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The Dark Side of Spiritual Abuse - Part 5
By: Philip Harrelson
What I increasingly discovered was in these dark spiritually abusive environments, it serves as excellent and fertile conditions for hypocrisy to prevail. As you dig deeper into these environments you soon discover dark, deviant sins and moral corruption simmering beneath the surface. I believe that the huge level of repression that takes place in these “churches” does nothing except bring out the worst sins of the flesh. Although when someone finally does decide to speak up concerning the matter of these dark sins, the leader usually resorts to efforts of damage control so that the leadership and the church do not have a soiling of “reputation.” Man hasn’t really learned any new tricks about covering sin; he still resorts to insufficient fig leaves just as Adam and Eve did at the beginning of the state of man.
What I also found to be very surprising is that most of the time the wife of the leader will also work toward damage control. She will do everything within her power to live up to the social pressures of maintaining some semblance of normalcy in the various relationships she has within the church. She apparently has come to understand that the dark side of her mate can shift on her as much as it does with those people he is taking advantage of. So instead of dealing with the moral and spiritual failure that is present things are left to follow the course of gravity. Gravity leads the person to maintain an environment of manipulation and absolute mind control on those people he is supposed to serve.
While I have written about the traits and characteristics of those who are involved in a spiritually abusive environment, I have not been specific with practices of spiritual abuse. I will list some of the practices while leaving some of the most extreme situations out as some would probably be absolutely shocked to know this kind of thing takes place under the guise of religion. So here are some actual practices of spiritual abuse:
• A member having to submit financial records to the church leader and the leader determines how and when they are to spend their money.
• A member having to sell various things on a constant basis to feed the coffers of the church so that it entirely benefits the leader.
• A wide disparity between the lifestyle of the leader and the members. He lives like a king while the members appear to live at a level of poverty or barely just able to get by.
• The leader using a “word of knowledge” or “word of wisdom” to pick a spouse for those who are in the congregation.
• Members being absolutely forbidden to question the direction the leader takes or question the decisions he is making.
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Psalm 118:24 reads, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” The writer of this Psalm understood that if he was going to be a happy person, he was going to have to encourage himself. Who knows what all this person was dealing with at that moment of his life? The day he penned these words may well have been the worst day of his life. His determination however was that he was not going to allow his circumstances to determine his outlook on life.
Only you can decide for you if you are going to be a positive and happy person. There is much in the world to worry and be sad about, but that does not mean that you have to live a sad or worried existence.[ read more...]
A crucial issue for today’s church is communication. At the heart of the Christian faith is the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Yet today this message is one of a multitude of messages people are bombarded with daily. Furthermore, the “audience” has changed drastically. Today, the church faces the increasingly difficult task of communicating sacred meaning to a secular audience.
Here’s a check list of things to consider when it comes to evaluating what you’re communicating today as the church amid the rising tide of secularism:
- Keep it simple. Simplify everything from the bulletin to the sermons. You will communicate better with secular people.
- Translate please. Secular people don’t understand the theological jargon we use. You can simplify Biblical terms without sacrificing their integrity.
- Timing is everything. Time is the new currency. Communication must be concise. If people lose focus because of time, they lose the message.
- Take nothing for granted. The average churchgoer often takes for granted the things new people may not understand. The answer? Define what terms mean.
- Define non- negotiables. Some language and practices simply can’t be changed. Define the non-negotiables and then clarify their meaning.
There are seven things sheep want from a shepherd:
- They expect shepherds to be concerned for their safety. People want the assurance that their organization is wise enough to survive in turbulent times and will provide for their futures. A protector who is concerned with the welfare of his flock won’t hesitate to communicate the possibilities and the perils looming on the horizon.
- They expect shepherds to know them by name. When a responsible shepherd enters the fold, his sheep respond to him because he calls them by name. We cannot underestimate the value of establishing a connection with every person on our team – even if that number is large. The bond is strengthened each time people hear us speak their names.
- They expect shepherds to be gentle and kind. When people you serve are less than cooperative, it’s not an excuse for retaliation. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said about his war experiences, “You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” If you feel the urge to lash out at those around you, get tough on yourself. That’s where discipline yields the greatest harvest.
- They expect shepherds to rescue them. What is our response when one of our employees becomes distracted? Do we let him stay off course and struggle to find his way back, or do we stop what we’re doing and give him our attention? Jesus said a good shepherd would leave a flock of 99 to go after the lost sheep until he finds it. That’s true of leadership.
"Not on your own, but with God's help you can!"
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
If you asked anybody, "What amazes you most about what Jesus did while on this Earth?" You would get responses like, "He raised the dead," or "He died for my sins" or "He healed the blind and the lame." No doubt that each of these are amazing works of God, Calvary can never be denied as the greatest work that Jesus did. I would have responded the same way. Calvary aside, one of the most amazing things to me that Jesus did while on this Earth was transforming the twelve into disciples, and ultimately into the leaders of the first century church. That was an amazing accomplishment.
I know firsthand as a leader and a pastor how difficult it is to change people. I understand how much time it takes to cause habits and thinking to change. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that the twelve disciples were total idiots, but let's be honest, they didn't have a whole lot going for them. They were definitely less than ordinary. They didn't have a lot of natural talent. Their intellectual abilities were lacking. Each one of them was prone to failure, bad attitudes and mistakes, no one more than the leader of the group, Peter. Almost every one of them had issues with their faith. They all had bouts with doubt. On one occasion, Jesus said of them;
25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
Jesus called them fools, yet He also saw them for what they could be, instead of what they were. These twelve "fools," or at least eleven of them, went on to turn their world upside down. They became the propagators of the Gospel after Jesus ascended. They built the church from the ground up. Their ministry continues to influence us to this day. So the answer is 'yes', a loser can be turned into a leader. A fool can become a person of wisdom. In fact, more often than not, God typically calls these kind of men and women to become the leaders in the church[ read more...]
