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.