Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion will be coming out in a revised edition. It will be in various formats: audio book, paperback and all e-book formats (not just Kindle).
Nearly ten years ago a lady emailed me asking if my book was in audio version. The lady was supporting a survivor of abuse whose abuser had given her a brain injury that disabled her from reading print. This motivated me to record an audio version of my book. I did that in 2011. I never published the audio book, I only gave it away to a few survivors who preferred to listen to the spoken word rather than read text.
I had intended to publish the audio book on Amazon Audible, but several things held me back. Firstly, I did not have the tech skills to get it into the right format to upload it to Amazon, and I was afraid of asking / paying someone to help me do that. I fear ridicule and disbelief. I didn’t want to work with with anyone who might (even covertly) scoff at my Christian beliefs and think I was a fool for believing what I believe. I wanted to find someone who would be nice to me. Yes; I lack courage! My dad had scoffed many times at Christian beliefs. Those wounds went deep.
I wanted to find an audio technician I could work in the same room with. Communicating by email or phone is not the same. My book is like my baby and I’m like a helicopter parent: I want to closely oversee what anyone is doing to my book.
Secondly, a couple of years after recording the audio, I changed my mind on church discipline for domestic abuse (link). This meant I needed to revise my book. Although I made several attempts at revising the book, I always gave up. It was ‘too hard’. I plugged away at the ACFJ blog instead.
Then my first book designer (who was a Christian) shut down his business. This meant that I if I was ever going to publish the revised edition as a paperback, I needed to find another book designer. I was afraid of having to work with a book designer who would probably not be a Christian. My negative self-talk was my enemy.
Over the years, many people asked me if my book could be made into an e-book. I promised that I would do so… but failed to fulfill my promise. I had offers of help from people overseas, but I flinched and failed to take up their offers too.
No-one in the churches I attended cared enough to ask me about all the fears I had of working on my book. I would drop hints about how I felt, but no one took them up.
There was a lot going on in my life… I kept putting it off. The whole project of the Revised Edition became an albatross round my neck.
I hate writing about myself. So it is hard for me to write this post – the only way I can write it is as a confessional.
I think I also had some PTSD from writing the first edition. It was terribly hard to write the first edition and then figure out how to publish it. I had never wept out all that pain – I had bottled it, because no one I mingled with face to face seemed to care enough to hear it.
But now there is good news. A guy I know here in Melbourne recently offered to edit my recording into the right format for Amazon Audible. His offer was a godsend. He is an unbeliever; but he is nice, friendly, and he does not scoff at my beliefs. His offer gave me the boost I needed to revise the book.
Over the last couple of weeks I figured out what to delete and what to replace in the printed text. The replacements had to be almost the same word length as the deletions, so that the page numbering in the revised paperback would not have to be changed. (If the page numbering had to be changed, that would have meant the indexes had to be changed.)
The audio guy told me what microphone to buy and helped me record the revised sections. He did all this voluntarily. He said he enjoyed doing it and he learned new skills.
I now have to review the audio files that he has edited, to make sure they are all correct. Then my next task will be to go to the book designer I have chosen, and get her to incorporate my revisions into the text. She will be able to put it into e-book versions. It is my intention that the Revised Edition will come out this year (2020).
Please pray for me that I will have the determination and courage to finish this project. Pray that I will not allow myself to be dragged under by the guilt-loop of self-condemnation.
I will still be publishing posts at this blog, but they may be shorter posts than usual. (Some of my readers may sigh with relief to hear that!)
Thank you to all readers of this blog.
And especial thanks to those who submit comments at the blog — you are the ones I feel most fellowship with in these days where church congregations offer so little genuine fellowship to survivors of abuse.
Society and especially the churches are in perilous times. It is imperative to understand what can happen when evildoers are controlling the masses.
- There are three kinds of people: Sheep, Shepherds and Wolves.
- Shepherds are focused on caring for the sheep.
- Shepherds are truth-tellers who present truth and evidence that exposes wolves.
- Shepherds are the only true threat to the wolves.