A popular saying states, "A church that fails to plan is a church that plans to fail." I would like to rephrase that, "A church that fails to train its leaders is a church that trains its leaders to fail."
Since the pastor cannot do it all alone, training leaders is a must. It is imperative that every church have a plan to train existing and future leaders. Leaders are not born, they are developed through mentoring, training and hands on experience.
Leaders must have a clear mental and spiritual picture of their goals. The Bible calls this vision.
18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
Without vision, people have no direction or focus and are easily confused and distracted. Without vision, ministries will fail and people will become discouraged and move on. Your leaders must know the vision, see the vision, understand the vision and believe in the vision. They must be trained in how to accomplish the vision. Then they must be consistently encouraged to fulfill the vision.[ read more...]
Have you ever run out of gas? At one moment your car is cruising down the highway, and the next it’s sputtering to a stop. You get out and start pushing it to the nearest gas station, but as soon as you stop pushing, the car quickly comes to a halt. Without gas, a car can’t do much of anything.
The same is true with a person and motivation. Without motivation, it’s just hard to get going. On the other hand, when you’re empowered by motivation, no task is too difficult. Having motivation is like putting gas in your tank. It’s what keeps you on the road. If you’re having trouble motivating yourself, here are several suggestions to help get going:
Add Up The Rewards Of Beginning – When you have trouble getting started, remember the benefits of beginning. Remind yourself that the finished product will bring you satisfaction. And keep in mind that the highest reward for our effort is not what we “get for it”, but what we become “because of it.” If that’s not incentive enough, consider the negative things that could happen if you don’t begin. Often, those negative costs only increase the longer you wait.[ read more...]
In a recent study of church growth, the following factors and strategies were noticed as being utilized in growing churches while churches that were declining were not using these principles.
1. Reach out to Newcomers. Focusing on the needs and concerns of newcomers, making inquiry convenient and non-threatening, and allowing people to move at their own pace, characterized the growing churches.
2. Build Member Commitment. While reaching newcomers is most important, the growing churches expected much of members, and active involvement of everyone was sought.
3. Train and Involve Laity. There was always a bold, compelling vision for the congregation’s future as well as ways of equipping and deploying laity drawn to the vision for ministry.
4. Make Bold Plans. Churches with goals and dreams far beyond current ministries and resources were more likely to grow than other churches, all other things being equal.[ read more...]
All too often the people who lead the service mislead it. These good people whom the Pastor has asked to help out in the service many times serve to cause frustration and confusion in a church service.
Leading a service properly can bring about a move of God that can break every yoke in the service. Leading it improperly can cause people to go home more bound than they were when they came.
Every element of the service should prepare the way for the next. The end result of the service is the move of God in the alter. When you get in the way of the progression, you kill the potential of what could happen.
Here are a few things to consider when asked to “Lead the service”.
Keep it moving. Don’t allow for delays or “dead air” places in the services. In radio, “dead air” is when you hear silence. It is also when the producer did his job wrong and did not prepare for those seconds of the day. It is during this time that many people will change the channel or turn off their radio. You don’t want this happening in the church service. “No Dead Air!”
Do not continually comment. If you are introducing the various singers and elements of the service don’t comment each time on the last person who sang or spoke. Just introduce the next part of the service.
Be prepared. Have a written outline of how the service will run. This way you will not forget any part or aspect of the service. (Forgetting to have the children’s choir sing when they have practiced all week will get a lot of people upset at you.)
Don’t ramble. Recently I attended a service where the person who led the service in the Pastor’s leave, killed it with his constant rambling. He actually spoke more than the preacher did. He thought he was funny with his jokes and spiritual with his “little messages”. Needless to say, the congregation did not pay much attention to the preacher when he was finally introduced, since they already heard plenty of oratory from the person leading the service. I love preaching, but I have to admit, the guy leading this service wore me out.[ read more...]
One of the many amazing stories in the Bible is the story of the twin sons of Isaac, Jacob and Esau. Although twins, these two boys were radically different. Esau loved the outdoors and became a hunter. Jacob preferred to stay at home and learned how to cook. Esau was born first and was covered in hair. Jacob was born second with a death grip on his brother’s heel. Esau became a daddy's boy. Jacob was sheltered by his mother. Without sharing the entire story, I will fast forward to a part of the story that has always bothered me.
Note the four statements in bold type;
18 And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son?
19 And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me.
20 And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son?And he said, Because the Lord thy God brought it to me.
21 And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son,whether thou be my very son Esau or not.
22 And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.
23 And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau's hands: so he blessed him.
24 And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am.
Though Isaac had intended to bless his oldest son, Esau, Jacob deceives his father and comes in Esau's place to receive the birthright. From the moment that Jacob begins to speak, Isaac is suspicious that something is wrong. The first suspicion comes from how quickly 'Esau' manages to go out and kill an animal, bring it back, clean it, cook it and then serve it to his father. The second suspicion comes from Jacobs’s voice. As soon as Jacob speaks, Isaac immediately recognizes the voice of his second son. The Scriptures show that on at least three occasions, Isaac questions the identity of Jacob. He knew something was wrong. He smelled a rat. Yet, instead of investigating any further, Isaac goes ahead and gives the birthright to Jacob.
This is very strange and bothersome behavior from Isaac. Not only because he knew something was wrong, but also because Esau was his favorite son. Considering the love he had for Esau why did Isaac bless Jacob instead? Why did he not investigate to make sure he was blessing the right son? Why didn't he ask more questions? Why didn't Isaac seek the truth? Very strange indeed.[ read more...]