UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
[July 29, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
(Jeremiah 23:1-4 ESV) “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.
Increasingly we are hearing from abuse victims whose abuser is a pastor. Emphasis upon “increasingly.” These reports are common enough that we are beginning to wonder if one major reason abuse victims are being treated with such injustice in churches is because their pastor is an abuser himself. Yes, many pastors are just plain clueless about abuse. They are fearful when an abuse report comes their way and they morph into self-protection mode. But the plain, biblical truth is that false shepherds creep into the body of Christ and destroy and scatter Christ’s sheep. They scatter Christ’s sheep. Not other sheep. But the lambs of Christ.
When an abuser is a pastor, he uses his position and pulpit to effect his power and control, lording it over the people, and has a secondary purpose as well: to cover his own wickedness. He covers himself by:
- Demanding abuse victims remain with their abuser.
- Forbidding divorce for abuse using “biblical” arguments.
- “Confessing” his own sins in sermons and announcing how his wife always lovingly forgives him.
- Making divorce out to be the unpardonable sin.
- Warping the doctrines of marriage, including the concepts of headship and submission.
- Puts on a “pastor persona” especially in the pulpit that can even parade as humility but in fact lords it over the flock.
- Twisting the doctrines of regeneration, justification, and sanctification to excuse sin in the believer.
- Fills his sermons with tradition, with his own ideas and stories and experiences which actually become the “meat” of his sermon rather than Scripture.
- Deals with Scripture superficially and in passing, then pronouncing his own interpretations and applications with little or no biblical support.
- Mocking women, often in a manner of “plausible deniability” in case he is ever called down for doing this. “I wasn’t serious. I was just being funny.”
We should expect abusers to seek the position of pastor. Why? Well, what better venue for doing the things he loves the most: putting on a godly façade, being the center of attention, controlling others, getting onto a track for increasing his power and fame. No wonder Jesus warned us about wolves in sheep’s clothing. Paul did as well and so did Peter and so did….almost every book of the Bible!
Did you ever see the recent movie Bernie (2011 film) [Internet Archive link]1? It is based upon the true story of a guy who blew into a small town and soon became the most popular personality in the whole community. He was a funeral director, stage director, professing Christian, talented singer, and he knew just what to do at just the right times in social settings. And then he enamored himself to an elderly rich widow, took her money, and murdered her. He put her body in a freezer and kept right on spending her money for months before being found out. In spite of overwhelming evidence — including his own confession that he shot the woman — many people in the town still think he was treated unjustly in being sent to prison.
Human beings are capable of incredible deception. And the most masterful at this trade seem to choose the arena of the church to carry out their devilish, self-serving plans at the expense of the sheep of Christ’s pasture.
(Jude 1:4 ESV) For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
(Acts 20:28-30 ESV) Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
There are faithful, genuine shepherds out there who are truly pastoring Christ’s flock. But this is how they are going to look:
(1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ESV) And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
(1 Kings 22:7-14 ESV) But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?” And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah the son of Imlah.” Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah were sitting on their thrones, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria, and all the prophets were prophesying before them. And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘With these you shall push the Syrians until they are destroyed.'” And all the prophets prophesied so and said, “Go up to Ramoth-gilead and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.” And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” But Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I will speak.” [Emphasis added.]
See it? All the mass of “preachers” were telling the king exactly what he wanted to hear. Micaiah stood alone. He would not compromise God’s Word, no matter what the consequences to him. This should deliver a powerful “light bulb” moment to our thinking. We can expect many — the mainstream — to be carried off with error and to be preaching error. So when it comes to this whole matter of abuse hiding in the church, we should pay close heed to the Lord’s warning. “Many will come in My name….”. MANY.
And it would seem that now, in our day, we are witnessing this very thing. Micaiah was what? ONE in 400!
(1 Kings 22:6 ESV) Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.”
Why would we expect that ratio to be any different today?
1[July 29, 2022: We added the link to the Wikipedia page about the movie Bernie. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]
[July 29, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to July 29, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to July 29, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to July 29, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (July 29, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
88 thoughts on “When the Abuser is a Pastor”
What I have seen is that pastors who are super passionate (screaming from the pulpit about it) about some sin are usually doing it themselves.
Wow, Jeff! Thank you! This was very clear and a great description of an abusive pastor. The reference to “Bernie” was a good example of how it can look.
Great scriptures and great explanations. Thank you!
Here are some other characteristics of abusers in the pulpit that I have observed from personal experience and from reading or listening to recorded sermons by pastors whose wives have disclosed to myself or to colleagues I trust, that their husband is abusive in the privacy of the marriage.
You have said this in there somewhere, Barb, but I just want to accentuate this:
They accept simple apologies without any evidence of change, for true repentance, between abusers and their victims, but they themselves expect groveling and never really forgive people for anything, no matter how much you ask.
and one more;
They believe they hold a power above God, and use it to actually destroy people who do not abide by their plans, or bow to their demands. They consider themselves above questioning and will even go so far as to say that if you don’t accept their counsel, then it proves they are “right” about you.
I really recommend the book by Johnson and Vonderen, “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse”. It has taught me so much and I can see so much clearer, the mess I was in and should have gotten out of much sooner, but unfortunately, didn’t. Here are a few good quotes from the book: “The individual is left bearing a weight of guilt, judgment or condemnation (Rom. 8:1) and confusion about their worth and standing as a Christian. It’s at this point, we say, that spirituality has become abusive”.
“It’s possible to become so determined to defend a spiritual place of authority, a doctrine or a way of doing things that you wound and abuse anyone who questions, or disagrees, or doesn’t ‘behave’ spiritually the way YOU want them to. When your words and actions tear down another, or attack or weaken a person’s standing as a Christian–to gratify you, your position or your (OWN PERSONAL) beliefs while at the same time weakening or harming another– that IS spiritual abuse.”
“There are spiritual systems in which what people think, how they feel and what they need or want does not matter. People’s needs go unmet. In these systems, the MEMBERS are there to meet the needs of THE LEADERS; needs for power, importance, intimacy, value — really, SELF-related needs. These leaders attempt to find fulfillment through the religious PERFORMANCE of the very people whom they are there TO SERVE AND BUILD. This is an inversion of the body of Christ. IT IS SPIRITUAL ABUSE.” (all emphasis mine)
I have GOT to get this book. These are incredible quotes, Anon! Thank you.
They remind me of something I read last night — a chapter in “In Sheep’s Clothing” that describes a pastor just like that. The chapter was entitled “The Unbridled Quest For Power”. The author writes:
Hmmm… I really need to get THAT book! The book I refer to is pretty easy reading and it also covers people who are already being abused, being further abused by these pastors/leaders and why it happens so easily to them. It is great for helping someone to realize they are being abused, but also to aid them in not setting themselves up for it again.
Pastors and leaders just need to realize, that once they step over the line, they have forfeited any and all authority under God and are only operating in their own power. BTW, I love your new blog~
Thank you, dear Anon. We are excited about it. 🙂
Downloading that little gem onto my Kindle presently.
“The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” was the first book my counsellor suggested that I read. It was eye-opening! I did not have to deal with abuse in the church but in our home and this was a safer start since it didn’t talk about abuse ‘here’ but ‘there’. That said, I still was uncertain about ordering it in through the public library in our small town AND it was well hidden among the stacks of books while it was in the house since it has the work ABUSE in the title. When I took my notes, I could not write that word at that time and just used an abbreviation.
I did not deal with abuse in the church but I did meet ignorance (hey, I’d been ignorant and I’d lived with it so what do you expect from others?). Several things the pastor did and said put me into danger – but I do not consider that abuse since it did not come from the mindset of entitlement, centrality, superiority. When you meet those attitudes, you find abuse.
Wow! You just described my ex pastor and my new one. Ugh!
“Why would we expect that ratio to be any different today?”
This would explain most of our experiences in the modern church, frankly.
Just to clarify, preaching with passion is not what I meant. It’s one thing to be passionate but I am talking about spit flying screaming in your face stuff. What I meant lines up more with Barbara’s recent comments.
Like slamming the Bible down, only if you were three feet closer, it would have been slammed on your head?
Should have read: Like slamming the Bible down on the pulpit…
That’s called raging, only it is “spiritual.”
Does this ‘raging’ have any relation to addiction? I know that people exchange addictions such as alcohol or pornography for a ‘spiritual’ addiction and can exhibit the same behaviours as a ‘dry drunk’.
Addictions are no excuse for abuse. The abuser does not abuse because he is angry or because he is an addict. The abuser is often angry because he is an abuser. An addiction can be an problem IN ADDITION TO abuse and dealing with the addiction often makes the abuse worse (because it does not deal with the entitled mindset of the abuser). The ABUSE must be dealt with, not just the addiction.
It is so hard to discern if the actions come from the mindset of entitlement and desire to control (never,never admitted verbally!), but abusers cannot hide for long for their actions give them away to those who both look and listen. Their words do NOT line up with their actions.
All I can say is, Amen! Come Lord Jesus and save us from the false shepherds who secretly desire our souls’ destruction.
One ex pastor worked together with my husband to break me down (whether knowingly or unknowingly). He would try to get me to force my teenage son to drink the wine they served for communion- he had a very arrogant demeanor, sitting in a chair like Lord of the manor- would definitely put down his wife in subtle and not so subtle ways- I actually reprimanded him a time or two for it and the look of shock in his eyes was priceless. His poor wife would spend 2 or 3 days at a time in bed with migraines fairly often. His daughter once told my daughter when they were pretty young that she was afraid she might marry an abusive man one day. I’m sure this girl had no idea consciously that her father is probably abusive, so that seemed very telling.
Ah- another pastor used to love to talk over the people’s heads-using terms like Lordship Salvation and the Regulative principle- knowing they wouldn’t understand what he meant and they would never admit it-so I would usually speak up and explain the terms to them and he would just at me with daggers in his eyes-but there was no way I was going to let him get away with that!
Good on you, Pamplamousse!
This is such a good post, Jeff C. That last bit especially affected me: Why would that ratio be any different today? Very sobering.
I wanted to see this film because it features Jack Black as Bernie. It is based on a true story.
According the Wikipedia “The film is based on a 1998 Texas Monthly magazine article by Hollandsworth, “Midnight in the Garden of East Texas,” that chronicles the 1996 murder of 81-year-old millionaire Marjorie Nugent in Carthage, Texas by her 39-year-old companion, Bernhardt “Bernie” Tiede. Tiede proved so highly regarded in Carthage that, in spite of having confessed to the police, the District Attorney was eventually forced to request a rare prosecutorial change of venue in order to secure a fair trial.”
Excellent post and one comment that you made especially stands out to me:
Pastors / preachers use sermon illustrations to show how their wives lovingly forgave them or they will give an illustration about how a woman came to them for counseling about a “difficult” (read abusive) marriage and how she decided to “trust in the Lord” and keep hanging in there. It is often told in such as way as to demonstrate that the wife is willing to “redemptively” suffer and the implication is that this is what truly Godly woman would do.
I have been a Christian for over 39 years and I have never heard a sermon illustration where a man went for counseling in a difficult situation who decided or who was counseled to stay (certainly not saying that he should….women can be borderline and abuse too) or more importantly, I’d love to hear the illustration where a woman in an abusive situation was told “Run! This is not was God has called you to. It is not God’s desire for you to be abused. That is not his heart.”
Karen – I can’t think of one either. It is always the woman who comes, does what she “needs” to do, stays, etc. She is told and we are told that if she will just persevere, submit more, pray, be a better wife, she will win her husband’s love and his repentance. And she is supposed to do all of this so that the marriage “models Christ.” Hey wait a minute, so, we are supposed to earn Christ’s love for us by…..??
Also, I have never heard a message, where the husband was actually called the sinful party and HE went off and went to counseling and then admitted to all his abuse of his wife and family and then repented and changed and came around. Has anyone else ever heard that sermon?
Or, what about this one — The man was sent to counseling BY the Pastor and leaders of the Church, because they so highly disapproved of his sin against his wife and family, and when he did not repent and change (key word there – “change”), the Pastor and leaders lovingly took the wife and children and walked them to the divorce lawyer, and offered to help her and the children in anyway they could. I’m guessing no one has ever heard that sermon before, either.
Maybe only if you are in the Church where Ps. Jeff watches over Christ’s flock.
Even with all the work I do in this area, I’ve never even even imagined such messages being taught, let alone heard of one for real. We need to keep imagining and dreaming this stuff, and sharing the dream, till it comes to pass.
Exactly so, Karen.
When a pastor told me that there is a “Biblical principle of fleeing” it nearly knocked my socks off. If it were not for that pastor giving me true teaching and validation, I don’t know where I’d be today.
Very encouraging, Karen and Barbara. Thank you. This “Biblical principle of fleeing” is like a breath of fresh air–a breath of new life!!
“So when it comes to this whole matter of abuse hiding in the church, we should pay close heed to the Lord’s warning. ‘Many will come in My name….’. MANY.”
Thank you, Jeff! Your perceptive scriptural and personal insights in this message have profound ramifications. This line in particular is one I have mulled over often since leaving my abusive situation–especially when pursued by those “many” as they call me out on my degenerate, unchristian behavior and attempt to explain my culpability in a horrendous nightmare of their very own creation. I’m sure this Lord’s warning is one so many of us will carry in our hearts forever–and thank Him for that!!
I just want to share something that is a tell tale sign of someone abusing the flock. Often wives are told to submit in everything. But wives will say their husband won’t let them tithe, and the pastor will tell her to go behind his back to ‘find a way’. Can anyone say hypocrite? I know its a bit off topic, but just an example I personally had.
Jeff, you are bang on. When I finally got up the nerve to go to my pastor and ask for help with my abusive relationship, he said ‘Don’t go there’. A short time later I was handed a forced resignation from the church and I have been a wandering exile ever since. Does this not make God see red? When will He rise up and defend all these oppressed and powerless women and children?
As I See It Only,
I am so sorry for your experience. When the people we go to for help instead turn on us . . . it’s such a painful thing- especially when we are talking about our support network in a time of crises (which for many people is all tied into their church).
I’m sorry that you are in exile from that body, but rest assured you are not in exile from believers on this site or, more importantly, Jesus.
As I See it – I think maybe He is starting to rise up. It is possible that more voices are speaking. His wrath is certainly against all oppressors and they should fear. You were not put out of a true church. You are like the blind man Jesus healed in John 9. They threw him out of the temple, but the chapter closes with him finding Jesus, the true temple. That is where you are.
What a blessed thought Jeff!! The true Temple!! Speaks to my thirsty soul
You are right, I guess. Funny though how every church around ‘just wants to be consistent’ with the first one. How does anyone else out there find a true fellowship of believers? I’ve stopped looking. My children have stopped looking. Maybe Still Scared has it right–Get Angry. Forget about church, just go help somebody else.
As I See – Yes, I agree with JeffS’ words. Be encouraged. Just think of how the “church” was in Jesus’ days on earth. It appeared to be the temple system at Jerusalem, but turns out it wasn’t. Jesus, the true temple, came and the true church was His “mother and brothers.” All who do His will, that is. There He is over there eating with the outcasts and sinners. And there He is being persecuted and ultimately killed by “the church.” So it really has always been the same. Some visible, local churches are true churches. But many are not. Those who are truly Christ’s are not perfect. They may be ignorant about abuse and duped by the abuser, but Christ’s Spirit will lead them to the truth and they will start to do right. Just last week I mailed a copy of A Cry for Justice (our book) to a pastor of a small church in Idaho. He had never heard of me. But guess what? He called me the next week and told me he loves the book and he is going to buy copies of it for his elders and all of them are going to go through it together. Don’t know where you live, but that church is in Idaho.
So even though it is tempting, we should none of us despair. Christ is the King of His Church. His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. And He does hear our prayers. We need to press on and keep pleading with Him to do a great work and raise up more voices that are saying “enough of this oppression of the weak! This must stop! Look, see that evil guy in your church? He has you fooled, but I will show you what he really is!” And His sheep will hear.
Ouch- that’s tough. I know the church I went to after I left my church over the divorce issue actually did contact them to see if I was under church discipline, and thankfully I wasn’t. They didn’t say they wouldn’t let me join if I was, but it meant there were no questions to worry about.
I understand wanting to protect the integrity of church discipline, but those churches really can’t just accept it without really understanding what the discipline was for and measuring it against their own theology. In my case the elders took the time to meet with the elders of the old church (after asking my permission).
I’d suspect none of these churches would be good for you, but I know that doesn’t make it feel any better. I honestly don’t know that I’d have had the energy to keep looking if I hadn’t found an accepting church right out of the gate. I briefly considered going to a more mainline church just to find people who would accept me.
But rest assured, God sees you and loves you whether you are able to find folks to worship with or not. I’ve actually considered doing a broadcast worship service (just music) for folks who can’t find a church, but I’m not sure how well that would work. At the very least, check out Jeff Crippen’s sermons on abuse. You can have church with him for a while!
To: As I See It Only
I was verbally abused by my pastor for over 25 years.
Since it was the pastor doing the abusing, it was difficult finding someone to counsel me. Everyone is afraid to say anything about the leader of the church, so I had to keep my mouth shut until I was forced to leave. By forced, I don’t mean they physically kicked me out or even asked me to leave. They just made it so hard on me to continue there that I felt I had no choice. I couldn’t possibly get into all the details and scenarios that happened over all those years, but I can say, maybe your being forced to “resign” from this church was God’s way of protecting you and your kids. What have you really lost since leaving there? Continue to pray often, read the Word of God and find a true Christian friend to fellowship with until God shows you another place of worship to attend. Be careful who you confide in, and allow only someone trustworthy to be a confidante. God will show you who that person (maybe more than one) is.
I have experienced, that in addition to the other red flags mentioned above, it is no surprise that an abusive pastor cultivates an environment of secrecy. At my previous church, when a marriage problem was brought to the attention of the church leadership, there was an unspoken code of silence and to discuss the issue out of concern was seen as gossip. Eventually, the parties involved would leave the church, and not another mention would be made of them. When I reported the abuse in my marriage to the leadership, the same thing happened to me, and I was warned that if I should discuss my situation with anyone, I would be divisive. Only one elderly lady from that congregation called me when my children and I stopped attending that church, and when I see the other members in this small town, they seem tense and uninterested in knowing why we left. Almost a “don’t tell me-I don’t want to know” attitude.
Now that I am meeting the others who were sent outside the camp, we are comparing notes. Really interesting…it turns out that they also were roughed up by the leadership-emotionally and spiritually leading to guilt, feelings of betrayal, confusion and even stress related health issues. When I see that pastor around town, he never fails to make a disgusted look at me. I have to smile about that, and that makes him all the more aggitated.
There is a pattern at that church. When someone brings their problem to the leadership, they evenutally disappear, and all mention of them stops. I am so glad that the Lord delivered us from that spiritual oppression! It was painful at the time, but God certianly worked all of this for our good!
“Eventually, the parties involved would leave the church, and not another mention would be made of them… When someone brings their problem to the leadership, they evenutally disappear, and all mention of them stops.” .. this is called ‘giving the silent treatment’.
I’ve lost my copy of The Verbally Abusive Relationship [Affiliate link] by Patricia Evans, but maybe one of our readers can find a good quote from that book about how Giving the Silent Treatment is one of the forms of verbal abuse.
It shows immense contempt for a person, when you don’t even deign to respond to them.
I believe the best book to read on this subject of Spiritual Abuse, is “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” by VanVonderen and Johnson (quoted above). I have one exception I have found with it, however. There is a portion where they talk about spousal abuse and say that they believe the abused should protect themselves from the abuser, but stay in relationship with them. So, just beware of that. However, later they talk about forgiveness and do agree that forgiveness does not mean reconciliation, so it can be a bit confusing to have both thoughts going on. For the most part, the book is good and deals with all the dynamics of being spiritually abused, how to identify it and why it is so hard to get out from under this junk. It deals with “silent treatment” among numerous other abuses performed by leaders in the “c”hurch. I would highly recommend it, but with the caveat mentioned above. I am not completely through the book yet, but I have learned immense measures concerning what to look for, next time around.
Thank you so much, Anon. I’ll put that book on our Recommended Resources page and add a link back to your caveat here. This is good stuff. I love how we all work together as a team.
Barbara – Jeff VanVondoren has another closely related book called Tired of Trying to Measure Up and it is excellent as well. It is primarily about how other people and our churches and families can become shame-based systems that shame us and that is how they get us to be in bondage to them. It is another highly recommended book too.
This comment was sent to me by email by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous. Here is what she wrote:
Note: the reader didn’t send me the link to that video but I think I’ve found the right one:
Mark Driscoll Screaming How Dare You
TRIGGER WARNING – Driscoll yells and rages and points his finger. Such things may remind you of your own abuser’s rage and finger-pointing.
Regarding Driscoll on Esther, he did end up slightly recanting what he said, admitting he might have been wrong in his view that Esther started off unrighteous in the book. Which of course is so not enough, and it appeased few people, but it’s at least worth mentioning. What was quoted in that link was not an actual sermon, but his statements from his preview on Esther. Basically, he was trying to sell a sensationalized view of Esther and people called him on it. Sad when the Veggietales version of Esther is more accurate than Mark Driscoll.
If anyone has questions about Driscoll being an abuser, here is a video where he calls beating a subordinate’s nose to get him in line “brilliant”:
Mark Driscoll – How to keep my elders in line and obedient
There’s another one (which I can’t seem to locate at the moment) in which he laments that the laws of our nation do not allow him to physically assault people.
Was this the one he preached just before he fired the two pastors who criticized his new by laws?
I’m not sure. I do know the “Drink your juice box” sermon (you can google it) was preached after a woman asked him about that situation (and I believe she was subsequently removed from the church).
“the more I see and read about this guy, the more I can’t believe he has such a huge following.”
Don’t be surprised. I once knew a youth minister with a thriving youth ministry. He was aggressive and abusive, and he taught the youth how to be very “on fire for Jesus”. His ministry exploded, going from a handful of youth to a couple of hundred. He ended up leaving the church because he couldn’t get along with the adults of the church. The pastor once told me after all of this, “Yes, the youth ministry thrived- it turns out it is not great trick to teach youth how to be rebellious”.
See, a rebellious nature in the name of Jesus is still rebellious, and Driscoll is doing the same thing, just on a larger scale.
Yes, this was the one. Unless he’s said this more than once.
oh wow. the more I see and read about this guy, the more I can’t believe he has such a huge following. Something I find particularly telling is the way he describes himself on his own website: “is one of the world’s most downloaded and quoted pastors.”
” His hour-long sermons received 10 million plays and downloads in 2011, with another 5 million views of his sermon clips on YouTube and other channels.”
“Pastor Mark founded the Resurgence, which services Christian leaders through books, blog posts, conferences, and classes, with theResurgence.com receiving close to 7 million visits annually. ”
What exactly are we supposed to take from this? That he’s the most popular and successful pastor ever? Does that automatically mean he’s preaching the truth?
It seems to me more and more, that the more “wildly popular” a pastor is, the less likely he is preaching the true gospel. Of course there is the opposite side of the spectrum, where marginal churches like the Westboro Baptists are tiny and shunned (for good reason).. but being wildly popular and sought out by the mass media seems like an endorsement I would not trust. ?
Katy – I am amazed too, and so was the Apostle Paul. There is just something in people that make them want to follow blindly after someone like this –
2 Co 11:19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves!
2 Co 11:20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face.
I have to say, that while Mr. Driscoll says some good things here and there, he does have a past worth mentioning, where he was searing in one his messages and talked about certain acts of sex and told the wives they all needed to go home and do this for their husbands, because it was written in the Song of Songs. I hate that people use this book in the Bible, to gratify their own personal lusts. Talk about twisting Scripture! So, there are links to that message on-line, but I would actually not recommend watching it because it will just upset everyone. I too, felt that his message to men about abusing their wives, was a little “off”, especially in light of knowing about his other messages, where he told the wives they had something wrong with them, if they would not participate in some of those sexual acts. Very strange and I imagine any women who had ever experienced a sexual assault, was probably just about losing her mind listening to Driscoll’s sermon on that fine Sunday morning. John MacArthur, went up against Driscoll over this and was demanding that someone who mentors Driscoll, step up and take issue with Driscoll’s behavior. Piper was one who was called on to do that, but I do not know if any of that ever happened.
Isn’t Driscoll the one who really likes MMA (cage fighting?)
I am really curious what he’s like behind closed doors. I wonder if he abuses his wife. Anyone who preaches violence and kinky sex …. makes me wonder
Katy, as I am forever the optimist my hope is that he gets his narcissistic supply from his church and doesn’t abuse Grace. She did “coauthor” the sex book with him, though as I understand it he comes off as blaming her for a lot of his problems in it. I haven’t read it, though, so take that with a grain of salt.
I do know that in the book he talks about finding out that she cheated on him before they were married (in a vision- he claims he can see people’s past sexual sins) and says he would have never married her if he’d known. There’s also a clip where he talks about driving several hours to her college before they were married when she didn’t call him to tell him she was OK. And in the same clip he recalls how he physically threatened all of the men living in her dorm and held that up as the way men are supposed to protect their wives.
Driscoll practically wears his abusive behavior as a badge of honor, and he’s training up a who generation of men to be like him. I only ever started looking into his ministry because I was looking for a new church with a Reformed base and found an “Acts29” church which I hadn’t heard of. Driscoll has actually stepped away from that organization, but it made me wary of the church anyway. On paper, that church looked better than the one I ended up joining (no surprise- Driscoll and his folks have a lot of good theological stances- do you know that Driscoll does believe in divorce for abuse?), but when I experienced my new church in person, I knew that it was the place. Theology is important, but behavior is even more so.
Part 18: Divorce and Remarriage [Internet Archive link]
Hmm, I guess I was wrong. He says that REMARRIAGE in abuse cases may be OK, not divorce. I kind of equate the two, so that’s why I got it wrong:
“What if I divorce my spouse because of domestic violence, child abuse, or abandonment. Can I remarry?” This is an elder call. This is an elder call. The Bible doesn’t speak of this issue. Abuse – doesn’t speak. Doesn’t mean it’s okay; it means it’s an elder call. Pastors meet with you, say, “Okay, what happened? Why did you marry that person? How did it go sideways? What have you learned? How are you doing? Who do you want to marry?” Sometimes we’ll meet a gal who picked the wrong guy. It fell apart. She picks another guy – he’s the wrong guy. We say, “We’re not gonna bless this. You’re making the same mistake twice.”
So the elders, again, we reserve judgment. Is it the right time? Have you healed from your past relationship? Emotionally you’re recovered? How are you doing?”
