Michael Kruger Authors Series on “Spiritual Abuse”

Michael J. Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) Charlotte, North Carolina has authored a series of blogs recently on “Spiritual Abuse”. Kruger reminds us that spiritual abuse is more common than we may think in churches today.

You can explore these highlights from Kruger’s series “Bully Pulpit”:

1. Bully Pulpit: A New Series on the Rising Problem of Spiritual Abuse in the Church Read the full article here

“But, there’s another reason why I think the issue of spiritual abuse needs more attention. Not only is it more widespread than we think, it is also more damaging than we think.

When we think of leadership failures that really damage the church, we tend to default to the two big ones: sex and money. Thus, most of our attention is devoted to making sure pastors are not sexually immoral or financially irresponsible. Indeed, so myopic is the church’s focus on these two issues that a pastor is rarely removed from office for anything else.

But, as we will explore in a later post, the Bible is clear that pastors’ can be unfit for another reason: if they are domineering bullies (Matt 20:25; 1 Tim 3:3; 1 Pet 5:3). And there’s a reason for that. Such behavior wounds much more deeply than most people can possibly imagine.”

2. What is Spiritual Abuse? Read the full article here

“Spiritual Abuse Involves Sinful Methods of Controlling and Domineering Others. When you talk to people who have been under abusive leadership, certain words often come up: authoritarian, manipulative, controlling, mean, cruel, vindictive, defensive, and unable to take criticism.

Things don’t always start out this way. Often this sort of abusive behavior will begin with a leader making cruel jokes at someone’s expense, or maybe just being hypercritical of the staff that work under him. But, then it can advance to more severe things over time.
People who find themselves at odds with a spiritually abusive pastor, will often feel isolated, shamed, ostracized, silenced, and made to feel like they are unsubmissive, insubordinate, and one who undermines the church’s God-given leadership.”

3. Key Signs of an Abusive Pastor 1: A Long Track Record of Broken Relationships Read the full article here

“Spiritual abuse, then, is when a spiritual leader—such as a pastor, elder, or head of a Christian organization—wields his position of spiritual authority in such a way that he manipulates, domineers, bullies, and intimidates those under him, as a means of accomplishing what he takes to be biblical and/or spiritual goals.”

4. Key Signs of an Abusive Pastor 2: Hyper-Defensive About Their Own Authority Read the full article here

“Part of the way the abusive pastor maintains and protects his own authority is by building key alliances within the church’s leadership structure. He will often establish a deep base of loyalty among a select few members of the elder board—men who will defend and protect him from any criticism.

Thus, when someone does raise concerns about an abusive pastor, he already has a group of “lawyers” waiting to defend him and uphold his position of authority. Moreover, these defense attorneys will often go after the people bringing the criticism, looking for ways to tear them down or impugn their character.

Don’t miss what is happening here. The abusive pastor is not using the elders to protect the sheep, but to protect himself.”

5. Key Signs of Abusive Pastor 3: Overly Critical and Harsh with Others Read the full article here

“Second, abusive pastors are often wrong about the sin they are confronting. Far too often we assume that if a pastor confronts someone’s sin, then he must be right about their sin. But in case after case I’ve studied, the abusive pastor’s claims about people’s sins were often flat out wrong. Remember, accusations are often a form of intimidation and control in the hand of an abusive pastor. Thus, it should not automatically be assumed that his claims are correct.”

6. Why Don’t Churches Stop Spiritually Abusive Pastors? Read the full article here

“We should remember that even if churches don’t stop abusive shepherds, that does not mean there is no hope. After rebuking the bad shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel 34, God promises that he will do something about them: “Behold, I am against the [bad] shepherds . . . I will rescue my sheep from their mouths” (v.10).”