A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Many Churches are Led by Unsaved “Christians” – A Firsthand Look Into Church Boardrooms

I have been a pastor now for over 30 years. I have been the pastor of four churches, one in a rather remote mountain valley, two in small towns, and one in a fairly large city. In each of these cases there were people on the leadership boards (elder board, deacon board, etc) who, as time would tell, evidenced no fruit of having a heart regenerated by Christ. I did not fully realize it at the time because, as we all know, people who crave power and recognition can be very good at hiding their true nature. In fact, some of them can commonly be considered “eminent saints” in their churches. Besides, the climate most of us were raised in loved to remind us that we can’t judge anyone’s profession of faith in Christ. Wrong!

How could I tell they did not really know Christ? Because over time it became evident that they opposed His truth and anyone who stood for it. They were not safe people. They did not do well when they did not get their way. In other words, they loved themselves and not others. Nor did they love the Lord. What they loved was power and glory. They would not stand for Christ’s truth. They were not willing to suffer personal loss for Christ. And they tried very hard to control the pastor. (By “control the pastor” I am not speaking of normal accountability that every pastor and church leader should be subject to. N0, I mean that they sought the same kind of control that an abuser craves and used many of the very same tactics to obtain it). Their religion was almost always one of legalism. A works-righteousness which they tried to enslave everyone in the church with, and often they met with a good degree of success. The church I now pastor was enslaved to that legalism 20 years ago, but after many battles I believe we are now free.

I wanted to give you a firsthand look through the eyes of a  pastor who has sat through hundreds of church board meetings with church leaders who were not Christians. Perhaps it will help validate those of you who have encountered rank injustice and cowardice by church leaders when you went to them for help. You found that these were people who, in the end, did not hunger and thirst for righteousness. They did not hate evil and love and protect the oppressed. They put the blame on you and enabled your abuser. I want you to know that in many, many such cases the reason for the injustice is that these people were and are false shepherds who mistreat the sheep.

Let me just repeat – I have been a pastor for over 30 years. I have been the pastor in four different churches. I have been at my present church for over 20 years (and I can happily say that we have an elder board of truly godly people. But that came ONLY after years of battle). My experience has been that there were ALWAYS significant numbers of unsaved people parading as Christians who had worked their way into leadership positions (both formal and informal) in every single one of those churches. Much of my three decades of pastoral ministry has been spent being abused by such people and in doing battle with them.

Is my experience unique? I don’t think so. I have no doubt that such is the case in most local churches. If a genuine pastor who knows Christ is called to be the pastor at the typical church, he should expect that he will meet his worst enemies right within the ranks of the very “team” he is called to work together with. And yes, sometimes (as many of you know) the scenario might be that of a real Christian joining in with a local church, only to find that the pastor himself is an enemy of Christ. Abusers come in all professions and callings. A pastoral position promises, in the mentality of an abuser, power and and glory and control.

So there is my experience. I hope that it helps validate you if you have been victimized by people who claim to be Christians and who are in church leadership positions. Four churches. Thirty years. Every single case was the same. Unsaved people parading as holy saints, exercising their evil in leadership positions over the flock. Many years of my ministry has been taken up by doing battle with these false shepherds, coming to see through the confusing fog of deception and doubt that they spin, and experiencing the damage that they cause. I should not have been surprised:

Jud 1:12-13 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; (13) wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

61 Comments

  1. Brenda R

    4 churches over 30 years as a pastor all with unsaved, abusive, power seeking leadership–God was obviously preparing you for a purpose. I think you found out what that purpose is and I for one am grateful for it.

  2. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog.

  3. “they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves”

    this part always sends chills through me. They dine with you, and have zero fear of you! Oh God, I pray that I would be the one that they would fear, and not want to eat with!!!

    • Annie

      Love it 🙂 – I pray that too! Abusive personalities have no fear because they have no accountability. Evil people know that they will be accepted in churches, even leadership, as Christians on the whole do not discern evil, even if it stared them in the face. Strangely, secular people may label abusive people as “evil” and call them on it, but Christians pussy-foot around them, hoping to flood a “troubled, flawed person” with God’s unconditional love, turning a blind eye to the hurt they cause others. Oh no, they say, evil is out there, among the secular humanists, the Satanists and the feminists.

      • My husband always tells me he fears no one.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Loves6 – He will. On that Day, he most definitely will.

      • Brenda R

        I believe it was in Oklahoma, that a Sculpture of Satan has been put up in a Satanic Temple. Right in the center of the good old USA. I don’t know if there was already such a thing, but that thing scared me half to death. If we were to put abusers out of our churches, they surely have somewhere to go now and be open and accepted about their way of life. Lord come, even now!!

