Abusive Leadership & How Preacher’s Abuse Their Followers

20 Apr

Below is a piece that a friend of mine wrote concerning the misuse of authority in the church. Due to the recent 20/20 expose and all the discussion that is surrounding it, I think this is a helpful post.
With her permission, I have reproduced it in its entirety. Laurie, the author, has been through the things she is describing. She does not write with any animosity, rather is there to call out the sin for what it is and to encourage those who have been (or are currently) in it.
*Note, she uses all caps and “!”‘s for emphasis, not angry shouting. God bless you, and my this encourage you.
Abusive Leadership & How Preacher’s Abuse Their Followers
by Laurie Distin on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 10:06am

To be hurt by other Christians is one thing, but to be hurt, abused, and let down by leadership is far more damaging to a Christian for the following reasons. “First, leaders lead, and people imitate what they observe in their leaders, and the sad fact is that some Christian leaders, even some preachers have lead their people into gross sins or abused them. Since, people tend to follow their leader, the leader is held more accountable for their behaviors and attitudes. Leaders are in a significant position to be able to use their authority to help people. when they fail at this – when they don’t exercise authority in HELPFUL ways – people are HURT and BETRAYED. Leaders mess up not only by MISUSING authority but by NEGLECTING to use it when necessary.” “Many of God’s children have been wounded by leaders not exercising their authority properly or by giving improper spiritual direction! Leaders have not exerted their authority for the purposes God intends. Instead, irrelevant, errant and idolatrous direction was given to God’s people instead.”
“Spiritual Abuse results from the misuse of authority to BOSS, CONTROL, AND OVERDIRECT! Spiritual abuse is the mistreatment of a person who needs help, support, or greater empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining, or decreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment. Spiritual abuse occurs when a leader uses his or her spiritual position to DOMINATE or CONTROL another person in the body of Christ!”
ENABLING: It is the “equipping or making something possible, it is the UNHELPFUL HELP, WITH GOOD INTENTIONS” An example of this would be a dear sweet wife going to her Pastor for counsel because her husband is being abusive to her at home, but instead of the Pastor seeing the husband as the PROBLEM, he instead points to the wife as the problem, by saying to her that if she was MORE SUBMISSIVE TO HER HUSBAND, THEN HE WOULDN’T HAVE TO BE ABUSIVE!!!! “This is incredibly destructive counsel!!! It ENABLES the husband to stay SICK AND DESTRUCTIVE.”
FAILURE TO USE THE POWER OF AUTHORITY: “If a Pastor (or authority) fails to use their power to help by just plainly not acting at all, when they have the power to do so, this can cause MUCH damage to a child of God. And example of this is if sexual abuse is happening, and someone goes to a Pastor for help, and he does NOTHING to help (does not call the proper authorities to get this person in a safe place), this will not only allow the abuse to continue, but will destroy all trust that the victim has in Spiritual Authority in the future!”
ADDING BETRAYAL TO HURT: “In family-of-God relationships, authority is meant to be exercised to RESTORE the WOUNDED, PROTECT the VULNERABLE, and HOLD ACCOUNTABLE those who ABUSE. But tragically, this is often not how authority is used. Instead, the story goes like this: *****The abuse victim tells an authority about the abuse. The authority sides with the perpetrator and treats the victim like HE OR SHE IS THE PROBLEM FOR EXPOSING THE PROBLEM***** Or, they IGNORE the problem. As a result, there is no present-tense help for the victim. he offender isn’t held accountable, so neither is there ongoing protection for the victim – or for other vulnerable people, for that matter. Wounds pile upon wounds. THE VICTIM BECOMES THE PROBLEM FOR POINTING OUT A PROBLEM!!!!!”
“Leaders fail to be REAL. It is so sad today, but so many of the IFB preacher have this mentality that they need to stay “on top of things”, they must “never let us see them sweat”. They must always appear to be on fire for God and Spiritual at all costs!!!! They are acting FAKE and not REAL with us! But Jesus was REAL, he was not afraid at all to show real human emotions. He wept with mourners. He let his anger show. When he was scared he sweat great drops of blood! To have a preacher that is REAL!!!”
“Leaders fail to be HONEST. Preachers are so dishonest about their own relationships with their own families. We’ve been under some preachers who hated their OWN WIVES…..that’s right….treated their OWN WIVES LIKE DOGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You know their relationship with God cannot be right if their relationship with their wife isn’t right….their very prayers are hindered!!!!!!!! So how can they lead a church……THEY CANNOT!!!!! We’ve seen IFB preachers lie over and over and over again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LIES, LIES, LIES!!!!!! Yes, they are human, and yes they do lie…..but don’t preach on lying when YOU ARE LYING AND LIVING A LIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“Leaders are Irrelevant. So much energy is sometimes put on things that really do not matter. For example, some preachers are so preoccupied with wives submitting to their husbands or women wearing britches, or end-times theology or IMAGE, IMAGE, IMAGE, that the every day needs of their precious people are being IGNORED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Some churches have handicapped people in their church that need HELP AND ARE IGNORED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Some churches have shut-ins that are NEVER VISITED….because churches are too busy with other things….TAKE CARE OF YOUR PRECIOUS LAMBS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“Leaders are Idolatrous. Many, many, many believers have been lead into idolatry! Hyles Anderson College is a GREAT offender of this! Jack Hyles has been worshipped for years, and many of his followers promote the IDOLATRY OF THE MAN OF GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is CULTIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NO ONE IS TO BE WORSHIPPED BUT CHIRST HIMSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The OFFICE OF PASTOR IS NOT TO BE IDOLIZED!!!!!!! The Pastor is just a man and a SINNER, CAPABLE OF THE SAME GROSS SINS AS YOU AND ME!!!!!! Church buildings, attendance figures, even our own religious self-effort can be idolatry! Never, never, never let our Preacher put himself or his position in the place of God……WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“BAIT AND SWITCH” “There is such a gross discrepancy between what Christians EXPERIENCE and what they EXPECTED to EXPERIENCE based on the ADVERTISING OF A CHURCH!!!! If MOST IFB churches were honest with their advertisments, this is EXACTLY, AND TRUTHFULLY what they would have to post:
*Join us, and get more tired than you ever imagined.
*Be treated like a total stranger.
*Feel more guilt and shame than you have in any previous relationship.
*Experience new heights of boredom, abuse, mistreatment.
*Be discounted and excluded on the basis of GENDER
*Agonnize every day over whether your heavenly Father is pleased with you.
*Find that person you always wanted to have : meddle in you personal affairs.
*Lose all hope of ever finding a healthy church.
“The problem is the product-delivery system: the spiritual authority. Some Christians only find FAVOR when they MEASURE-UP TO THE EXPECTATIONS OF OTHER BELIEVERS – but the only one we EVER HAVE TO MEASURE UP TO IS GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How sad that some Christians spend their whole lifetime trying to dodge the disapproval for minor offenses – which are probably not even offenses at all ( but just man-made preferences and standards) and only matters of their own consciences!!!
“How sad that for many Christians (AND I HAVE EXPERIENCED THIS), relationships with other Christians have been the LEAST accepting, most performance-based, MOST DAMAGING relationships in their lives…..GOD HELP US!!!!!!!!!!! HEAL US, LORD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“We, as God’s precious Children have EVERY RIGHT to expect to find GRACE AND TRUTH in the body of Christ, but instead have felt the very sting of gossip, dishonesty, and ABUSE that should have resulted in a lawsuit if in any other setting but the church.”
“The WORSE BAIT AND SWITCH OF ALL”. “When God, who faithfully keeps ALL of his precious promises, gets misrepresented by flesh and blood promise breakers, so many people miss the true face of God!!!!! They only see the GROTESQUE MASK that’s created by the off-the-mark preaching and the misuse of His Word and His name. The kind intent of His Will gets perverted by the human fine print. God’s children get stuck with a counterfeit!!!!! The danger is compounded when you are not allowed to notice the fake!!!! THEN GOD GETS BLAMED, AND PEOPLE TURN AWAY FROM GOD!!!!! Christians who have been baited with the glories of the kingdom of God are then trained, or tricked, into settling for a CARICATURE of their spiritual inheritance. Some of God’s sons and daughters are SO LET DOWN they’ry AFRAID OF RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER BELIEVERS (BEEN THERE). Others grow CONFUSED, NERVOUS, OR SKEPTICAL ABOUT GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“A great distrust results between believers and the ability for some believers to ever TRUST AUTHORITY AGAIN (BEEN THERE). GREAT WEDGES ARE BUILT AND GREAT WALLS ARE BUILT UP TO PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM BEING HURT AGAIN (BEEN THERE – DONE THAT)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
******Never, never, never allow ANYONE to let YOU feel like YOU are the problem for bring up a problem. Never allow anyone to critize, blame or ostracize you to talking about problems: this is spiritual abuse!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”**************
**********It is OKAY to focus on your hurts and to take the time to HEAL, even if it means STAYING OUT OF CHURCH FOR AWHILE…….BEEN THERE DONE THAT…….SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO REST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!**************
*************It is OKAY and right to hold others accountable for hurting you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!***************
*********But, then my dear fellow Christians, after a resting and healing time, you need to get back into loving and serving God!!!! Remember it is NOT CHRIST WHO EVER HURT YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE…..IT WAS PEOPLE….AND GOD WAITS LOVINGLY AND PATIENTLY FOR YOU TO RETURN…….LOVINGLY AND PATIENTLY……THE TIMING IS BETWEEN YOU AND GOD AND NO OTHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!************************

