I sat down and quickly wrote a list that described an abusive pastor I had the misfortune of being under:
1. He acts and speaks as if it is his church rather than the Lord’s church.
2. He never admits that he is wrong.
3. He does not allow anyone to challenge him.
4. He arranges it so only replicas of him are on any of the boards.
5. He does not allow any home discipling groups to meet for fear of not having total control.
6. He elevates money and prestige to an integral part of his ministry. You will usually see a huge church campus to attest to what he thinks he alone has accomplished.
7. He stifles any conversation about injustices done by his ministry through twisted sermons on gossip and judgment.
8. He is very much concerned about public image and recognition.
9. He does not eminnate a fear of God in his own walk, but cultivates a twisted fear in those under him for maniputive purposes.
10. He does not discourage praise by those in the congregation.
11. His sermons on salvation and discipleship are rare.
12. Any questions that could reveal any flaws in his ministry are avoided.
13. People are sized up for their earthly abilities rather than their spiritual gifts.
14. Those in the congregation are elevated for what can be extracted out of them.
15. He will remind congregants of what they owe him.
16. All his decisions are very carefully crafted rather than by Holy Spirit discernment.
17. He creates an atmosphere where congregants need him to like them. They are dumbed down and never challenge his abuse and control. If they do, they are labeled and eventually shunned.
18. He is a ministry loner. He has no relationship with peers who can get in his face.
19. I could never share with him my true thoughts and concerns. Simply put, “It is either his way or the highway.”
20. He is proud that his church is unique in the kingdom of God and believes that God called him out to do things differently than if he was a normal pastor. In reality he is more of a circus ring leader who loves to wow the audience than a humble servant leader whose vision is the Lord’s.
After I had quickly put this list together I wanted to take my time and glean the Internet and see how accurate my quick assessment was. It was amazing how close my observations were to what I found. Read what I found:
“If you have to ask whether a person is spiritually abusive, then that may be your first sign. If you’re sitting under a pastor and you have a general sense of uneasiness about him, then you need to explore this. First, in your own mind and with God. Second, with a close confidant.
Abusive pastors are usually controllers. They like to micro-manage their organization. There is one way to do things and it’s his way. You won’t find a lot of biblical liberty, which taps into the diversity within the body of Christ. Alternate opinions are not generally welcome.
Along with his tight control on how the church operates, you’ll also sense the only ones who can do anything are those who are lock-stepping with him.
Therefore, the spiritual abuser will test his candidates, usually with extra-biblical guidelines which are his guidelines. The people who are promoted within his system will think and act similar to him.
One of the interesting things you’ll find with his underlings is if you ask them a question which they have not been taught, they will not be able to answer you. They will have to check in with him before they can give you an answer. The Spirit of God and His Word are no longer leading the church.
Because of his heavy-handed control, you’ll begin to notice a lack of diversity in your local church. They will create their own language, mannerisms, and customs.
When people come in from the outside, they’ll notice how different it is from the greater body of Christ. Those in the clone factory will take this as a complement. Those outside the clone factory will think it’s a cult.
No sensible Christian should walk into any Christian church and think it’s a cult because of the unique language, mannerisms, or customs of the church.
Paul wrote to scores of churches teaching them how to think and to behave and we have seen a consistent pattern throughout church history of local church body life. Within the diversity is a similarity which bleeds through all local churches around the world.
If your church is becoming something other than what anyone would expect from any local church, then there may be danger. This will point back to tight-fisted control.
One of the pastor’s greatest strengths is to build up another person. Do you feel built up and free to be the person God is calling you to be? Or, are you more cautious about your words and actions when you are around him?
I know I can make a mistake around Jesus. The abusive pastor makes you more self-aware and self-conscious. You feel more constricted and less free around him.
Can you tell him what you’re thinking? Let’s go back to Jesus again. Prayer is one of the most beautiful mediums we have as God’s children. We are encouraged to talk to Him. We can tell Him anything and never fear undesirable repercussions.
Your pastor is the LORD’s under-shepherd. He is called to emulate the Savior in order to give you an example to follow. You should be nearly as free to talk to your pastor as you are free to talk to God. You should be fully confident he cares for you and would never hold anything you said against you.
Do you feel like you can share your concerns with him, whatever they may be? Do you believe he can be trusted? Can he steward your thoughts and concerns like Jesus would, always seeking your best?
Can you disagree with him? Does he approach your alternate opinions as a learner, not as a defender of his position? Is he willing to allow you to exercise your opinions as long as they are not contrary to the Gospel? Is he willing to change his mind because he sees the wisdom and the value of your input?
A humble man will want to hear where he may be failing. The reason for this is because it’s not about him. A humble pastor will welcome grace-motivated and grace-concerned individuals who are seeking for his best and God’s glory.
The pastor will be an active learner because he, like you, is always willing to change, grow, and mature!”