    • They don’t even fear God. They will fear God someday, they will be trembling in their boots. The only thing they could fear in another person is God’s presence within them.

  4. In my experience, the most common tool that church leaders/abusers use is manipulation and control through money. Show me an abusive church leader and 9 times out of 10 he has pretty deep pockets and has the pastors ear to use veiled or not so veiled threats to withhold his $$$. That is a pretty powerful carrot when a pastor has a family to feed, payroll to meet and a mortgage to pay (which may be “guaranteed” by the abuser)

    • Jeff Crippen

      KarenR- you are very wise in seeing this. Money is power. “Do what I say or I will take my checkbook and go home.” We must be prepared to respond “then take your filthy lucre and go home. God neither wants nor needs your money”

      • courage is an underrated virtue lately. It seems everywhere I turn, there are men without courage, and evil flourishes. 😦 Sometimes people think courage = standing up for “God’s law” — but in reality courage is much more likely to be standing up against wolves and serpents in the flock!

      • Brenda R

        They seem to have forgotten who’s money that really is. It is so sad that it would ever get to that point.

    • Long ago I had a friend who was leading music at a church where the people with deep pockets stopped given because they didn’t like something the pastor was doing. So the pastor took a secular job and kept on preaching. I never met the man, but I have LOADS of respect for what he did.

    • Sharmon

      Karen I could not agree more with that statement. My eyes were completely open this past year to see how Church is a big business. After seeking help privately for the physical, mental and financial abuse I was experiencing, then only to be separated out as if I had done something wrong.

      My abuser works for a company that plays a very big hand in funding mission work (millions), my husband refers to his importance and power as, no one can get through to the necessary channels without going through him 1st. Don’t want to burn that bridge. My abuser would laugh at me, and say go ahead tell who ever you want no one will ever believe you, I’ve been involved with ministry for over 25 years, and they know me too well. He still was arrested for domestic abuse, but walks around town boasting he had it expunged.

      This is someone who the day my mom was to be buried took my only means of transportation, and left. I was stripped of ever sharing those last private and final moments with her.

      God has shared with me it matters not who knows. That in the end when the we stand before Him, we will see the evil we choose to injure another is in fact Christ Himself who is the one we injured, for Christ dwells within each of us, and as for those who made the choice to look away or embrace the abuser, and neglected to give help and support to the wounded, will see how they turned their back to the one who hungered and thirst for righteousness.”When I hungered you fed me”
      Thank you DHS and the BBC, HPC, SOC for shunning me crushing my spirit.
      I forgive you…I will offer up gladly my suffering if it means that you will come to know of the true love our Heavenly Father and His Son wants for you. I ask on your behalf Heavenly Father to forgive you and to bring you into the fullness of His love.
      In knowing how hard it was to find it in my heart to forgive you, I found it ever so greater to do it for Him who so mercifully forgave me. May your heart and eyes be open.
      May the violence toward our fellow brothers and sisters be forever more be laid to rest at the foot of our King.
      Wake up church….
      God can keep and provide and protect the church. He has no need for you to play His role.
      When I was hungry you fed me…

      • Hi Sharmon, welcome to the blog 🙂

      • and thanks for what you’ve shared here, Sharmon! It is like diamonds that have been created under immense heat in the interfolding pressure of magma and crust, deep below the earth’s surface. Praise God for your thirst for righteousness!

