Category Archives: Abusive Churches

Signs of Abusive leadership #2

1.  Idolatry – Create excessive, and sometimes blind, admiration and devotion to a person or group, and their beliefs.

I think that the point here is that abusive, wicked, or false leaders want others to adore them. This comes from walking with Satan, which wanted even Christ to adore him. The key element that a good leader always remembers is that he is a sinful man like all other men, and he is not so great or better than other people. A good leader looks at leadership as service, and as Christ came to service, so a good leader enters a church to serve God by serving the people. This concept totally controls him.

A bad leader sees himself as being great, and his church has the great advantage of being in his presence and serving him, his desires, and his goals. He uses the church and its members as stepping stones to his own greatness. The difference in attitude is tremendous, and is like night and day.

2.  There is a well developed, and often unstated system of rules and codes for behavior.  Teaching God will approve of the members who follow the leader and are loyal to him is of utmost importance.  God is not acting out of grace or mercy.  God is a strict judge of justice who is working directly with and through the leaders who alone know what God really wants.  The Mind Controller becomes their parent, and his followers are treated like children.  They do not need to know everything, but just what the leaders think they need to know.

I think the key element here is that an abusive leader makes rules and a “system” for his followers to be “in” or “out” of his graces, and he works that system extensively. Our obedience is not to men, but to God. As a man of God dedicates himself to God and obeys God, God blesses that man, and others should follow him. As a minister strays from that commitment to God and his standards and work, others should leave him to himself.

The system is a very definite mark that something is wrong. A good leader of a church is pastor-like, and that means that he relates to all the members of his church. He has a personal relationship with each and everyone, no matter if they participate in his “system” of favorites or not.

3.  Almost total dependence on a leader, leaders, and the group, combined with cutting off most of the outside world; especially close friends and relatives.

Here I think we see the great difference between a true church with good leaders and a cult. A cult wants to drag people into the group and then cut them off from interaction with others, especially family and other Christians in other churches that can/could give them feedback as far as what is happening in their church.

When a group considers itself the only true church, they are wrong. They are a cult. “Yes, there are others that are kind of like us, but really we are the only ones that are 100% right.” The cult thinking is to cut off rational thinking and reasonableness. They are pushing their members towards being extremists, while a good church is pushing their members towards being a balanced, reasonable Christian.

4.  Systematically using subtle techniques for changing the way people think, what they think, and keep existing member’s thoughts and hearts loyal to the Mind Controller and his cause.  The goal is to have the Mind Controller as the parent, and the adult subjects functioning as his children.

Actually, to be truthful, probably the best expositor and thinker in any church is the pastor. Some exceptions might exist, but basically, that is the way things work. If there is somebody who is a better student of Scripture, they have to be very humble to work with the pastor (and the pastor has to be humble also to take advantage of his knowledge and wisdom).

Usually, our egos overtake us, and leaders rarely can handle rebuke from subordinates, and to be corrected on Scripture is deadly. If a major issue comes up and somebody else corrects the pastor, either the pastor leaves or that person is runoff. This is because of egos.

If you examine Acts 15, the early church functioned with many godly endowed men of God (the twelve apostles, the 120 disciples, Paul and Barnabas, etc.). But they were able to challenge each other and correct incorrect understanding and practice, dealing with doctrine in the process. Few church leaders today can pass through such an experience, and rarely any would actually desire that kind of multiple inputs of voices in major issues. That just shows us how far we have gotten from biblical New Testament churches.

5.  Teaching that the group has all the answers; it has everything good in life and there is nothing else.

I think I touched on this above, but the idea that each church is an island, and the only island out there of true, biblical doctrine and practice is very common among churches, and much more so among abusive churches. The dependence of one church on others is rarely worked out correctly.

Note that the idea is that the views and ideas of other Christians (leaders and laymen) is important and balancing to our view and ideas doesn’t happen often. Either things go the way of a convention or denomination, and in that case, a few decide the doctrine and practice and the rest receive it, or nobody listens to anybody else. Either way it is wrong and not New Testament Christianity.

6.  Creating an environment of fear in leaving.  Any deserters are punished by shunning, and are vilified and marginalized by ridicule before and/or after they leave. This creates a profoundly deep subconscious fear in the existing members to never leave, so this won’t happen to them.  Anything outside of the group is inferior and of Satan.  It is evil.  There is no rule or doctrine more pure, or better, than the group’s.  Outside is failure and disaster.

Here we see the conclusion of this island thinking. To leave the group is the same as to abandon Christ and declare one’s self a Satan worshipper. That is even if you go to another church of the same doctrine and practice as your church.

That is the problem, churches don’t work in the context of world Christianity, but just their own corner of it, and they blow that up to be the last bastion of the faith on earth, that kind of thinking.

This commentary is taken from the article, Mind Control: Six tell-tale signs of abusive church leaders at

Signs of Abusive leadership #1

Signs of Abusive leadership

By Pastor David Cox


This article is simply my reaction to various Internet pages on Spiritual abuse that I have googled for research towards writing this article. I am a local church pastor and missionary.

