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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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“If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.” I found this old Russian proverb in the early pages of a recent book written by Gary Keller. The title of this book, “The One Thing” jumped out at me above all the other titles on the shelf. This concept of One Thing is totally foreign to me. I have always thought myself quite adept at doing several things at one time. I have done it all my life. I learned this early in my working career. In fact, the manager of the McDonalds restaurant where I found my first job told me, “The one thing you will learn and take with you from this job is the ability to do many things at one time.” It was not long before I learned first hand what he was talking about. Since that day to this, I can rarely remember doing only one thing at a time.
There is in me a drive that feels like I am not being productive unless I am accomplishing several things at once. Rarely do I ever do “One Thing”. According to Keller’s book, doing more than One Thing is usually not the most productive or profitable way to conduct oneself. This book has some incredible insight as to how to stay on track and build momentum towards your goals, but for many of us preachers, doing more than one thing at a time is a way of life that we are unable to change.
Most Pastors and ministers of the Gospel have families and ministries as well as secular jobs or businesses. This creates a constant pulling in different directions that leaves us feeling tired, confused and even guilty that we are unable to accomplish all that we want to do in any of these areas. We endlessly wrestle with our time constraints as well as our energy levels for each of these.
It would be very nice to do only One Thing Mr. Keller, but for the average preacher out there, this prospect of staying focused, is probably going to be a challenge for us beyond the pages of your book.
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- Maintain your confidence by being in right relationship with God. You can’t be objective or discerning if you’re not in good standing with God. A strong relationship with God gives you the grace and confidence to deal properly with difficult people.
- Remember over- reacting will only accentuate the conflict and confuse the issue.
- Hold realistic expectations. Make sure the difficult person can reach your expectations. You may be expecting him to do or be something that is impossible.
- Quit trying to change the difficult person. Give up your rights and expectations regarding this person. Accept the fact that you can’t change him, but you can change your reactions to him.
- Refuse to play his games. He may attempt to use you or make you feel guilty or obligated. Recognize the emotional games, and don’t participate.
- Don’t allow yourself to become the difficult person’s slave. Be honest with yourself and learn to say no.
- Keep a proper spirit and attitude. Maintaining credibility is the greatest struggle. Don’t let bitterness, anger, or resentment grow.
Understand the value of your time. In the corporate world, managers are encouraged to assess the actual dollar value of their time. This helps the person and their staff understand that time equals money. As much as the church is not focused on money as the corporate world is, a minister should understand that his time is very valuable and it is limited.
Invest your time wisely. Understand that you only have so much time to invest in a given ministry, project or person. Make the best use of it. Don’t allow distractions or other people’s agendas to keep you from staying on track. A minister should be allowed the same courtesy as any other professional when it comes to his time.
Think of your time like you think of your money. You would never think of investing your money unwisely or just wasting it on every person would ask you for it. You would consider wisely where it should be spend and on who. Time is more valuable than your money, invest it wisely.
Set aside time each day to prioritize the demands on your time. Yes, you should be allowed to decide how your time should be spent. Prioritizing the demands of your time will allow you to spend time in areas where it is most needed and where the greatest return will come from it.[ read more...]
One of the saddest occurrences is when I spend time trying to mentor an experienced Christian minister who is wrestling with regrets, guilt and self-condemnation after they have given a lifetime to the work of God.
Christian ministry should be satisfying and rewarding. The joy, peace, fulfillment and contentment should be overflowing for anyone who has devoted their life to arguably the world’s most noble profession. Surprisingly instead of entering a time of bliss and contentment, a vast number of ministers and their spouses enter their later years disillusioned, angry, bitter, depressed and saddened over missed opportunities, mistakes, bad judgments, regrets, and a list of similar discouragements.
This simply ought not to be.
What about you? Are you living with regret, guilt, or condemnation right now?
Is it easier for you to quote Romans 8:1 than it is to live it?
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
The word “condemnation” means an adverse sentence (the verdict). There should be no adverse sentence or condemnation but reality says there often is. If so, then the question is what caused it? Or, from where did it originate?
Even if you could identify the point of origin for your feeling of condemnation you cannot change the history that caused it. However, you can learn from history, make adjustments, and not repeat the same mistakes in the future. Another key point is that Romans 8:1 reveals the answer to living condemnation free. It says to, “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” To state it plainly: the Spirit will lead you to a condemnation free life and ministry whereas the flesh will lead to condemnation.
From a practical standpoint the following suggestions will assist you in building a condemnation free life and ministry.
