Abusive Churches

I have been talking to a lot of people lately who have come from very abusive church situations. I have found a pattern in these churches and I am going to share with you some common characteristics of what an abusive church looks like through the next several blog posts. I think the thing that trips a lot of people up is the fact that there are many churches who base things on the Word but veer off because of a very insecure leader who needs to be in control. It amazes me how we stay somewhere because we feel they are a “good teacher” when we see so much wrong and ignore it because of a “teaching gift”. If you are in an abusive church, please find a healthy church. Your family needs a healthy church.

(By Dr. Pat Zukeran)

1. Control-Oriented Leadership

A central feature of an abusive church is control-oriented leadership. The leader in an abusive church is dogmatic, self- confident, arrogant, and the spiritual focal point in the lives of his followers. The leader assumes he is more spiritually in tune with God than anyone else. He claims insight into Scripture that no one else has. Or, he may state that he receives personal revelations from God. Because of such claims, the leader’s position and beliefs cannot be questioned; his statements are final. To members of this type of church or group, questioning the leader is the equivalent of questioning God. Although the leader may not come out and state this fact, this attitude is clearly seen by the treatment of those who dare to question or challenge the leader. The leader of the movement often makes personal decisions for his followers. Individual thinking is prohibited; thus the followers become dependent on the leader.

In the hierarchy of such a church, the leader is, or tends to be, accountable to no one. Even if there is an elder board, it is usually made up of men who are loyal to, and will never disagree with, the leader. This style of leadership is not one endorsed in the Bible. According to Scripture all believers have equal access to God and are equal before Him because we are made in His image, and we are all under the authority of the Word of God. In 1 Thessalonians 5:21 believers are directed to measure all teachings against the Word of God. Acts 17:11 states that even the apostle Paul was under the authority of the Bible, and the Bereans were commended because they tested Paul’s teachings with the Scriptures. Leaders and laity alike are to live according to Scripture.


~ by pennymaxwell on July 26, 2008.

7 Responses to “Abusive Churches”

  1. This was truly an amazing writing. We read all of the blogs under this heading and it has helped us heal and understand some things we were seeking God about. Hope all is well with you guys, I still miss seeing yall around. BTW, Greg and I are at a church we helped launch this summer down in Prince George/ Hopewell area.

  2. Crystal I am so glad you guys found a healthy church to be a part of! That is so awesome! I guess you could see that my blogs came from experience, huh?

    We wish you guys the very best!!!

  3. I wouldn’t have known unless we had just been through the ringer this summer with mess from there (and we left, with P.R.’s blessing at the end of June) So we are still dealing with rippled effects of God moving us. And we’ve been searching for some sort of understanding and wisdom and were left with the … what just happened to us … look on our faces. We sorta knew something was off … and had gotten some clarity ..but these articles made it abundantly clear to us. I actually asked Greg this morning how far you guys were from us … you think 6 hours is too long of a drive every sunday and wed? haha!

  4. actually its only 4hours and 10 minutes! HAHA!

  5. Seriously, I have made it in less than 4 and you guys live closer to 85 than the people I was coming to visit! I am thinking you guys need a road trip! Come visit! We would love to see you guys!

    So glad you guys are in a healthy place! It does my heart so good. You know, we got a booming kids church here if you still have the kid itch that needs to be scratched! Humm………… 🙂

    Se you soon??? Hey John Bevere is coming to minister the 21st of Sept, that would be a great excuse to come! Twist Greg’s arm or just give him smooches! Ha!

  6. Pastor Penny,

    Randy and I really enjoyed visiting your church and are blessed to see such growth. Lydia and Isabella also enjoyed the childrens ministry, Isabella got to be queen.

    I know you are aware of the stuff that’s been going on at our home church. I feel like I just got woken up from a sleep. We have been unhappy for a long while but I kept believing God would swoop in a break the funkiness, I didn’t realize the depth of the funk.

    Now, we are faced with finding the church He wants us at and I find I don’t really know what is a healthy relationship with a pastor. I have never had a conversation with my pastors in the 13 years we have been there and have no idea how to relate to anyone in that area. What is a healthy relationship with your pastor? And what do you recommend to look for in a healthy church, of course, we are praying about all of this but I just need another perspective.

    Thanks and Blessings,
    Liz Simmers

  7. I forgot to ask you, when I was looking at the July 26th entry there was a list following the two main paragraphs. The list summed up what was unhealthy. What happened to it?

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