HOW PASTORS ABUSE THEIR CHURCH MEMBERS..In light of the recent happenings surrounding abuse and church leaders, today we will be looking at the different forms of abuse commonly seen and ignored in the church: the main one being spiritual abuse.
This is when a pastor or spiritual leader uses their influence or power to control and manipulate people. Such a pastor is not concerned about promoting the wellbeing of those he’s supposed to serve but only interested in how these people can further his agenda and promote his satisfaction.
The word abusive and church leader shouldn’t ever be seen in the same sentence, but unfortunately, they are sometimes. The fact is that many church members, especially the females are mistreated or subjected to different forms of abuse by their pastors, but a lot of these incidents go unnoticed or are underrated.
Let’s take a look at easily overlooked signs of abuse in the church and what to do about them.
HOW PASTORS ABUSE THEIR CHURCH MEMBERS: WHEN THE PASTOR SURROUNDS HIMSELF WITH “YES” PEOPLE
Godly spiritual leadership is all about helping church members move from where they are to where God would want them to be so it becomes a wonderful thing when a leader aims to see people going full throttle for God.
Unfortunately, what sometimes happens is that pastors often overlap God’s plan with their own plans. What began as a good and godly ambition could curdle into spoiled selfish ambitions which lead to abuse.
How does it happen? In order to create something big “for God” (even though it’s really more about shining more spotlight on themselves), they need massive amounts of momentum generated by members who are eager to make the pastor’s vision a reality. And so, the pastor surrounds himself with people who always say, “Yes”.
When the pastor begins to ask for favors in the name of ministry or forces himself on others so much to the extent that the person is influenced to give in to his demands, that’s where it begins.
When the pastor asks them to pay ridiculous amounts of money in the name of tithe, they say yes.
When the pastor asks the females to do housework for him or babysit his kids, they say yes.
These kinds of people are being abused, and they don’t know it.
HOW PASTORS ABUSE THEIR CHURCH MEMBERS: WHEN CRITICS ARE ISOLATED AND IGNORED
Here’s another critical point. When the pastor is the abusive type who surrounds himself with only his “yes” people, you’ll see that anyone that so much as voices a different opinion is quickly isolated.
The abusive pastor does everything he can to discredit the critic, from smearing their character to accusing them of lacking faith, or even saying that their understanding of the bible isn’t correct. This ensures that other followers begin to avoid the critics because they come to be seen as sinners who are holding back God’s plans.
The saddest part is that these people labeled as critics more often than not start out as close confidants of the pastor, but the moment they push back a little, they are cut off. Instead of being able to provide guidance for the pastor’s roaring ego, they end up sidelined and slandered.
Take a look at this incident that occurred in a small church some years ago. There was a 7-year-old girl named Rachel who liked to run from her Sunday school to her parents’ bible study group on the other side of the church building. After a while, a member of the church, a university student and son of the state governor who was a huge donor to the church, began to walk her to meet her parents under the guise of taking care of her.
Many times her parents led ministries in their home and this young man attended, often encouraging Rachel to sit on his lap while he “played” with her.
The man’s behavior eventually caught the attention of Rachel’s mother who reported him to the pastor. The pastor’s staggering response was: You’re overreacting.
Because the pastor didn’t want to be held accountable, he then told other church members not to allow their children to play with Rachel, else they could be the next people being wrongly accused by Rachel’s parents.
Rachel’s parents became isolated and church members stopped attending services at their house.
HOW PASTORS ABUSE THEIR CHURCH MEMBERS: WHEN THEY LEAD BY FORCE
This particular symptom is especially tricky because it involves more than one form of abuse. Most bad pastors don’t seem like bad people. They are usually charming, innovative and even visionary. They are also often very charismatic and able to inspire people to do difficult things.
But the personality is only a façade and you’ll find that they tend to resort to extreme forms of communication, like having short tempers or giving the silent treatment to any who displeases them.
Other times they recommend courses of action which always somehow benefits them at the expense of others, such as sexually abusing a female church member, or even demanding that you submit to him beyond the boundaries of the scripture.
There are hundreds of cases today where young women are sexually or emotionally abused either by the pastors themselves or by other church members and the cases are hushed, ignored or isolated.
Unfortunately, it is this dynamic personality that some pastors possess that causes a lot of church members, especially females, to allow destructive abuse to go on for so long. This is because, they cannot reconcile the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the pastor, or are under the misguided belief that they are protecting the reputation of the pastor. And so they endure the abuse and hope things would get better.
DON’T TOLERATE ABUSE IN THE NAME OF SERVING THE CHURCH
Is your pastor controlling? Does he play favorites and punish those who disagree with him? Does he force his ideas on you or make you run way too personal errands for him?
If you suspect that your pastor is abusing you or another person, don’t sit down hoping that things will get better. That rarely, if ever happens.
Never be afraid to say “NO” to abusive acts and demands from any church leader. If you find that your pastor is becoming abusive, stay away from him. Or talk to someone outside your usual circle of friends and ask for their opinion. Share specifics with them, including all the red flags.
Getting an external perspective is always helpful because it can sometimes be hard to spot abuse when you are in the thick of it.
Whatever you do, do not tolerate abuse or try to manage it, because doing so will only leave you hurt and betrayed.
God has way better things for you.