Plan your finances as though you will live 150 years. One of the greatest tragedies is that many of us have failed to plan for the day of retirement. It is a mistake you will live to regret. Many of those who chose to spend it all because the Lord was coming and they didn’t want to leave it for the antichrist died broke and foolish. They had no oil in their lamps when the day came that they needed it.[ read more...]
This often-used scripture has always challenged the believer, for most want to be able to live up above the earthly arena of life. The one key is written; They that wait, they that serve the Lord with life and lips will surely learn the art of mounting up. I read an article about birds that stated, "The hearts of birds are heavier in proportion than the hearts of man or other animals." The reason given was, the more the body works, the greater the demand on the heart, which causes it to become heavier. Birds are very hard working creatures and so should the believer be.
A lofty life lived on spiritual wings requires an enlarged heart, which means constant fellowship with God Himself. If we are to live in the Heavenlies, to arise we must ask God to give us a bigger heart. Our desires must be for Spiritual things and only a heart after God will allow that.
In Psalm 119:32, the writer shouts, "I will run in the way of thy commandments, when thou shall enlarge my heart!"[ read more...]
From the earliest messages of the Gospel that were preached by Jesus, until today, preachers have wanted their message to be heard by the masses. We have done everything we could to ensure that our preaching can be heard.
1And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,
2And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
3And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
There was a twofold purpose in Jesus using the ship as a preaching platform. The first reason was that as vs 1 mentions, the people were pressing against him. The crowd was getting too great. As with any size crowd of people, the natural voice can only go so far. The more people you add to the crowd the less His voice could travel as sound bounces off of obstacles which, in turn, hindered His ability to get His message across to everyone that was there.
This brings us to the second reason why Jesus launched out onto the ship to preach. Sound carries extremely well across water. From the ship, more people could line the shore of the lake and His voice would carry to them without being hindered. (Have you ever been on one side of the lake and heard the voices of people speaking on the other side which might be thousands of feet away? When the wind is still, you can literally hear a casual voice speaking from thousands of feet away as the sound travels across the surface of the lake without hindrance.)
Jesus took full advantage of this simple technique. However primitive Jesus’ sound system was on this day, it worked. It enabled him to get His message to many more people than His previous method of simply standing or sitting in a place on the beach as He taught.
Preachers today face the same dilemma most often. We struggle to get our voice out to more people. We purchase sound systems costing everywhere from hundreds, to literally tens of thousands, of dollars for the simple purpose of getting more people to hear our preaching. We oftentimes stop at nothing to get our message across to more people.[ read more...]
The Bible says in;
42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
The final verse of Acts, chapter two, ends with two phrases that really catch my attention:
· Having favor with all the people.
· The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
The last phrase ,"added daily to the church", is our goal, yet it cannot be accomplished without first having, " favor with people." You will never grow your church unless you have favor with people. You will never win people to Christ unless you first win peoples favor. One of the reasons that Jesus was so successful and had so many people following Him was because He had favor with man.[ read more...]
As you look through history, you find remnants of people who preached and believed the Apostolic doctrine. Whether in parts or in whole, the Acts 2:38 message has been found throughout history. Consider the countless, precious people who gave their lives in defense of the Apostolic message. People who suffered the death of martyrdom unnoticed. Praying saints who never did see their world come to Christ. Men and women who held on to the promises of God's Word, in a day and place when it would cost them their lives.
Being Pentecostal is popular today. Even a good Catholic friend of mine recently told me that their services are becoming more Charismatic. I'm not sure what he meant by that, but I guess he was trying to say, that they were embracing the Spirit of worshipfound in Pentecost.
However, time has a way of erasing things. The tide of generations coming and going, dull and even erase people, governments and religions. Why, if we didn't dig into the earth in the deserts, we wouldn't even know that some civilizations ever existed. Whole nations have been erased from the earth without anyone even noticing that they were there. People who were once proud and who ruled large kingdoms are only remembered in small bits of history if at all.
What will be said of our generation should the Lord tarry 500 more years? Now, I'm with most of you on this one. I believe the Lord is coming back very soon. However, we do not know this for sure. What will future generations remember about us? What will be in the history books of the future about us?
I don't believe there has ever been a brighter day for the Church. We are living on a planet with over 6 billion people living on it. If there ever was a day in which God wanted to give a great revival, I believe today is that day. However, we should ask ourselves, are we looking forward? Are we considering the effect of all that we are doing for the Lord, on future people. What will they say about us? Will they remember us?
Some time ago, I read a book about the Nazi concentration camps from World War II. The story was about a little Jewish girl who was too small to work for the Nazis, and had somehow escaped being shot for being too young. It was often their practice to kill someone if they could not work. So, this little girl lived her life through much of the war and many of the concentration camps.[ read more...]