  5. Anonymous

    Thank you for addressing this issue. I was so naïve when the Lord graciously saved me in 1980. I was influenced by charismatics and legalists. Praise HIM for protecting me. It was remaining faithful to reading and studying the Scriptures “daily” that caused me to question and doubt what I witnessed, thus as my marriage continued to erode I sensed something was wrong when I did not receive any support after confessing to three pastors and their wives that I needed help; that my husband had ‘wandering eyes’. Well, they “prayed for me” and sent me on my way to “be a faithful wife” …. my faithfulness would be blessed by God.
    I am realizing now after much heartache and a very broken family that these “wolves” truly did not care.
    The situation in my semi-remote community has not changed and after attempting to “gather together” with the saints from several churches, I had to leave; confused by what I knew in my heart to be wrong within the workings of church leadership. It was during this time that the very quiet and apathetic character of my husband was to reveal to me that he also was possibly not saved? I didn’t want to believe it and after three false confessions of faith and much turmoil I confess to being desperate as I attempted to maintain a wholesome, Christian homeschooling atmosphere. Disciplining was laid on my shoulders and my daughters resented me as they left home and called me a “controller”. In my confusion and concern over what I was becoming as I seemed “so out-of-it” I sought pastoral counsel via the internet. Some of it was excellent and the poor true shepherds felt helpless as distance would not allow them to come physically to my aid.
    Local church attendees often remind me of: Hebrews 10 … “24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
    My struggle comes with assembling with true saints as many consider Dan to be a faithful provider, good, quiet man, etc … the fact that he demanded that I leave in April 2013 was due to the fact that he may have been depressed!!?? Only a select few have chosen to believe me as I NOW reveal the truth of many years of marital turmoil. Even still, the church family is fearful of recognizing it’s mandate to help the victim who truly wants to assemble with others but is fearful of being slaughtered by the unsympathetic.
    What grieves me more than anything is that the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is not being proclaimed. Weak churches preach a weak Jesus and HE is no such thing. HE is the KING of KINGS and LORD of LORDS. Many want to be saved and be given a heavenly home. It’s the Lordship and obedience to the infallible Word which gets in the way! Obedience means following the “full counsel of God” … loving one another including our spouses???
    Pastor Jeff Crippen has an excellent series on SermonAudio.com. featured as Domestic Violence and Abuse … (http://www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?subsetitem=Domestic+Violence+and+Abuse&subsetcat=series&keyword=crc&keywordDesc=Christ+Reformation+Church&SourceOnly=true&currSection=sermonssource&includekeywords=)
    I have tearfully been completing this series and receiving counsel from a Women’s Resource Center. Several months ago Ingrid Schlueter of the HOPE blog brought attention to, CRYING OUT FOR JUSTICE. I was tempted to stop receiving feeds from this blog because it seemed way to controversial! It went against my desire to be quietly submissive although I fear my exhaustion has produced a Jezebel and I grieve greatly … Once again, today, I have cried out to God for forgiveness as I should have been braver and left this situation sooner. What have I become? I truly thought I was serving God as in the beginning I was told to be “submissive”.
    I apologize for such a lengthy comment. I have shared my heart, knowing that there are many others like me, so I don’t seek pity as I am not greater than anyone else, however, I pray that I can somehow come to grips with what exactly the Lord would have me do to glorify HIS name in my particular circumstance.

    • You state “Once again, today, I have cried out to God for forgiveness as I should have been braver and left this situation sooner. What have I become? I truly thought I was serving God as in the beginning I was told to be “submissive”.

      Your comment struck a chord with me because I sense you truly love the Lord and want(ed) to do the right thing. If I may humbly say…I don’t think you need to ask God’s forgiveness in the context in which you have stated it. He is not mad at you or disappointed with you because as you say you weren’t “brave.” This journey is a long and difficult one and I pray that you clearly hear His voice as you disentangle the messages that are truly from God and the ones that attempt to lay a burden or a yoke on you. It was/is NOT God’s will for you to have been abused. Period.

      I encourage you to be gentle with yourself. The path that God has before you will gently unfold. Let it unfold. It will. He is with you.

    • Several months ago Ingrid Schlueter of the HOPE blog brought attention to, CRYING OUT FOR JUSTICE.

      Beverly, may I ask in what sense she brought attention to this blog?

      • Anonymous

        I’m writing this as a quick reply; I’ll attempt to find Ingrid’s post but I believe she may have referred to an article by Barbara or perhaps if I am mistaken, maybe Barbara “commented” on one of Ingrid’s posts?? LOL The blogosphere world eventually connects us in one way or another! … I hope I haven’t misrepresented Ingrid but I do know that her blog has brought much needed attention to “abusive relationships” as she endures such hardship. Thankfully, she has a loving Christ-honouring husband, Tom and she very often shares the strength of this man’s character. He has been a ‘rock’ and protector during her battles.

      • I think it would be wonderful if she did say something positive about ACFJ. I have a lot of respect for her.

        Welcome to the blog, BTW. 🙂

    • Well, they “prayed for me” and sent me on my way to “be a faithful wife” …. my faithfulness would be blessed by God.

      So let me get this right. They prayed for you and thus their prayers were guaranteed to put leashes on your husband’s eyeballs so they could not wander any more. But the only way this could be a water-tight guarantee was if you made sure you were a ‘a faithful wife’ because God couldn’t bless those prayers unless you kept up your end of the bargain. Hmm. Somehow I don’t even think that Job’s counselors put their rotten advice in such horrible terms.

      ((hugs)) to you, Anonymous! And I agree with Karen in suggesting to you that you were not lacking in bravery for not leaving the situation sooner. We almost all of us have similar stories “I wish I hadn’t stayed so long!” But waking up out of the fog is not an easy process, not when the church at large keeps crankin up that ole fog machine and blowing the fog right around the pews so that as soon as a bit of clear sky breaks through, the fog comes rolling back in again to keep us bamboozled with false beliefs about what good godly Christians oughta do when they are faced with bad stuff from other people. You know the drill, I don’t have to reiterate it all here.