1 Comment

Posted by on April 20, 2011 in Christian Life, Church


One response to “Abusive Leadership & How Preacher’s Abuse Their Followers

  1. Pete Ahlstrom

    April 24, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Laurie (and Daniel), my heart goes out to everyone who’s found themselves in that situation. I haven’t (thank God), but have known several others who did.

    My own father was one. When he left home for college, he never saw any of his family again for 20 years, and didn’t come back to see his mother for 40. He never talked about the reasons why in detail, but did tell me he was raised with harshness instead of love, both at home and in church.

    When I worked as a hospital guard, one of my patients told me the reason she felt suicidal was was that “In all the years I went to church, I NEVER saw ANY love. The only thing my church ever did for me was make me feel I could never be good enough.”

    (By the way, neither of them was IFB, nor any variety of Baptist.)

    We’ve been fortunate. The first church I ever attended was pretty much as strict as the IFB, but still was a marvelously loving church. Most of the churches we’ve attended since (and that’s a lot – I moved around quite a bit with work) were also wonderfully loving.

    The town where we live now has been the only exception. Here, we stopped attending our first church because they wouldn’t accept the kids we were bringing from dysfunctional families, nor a lady we brought from a drug rehab program. Lack of love also turned out to be the reality in the second. When my wife and I were both sick, one lady from the church asked if she could get our phone number to call us. The church’s response? “What do you want THAT for?” Her response? She quit attending, as we and many others eventually did too.

    We had liked both pastors. But other key people in both churches simply did not remember or live “love your neighbors as yourself.” Not to love kids from dysfunctional families, or young adults trying to overcome drugs, nor families who were sick.

    You’ve likely seen the manuscript on what the Bible means by “loving our neighbors” that’s up on our family’s website for now (until we find a publisher). If not, I invite you to look.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: