I’m continuing my blog series on spiritual abuse in the church which I am calling “Bully Pulpit”. You can see the prior installments here , here, and here. Since spiritual abuse is not as easy to spot as other forms of abuse, I am working my way through a number of key signs that churches should be on the watch for.
We come now to a third sign of a spiritually abusive pastor, namely that they are known for being overly critical and harsh with those under them. As Chuck DeGroat observes in his book, When Narcissism Comes to Church, abusive pastors are known for their “hypercriticism” of others (121).
Let’s unpack this a little further.
Leading Through Fault-Finding
Spiritually abusive pastors typically lead through fault-finding. They are quick to point out deficiencies in the job performance of those under them, eagerly call attention to a person’s character flaws, and often do so without gentleness or patience. In fact, victims often indicate that the feel “watched” by the pastor as if he is always looking for some mistake that he can grab a hold of and exploit.
Of course, the rich irony here is that this very pastor who is unable to take criticism (see earlier post) is highly critical of everyone else. That is not a healthy combination—and, DeGroat has argued, is the classic mark of a narcissist.
Narcissists can’t admit that others may be smarter or more talented than them, which is why they always critique others. Nor can they admit that they might be inferior or mistaken, which is why they won’t allow critiques of themselves or the ministries they lead.
But there’s another (and bigger) reason that abusive pastors lead through fault-finding. Demoralized employees (or members) are more insecure, quicker to submit to commands, and eager to make amends for their perceived shortcomings.
In other words, this behavior is a form of control. And bully pastors do it for one simple reason: it works. [Read more…]