Sunday, January 08, 2006

So, what's a victim of spiritual abuse to do?

Thanks for all the input on this post for the last week. But here is some suggestions as to what are you to do if you find yourself in a situation that involves spiritual abuse.

Apart from serious emotional counseling, you will most likely face only two options:

First, Stay and Pray. This may be the most difficult option, but it still an option none the less. To remain in a climate of religious control is spiritually repressive, even toxic, to your spiritual health and the well-being of your family. But if you feel God (and not guilt!!!) requires you to stay, Stay and Pray.

As believer we know that situations can change in answer to prayer. But you need to know that in spiritually abusive groups you should expect change to come at a snail’s pace. Abusive leaders will vigorously resist any change that threatens their “anointed office,” especially if they, through training and upbringing, feel their position is scriptural.But if you decide to stay, do not stay to fight the leader or members.

Personally, I feel to stay in a contentious situation and to fight usually proves to be counterproductive, especially in an unhealthy environment of control, and does little good. If you have asked God to change the situation, allow Him to do so . . . without your help! Complaining and criticizing may give you a false sense of management over the crisis -- at least you are doing something, right? -- but it is a feeble and usually ineffectual way of striking back at your problem. Especially in abusively controlling relationships. It is best to leave the matter in God’s hands altogether or to leave the church altogether.

I also recommend, in these instances, that you seek wise counsel from an objective (and I stress the word “objective”), biblically knowledgeable and spiritually grounded pastor, friend or professional counselor. It is best to find someone outside your church. Openly and honestly share the problem from your perspective and listen and be prepared to listen to what they have to tell you.Secondly, Leave. This may be the most difficult option especially of you have strong ties to the church, but it still an option none the less. Leaving a church or organization is a difficult decision to make, especially when you have close friends and community.

But remember is it possible that your friends will resist your decision to leave their fellowship. Others may brand you as a troublemaker or accuse you of abandoning them. But, you need to know that the Bible supports, and even encourages, your decision to flee from spiritually abusive and oppressive situations (e.g., Rom.16.17-18; Col.2.4, 8; 2 Tim.2.14-16; 3 John 3 9-11).

Jesus made it very clear to His generation that they were not to trust nor submit to the oppressive control of the Pharisees. However, if you leave, Cleave to your faith in Jesus Christ. Avoid the temptation to become a casualty by dropping-out. Before leaving a spiritually malignant group, seek and follow the advice of a godly Christian leader who can advise you impartially. Simply running away from a problem is no solution, especially if you have no direction in which to flee. Locate a spiritual community that is based on servant-leadership and mutual respect and love for one another, whose priorities and leadership follow the model of Jesus Christ, and whose teachings are sound.

Just my thoughts…what are yours?


johnniecomelately said...


Often we may feel victimized in your described abuses and manipulation, but still battle with the "touch not the annointed" scripture which re-verbs in our sub-conscious... causing us to lean towards cutting and running rather than trying to champion change.

The reponses to your Dec 19th posting, commented on the accountability of leaders - wondering who calls the shots in both denominational and non-denominational churches.

Leaders would often say that the attenders call the shots, as they can vote with their feet - if he don't like what is being served.

And although I do agree that it is difficult to make everyone happy, it is clear that loving people is not conditional upon their responses to us. Loving and attending to them is an "attitude of the heart", regardless if we are church leaders, support workers or casual attenders.

I do believe that the "stay and pray" option has merit as long as... if you are sitting on the iceberg, you observe some melting happening around you. However if you are sitting on the iceberg and simply getting cold - it may be time to seek shelter elsewhere.

I again refer to Ezek. 34, where we are charged with a responsibility far beyond the ordinary.

S.P. What if loving the sheep means moving aside and letting others lead?

SoulPastor said...

Hello Johnniecomelately

Sorry, that I have not responded sooner. Right now I am Toronto teaching an intensive at a local college. I finally am able to take some time to make a comment.

So, I ask for a point of your question.

Are you suggesting that a leader/pastor step aside?