      Rather than berate yourself for cowardice, what about praising yourself for all the brave and creative ways you responded to the abuse to maintain some smidgeon of personal dignity and integrity and to keep your children (relatively) okay despite the tense, toxic and deceit-ridden atmosphere which their father was creating. I bet you did heaps of brave and clever and intelligent things, and selectively chose what to do and what to refrain from doing, in order to walk on those eggshells without being totally shredded.

    • Oh, and hey Anonymous, I see this is your first comment. Welcome to the blog! 🙂

    • Heather2

      Welcome, Anonymous. Your story is not uncommon. Many of us have experiences quite similar. But God is good. He had given us a place of affirmation and compassion. It is hard to find mercy in most churches. We have found legalism. I’m glad that Jeff’s sermons have helped you. I must say that I am surprised and pleased that Ingrid gave ACRJ some positive comments. Perhaps blinders are falling from the eyes of some.

      Take heart and continue to draw near to the source if our peace. I know at times that the triggers and challenges are more overwhelming than we ever imagined. That is when we need Him most.

      Xx

  6. CrossRoads2013

    Hi Jeff. I find what you have written really interesting. And scary actually! Just wondering if you can please tell me what you mean by legalism? It’s a terms I see regularly on this site but I’m not sure I understand what this means. Thanks.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Legalism is the error you find rejected and exposed by the Apostle Paul, particularly in his letter to the Galatians. It is a reliance upon human works of any kind for justification before God. Most often in Scripture it is identified as “the law” because that was the background of the Jews, who continued to look to keeping the Mosaic law for justification when, in fact, it was never given for that purpose. God gave Moses the law to condemn, to kill, to expose and show us our sin and our need for Christ (See Galatians 3 for example). But “law” can also be any human traditions or “good” deeds that are supposedly able to earn merit before God. The 10 commandments still have a valid place in the Christian’s life. They show us sin for what it is, and reveal what God thinks about sin. The law is NEVER to be mixed into the gospel however, because Christ has perfectly obeyed it and suffered its curse for us by his perfect life and his atoning death on the cross. We are righteous (justified) before God solely by faith in Christ and HIS lawkeeping, not ours.

    • Good question, Crossroads.
      Legalism often goes hand in hand with spiritual abuse. So if you are reading anything about spiritual abuse, you might like to ask yourself “How were these spiritual abusers misusing the Word of God to lay false guilt and false expectations on people? How were they implying that we obtain salvation by doing works?”

      Because that is what legalists do. They may say they believe that we are only saved by faith, not works; but in practice if you look at their attitudes and behaviour, they are showing that they believe we have to follow some code of conduct in order to be real Christians.

      Now, of course, there are precepts that Christian should follow, for example, the ten commandments (Ex 20) which were summarized by Jesus as “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mk 12:30-31) And Christians are told to abstain from things polluted by idols and from sexual immorality (Acts 15:20). However, if we believe we must do these things to merit or earn salvation, that is legalism — a gospel of works rather than a gospel of faith.

      We do not do good works and strive to abstain from sin to earn salvation. Salvation cannot be earned because it is a gift from God through faith in Jesus Christ; and God even gives us the ability to have faith in Christ, because if he had not given us that ability we would still be dead in our sins and the Cross would seem foolishness to us. God quickens our dead spirits to life, draws us to himself, and reveals Jesus to us so that we are irresistibly drawn to love and honour Christ and through Him the Father. And when we are saved, we are so grateful for what God has done for us that we then do good works out of gratitude.

      Doing good works out of gratitude for our salvation is totally different from doing them to earn salvation or to ‘add our bit’ to the purchase price for our salvation. We can add nothing to what Jesus did on the cross. What he did paid the full entire price for our salvation. If we think we need to add anything to that purchase price by our own deeds, we are actually thinking that the price was not fully paid by Jesus. And that is heresy. It’s a works gospel, and it will never save anyone; rather, it will destine them for Hell because they are diminishing the unimpeachable and inestimable perfection of Christ’s atoning death on the Cross.

      For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)

      And if I may I’d like to recast that so that the pronoun references are clear:
      For our sake the Father made Jesus to be sin (Jesus who knew no sin) so that in Jesus we might become the righteousness of God.

      Sorry for the mini sermon. I thought I’d be writing a short reply to you, but it took wings and went off on its own.

