Overview Spiritual abuse is not a widely discussed topic. It occurs when a leader henry and richard blackaby spiritual leadership pdf people to achieve selfish goals. Most abusers are unaware of the harm they inflict.
Not Widely Discussed There is surprisingly little written on spiritual abuse. In doing research for this short book I could only find a handful of books that directly address the topic. In 1993 Healing Spiritual Abuse by Ken Blue appeared. Spiritual abuse seems to be getting more attention in recent months with the highly visible implosion and closure of Mars Hill Church. For possibly the first time, Christian pastors are considering whether the practices they have come to accept are in fact producing spiritually abusive environments.
Every major church leadership expert seems to be forced to provide an opinion of what went wrong. Abuse in its broadest sense is using or treating something in an improper way. The result of abuse is harm. There are many kinds of abuse. Therefore a good definition of spiritual abuse should include the aspect of selfishness. One clever acronym does this: Spiritual A. Acting spiritual to Benefit oneself by Using Self-centered Efforts to control others.
Spiritual abuse can occur when a leader uses his or her spiritual position to control or dominate another person. It often involves overriding the feelings and opinions of another, without regard to what will result in the other person’s state of living, emotions or spiritual well-being. Therefore for the purpose of this booklet the following definition is proposed: Spiritual abuse is when a Christian leader causes injury to others by acting in a self-centered manner in order to benefit themselves. Spectrum of Abuse Spiritually abusive environments vary in their level of abusiveness.
Abusive leaders fall within a spectrum. Grandiose, authoritarian and dictatorial leaders are at the top end. Spiritual Abusers Don’t Intend To Harm Abusive Christian leaders typically do not intend to hurt people. They are unaware of the damage they inflict upon others. They are usually so narcissistic or so focused on some great thing they are doing for God that they don’t notice the wounds they are inflicting on their followers. First, Christians want to trust their leaders. Second, people generally do not want to be disloyal.
Lord needs them to do something for the Kingdom, giving money towards a cause, etc. People who have difficulty setting boundaries are more susceptible to being taken advantage of. When a churchgoer senses something may be wrong with a leader’s conduct towards them they may feel uncomfortable bringing it to anybody’s attention. Admitting the abuse out loud—or even thinking that what you experienced was abuse—often feels like you’re being disloyal to family, to church, even to God. Fourth, people hesitate to leave or confront because they become invested.
It often takes time to discover a leader has a problem. During this time people make significant connections and contributions to the ministry. People who have spent years sacrificially building up a ministry may hesitate abandoning that ministry. They may be afraid their investment would be in vain should the ministry collapse once the sin is exposed. Why do people stay in spiritually abusive relationships? The abuse victims I have counseled give many reasons: There is too much at stake to leave—friends, the years invested, people’s opinions.
They are terrified by the perpetrator’s threats to harm them, hurt their parents, or take the kids if they leave. They have become so dependent on the abusive system that they don’t know if they could leave and survive emotionally or financially. External Factors Leading To Spiritual Abuse Executives in corporate America today are obsessed with results. This obsession has spilled over into the church.
If a leader has grown a religious organization to a significant size, people interpret that as a clear sign of God’s blessing. Welcome to the whole Seattle mindset, Clem says. Seattle is about power, expansion, and world domination. Mark Driscoll acknowledged an idolatrous obsession with success and admitted this sin is generally tolerated in the church. It works well in a church because no one would ever yell at you for being a Christian who produces results. This obsession with results and size means more and more leaders are running their organizations like business executives.
They are watching what makes corporate America successful and applying the same principles to the church. We are concerned that many Christian leaders are reading secular books and accepting their teachings uncritically. Much secular leadership theory is based on presuppositions that may appear sound yet promote ideas contrary to the Scriptures. Secular and spiritual leaders may use similar methods, but spiritual leadership includes dimensions absent from secular leadership. First, there is a thirst for more money.
For 500 attendees, you got an executive pastor. You could add a worship pastor. Second, there is a thirst for more people. Tim Gaydos was a pastor and elder at Mars Hill’s downtown Seattle campus from 2006-2013.