For the last couple of months I’ve been making my way through a blog series on spiritual abuse which I am calling “Bully Pulpit”. You can see the prior installments here , here, here, and here.
Part of the goal of this series has been to lead up to my session on spiritual abuse at the TGC National Conference. I will be leading a panel discussion on this topic with my friends Dan Doriani and John Yates, at 11AM on April 12th. Please join us if you will be attending TGC, or you can tune-in online.
With the conference right around the corner, this will be the last installment of my blog series. But I am in the process of writing a full-length book on the subject of spiritual abuse, so you can keep an eye out for that over the next year or more.
As we come to the final post in the series, we face one of the most troubling questions of all: Why don’t churches stop spiritually abusive pastors?
In story after story of abuse, the same tragic series of events plays out. The abusive pastor engages in his destructive behavior for years and years until someone finally speaks up. But even then, most churches do nothing (in fact, many churches actually attack the victims). And even when the church does do something, it’s often a half-hearted, inadequate response. And even if the rare church finally removes a pastor for abuse, that just leads to the next question: Why did it take you so long to act? Why did you tolerate this behavior for 25 years?
The reason we ask these questions is because there is always evidence—actually, lots of evidence—for the destructive behavior of these abusive pastors. As we observed in a prior post, abusive pastors often leave a “relational debris field” or a “trail of dead bodies” in their wake. So, why don’t churches see the trail of dead bodies? Why don’t they connect the dots?
There are a lot of reasons churches don’t see what’s happening. But I would suggest there are several theological misunderstandings that have contributed greatly to the problem. Let’s look at three of them. [Read more…]