  7. So, Jeff, you’ve been abused in four different churches. What is it about you that makes you attract abusive churches?
    . . . tongue in cheek, of course, but this is exactly what people often say to women who have had more than one abusive relationship. Why do you attract bad men? There must be something wrong with you that you keep falling into these bad relationships!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Barbara – that is actually a really good point you make, isn’t it? I have had so much bad advice in respect to this over the years. One church growth “expert” visited once and looked at our church and said “Jeff, when are you going to quit setting yourself up for failure?” What he meant was, “why did you come here to this place in this non-growing town where there is little chance of you growing a church to any size at all?” I have been told that these battles were all my fault. “Jeff, if you don’t learn to be a better politician, you are never going to succeed in the ministry.” Translated – compromise with power and control brokers so they don’t get mad at you.

      The fact is that every single church is going to have abusers in it if the leaders have not been fighting the battles over the years. In so many churches, decisions are based upon pragmatics such as money and reputation and so on, rather than upon obedience to Christ no matter what the cost. So, how did I learn to quit “marrying” abusers? The Lord taught me. He said, through His providence over the last 20 years, “Jeff, this time you are going to be here for the long haul and get it right. I am going to reveal evil to you and how it operates, and then I expect you to deal with it no matter what. And eventually you will have an abuser-free church.”

      Even then, He expects us to be on guard.

      • Even then, He expects us to be on guard.

        yes, that reminds me of being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:6)

      • Brenda R

        Ps Jeff If we don’t stay on guard, the next abuser will move in before we know it.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Yep. Stay watchful.

    • Brenda R

      Barbara, I for one have been told that very thing. My reply is that I am an abusive idiot magnet. It is somewhere on my body where it can’t be seen, but if their is an abusive idiot within 5 miles they will find me and there area a lot of them out there.

      There is a very nice man in my building who stops to talk with me. Wouldn’t it be nice if my magnet started detecting a different soft of the male species.

    • Laurie

      HAHAHAHA! Oh, Barb, you be funny! That Aussie wit!

  8. Forrest

    Excellent post, Jeff. Some types of abusers seek out such positions. It’s all about power and control. We need to be aware of the potential and look at how they operate.

  9. Laurie

    Honest, this looks like great discussion, but I have no time right now…gonna check it at lunch break today. But Jeff (btw, post=spot on, thank you), this post really puts into the light a portion of scripture that, I think, many times gets misread.

    In Jesus’ parables of Mt 13, He talks of a mustard seed that is grown and becomes a home to the fowls of the air. Just a few breaths ahead of this, He says that the fowls of the air are the children of the evil one. Somehow most of the time the mustard seed analogy gets translated as the saving ability of faith, when I think Jesus didn’t change the temperature of the water and the fowls in the mustard tree are the same as those that steal the seed.

    He said if we have as much faith as a mustard seed, we can move mountains. But if we cultivate, add to and grow that seed, as T. Austin Sparks observed, it will become a HUGE tree and a place fit for the fowls of the air. And your post here seems to be validation of that latter analogy. Just like the woman that hid leaven in 3 measures of meal (when does Jesus ever say leaven is a good thing?), so the church (the woman) when she adds to the meal (the word of God, the life of God) she infects all of the meal with it. Leaven is a bacteria that raises bread by adding pockets of air–pockets of nothing.

    Looking forward to reading these comments…looks like a fruitful discussion.

    Beloved of the Lord, my fellow sisters and brothers, we can rejoice that God loves us differently than man, especially religious man, ever could, and VERY much better (bad grammar and all)!

  10. Been There Done That

    Thank you for giving your background, Jeff. I have been enjoying your posts, but, frankly, couldn’t understand why a man (a pastor!) was contributing on this blog. Your story makes your posts even better now that your background and present circumstances are known to us.

    • BTDT, I don’t know whether you’ve read Abuse and Pastors: An Open Letter from A Pastor to Pastors by Jeff Crippen, but if not it will give your more understanding of how Jeff woke up to the issue of domestic abuse and became an advocate for victims.

      • Been There Done That

        Thank you for this link, Barbara. More refreshment coming from Jeff. I also noted in the comments that someone was looking for a person to be willing to forward this PDF to pastors. I volunteered to do this – gladly – as a mini ministry. I set up the e-mail address – galations328@gmail.com and will be more than honored to be the conduit for other pastors to possibly give more thought to the subject of abuse. Anyone who contacts me at that address with the e-mail address of their pastor (and possibly the pastor’s name) will have that PDF forwarded from me.

  11. I thought the pastor of our church was weird because he didn’t have a lot of empathy. he didn’t seem concerned for serious matters and when I told him that my husband liked his preaching more than me accidentally because I was mad at him for not calling me back for 3 weeks when I really needed to talk about something he hasn’t greeted me or look me in the eyes and he’s been avoiding me for like 3 years so I decided to just give up on that church and find a local one.

