“All who gain power are afraid to lose it.”
So said Darth Sidious (aka, Chancellor Palpatine) in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. And despite being from the dark side, he was correct. The biggest motivator for those in power is often their fear of losing it.
Sadly, that is also the case with abusive pastors. Wade Mullen in his book, Something’s Not Right, makes a very similar observation: “The chief desire of abusive individuals and organizations is to attain or retain power” (15).
If Mullen is correct—and I think he is—then we come to another key sign of an abusive leader, namely that they are often hyper-defensive about their own power and authority. And they will squash anything that could challenge or question their position.
After a brief hiatus (I was focusing on two new book releases this month: here and here!), 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 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.
Of course, merely being defensive about one’s own authority doesn’t necessarily make a person abusive. On one level, all of us are a bit defensive about the roles we have or the positions we hold. But, abusive pastors often create an entire church culture that perpetually affirms and protects their authority—a culture designed to shield them from criticism, and punish anyone who dares challenge them.
So, how does hyper-defensiveness about one’s own authority manifest itself in a person’s ministry? Here are a few ways. [Read more…]