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The Dark Side of Spiritual Abuse -- Part 3
By: Philip Harrelson
This is the third installment in a series on spiritual abuse. The whole idea of spiritual abuse is a very troubling at best. The church was intended to be a place of redemptive recovery facilitated by the grace of God. When manipulative control moves to the forefront it can have a very harmful effect on the people who gather to worship. It also has to be established that spiritual abuse can take place in a reverse order. It can originate from the congregation in the form of a board of elders or a single influential member who controls the pastor through financial means or sometimes through psychological and physical intimidation. Increasingly one will find the reverse order in churches that once had to deal with a pastor who was spiritually abusive.
Spiritual abuse is defined as “the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support, or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining or decreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment.” It can be defined another way as “destructive and dangerous involvement in a religion that allows the religion, not a relationship with God, to control a person’s life. He also goes on to say, “People broken by various experiences, people from dysfunctional families, people with unrealistic expectations, and people out for their own gain or comfort seem especially prone to it.”Spiritual leaders who resort to this kind of activity may or may not immediately recognize the control they are exerting. The trend usually isn’t immediately recognized but as time passes the cycle of behavior manifests in a manner that has a horrific effect on people’s lives. Even worse is the leader who acclimates himself to a state of denial of his own personal responsibility. To compensate for the increasingly unsettled environment, he may begin to assign all of the spiritual shipwrecks of the past as those who were “wolves” or “rebellious.”
As I filtered through all of the material concerning spiritual abuse, I jotted down a series of questions concerning not just the church but the leader too. They were based more on a rhetorical nature that did not so much require an answer but rather an evaluation of the spiritual health of the place where this activity is taking place.
• What does spiritual abuse do to those who worship there? How does it affect their sense of worship and understanding of God?
• Can God have freedom to transform and can grace really do an adequate work in this atmosphere where fear, intimidation, and manipulation prevail?
• Can true spiritual growth and discipleship take place in this setting?
• What do the actions of the pastor have on his soul in the long term? This was a very troubling question to me personally. What dark things begin to take place in the soul of the pastor who exerts force in such a way that he is never challenged and held to a standard of accountability himself?
• Are his actions motivated by pride of place or position?
• Has he moved from being an under-shepherd to a lord over God’s heritage? Such spiritual abuse literally takes the place of God in the working of the church.
• Is there a sense of the grace of God reflected in any of the public ministry of the Word?
• Is there an attempt to place heavy weights on the people he is called to shepherd?
• Does he empower people to live in a venue of spiritual growth in a public setting as well as within the private confines of the heart?
[ read more...]
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What does sustaining hope mean to you?
We live in a world of epidemic uncertainty from politics to the financial world. Even religious views and positions have taken changed dramatically in recent years. Ours is a world with changing opinions and attitudes about God and His church. How people thought about the church 20 years ago is much different than how their children feel about it today.
How does one stay resolute in Hope? Those who feel a call of God to preach His Word to this ever-changing world should guard themselves from the elements that would discourage or dissuade them from the call to "sustain hope."
Sustaining hope means being encouraged when everyone else is discouraged. It means keeping your head up and showing people faith even when situations look their darkest. But, how does one stay encouraged? How do they keep that positive mental attitude when life is hitting them the hardest?[ read more...]
Orphanages were already an important part of the everyday social landscape in the United States 100 years ago. As shocking as it may sound, statistics validate that 99 out of 100 babies in orphanages died before reaching the age of seven months!
The institutions themselves were not the problem. They had adequate food, clean environments, and modern antiseptic procedures. Everything to give these unwanted or otherwise orphaned children a safe and secure environment was in place, and yet 99% of the infants died within months after birth. These babies were given a healthy chance at life and yet they died anyway. The cause of these deaths was an illusive mystery for many years.
Research studies have long since revealed that these babies did not die from malnutrition or infectious diseases, but instead they wasted away in a human condition known as “marasmus”.
Marasmus claimed these countless little lives in spite of clean and sterile environments and adequate food, shelter and clothing. Marasmus can be caused by the deprivation of human touch. Babies without adequate human touch can simply waste away and die regardless of their surroundings and environment.
When babies suffering from marasmus receive physical nurturing while being fed their formula the marasmus reverses. They begin to gain weight and thrive. Human touch is vital for survival in the very young.
The System Was Changed
Although it is tragic that countless infants died from marasmus’ deadly consequences resulting from the absence of human touch, it fostered change. Today’s infants that are isolated in sterile environments are taken into the hands of caregivers who give them loving touch therapy three times a day for fifteen minutes. Taking these infants out of their cribs and holding and rocking them by volunteers has reversed the mortality rate. Research has validated that the infants receiving this personal touch grow faster, gain more weight, and leave the facility sooner that other untouched infants do.
