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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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As technological progress continues, it axiomatically leads to increasing rates of stress, overload, complexity, and change, speed, debt, and meaninglessness. Yet how can we protect ourselves, or families and our churches from the exhaustion and burnout of our age? The following suggestions may provide some relief, both for you and for those you minister to.
- Put more control in your life.
- Learn to laugh.
- Generate good will. The greatest thing we can do to buffer ourselves against the ravages of stress is to continually spread good will to those around us.
- Limit negatives. Stop negative self- criticism. Limit your time with negative people.
- Stop digging. If you're in a hole, the first rule is to quit digging. If you're overloaded, start saying "NO!"
- Accept your limitations. God is the author of limitations, and He gave them to us for our protection. We violate them at our peril.
- Defend your boundaries. Establish appropriate boundaries and defend them against the onslaught of an extraordinarily demanding world.
- Prune the activity branches. Like new branches on a fruit tree, additional activities and commitments add themselves to our lives every year, often without our permission.
- Value simplicity. No one ever lived a simpler, more unencumbered than Jesus.
- De-accumulate. Everything we own also owns us. Each possession must be cared for, maintained and paid for.
- Control the "paper tumor." Every year the amount of paper and information it contains seems to metastasize without pity. When at all possible, use the "OHIO" rule - "Only Handle It Once."
- Restrain technology. Maintain a healthy skepticism of any new technology and don't buy it unless you can control it.
- Value traditions. Identify the traditions in your personal, family and church life that have special significance and protect them vigorously.
- Establish stability zones. People generally benefit from having certain areas in their lives where change is kept to a minimum, and stability and reliability are assured.
- Move less often. Church leaders are often called on to relocate frequently. But at a time when the rest of the world continues to change so wildly, leaders who have a choice may want to consider the benefits of greater longevity in one position.
Based on surveys of more than 15,000 people, the following traits were selected as the key to effective leadership:
· Being honest – 87%
· Being forward-looking – 71%
· Being inspirational – 68%
· Being competent – 58%
- Honest people have credibility – and that’s what gives leaders the trust and confidence of their people. High credibility leaders foster such things as greater pride in the organization, a stronger spirit of cooperation and teamwork, and more feelings of ownership and personal responsibility. What are some of the other characteristics of credible leaders?
- They do what they say they will do. They keep their promises and follow through on their commitments.
- Their actions are consistent with the wishes of the people they lead. They have a clear idea of what others value and what they can do.
An indispensable trait for successful pastors is perseverance. The New Testament word, hupomeno, is best translated "Patiently enduring" or "overcoming difficulties." This unglamorous component of leadership may disappoint those hoping to build effective churches by means of skill, charisma and intelligence alone. Never the less, those who persevere - who doggedly pursue what God has shown them - are more likely to reach their pastoral goals than those sprinting along in reliance on their natural abilities. Perseverance is characterized by three elements:
- Learned Optimism
Resilience - is the ability to bounce back.
Learned Optimism - defined as having an eye for what is going right.
Opportunism - enables the pastor to see opportunities amid the problems.
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...]
There is no limit to what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit. It is important to cast a vision of servanthood to lay leaders and those in the church who serve the body of Christ.
Preach servanthood. There can be no greater example of servanthood than Jesus Christ. He was someone who could have expected everyone to serve Him. However he continually offered himself as the servant of all. You get what you preach. If the church needs to be reminded to serve one another, Preach servanthood.
Live servanthood. If Jesus can do it, so can the preacher. People live by our example more than what we preach. If we preach servanthood but live lordship, people will become confused and view it as hypocrisy.
Reward servanthood. Praise those who put others first. Openly applaud those who go out of their way to put others needs before their own. Jesus said, “When you’ve done it to the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.” He wanted us to know how important servanthood was as[ 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...]
God provides for us so that we might in turn protect what he has given us. Our God entrusts us to live within our financial means and ability. To live outside this ability, jeopardized the provisions of the family.
God owns everything but he gives us the use of it all. As we can be further trusted, he entrusts us with more. We become the managers of his blessings and provisions. If we cann't be trusted with what we have, how do we expect God to trust us with more? The management and care of God’s provisions is critical to future blessings.
According to Matthew 25:15-27, God expects dividends and a return on his investment. If we do not properly care for it and squander it, then we can expect to be cut off from the continued blessings of God. Luke gave us a clear indication of this in Luke 16:10 as he stated that the person who is faithful in little things is an indicator of faithfulness in larger things.
While earthly things are temporal, we still have to live here on earth. God gives us everything we need to live, survive, and enjoy the fullness of life. We must care for it with all diligence.[ read more...]
Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way, that is not easy. - Aristotle
Some of you will not appreciate us quoting from Aristotle, but you have to admit, the guy has a good point. Anger can eat a person up. Your true potential as a minister of God can be thwarted by un-harnessed anger.
People who explode and express anger easily can cause great harm to those they are called to encourage. It’s important for us to understand anger and its potential to destroy.
Exploding because someone hurt you. When most people get hurt they cry out. This is natural. But it is not healthy to express anger every time someone hurts your feelings.
A good leader has the ability to harness his anger and even displace it toward healthy and more productive avenues. Mistreating someone because they hurt you is not just. It is bullying.
It is entirely possible that the person who hurt you did it unintentionally and without malice. You would be wise to forgive them quickly and swallow that anger before you create a fissure in a relationship that cannot be mended.
Being addicted to anger. Some people love to be angry. They enjoy the feeling of superiority they get when they have told someone off. They actually look for opportunities to get after someone or give someone a hard time. Certain hormones even create a strong physical sensation when they really get mad.
These people are addicted to this hormone and the emotion of anger and have no place in church leadership. It is important to be a person of peace. If you find yourself constantly getting angry at others for little reasons, you might be addicted to anger. Just like any other addict, you can actually build up a tolerance for this drug. Once this happens, you will find it necessary to constantly become angrier in order to get the same euphoria. This could end in a terrible way if you do not get deliverance from this addiction.
Using anger to exploit. Most people learn to exploit by anger at a very early age. Babies learn quickly to cry out in anger when they are not getting what they want. They will use anger tantrums to control their parents who simply want to appease them.
These same people grow up believing that they can use anger to get their way all the time. On the job, they will use anger to cause others to cave into their demands. These people may not stomp their feet in the workplace or church office, but you know when they are mad and they will use this to control others.[ read more...]