  12. Anonymous

    First of all, I want to personally thank everyone for the very gracious and encouraging words directed to me after my most recent and “first” comment. After years in the battle, I guess I berate myself and feel shame because I have been criticized for “my ways”. When I have attempted to defend myself, I have been told to stop defending myself, that I’m too “in your face” and not very Christ-like when I become annoyed or angry, etc, etc, I also want to be cautious concerning my character because I am very capable of sinning with an “unrighteous anger”:-(
    This posting has reminded me that as I was and continue to endure the emotional and spiritual abuse by many; several years ago, I was also the bookkeeper for a local church and school. To begin with, there were many good qualities but after many years of denial I had to admit that I sensed a favouritism from church leadership towards certain individuals. Many gave generously, financially to “the work”. At one point I approached the pastor/principal concerning an uncomfortable situation. I felt he was publicly praising a certain family for their “giving” to the church, however, they were not paying tuition costs? I was calmly told to do my job and not worry about this … it was not to be my concern. THIS was another turning point in my life as I was beginning to realize that Christianity was indeed warfare; not just about “loving Jesus Christ”!!
    Corrupt leadership eventually is exposed, however, countless souls are scarred and left wandering seeking ‘true Christianity’.
    Once again, thank you Pastor Jeff Crippen and the contributors to A CRYING OUT FOR JUSTICE. Barbara mentioned “Abuse and Pastors: An Open Letter from A Pastor to Pastors”. It is excellent and I am prayerfully planning to make copies along with suggested Resources to graciously present to local pastors. Perhaps even one will have the scales removed and “be a brother’s keeper”:-)

    • Been There Done That

      Anonymous, I will only encourage you in your feelings of shame and in the habit of berating yourself. I’m guessing (not I KNOW) (and I’m fairly new to this forum myself) that you are not alone. A side effect/consequence of being abused long term is that we feel this way. We are wrong! We are loved by God and full of worth. We just don’t know it all the time and have a very hard time believing it even now.

      It is very hard finding out that the church leaders you trusted are glowing examples of Matthew’s telling us that all men sin. I know _I_ wanted to believe that my leaders were special – lacking sin or having MUCH less than others I knew. In my more than short life, I have seen much that has caused me to have distrust for so many. BUT, you need to remember that you have been a victim of assault . Do we not fight back when attacked? Are we not angry when we are being attacked? Isn’t that human nature when in warfare? (I’m willing to be told differently by the leaders in this blog.) We, who come out of long term abusive relationships, are mesmerized into thinking that we are not of much value. That we lack SO much in the world. But that’s not true. Are we worse because we were unable to overcome the abuser for our time with him? NO. I don’t WANT to be that wicked in life that I was able to overcome what my ex did to me. I am SO grateful for the people that God put into my life who patiently and persistently urged me to get out despite the consequences. For me, it has been a long time since I had the courage to leave a 25+ year marriage with two children (one an adult, one almost there). It has been a hard road and I still am working to have that belief in myself, but I CAN see it in others when they don’t believe in themselves. This is one of the of the reasons it is so good to have such a blog/support group. We can help to bolster each other up and encourage one another.

      Keep reading; keep contributing. We will all strengthen each other. One of my prayers to God is that he will use me to help others in the future. I know that women in my church used to seek me out to help them in THEIR marriages. (I guess they saw the difficulty of mine.) Let’s all use what strength we have when we have it to get ourselves out of the crazily made view of ourselves and our relationship so that we can help each other in the days to come.

      • Anonymous

        Been There Done That – Thank you for your encouragement. I never doubted the Lord’s love for me, however, I have struggled with “my witness for Christ”. Although my daughters are now adults and totally accountable for their relationship with the Lord, I grieve that they had to witness the turmoil and eventually turn against me and have chosen the “wide gate”. Lately, the daughters have been treating me somewhat better as I think they may be seeing some cracks in their father’s behavior. There is also a very good chance that others in the community may have contacted them sharing some of the details of how their father demanded I leave because he felt I was responsible for his ill health.
        Because this sinful situation has gone on for so long and without any local spiritual leader, you know, a true shepherd of the sheep? Well, I must admit to suffering from the ‘brain fog’ that others have mentioned. It is very numbing.
        So, I go through the motions. We share a bed and the daily routine NOW is to talk about the weather, household tasks. Any mention of dealing with family issues has him and retreating to the ‘other room’.
        There is so much more to share and today’s new post “They Do It In Secret” also hit the heart; just haven’t the time or strength to add to the comments. Thank you again, all of you.
        The Lord has sovereignly allowed these circumstances and HE will be glorified. I am determined to use the lessons learned to help others just as many have already strengthened me.

