselves. At the very least, leadership does not understand, and probably does not want to.

      Based on your description, it does not seem a healthy church for you, even if the DV group itself has helped. Can you still attend the group and find another church, or would that be too awkward?

    • Wow Sarah, what a very good example of how churches can sort-of get it — but sort-of-gettting-it is not enough. Not safe for the victim-survivor. Not helpful for the abusers because it minimises and obscures their sin. Not good for the congregation because it does nothing to educate them about how to better understand and respond to abuse. And most of all: how the victim is in a position of having to educate people how to properly support victims, at a time when she just needs good support and doesn’t need the extra burden of being a community educator!

      Wendell’s suggestion is pretty sensible, I think. Here are some other alternatives you might want to consider.

      You could write your testimony down and give it to the leadership with a covering letter saying that you want the testimony presented in its entirety, unedited, or not at all.

      You could tell the leadership that you do not feel safe enough in that church to present the testimony to the congregation yourself (from a platform with a microphone) but you would be willing to nominate a woman of your choice who could read the testimony to the congregation on behalf of the anonymous woman who wrote it.

      If they are unwilling to comply with these conditions, then you know they are not going to make a safe way for you to impart your testimony to the congregation.

      Of course, you may weigh up all the risks and yet choose to present it yourself in your own name (fully identifying yourself as the author/writer/speaker) but I would refuse to do it if they insisted you edit it in any way. If you do make that decision, prepare by mentally stiffening yourself against the negative and hurtful responses of some/many in the congregation, and rehearse in your mind some firm answers for when they dis you.
      For example — “Stop blaming me.” “Stop blaming victims.”
      Or — “Ouch! That hurt!”
      Or — “Please don’t mutualise the problem. In abuse there is one persecutor: the abuser. The victim is never to blame and no matter what she does she cannot stop the abuser abusing.”
      Or — “Your reponse indicates to me that you don’t properly understand abuse. Please go to A Cry For Justice to learn more about it. And please don’t speak to me about this again till you’ve read quite a lot A Cry For Justice.”
      Or — “Please read Jeff Crippen’s book “Unholy Charade”. It will open your eyes.”

      Here is an article I wrote years ago which gives more ideas on how to respond to unhelpful comments from bystanders.
      http://notunderbondage.com/pages/unhelpful-comments-by-well-meaning-people-a-coaching-clinic

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