Jordan said...

Hey, I like your post.
When you talked about abusive leaders in the church I thought about something I just learned in school (see its not all useless information). We talked about the first Church in Jerusalem and then the Cathloic church in Rome. And about how the leaders abused there power as leaders and brought in all these rules of how to get to heaven. Then while I was reading you talked about a very hard dicision to leave the church. When thinking back to these early Christians I thought what a wreck alot of them would be. They could have left there church in Rome where they were more like spectators watching an event but then they were damned to hell. While a good portion of them were banished from the church because of not fulfilling one of the rules set by the abusing priests. I just thought how aweful it would have been to we tought to Think that if you left this main church you were damned to hell.


Anonymous said...

Jordan, i am also taking this stuff in school, but on the university level. The thing here is the people didnt know anything else, they demanded commitment, which technically is what God demands of us.

Regarding your point about leaving the church, if u left the church back then you left God as well, there was no other churches, i think u might be thinking if you leave say the pentacostal church and go to the baptist. But back then there was just the Holy Catholic church, and no other denominations were present. also there tended to only be one church per city or sometimes province.

The people in those days, whoever we think they misled people, they were jsut trying to make the point that we need to be commited to God, yes maybe they were a little forceful at times but people believed. Yuo might ask the question well then they were forced to believe but i wouldnt think this, we have no idea the hearts of early Christians.

Also the rules that were set were just interpretations of what these leaders believed to have come form God. This is similar to say Martin Luther, or Henry the 8th. We could also draw similarities to the many denominations of Christianity who also believe in different ways of running things. This is kind of like our politcal situation and our election coming up, many people with many ideas.

The early church in many ways should be given much credit in my opinion, they seemed to have lead so well, i say this becuase the church is still here today. Others such as Arius and his Arianism, or Nestoruis and Nestorism, these things didnt have great leadership and they arent anywhere right now. The catholic Chruch is the biggest denomination and is apart of the biggest religion in the world. It seems that the leaders of that day did a good job and maybe not all were like the ones we see in Kingdom of Heaven.

snippyG said...


I think that your opinion about the leaders of the church in the time before the reformation might be a little bit generous. But of course, I'm just speaking from what I learned at school, and from my own research. :) From what I was taught, fallible as it may be.... The catholic church was definitely the primary authority... they pervaded the government, as well as dominating the church. It was primarily about control. Their theology benefited the priests and the government, and oppressed the common, uneducated people. The "religious" language was Latin. The Bibles were in Latin. If the priest said "You need to give all your money to us just to get to heaven and if you don't you're going to hell", the people had no way of knowing what the Bible really said. That's exactly what they did. They used their "knowledge" to abuse the people. That is why people like John Knox (Scotland), Jan Hus (Czech Republic), and Martin Luther (Germany), all educated men, spoke up to defend the people and declare that the Bible says that people are saved by grace, not by fulfilling the whims and manipulations of the priests. That's why Luther translated a Bible - so the people could read for themselves the way to salvation. The leaders fought Luther. Why? Because they were losing CONTROL. (Sounds like a good example of abuse to me) The leaders also killed Jan Hus and persecuted John Knox. Why? Because they "threatened" the leadership with TRUTH. Truth is something abusive leaders often attempt to squelch so that there is no "uprising" among the people. Then, the abusive leaders call people who question them with words of truth "rebellious", and there is little one can do because then you're labelled a rebel. The Bible says that leaders have a higher accountability than the rest of us, and it is sad that the priests back then, who knew what the Bible said and couldn't claim ignorance, abused their authority. I'm glad I live today, where abusive situations are still in abundance, but I can read my own Bible, and praise God that I'm His. I'm glad that I can choose to go to a church where God is worshipped, where I can take communion in gratitude for the Lord's sacrifice instead of it being restricted for the "elite". I am not at all bashing the catholic church. This is just a little history. It's what happened (as far as I know from the info I have). Let's just praise God that we live when we do, and let's pray for our leaders. It's easy to fall into the trap of control/manipulation.