The Most Common Reason Churches Enable Abusers and Oppress Victims
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. (Galatians 4:28-29)
When we first began this blog some five years ago, we said that one of our primary purposes in this ministry was to educate pastors, elders, church members, counselors and others about the nature and tactics of abuse. Particularly in regard to how the abuser is hiding in churches, disguised as a sheep, all the while cruelly enslaving and abusing his victim. While that purpose still stands, the fact is that very few such people have been willing to open their eyes to this evil, learn about it, and stand with victims. The most amazing and overwhelmingly encouraging response to our blog has been from abuse victims. Especially abuse victims who are Christians, who have been abused by a wicked spouse, and who suffered even further when they asked their church for help.
Why do local churches treat victims this way so often? In fact, it is fair to say that they typically oppress abuse victims, and most all of you know the drill that can be expected when help is sought from a pastor or church leadership or members. Why? Are they naive and thus easily duped by abusers? In part. Do male church leaders tend to side with a male abuser against a female victim? Certainly that happens quite often.
But I still do not believe these reasons explain the thing.
Let me suggest what I believe to be the fundamental reason churches enable abusers in their wickedness and oppress abuse victims. I will begin stating my theory with a summation of my 34 years as a pastor.
I have been the pastor of four churches since 1983. I was at the first one for eight years and during the last three of those years I planted a second church nearby, pastoring both churches then for those last three years. Following that I was the pastor of another independent Bible church for nearly three years and then in 1993 came to my present pastorate where I have now been for nearly 24 years.
In every single one of these churches, as I think back over our experiences in them, the vast majority of the church members, though professing to be Christians, were not. I can say this even more confidently now, having had the opportunity to watch them and their children over all these years. Bad fruit because the root was and remains bad. And, to say it once more, this represents easily 90% of the membership of each one of those churches when I first came to them. Even the church we planted from a Bible study ended up drawing in a large majority of people who had a form of godliness, but in the end proved themselves to be deniers of its power. They did not know Christ and do not know Him to this day, though many have continued to play the charade.
I could tell you story after story, firsthand data from my own personal experiences and observations that support my claims here. In some cases I think that the 10% saved estimate is overly generous.
How do I know they weren’t and aren’t saved? I know them by their fruit. I know them because:
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:8-9)
Genuine Christians, regenerated and indwelt by the Spirit of God, are new creations in Christ. As such we cannot walk as we used to walk. We are children of light, no longer of darkness. We are not yet perfect. On occasion we still sin, but when we do we quickly repent and are grieved, confessing our sin and asking the Lord’s forgiveness because of Jesus our Savior. The wicked are not so. They walk in sin. It is the defining course of their life. They might claim the new birth, but their life betrays who they really are — children of the devil, the brethren of Cain.
That is how I know.
Now, I propose to you that my experience in these four churches is not unique or untypical. Quite the contrary. I maintain that this 90%+ unsaved estimate is the norm in most local churches. [By the way, our church here presently consists of a small congregation, but I can confidently say that the large majority of them give good evidence in their lives that they truly belong to Christ. Quite different than it was 24 years ago here].
And this then is what I am suggesting to you here. No, I am confidently stating it for you, not merely suggesting it.
The primary reason local churches ally with and enable abusers, and turn against the abuser’s victim, is stated clearly by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4 quoted above. The children of the flesh have always persecuted the children of the promise. That is how it was with Ishmael and Isaac, and that is how it is today.
Unregenerate people, still walking in sin and darkness, still children of the devil, inevitably hate and persecute Christ’s true people. And if most local churches consist of those very kinds of people, children of the flesh, Christians in name only but not in spirit, you can be sure that they are going to persecute the children of the promise. They strive to enslave Christ’s people through legalism, false teachings, accusations, slander, and by setting up their own traditions as the Word of God, binding upon everyone. When one of their own is threatened with exposure by a victim giving a shout-out to him, the rest immediately rally around him like a pack of wolves.
This is how it has been all down through the history of the church. It is madness, except in extremely unusual and plain circumstances (such as times of widespread revival as in the time of George Whitefield, the Wesleys, Jonathan Edwards, etc) to function in our Christian lives with the assumption that local churches should characteristically grow in number and that number even get to be quite large. No. What Scripture plainly reveals to us is that it is God’s remnant that will be saved. That real believers can expect to become so few in number and so out of sight that even an Elijah can despair and wonder if he alone is left. Understand?
In our day the churches are filled with dross. I remember for instance a man I knew very, very well, who would claim to be a Christian but showed absolutely no evidence that he knew Christ, and plenty of evidence in fact to the contrary. When this man and his wife began to attend a new, fairly large, church, in just a very short time the church officers asked this fellow to serve as a deacon! I contacted the pastor myself and said, “you don’t even know this man. There is no way he fulfills scripture requirements for the office of deacon!” This was a no-brainer and yet the pastor and his team really did not like what I had to say. But this kind of thing is happening all the time.
This is how you turn a church into a synagogue of Satan. And this is why so many Christian victims of abuse are being additionally abused by their churches. Those churches, you see, are for the most part not churches at all. So take heart. When you get put out of a fake temple, you find the real Temple outside the camp. You find Jesus:
“If this man were not from God, he could do nothing,” [said the man whose blindness Jesus had healed.]
They [the Pharisees] answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:33-38)