The infants are not the only beneficiaries of this “touching” time. Those who volunteer as caregivers or “grandparents” to hold, rock, touch and massage these infants also experience measurable benefits. They reduce their coffee and caffeine intake and make less frequent visits to their doctor. They experience a reduction in anxiety levels, fewer symptoms of depression, and improved self-esteem.
Touch is powerful. When skin touches skin magical consequences occur. Human touch and contact is directly linked to every aspect of health and well-being.
Where Touch Begins
The sensation of touch actually begins in the womb.
The human skin is derived from the same cells as the nervous system and is a perfect instrument for collecting information about our surrounding environment long before birth. A fetus will withdraw from the touch of a probe at less than 8 weeks of gestation, showing that the link between touch and survival is one of the first and most important protective mechanisms to develop.[ read more...]
While musing on the things of God, my thoughts began to ponder modern day pulpit preaching in churches and gatherings around the world. I thought about the many presentation styles I have seen, the expectations of the audiences, the tantalizing titles, the packaging of sermons for media sales, books published consisting of the author’s sermons, the humanistic rankings and comparisons of our favorite preachers, and so forth. I smiled thinking that just as kids might argue with one another, “My dad can beat up your dad,” or, “My mommy is prettier than your mommy”, we might also argue that, “My pastor can preach better than your pastor”. We all tend to be pretty human at times.
This led me to meditate on the evolution of preaching just over the last century. I wondered what changes came about after Bible colleges and seminaries began teaching students about exegesis, hermeneutics, extrapolation, and the fine art of sermon preparation? How did the invention of the public address system change the delivery of preaching? How have Power Point, Bible software, and multimedia projection altered sermon preparation and presentation styles? What differences have radio, television, audio and video recorders, cameras, live streaming, and social media made? Should these and other innovations have had any impact at all on the delivery of God’s Word?[ read more...]
1. Define and understand your own reaction to change in order to compare it to the reactions of others.
Even the happiest of changes may cause a feeling of loss for what existed before. As a leader, perhaps you see that the change will save the company, enhance the product, diminish costs, or make the organization more competitive. But what will occur that is outside your own comfort zone? To be a leader of change, you must identify how the change will impact your own personal situation. What stresses will you experience that you will either consciously or unconsciously pass on to others? Will you also fear for the future of your job or your department? Will you survive, but see many of your colleagues go? Will you have to learn a new skill or move to a new location? Only if you take the time to specifically define your own reaction to change can you put yourself in the shoes of those you lead who will have their own reactions, fears, and behavioral fallout.
2. Involve those people who will be affected by change in both the planning and implementation process.
When change is dictated, resistance is the automatic response to the stimulus. Leaders are able to gain much more cooperation when they invite others to join the plan. Include them in figuring out how to implement change, even when they are obvious in their opposition. Co-opting the opposition is the best way to get their buy-in. Leaders may even end up with some better ideas for making the change work.
3. Communicate the vision so others can understand and buy in to the change.
The benefit of the end state must become the driving force to persuade employees to work through the agony of change. There must be something better waiting, and it must be visible throughout the pain. Often leaders have a vision that makes great sense. However, this bright future may not be shared beyond the inner circle. Failing to understand, employees feel uncertain as to why they must change and where they are going. Uncertainty itself can be more painful than change.
4. Share all possible information about change with the widest audience possible. When you think you have spread the word, start over.
In the midst of change, the best advice is, "Communicate, communicate, communicate.' Unless information is proprietary or may be helpful to the competition and harmful to the organization's success, it should be shared widely. lf employees understand why actions are taken, what is expected, and how the change will lead through the steps toward the vision, they are much more likely to come along on the journey. When employees do not have information, they are more likely to resist or even sabotage change efforts that appear to threaten their stability and security. When Lockheed and Martin Marietta began the merger process, the leaders of both organizations traveled to every major site and talked directly to employees. The message was carried in videotapes, written documents, and personally by leaders at all levels.
5. Explain the impact of change on individuals more than on the organization.
When the status of one's job is in danger, an employee really doesn't care about organizational success. At a time when GE was downsizing, employees were attending training programs at the same time that they were wondering whether their desks would still be there when they returned to their offices. Corporate leadership was talking about the need to slim down for future financial success, but employees were used to a culture in which they were GE employees for life. Productivity was significantly degraded while employees wondered about the personal impact, not the organizational impact, of the change.[ read more...]
(Mat 20:20 KJV) Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
This woman’s only desire was that her two sons would receive a place of position.
Jesus turns to the young men and asks, “Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” People do not know the responsibility that comes with leadership. They have no idea the sleepless nights that comes with ministry.
Leadership within the church is viewed in some romantic sense. The fact of the matter is many are people worshipers. They fail to realize that this is God’s kingdom. The Scriptures tell us that he is a jealous God and He will not share his glory with anyone.
Some will do anything for position and the prestige that appears to come with it.
They take short cuts.
They will try to buy their way into a position.