An elder call? Please!! Sure pastors and elders can provide counsel and hopefully it is godly, wise counsel. But he is claiming authority here that I do not believe church leadership possesses. Ok, if a pastor decides that based upon his own study of Scripture, he cannot in clear conscience preside at a wedding for them, fine. But this business of the church saying yea or nay troubles me when it comes to abuse cases and “gray” areas. If the re-marriage follows an plain, obvious act of adultery and the guilty party is the one re-marrying, then it is a BIBLE issue, plain and simple. But when elders and pastors put themselves in the position of “you come to us and we will examine you and we will tell if you we will let you do this or that” I think they have crossed the line.
“But when elders and pastors put themselves in the position of “you come to us and we will examine you and we will tell if you we will let you do this or that” I think they have crossed the line.”
Yes, I agree completely. This is the thing with Driscoll- he is all about the church (and since he is the pope, by inference him) controlling people’s lives. It doesn’t matter whether his soteriology or theology is any good when the way he applies these things is so oppressive.
do you know that Driscoll does believe in divorce for abuse?
Yes Ps. Crippen, and the Bible says, “as one who watches out for your soul”, not “as one who will give an account for your soul”, when it comes to pastors / elders.
“If I as a pastor don’t think someone should divorce, the bottom line is that I don’t have to give account for them — unless it is obviously open and gross sin, like adultery or such”
So, is what you are saying here, is that if you look the other way when gross sin is involved and just, for example, remarry someone you know was adulterous in their first marriage, then you would have to give an account to God for performing that marriage, right? I don’t think you are saying you would give an account for the people involved, but just for your part in it, right?
So, if this is so, then why do elders/pastors get so up in arms about divorce for abuse? I mean, even if they believe no divorce for any reason (some even include adultery now as no excuse!) it isn’t them divorcing, and as a pastor/elder, they would not really be involved in that anyway, can’t they just walk away saying that they gave their counsel and the people didn’t take it?
My ex pastor/elder told my husband, that if he divorced me, they would make certain he had the right to remarry, but not me. I have not committed adultery, nor abandoned, nor abused him! I understand now, that this is just more spiritual abuse but if they have to give an account before God for me, as they believe they do, then I fear they made be at odds with God on that day – but not because of me!
The book on spiritual abuse teaches that leaders like this, like to depend on the Father, Son and Holy Bible, instead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! The Word is our guide for all of life, they do not deny that in anyway, but as individuals, we are to be led by the Spirit and a Church that stifles the Spirit, cannot find its way. On the other side of the coin, there are those who are so Spirit only, that they deny what is given to us in the Word, and make it up as they go. That is no good either. Leaders that place themselves as the final authority on anything, are not godly leaders at all. None of us can give those kind of answers to people, (like no divorce for abuse) we just have to walk it out before the Lord and follow Him, as best we can see His leading. He has a way of stopping us, if we are not following Him — even if it means Him allowing us to be thrown out of the false church — so we will stop following ungodly leaders! So, yahoo for that!
Very good point.
Jeff S –
I feel sick and mortified when I read that Driscoll went into detail exposing his wife’s history/sexual sin in a book that is going to be read by masses of people. Now I suppose that you could hold to the view that Grace went along with it, but the whole thing feels odd. What woman wants to be exposed and humiliated on a grand scale like that? I haven’t read where Driscoll exposed his own sin in this way? And if the whole story was to paint Driscoll as the prophet and “seer” of her sins…and how he forgave her and now she’s his happy little sex slave, sodomy and all… The whole thing makes my stomach turn. I am not as good as Barbara and Jeff at putting these things into words and naming what’s behind it – but I have to trust my gut on this one. I feel a little scared for Grace.
A man who is sodomising his wife is abusing her, in my opinion. It’s unnatural. Even if the woman thinks she likes it, that doesn’t mean it’s good or right. When people are demonized they can feel pleasure when engaging in perversions. It is the demons in them who are feeling the pleasure. The demonized person may not realise this.
At Jeff S. & Ps., Vonderen and Johnson’s book likewise deals with the issues of elder/pastor control/abuse on issues and what drives that. My personal belief, reinforced by the book, is that we alone stand or fall before God, so why should we allow elders/pastors/friends/counselors of anyone else, make decisions for us, that are about our own lives and that WE and WE alone will be held accountable for, before God? I think we can ask for counsel, and then pray, but just to have an elder/pastor or anyone else say to us, “THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO DO – NOW DO IT!” is just ridiculous and cannot, in anyway, be supported by Scripture! Just talking denomination stuff there.
Right on, Anon. Each individual is free. Each believer has the Spirit and we have the Word. If I as a pastor don’t think someone should divorce, the bottom line is that I don’t have to give account for them — unless it is obviously open and gross sin, like adultery or such. The main case we should deal with in the church is the guilty party! Not the one who files the paperwork.
I have not paid close attention to all the stuff about Driscoll that is out there on the web. I’ve just let it be on the periphery of my notice most of the time, The scripture that seems relevant to me whenever I think of Driscoll is Jude 1:23b hating even the garment stained by the flesh (ESV). The entire verse in the NIV reads snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
The passage is actually about saving people, and I don’t have any desire to get involved in saving Driscoll from his sins… a likely impossible task, and a waste of my time when I have so many other things to do where I can make a difference. So why do I think of this scripture when I think of Driscoll?
