Cheryl is a poet, freelance writer, author, and former newspaper columnist. She has degrees in Psychology and Biblical studies
Church abuse is bullying
A recent article in Christianity Today describes spiritual abuse as the following. “emotional, psychological abuse that involves systematic patterns that deny choice, freedom, or the ability to disagree. ” Even though these words are in print, some people still may not believe it applies to their personal situation. Many times abusive leaders are also charismatic and have their church members eating out of the palm of their hand. They tell jokes and discuss their families which gives the false impression that they are friendly and accessible. They get away with what they do because it’s allowed. Following are some things that you might not pay attention to that indicate you have an abusive leader.
Touch not the anointed
When you are basically being told you can’t question anything you are being abuse. If you observe that your leader is making questionable decisions but no one can keep him in check this is a serious red flag. If you are hearing “touch not the anointed” during every service and being told that Miriam ended up with leprosy because she came against Moses please read Numbers chapter 12 for yourself. Miriam did not simply ask a question, She was challenging her brother’s authority. Basically these abusive pastors leant control of every aspect of the church.
When leaders ask you to do something that may risk your life, you need to understand that it’s not God speaking through them. I was in a church were leaders were told they had to be in Wednesday night service in spite of freezing rain. my husband and I picked up his mother and drove to church on icy street. All other churches were closed. When we arrived I noticed the pastor’s wife and children had remained safe at home. Recently Florida pastor Rodney Howard Brown defied the orders to not gather in groups larger than 10 and was arrested. Brown actually told his congregation to hug each other and they complied. .Rsking the lives of others is gross spiritual abuse and not the anointing of the Lord.
Believe I hear God or leave the church
Often abusive pastors use Moses leading the children of Israel to imply they are in charge and not to be questioned. New Covenant believers have something that the children of Israel did not, the Holy Spirt and His word. When you hear unreasonable demands from a leader, the Holy Spirit and scripture can reveal truth to you, because the Comforter sent by Jesus is the Spirit of truth. I was in a church where the leaders were told they must attend all meetings but the First Lady never did. The pastor told us that disobedience to this rule could be why we were not getting our “blessing.” One Saturday I listened as the pastor went on and on about bringing our children to the meetings. I felt guilty because I had dropped my daughter off at a parade. When I picked her up, she said she had seen the First Lady and her three children at the parade. So? while berating the rest of us, the pastor’s wife and children were exempt from the rules and allowed to enjoy life. If your pastor tells you that you must believe his every word is from God or leave, please do the later.
Sheep don’t question they just follow
This phrase is used to keep church folk in line and deter any questions. When the pastor chooses all the leaders in the church, tells the deacons and trustees what to do and he is the only one who has a say so, that’s not Christian leadership, it’s spiritual abuse. When you find that more and more of your time is being required by church duties and you are told if you don’t comply God won’t bless you, it’s time to run. Christ is the good Shepherd and we are His sheep. He never instructed us to be dumb sheep who follow wolves.
If you are witnessing your spiritual leader having tantrums from the pulpit, and giving ultimatums, he or she is using scare tactics and is a bully. If your pastor is constantly removing leaders from positions and always pointing out he or she is God’s authority this person is power tripping. If you leave services feeling berated as if you can never do anything right that’s not your Heavenly Father. The Holy Spirit convicts but does not condemn.Remove yourself from this toxic environment because it probably will not get better. If f you are jumping through hoops trying to please your pastor, only to see increasing demands, you are being spiritually abused.
© 2020 Cheryl E Preston
Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on June 05, 2020:
Thank you for exposing this kind of abuse. On a personal note, relatives of mine, who decided to give a particular church a chance, stayed with that church for years. The church appeared to be helping them to grow in Christ, however, the WHOLE church decided to move far away to a different state and gave them an ultimatium, move with the church or no longer worship with them. During that time her father was dying and needed them more than ever for emotional support and they just abandoned her. She received the cold shoulder from them because they chose not to move. They did actually think about moving with the church, but decided not to. That really hurt them and raptured their faith. They did attend our church for one service but have not been back. I understand people are human and will make mistakes if only she would realize Jesus will never abandon her.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 05, 2020:
You've called it, Sister Cheryl. This kind of abuse only gets more serious if members start to comply. Pleased about the straightforward way in which you address these church issues.
Cheryl E Preston (author) from Roanoke on April 01, 2020:
Yes Margaret it’s the worst betrayal and it’s always your fault.
Margaret Minnicks from Richmond, VA on April 01, 2020:
Cheryl, there is no hurt like "church hurt." I have been hurt many times by those who should have been in a position to help and not hurt. I have been to a pastor with a problem on several occasions, and he blamed me for the problem every single time. Needless to say, I do not go to him any longer.
Lorna Lamon on April 01, 2020:
Our church had a minister who refused to answer my questions, and told me I should never question his word (not God's word), which I also questioned. I tend to stay away from church as this appears to be a common practice among many church leaders. It is a form of control and abuse and your article highlights this very well Cheryl.