- Shepherds don’t necessarily have official titles.
- Hirelings are false shepherds.
- Hirelings are focused on preserving their authority, ego and image.
- Hirelings will not give their lives for the sheep.
- Wolves can pretty easily manipulate hirelings to turn them into proxy-wolves.
A shepherd’s job is to care for the sheep, not control them. A shepherd even gives his life for the sheep if need be. Caring for sheep involves:
- feeding the sheep: providing / leading / guiding the sheep to wholesome grazing grounds
- sheltering the sheep: protecting them from wolves / predators / thieves / deceivers / hirelings
Wolves want to lead or push people off the path, into the weeds and the rocky ground. Wolves tell lies to lead people off the path. Wolves pick the juiciest sheep to chew on: the ones who are vulnerable, easy to manipulate and intimidate; the ones who can easily be discredited if they cry out.
A sheep can take on a shepherd role. One way this happens is when sheep choose a shepherd to lead a group project. For example, when boys organise themselves for a ball game they will nominate a captain and the captain will organise the players from there. When the game is over the boy who acted as captain becomes one of the boys again. If he is sensible he will want the companionship of his peers; he will not want to go on telling the other boys what to do.
Adults who share a common interest form clubs and associations. From among their number they may elect a few leaders to organise the group – chairperson, secretary, committee. The committee members need the respect and support of the rest of the group — but they also want to participate in and enjoy the group activities.
When sheep are led by hirelings and oppressed by wolves, a sheep might step forward to take on the role of a shepherd.
When a sheep points out the hirelings’ contradictory messages, challenges the hirelings, and exposes and stares down the wolves, that sheep is taking on the role of a shepherd.
What happens next?
If the other sheep have been so thoroughly bewitched by hirelings or wolves that they don’t realise they’ve been misled and controlled, they will probably see the sheep-cum-shepherd as a mad dog … and not follow him.
However, if the other sheep personally feel pain (oppression) from what the hirelings and wolves are doing, they will see their sheep-brother-sister is bravely challenging and defying their oppressors and they’ll watch to see whether that person is severely punished by the oppressors.
- If that person is not punished by the oppressors for disobedience, the other sheep will take courage and start resisting the control of the hirelings and wolves. In other words, they will do what sheep naturally do: follow the shepherd.
- But if the sheep see that the person who stepped up into a shepherd role is punished by the hirelings and wolves, they will probably not follow the shepherd. To escape such a fate themselves, they will continue obeying the hirelings and wolves.
A lot of people these days are experiencing cognitive dissonance. Suddenly they don’t know where they are. So many rapid changes are happening in the world.
Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person is presented with two or more contradictory messages. The messages may be beliefs, ideas, or values, or signals. The subconscious mind recognises the contradiction and signals that something is wrong with the reality that is being presented to them. This signal takes the form of distress in the body. It can range from disquiet to “can’t sit still” pain if it persists. It causes both physical and mental distress.
A web-article or a video can be turned off and forgotten. But someone standing in front of them can’t be switched off so easily. They may dislike and distrust a politician, but they can turn him off. They can’t do that so easily to the shepherd standing in front of them. They don’t have the power to make that shepherd and the distress the shepherd is causing them go away. So they get angry inside at the shepherd far more than at the politician whom they are blaming and who is the source of the lies.
Shepherds want to fix the world and fix their own pain – they see them as linked together, whereas sheep and wolves do not. When shepherds tell the truth, this causes pain to the sheep by providing a counter narrative which adds to the sheep’s cognitive dissonance. Sheep do not want to fix the world; they just want to fix their own pain. The sheep think the shepherd is the enemy because the shepherd is causing them pain.
Shepherds tell the truth. The truth provides a counter narrative that interferes with plans of the wolves. This causes pain (or at the very least inconvenience) to the wolves. Hence, the wolves want to attack the shepherds.
Therefore, when sheep are led by wolves and hirelings (proxy-wolves), and a shepherd comes forward telling the truth, the outcome is often this: The sheep and the wolves, whose interests are opposed, combine to attack the shepherds.