The garment polluted by the flesh seems to me to be a picture of what appears to be going on with people like him. Everything they speak, everything they do, is stained and contaminated by the impure fleshly drives that they clothe themselves in. And to touch even the clothing (let alone the person’s body) is a disgusting experience. Hold your breath, use your fingertips preferably with gloves on, keep the thing you’ve picked up at arms length, drop it into the ‘infectious waste’ bin as quickly as possible, and wash your hands really well afterwards! [you can see I’ve been a nurse 🙂 ]
When I read that verse in Jude about the stained garment, I also think of all sorts of body fluids that could have been expelled or wiped onto it… and I think of sexual abuse and other horrors …. ’nuff said.
He also has a program for getting people out of sex trafficking. Which is also odd considering his views on sex. His book “Real Marriage”, is mostly about sex. Just makes one go ‘hmmmm’.
wow – in Driscoll’s eyes Esther is a big slut who used her sexual sorcery on the King. 🙂 LOL! These guys are so funny. (as long as you’re not married to them)
Re Barnabas- sadly what one preaches and what one lives are often different.
Wow! One in 400. Why should that ratio be any different today? Scary thought. Do you think abusers like and recognize one another? My abusive husband REALLY LIKES one of our pastors (we have 4) and my dealings with him have not been good (he basically sided with my husband) and the last two times I spoke with him I got a VERY BAD, chilling vibe.
Hi A Bruised Reed,
can you please email The Woman Behind the Curtain, our helper at the back of the blog? Her email is email@example.com
It’s no big deal, we just have a query about your screen name. 🙂
yes I do think that they do, quite often. And they certainly like those people who they have recruited to be their allies. Not all allies would be abusers themselves, but some of them surely are.
I am right now trying to figure out whether I should expose
a certain pastor in my town who is verbally abusive, loving
to point out peoples real or imagined faults in public
services. I wish someone had warned me about him in the
first place, but loving God I hate drama and even though I
saw red flags here and there I didn’t want to believe a pastor
could be so cruel and aggressive. But I experienced his
tirades myself and wish I had never gone there, even
though it was only for 3 months. I shudder to think of those
that sit under his leadership for years maybe even
decades. I think when someone does that they will either
be so “whipped” that they will lack confidence to do
anything great for the Lord, or they will be overbearing
like him and learn to run over everyone else to get what
they want. Ultimately we are all responsible for our own
spiritual growth, and if we knowingly sit under an abusive
pastor for too long, we may become more and more like him/her
It’s like the frog who sits in the pot of water that’s gradually
getting hotter and hotter, until the pot starts boiling and now
it’s too late for the frog to escape. Of course, we are not
like the frog in that it’s not too late to leave with God’s help.
If anyone is in that situation ask the Lord what to do. He
knows us better than we know ourselves and will always
provide a way of escape. Staying in an abusive church
is like saying “I support what is going on in this church!”
Abuse is evil no matter where it takes place. The bible says
“Whoa to those who call evil good, and who call good evil”
We should be defending the abused, not the abusers!!
Correct, I’ve been abused, and verbally in the past, and now just verbally abused by my pastor….he turned it all around toward him-telling me about this and that……..I have many friends in the church. Praying to God to lead me…I’ve forgiven him…. But will not ever forget…
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I know these posts are all old but they have been very helpful. After telling the pastor that the young youth pastor is doing questionable things towards my husband, he told me it wasnt for me to deal with and that I’m over reacting and its all in my head. I worked for this Pastor as his secretary and through my healing I have been able to see how badly I am and the congregation is being emotionally abused by him. My family rarely goes to church anymore. My husband is on the board and because the pastor will be outted if he brings up our complacency, he doesnt confront us. I am in complete exile and so sad to be missing my only Christian family.
Been there Mona. In my case I am the pastor and the abuse and manipulation came from a incredibly abusive and deceitful individual – two of them over the years. May the Lord bless you and expose the evil there.
How do victims speak up when the denomination refuses to do anything because the abusing pastors is family and they say it’s a family issue not ministry issue this is my current experience […] my in laws are abusive, their son physically abused me and spiritual abuse by my in-laws who are currently serving as pastors in [state redacted] and shame me for saying love covers a multitude of sins … and use all kinds of scriptures to shame me for doing what I needed to to be safe myself and children the […] headquarters say they are too big to investigate the proof I sent if the district of [redacted] won’t deal with it too bad.
How is this okay? If they do this to me without a doubt they abuse others. Why are not properly accountability and why does it seem a minister has to hit the news before action is taken it seems these days? It seems they’ve gotten too big to deal with legit complaints with proof? How can more awareness be brought and how can more call to accountability to abusive pastors be brought?
Replying to the most recent posts by Mona and It’s Not Okay:
I recently started reading the book that Pastor Crippen and I think Barbara as well, have referred to titled, “The Socially Skilled Child Molester.”
[Note from Barb: I have edited what Anonymous wrote to give page numbers and to ensure that it accurately quotes what the book says.]
….A dear commenter here on ACFJ recently posted this and I think it’s a little gem that is absolutely true and so comforting and reassuring. It’s from Avid Reader from this post He could hear the voice of the Lord, but he threw it away.
The precious remnant who belong to God are SO important — to each other and to God himself — and He understands this — that if we spend the rest of our lives healing and fellowshipping with Him, it is time WELL SPENT!
Yes, we highly recommend the book The Socially Skilled Child Molester [Affiliate link], and we do not object to how the author of that book says:
She is using the concept of addiction to help her readers grasp the intense focus that socially skilled child molesters have for gaining access to children they can molest. However, it is important to bear in mind that she is not saying it IS an addiction, only that it is like an addiction in some ways.