      • Been There Done That

        I think many of us have experienced parental alienation as to how our children treated and treat us. I still struggle with my adult children and don’t think that they really realize what was going on (again, in secret). And what they DID see was there their whole lives. I have chosen to say little, but have the aim of educating them about abuse in marriage so that, at least, they can recognize it in their friends and be helpful rather then hurtful.

        I didn’t realize that you are still in the relationship. NO one knows exactly what your life is like except you, BUT, as one who went through this for 25 years I DO pray that you will be strengthened by what you read on this blog and have the strength to do whatever you need to make YOU strong. If it is staying, then I hope that you will continually tell yourself of your worth (and I’m glad you’ve never doubted God’s love for you).

  13. Anonymous

    Yes, I’m still in the relationship and even while the children were young I was tempted to leave but each time I kept thinking that “things will get better” or “I can’t leave; financially, my daughters are better, here.” So I persevered and held to the teaching that I had no cause to leave because he wasn’t openly being an adulterer. (38 years … 36 of marriage) However, past sins of while we were courting were confirmed several years into the marriage and this was definitely the “turning point” as I now knew that I wasn’t imagining what I was seeing … I forgave after what proved to be ‘false repentance’.
    What has taken a toll on me is the many years of emotional abuse by both sides of our families. He would promise to protect me and then back away because he claimed he didn’t like confrontation. Having in-laws and siblings betray my relationship with them over and over again and then to have my husband not defend me was painful BUT according to much of the teaching from our pulpits; I had no cause to leave.
    I was drawn to 1 Corinthians 7 … “10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 11(but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. 12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her.…”
    There were pastors via the internet and phone calls that counseled me that my husband was not actually willing to “live with me peaceably” …. What held me back “all these years” is that I did not want to leave the marriage without the support of a local shepherd and other believers. I just did not have peace about this.
    Presently, I am slowly getting reacquainted with past friends and there are several new pastors that “may” be willing to “take charge”. I am planning to present many of the resources available via this ministry.
    The testimony of Pastor Jeff Crippen and others may be the “wake-up call” for them?

    • Anonymous, I’m confident you will find my explanation of 1 Cor 7:10-16 helpful (it’s laid out in my book; if you are strapped for funds email me). Those pastors who told you that your husband was not willing to live peaceably with you were right. That’s the verse (v. 15) that I rest my argument on most solidly, but I use other scriptures from the OT to back it up, and I also address each other scripture on divorce that has been misunderstood over the centuries.

      I understand you desire to find a nearby pastor you can relate and seek support from as you work your way through this. Just be aware that many pastors say they are supportive of victims of abuse but not all who say that are actually able/willing to go the whole hog — they easily get manipulated by the abusers who feign repentance. So yes, seek support, but keep your armour up a bit too, so you don’t get too hurt if someone lets you down. And if they do let you down, vent here and everyone will support you. 🙂

      • Anonymous

        LOL … thanks Barb for offering your book. I have been able to save funds as Pastor Jeff has graciously offered to send his book. Because of that I have also ordered two copies of yours; one will be for the Women’s Resource Center counselor … they should be here Thursday, Jan 10th:-) I am really looking forward to the sound Biblical teaching from both resources.
        Thank you for the warning re: local pastors as I have already endured this type of betrayal.

      • wonderful 🙂 and glad to hear that the women’s resource centre will be getting a copy.

  14. Pat Pope

    You nailed it. Having served as an elder myself, one of the things I told my fellow elders before I left, was that the church didn’t belong to Jesus. It, rather, belonged to the small band of power brokers who used bullying tactics and behind-the-scene negotiating to get their way.

    • Hi Pat, welcome to the blog and thanks for your comment. We hope you stick around!

  15. Jen

    Hi Jeff! A friend sent me a link to this article and I’m kind of at a loss for words. On the one hand, it is good to know that I am not alone, that the abuse was not my fault, and that some pastors recognize that pastoral/elder abuse is a serious issue today.

    On the other hand, the way you represent it, it almost makes me question whether I should ever try going to church again. Is it really that widespread, or are you truly just a magnet to it? (said with a smile)

    So, thank you for making an excellent point, but I would appreciate knowing how widespread this really is.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Jen – I would never encourage a Christian to just give up and despair of ever finding a true church. We know that God always has His remnant. There are indeed sound churches. However, to answer your question – yes I do believe the leaven has spread that much. That is why the vast majority of our readers here at ACFJ are not in a local church. They want to be, but they can’t find one. Now, as to my personal experience, I don’t think I am an exception. (Ha! A magnet:) I have very, very little – well, none actually — doubt that if I were to go pastor a typical local church next week, I would soon find that the very same condition existed there. Unsaved, sinful controlling people/person in power. Especially if the church were of any size, say 100 or more (though smaller churches can easily have the same infection). But if you’ve got a “happening” machine in which the bucks are coming in, the programs are cooking, the building program is happening – you’ve got power, control, politics, and you have compromising with ungodliness being exercised more often than not.