For those who aspire in any way to be shepherds, it is probably not a good idea to argue with sheep who have been taught by wolves.
But the servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but must be peaceable towards all, able to teach, and one that can be patient with the evil, and can correct those who resist – if perhaps God at any time will give them repentance to know the truth, so that they may come to themselves again out of the snare of the devil, who are now taken by him at his will. (2 Tim 2:24-26 )
Perhaps shepherds would be well advised to sympathise with the sheep in their pain, then gently point the sheep towards the wolves and their contradictions as the source of their distress, while not arguing with the sheep.
In the days of Jeremiah, hirelings and wolves were controlling the people of God.
A horrible, terrible thing
has taken place in the land.
The prophets prophesy falsely,
and the priests rule by their own authority.
My people love it like this.
But what will you do at the end of it?
There is plenty of evidence to indicate that things are similar today; the institutional church is controlled by hirelings and wolves and many sheep love it that way. I pray that more sheep will develop the wisdom and courage to step forward into shepherd roles.
Here is a word of encouragement from the Psalmist:
I have more understanding than my teachers; / for thy testimonies are my study.
I have more discernment than the aged; / because I keep thy commandments.
I have refrained my feet from every evil way, / that I may keep thy word.
I have not shrunk from thy judgements; / for thou teachest me.
O how sweet are thy words unto my throat, / yea, sweeter than honey unto my mouth.
Through thy precepts I get understanding: / therefore I hate all evil ways.
(Ps 119:99-104, Myles Coverdale’s translation, Book of Common Prayer 1662)
Society and especially the churches are in perilous times. It is imperative for all people of good will to understand what can happen when hirelings and wolves are controlling the masses.
It was very difficult for me to write this post. Thank you to James, Sister, Gany T., Helovesme, Reaching Out, and other readers whose ideas have contributed to its formulation.
Jesus on Violence – this addresses self-defence and defence of folks who are oppressed by wolves.
Discerning good leaders from incompetent / bad leaders is vital in these perilous times.
In Part 1, I set out some basic differences between good leaders (true under-shepherds) and hirelings. Sooner or later, hirelings will abandon the sheep to the wolves.
All true Christians are sheep when it comes to following Jesus. True under-shepherds are leaders who see themselves as fellow sheep with the flock. True under-shepherds don’t pull the hierarchical authority card when their interests are being flouted. (We see this kind of non-rank-pulling humility in Paul’s letter to Philemon.)
God warns us to discern and not follow hirelings:
… some have erred, and have turned to vain prattle, because they want to be teachers of the scripture and yet do not understand what they speak, nor the things they assert. (1 Tim 1:6-7)
Unspiritual and vain voices pass over. For they will increase to greater ungodliness, and their words will consume even as does a canker (2 Tim 2:16-17)
This understand: in the last days, perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of their own selves … proud … unkind … despisers of those who are good … having a similitude of godly living, but who have denied the power thereof – and from such, turn away. (2 Tim 3:1-5)
Those who are born again and don’t feel any desire or calling to be leaders, will happily follow and learn from true under-shepherds.
Hirelings may wear shepherd’s robes in the church, but their character and capability make them unqualified to be true under-shepherds of Jesus Christ. Hirelings come on a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum are out-and-out wolves. At the other end are what I have called “sheep-like shepherds”.
I’m using the term “sheep-like shepherds” with a negative connotation. Just as sheep can easily go astray (wavering and carried with every wind of doctrine by the wiliness of men), so “sheep-like shepherds” can easily go off the path.
- Pastors / elders / leaders of churches might be sheep-like shepherds.
- Writers, journalists, social media content creators who are respected and followed by other Christians might be sheep-like shepherds.
How can you tell if someone who has the office of shepherd is a “sheep-like shepherd”, a hireling, who will abandon the flock?
Observe and mentally note the conduct of the person. You can’t tell by their title and formal qualifications, or the size of their following on social media. Ask yourself to what extent is this person adhering to the principles of good leadership, as taught and demonstrated by Jesus.