George Simon has something to say about men who are receiving treatment for “sexual addiction” and never seem to get better:
And Dr Simon also says this about addictions:
Dr Simon’s latest blog post Self-Control in the Age of Addiction [Internet Archive link].
Many years ago, I attended a certain church with my family. We went there throughout my youth. I was in youth group for all my teen years. (I am now middle-aged and married.) My brother, the youngest child, was an altar boy. He started dropping hints after a while that he no longer wanted to serve on Sundays. He had loved it for so long my parents thought he just wanted a rest, but they didn’t want him to quit so easily so they did not allow him to stop.
Fast forward many years later, when myself and my two siblings were all adults and married. The truth came out that a priest at that church (at the same time my brother was an altar boy) had been molesting boys, at least several dozen of them, over several decades. This became national news. His abuse was far reaching. My father even took him golfing, not knowing this priest was involved in something so vile. My parents allowed my brother to go on a 3-week trip with this guy and several young boys to another state. I remember him not being as excited as we thought he would be, since he liked to travel.
I Googled his name a couple of years ago and found that he had been interviewed by 20 / 20 or “Dateline” or something like that. He said his greatest thrill was not in molesting the boys, but in how easy it was to pull the wool over the parents eyes. (Wolf in sheep’s clothing). I also read somewhere that one of the boys who was molested has never gotten over it, pretty much living his life in isolation with emotional problems still to this day. This priest is or at least was in prison for many years. When I looked back at the signs I see there were several red flags..
My brother says he never allowed the priest to touch him, even though he knew he was abusing other boys. I hope that’s true. This priest is even reported to have pulled a gun (loaded or not, that must have been terrifying) and threaten those that were spending the night, warning them NOT to tell anyone or something could happen. Their parents had NO idea.
I’ve never been sexually abused by a priest or pastor. However, I have been verbally abused by a pastor. I left there and found another church in the area. I now have reason to believe the first one talked with the second one, and maligned me to him, even though HE was the one that abused. The second one seemed to single me out and started verbally abusing me from the pulpit. Now, I am not moving until I KNOW where God is leading me.
Are you also on FB?
Yes, Linda, we have a FB page. Though our focus, our Resources, and the vast majority of comments we respond to are here at the blog.
You can find our FB page here.
I am a female Pastor and my Pastor abused me and his position. We began to date and he was sexual with me (we did not have sex because I said no as it is wrong for us to have sex before marriage). … He caught me at a time when I was feeling vulnerable as I had [been] weakened by the criticisms of a lady who had come into the Church with a Jezebel spirit and had had enough.
In the end the sheep began to leave the church as he was subtly abusive towards them too. He would touch inappropriately and when I said anything he would make me feel as though I said something wrong. In the end I had to make a choice, him or the church (God’s sheep). I chose Jesus and His sheep and we are now going through restoration.
I have heard this man on the phone shouting at leaders of his other church in Africa and they all worship him and do as he says. He has never displayed the fruits of the spirit but came across humble and quiet when I first met him and so allowed him to become my overseer with the approval of my pastor. He is obsessed with people falling on the fall [floor?]. I would always be out on the floor throughout most services and could not get up to do anything at the church that the Lord used me to plant. Four months has now passed and every now and again I feel deflated as he appears unrepentant. Thank you for the post and for the recommendations to read. I will get stuck in. God bless you.
Welcome to the blog. We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
After reading the New Users’ Info page, I suggest you look at our FAQ page.
I changed your screen name to Naomi. I did that as a precaution because it looked like you had given your real name and I’m not sure whether that is safe for you. If you want us to change it to something else, just email TWBTC (The Woman Behind The Curtain) —email@example.com — she will be happy to assist. 🙂
I invite you to also read our post about the term ‘Jezebel spirit’. It may open your eyes to how that term is sometimes misused.
The [name of ministry redacted by ACFJ Eds] is a scam; it is truly a DANGEROUS CULT.
These creepy people [the husband and wife who run the ministry] ask for a donation of X-hundred dollars to perform a deliverance service. When is a specific $ amount applied to a donation?
The man [the husband who co-leads the ministry] claims he is called by god AS A PROPHET to tell people about themselves. He is a fraudulent liar. I falsified things on that incredible sick questionnaire that one has to complete. It asks sick things like do you have oral sex?
His behavior is aberrant. While staying in a hotel, he tried to enter my hotel room; he claimed a demon made him do it. He also said that people who choose not to eat […] are against God, and that African-Americans have evil spirits following them from Africa because their ancestors practiced Voodoo.
When I told him my relative wanted to contact him to make sure I was ok, he said why did I give my relative his number. He repeatedly and aggressively interrogated me about sexually intimate details. I felt he was just wanting these details because he found them salacious and exciting.
Not to mention how tasteless and sexual in nature his conversation is with his victims.
My advice is for people to read books in order to understand how cults work. Stay safe and do your research! Call the cops if your gut tells you something is wrong!
Dear sister, welcome to the blog. 🙂 I edited your comment to airbrush or remove details that might have identified you to your abusers, and to protect our blog from being sued by the phoney and evil ‘ministry’ that you had named.
I also changed your screen name to Wary of “Prophets”.
We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at our FAQ page.
If you want us to change the name Wary of “Prophets” to something else, just email TWBTC (The Woman Behind The Curtain). Her address is firstname.lastname@example.org