      Where is the church then? Where it always has been – outside the camp with Jesus. Find humble, Christ-loving people who have suffered for His name. Find a place where no one person is exalting themselves and people are oohing and ahhing over. Find a place where the good news is preached loudly and often – that Christ Jesus is our full and complete righteousness with nothing else to be earned. That means find a place where man-made tradition has not supplanted Jesus, and where people are enjoying their freedom in Christ and even willing to fight to maintain it. Good hunting!

      • Forrest

        Outside the camp is exactly right, Jeff. Too many believers are having difficulty in finding a good church.

  16. Jen

    Jeff, that is excellent advice. I’ve seen the problems, over and over again, and that is why I got involved in small, home churches to begin with, only to find even bigger problems! I began my story with “The Search for the Perfect Church.” Now I think it will just be “The Search for a Church — that loves God and loves people.”

    • Jeff Crippen

      Jen- I have not had good experiences with house churches. It seems that almost inevitably you have a dominant person who wants to control everyone. In fact, often the move to the house is fueled by that desire. Of course I believe in the office of pastor — I am one:) But pastors are to humbly shepherd the flock for the glory of Christ alone, not control them with power (“it shall not be so among you”). This means then that there cannot be any empire building. It means that large crowds are not necessarily going to be attracted. To be a leader in such a church is most often to be obscure, unknown, and even poor.

      • Jen

        So, the moral of the story is to look for the poor, the downtrodden, and those who need to be loved, and look for the pastor who is loving them. 🙂

  17. Jeff, I have a question for you. Is it possible that any of the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” sitting on elders’ boards all over the country THINK they’re Christians? Are they truly wolves, out to attack the sheep, and aware of their position outside of Christ? Or are they deluded, tossed to and fro, thinking they are saved and wanting to further their agenda because they think it is best, for whatever reason?

    We know an elder who is a great guy, popular with everyone. He loves to joke around. He is concerned about the lost. He would like to turn our church into a “seeker sensitive” church, dumbing down the message so we can reach more people. I think he thinks he’s saved, but EVERYTHING he does seems to be to draw attention to himself. He went on a mission trip with the motivation of checking out the land because he’s a realtor.

    If he’s confronted on any of his behaviour, he tends to react in a “poor me” sort of way, and runs around drumming up support for how mean the confronters have been to him. There is never any sight of sin, but always a minimizing of the consequences of his actions.

    He certainly claims to be a Christian.

    But, by their fruit…

    Thoughts?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Grannymom – Excellent question and observations. I have seen both kinds on church boards. I have seen out and out wolves in wool. And then, perhaps more commonly even, I have seen the kind that you describe here. Like the wolves however, they also desire self-glory. Sometimes there is a fine line between the two classes. People like the elder you describe here could often be products of easy believism. That was what produced the mess that my present church was 20 years ago when my wife and I arrived. The sanctuary was filled with people who were just sure they were Christians, but they evidenced no real fruit of knowing Christ. Quite the opposite in many cases in fact. But whether they be full blown wolves or simply unsaved people who think they are Christians, when they get into leadership or influential positions, there is trouble for the whole church.

      With all of that said, the elder you describe could still be a wolf in wool. They come in all styles and personalities.

  18. Seeking Advice

    Thank you so much for writing this. I too am experiencing this at our church. My husband serves on a committee at our church & there are two people in particular on that committee who absolutely show no fruit of the spirit. In the church as a whole there are a good handful at the least who are the same. We serve together in the church in another area of ministry & these particular people have always treated us very unkindly & I would even go as far to say we have felt that there is hatred toward us. It has gotten to the point within the last year that we are miserable at our church. We haven’t shared these feelings with anyone in our church. I would like to ask advice on how we should pray about this. There have been several experiences with these individuals that allowed us to confidently express no fruit of the spirit. We feel like there is a heaviness at our church as a whole like a feeling of quenching the spirit if you will, for lack of a better explanation & it is truly bothering us. It also seems like no one else is noticing so that causes us to feel isolated. Thank you, it’s hard to put into words.

    • healinginhim

      Seeking Advice – praying for you. It must be so difficult. I couldn’t stand some of the tension in my former church(s) and my spouse at that time couldn’t be bothered with discussions and just wanted to ‘attend church’. It’s spiritual abuse.

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  1. Many Churches are Led by Unsaved “Christians” – A Firsthand Look Into Church Boardrooms | Christian Heritage News

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