A natural tendency of sheep is submission and obedience to authority. Sheep are easily led and they usually follow the majority.
When someone is accorded the office or respect of a shepherd, but is more akin to a sheep wearing shepherd’s robes, he is easily led … and easily misled (generic use of ‘he’). He has more fear of man than fear of God. He can easily be swayed by
- his peers who are also deemed shepherds
- academics who propagate mistaken interpretations or translations of the bible
- popular opinion in the congregation
- popular opinion in the online community
- the main stream media
Furthermore, he can easily be deceived by wolves who want to wield power for nefarious purposes.
Such leaders lack the ability to use logic to assess complex problems to arrive at solutions that will benefit all people of good will. They are not problems solvers (peacemakers). See Logic and Authority in the Church.
“Sheep-like shepherds” tend to bristle when confronted by logic and facts that might highlight the possibility that they have made an unwise decision.
Most pastors – even those in the advocacy community – seem to think of themselves as The Answers Man.
The Answers Man responds from the point of view of his authority. He cares for his ego and image. “The hireling does not care for the sheep.” (John 10:13) “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?” (Ezek 34:2)
To have lots of answers readily to hand just requires memory, it doesn’t require thinking from principles. An Answers Man may sometimes think he is employing principles, but his ‘principles’ will align with his interests. It pricks his pride bubble if you ask him to look at evidence that exposes a wolf (or a wolfish system) when he himself had not discerned the wolf’s real nature. By simply asking him to examine the evidence, he thinks you are bullying him, taking authority over him.
In contrast, Problem Solvers focus on the problem(s) faced by the sheep. They respond by working from principles. That requires understanding: listening to the sheep, hearing their perspectives, gathering information to assemble a complex picture and come up with a peacemaking solution. Problem Solvers know that What is good for the hive is good for the bee. When they are alerted to a problem in the hive, they try to understand what is going on, all the information relevant to the problem. Problem Solvers may have strong opinions but they are not closed minded: they entertain the idea that they could be wrong because they may be missing information.
And here’s another thing to consider:
When a leader is swayed by wolves in sheep’s clothing, the leader effectively becomes a proxy wolf.
So the more you observe any or all of the following behaviours in someone who is seen as a leader / shepherd, the more likely that person is a hireling and effectually a wolf.
Leaders who are focused on preserving their authority will
- neglect their responsibility to pursue the truth of any conflict or problem
- refuse to listen to the facts, even when those facts are provided by diligent researchers who cite their sources
- take offence when asked to examine logical arguments and facts that might expose their lack of information and faulty conclusions
- denigrate whistle-blowers, calling into question their competence, morals and motives
- seek to coerce using anger and fear
- take a neutral stance when wolves are chewing true under-shepherds or sheep
- approve things that wolves have said or done.
If you wanted to, you could replace the term ‘whistle-blowers’ with ‘true under-shepherds of Jesus Christ’. The list would still be applicable.
And remember, true under-shepherds may not have any formal leadership position in churches.
There is ample evidence to suggest that there are wolves in the advocacy community. Should we be surprised, as this is the method of operation of the enemy. If you openly question an abuse advocate’s judgement, and that advocate does a 180 degree turn on you, becoming cold, antagonistic, impatient, it’s a red flag that the advocate is at the very least unqualified to be an advocate, and at worst may be a double-agent, a gatekeeper who controls the narrative for the evildoers.
To sum up
- Hirelings come on a spectrum.
- Hirelings are concerned for their authority.
- Hirelings neglect their responsibility to pursue the truth of any conflict or problem.
- When leaders are swayed by wolves in sheep’s clothing, they become proxy wolves.
I hope this has helped you discern bad and incompetent leaders in their different forms.
The final part of this series (Part 3) will be titled “What happens when sheep are led by hirelings and wolves?”
I want to thank Sister, Reaching Out and James for contributing ideas to this post.
Logic and Authority in the Church – by James
Why is the church so slow at responding rightly to the epidemic of abuse? – by Barbara Roberts
Jesus on Violence – by James. This addresses self-defence and defence of folks who are oppressed by wolves.