They will use their influence to bully their way into a position.
They will claim they have the right to a position due to duration of their service.
They will use their relationship or friendship with someone else already in position.
They want the title of an office without the work or obligation that comes with it. They are unqualified to do the job, or fill the office, but because they have been around longer than anyone else, they feel they deserve it. Even if their qualifications or lack of qualifications actually disqualifies them for the position.[ read more...]
A few years ago, I hired a man to work for me who was from Africa. His family had brought him to the United States and he was in need of job skills. My small painting company was a great place for him to learn a trade. Frances was a pure joy to work with. He was happy every day. He would sing beautifully as he worked and often expressed his appreciation to me for giving him a job. He was fun and often told funny jokes. He was always ready for work on time. His attitude was perfect. However, I had to fire him.
Frances did not understand the value of time. One day he would paint 30 doors, the next day he would paint 2. After speaking to the family member who was his sponsor to the US, she told me that in Africa, time is of little value. She said, “people where he came from do not place a value on time. If something did not get done today, that’s ok, it can get done tomorrow.” Unfortunately, we in the US do not and cannot look at time this way. I knew how much Frances’s time was worth not only to him, but also to me. As his employer, I had to cause Frances to improve his time to show a profit or I would lose money on each job he did for me. Frances was unable to change his way of thinking regarding time and as a result I had to let him go.
The Bible itself begins with a reference of time, “In the beginning”. Time has always been important to God. A reading of the early chapters of Genesis shows God creating the world as sequential event. Christ Himself did not come to this world until His time was fulfilled and when it was time, he returned to glory. Time is important to God, and it should be important to His ministers.
Some people view time like Frances did. It simply did not matter. “Didn’t do it today? That’s ok, do it tomorrow.” The fact of the matter is, we only have one life. We are only allowed so many days, hours, minutes and seconds in this life. At some appointed second in time we will pass from this life.[ read more...]
Put It In Writing
The written word is persuasive. A spoken word is quickly forgotten, but put the same words in writing and the phrase is instantly given new credence and respect. For that reason, putting it in writing is a wise practice. When everything is written out, you're able to see clearly what needs to be accomplished, how it will be done, and what your responsibility is. By putting it in writing, you're making a commitment.
Putting it in writing will also motivate you and keep you on track. By writing down your goals you make a commitment to them. Written goals urge us to action and determine direction.
Decide for yourself what your goals are and when and how you wish to reach them. Then after you have written them down, keep them in a place that is in plain view throughout each day. As you accomplish each one, cross it off! As you do, allow yourself some personal gratification. There is therapy in seeing a long list of goals accomplished.
A things to do list will ease the mental stress of the day. Often our minds are more on thinking of what needs to be done rather than on what do do to get something done. It is easier to set a pace for the day when you have a written list. Plan your day by allowing yourself an allotted amount of time for each item. Write that time next to each item. Don't let other people or situations keep you from accomplishing each task.[ read more...]
Here at PreachIt.org, we regularly receive email and phone calls from our kind members who take the time out of their busy schedules to tell us how much PreachIt.org helps their ministries.We are so thankful for these wonderful people as they help us to keep our bearing and focus as we endeavor to bring helps and resources to their ministries.
Here is a letter that was recently sent to us by a very busy Pastor of a Growing Revival Church.
Rev. Smith, I want to make sure you know how valuable your efforts are to me and to our church. I have been blessed to be using Preachit.org for several years. This site is the most valuable Pentecostal resource that I have found anywhere. As a bi-vocational pastor and a busy father of three young children I am always pressed for time. This site is often the difference between me being partially prepared to me being fully prepared. It also affords me valuable time to care for people and for prayer.
For those of you who may read this, let me share how this site has helped us; My favorite way to use this site is similar to that of using a Commentary. I type in the scripture that has been on my heart, the site does its own search and several sermons, outlines and idea's will pop up. I can read what other Pentecostal men are thinking and preaching in regards to that scripture reference and glean from their insight into the text. I have all kinds of commentaries that I can use, but I find it so inspirational and thought provoking to use this site as my own "Pentecostal Commentary." There is nothing comparable that I have found where you can find fresh and anointed "Pentecostal Commentary" that is so helpful in reaching this generation.[ read more...]
In his book The Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley offers 5 valid points to consider if you desire to be an effective leader. We highly recommend this book to anyone in a leadership position.
- Face it, you are not as good as you could be. So what are you going to do about it? The only way to go farther, faster, is to engage outside help. You can maximize your leadership potential by getting a coach...or two.
- Find someone to observe you in a variety of leadership settings. Outside input is critical. Even if you could watch yourself in a mirror twenty-four hours day, you would never see yourself as others see you.
- Select a coach who has no axe to grind and not reason to be anything except brutally honest. He need not be an expert in your field. What your coach must be able to do , however, is put himself in the shoes of those who are influenced by your leadership.