An abusive leader uses his position of power to receive favors from his subordinates.[1]

On this one, I have to go yes and no. First of all, it is the duty of the members of a church to see that he that works the gospel lives the gospel. There are a lot of elements in that. A spiritual requirement for the ministry is that the minister doesn’t seek others silver or gold, but rather he is satisfied with what God provides him. What one church can give their pastor has nothing to do with what another church can do. It is unspiritual (to me as a pastor and missionary) for a pastor to demand such a salary that it stresses economically his church. Yes, he should live from his principal work, pastoring, but no he should not be getting rich off of poor churches. The flip is relevant too. It is wrong for a church to have lots of financial resources and pay their workers little salary.

As far as favors, I think it is great when one of my members brings us some food stuff, or does something special for us. It is not wrong in itself. But I not would ask for that, or worse, demand somebody does me a favor, that is out of place too. Our churches should be places of service, and it should not be out-of-place for our members to be serving one another, and the pastor too. But the pastor should be the example of servanthood, not the primary beneficiary.

An abusive leader threatens and/or manipulates subordinates to get what they want.[1]

Again, I think the pastor is like a real leader of sheep animals. He goes before and is the first one doing the things, so he is not resting at the rear while he commands his armies to go ahead of him. The entire concept of threatening or manipulating is wrong.

See my tract on ch51 The Difference between Cowboys and Shepherds. Cowboys drive cows from behind them using threats and pain. Shepherds create relationships with their sheep and go before them, and because the sheep love their shepherd (they know him), they follow him.

 An abusive leader attaches themselves to the most vulnerable in their midst.[1]

Here, I do not understand the accusation. The intent of Mattera in his article is that abusive pastors attach themselves to the weak and naive in order to take advantage of them. I think that is wrong obviously.

But on the flip side of this one, I, as a pastor, often spend more time with the weaker brethren because they need encouragement and guidance. I see no problem investing my life in their problems to better their lives. This is what I am here for.

An abusive leader uses “father wounds” in others to gain paternal trust.[1]

Okay, so a lot of people had bad fathers, and they are looking for a father figure. I had a great father, and I still love him even though he passed away some years ago. I think it correct that people look up to me as a father figure. I see no problem that they respect me. Probably few really do though. The problem out here where the rubber meets the road is rarely that somebody idolizes you too much, but that they are constantly tearing you apart limb from limb.

I think Mattera walks a fine line with this one. One think is to become another person’s slave (that is wrong on both sides, those who want to do this, and those who allow it) and another thing to just build a friendship with another person and carry it on in life. Many members of a congregation honor and respect their pastor and have good friendships with him. There is nothing wrong with this.

An abusive leader demands absolute loyalty.[1]

This is correct for any good leader. He should demand absolute loyalty from his congregation, but that absolute loyalty IS TO THE LORD, not to the pastor. Pastors are actually sheep too, and they are not spiritual overlords or dictators, so loyalty to a man is conditioned on that man being loyal to the Lord and walking in his commandments. When you feel that man is straying from God’s path, then the friendship enters in to tell him, and if he doesn’t respond and correct, then it is time to break that friendship and find another church.

An abusive leader threatens and/or attempts to scandalize those who don’t comply with their demands.[1]

I don’t know that a pastor should ever scandalize a church member. At times, I have called attention to church members because their conduct was incorrect. But that was done publicly only after I felt my personal exhortations were exhausted without any results.

I also directly (in private) called a pair of church members apostates because after some time with us, they went back to the Jehovahs Witnesses, and they declared that they would not change the doctrine that they had learned from us. I disavowed that and told the lady that she and her husband were just apostates, people who knew at one time the truth and refused to follow it. These were people who thought way too much of their own options and spirituality.

An abusive leader uses and objectifies others for their own agenda.[1]

I have seen leaders do this. I think that God has set some in the leadership of a church to guide the church as God guides that leader. No leader that occupies that leadership alone is correct unless he is starting a church, and that church just doesn’t have people yet.

But no organization can go forward with a plan or objective if all or most don’t get behind that objective and leadership. I think that good or excellent leadership will always convince their followers to go after the same objectives as they are pursuing, and pushing their people is not how to get things done. You must motivate, convince, and motivate some more.

In other words, yes, a leader uses others to work together to accomplish the plan. But the plan is taken from Scripture, not from his own preferences. It is senseless to be a pastor and not use your people. They are what God gives you to do the job. When the congregation is convinced to the same objectives as the pastor, then they will participate with the pastor. But the point is that all discern the right plan from exposition of Scripture, not from capricious glorifying of one’s own ideas. Of course, the pastor is a principle person is expositing the Word of God for all to decide the plan. But he is also careful to get feedback from his leaders and consider everything. He should only be hard headed when he clears see something Scripture principle, and others haven’t seen it yet.

An abusive leader is narcissistic and focused only on self-gratification.

I find this element very revealing. While many a narcissistic leader is not necessarily abusive at the moment, he may be or will be in the future. The issue is that he has missed his whole reason to be a leader, which is to serve the people of God and God. Missing that, nothing else he does is okay.

See my tract PC50 Narcissism versus Love

Abusive leaders are control freaks.

Mattera, by declaring this, he has thrown most independent Baptist Churches (and a lot of others) into the abusive leadership category. First of all, being on top of what is going on in a church does not make the pastor an abusive leader. We need to understand that in any corporation, organization, or religious group, control is not necessarily equated with being abusive.

Secondly, a “control freaks” is not somebody who wants accountability and wants to know what is going on in what he is responsible for before the Lord. There is a line where one leaves off what is expected and responsible, and being a control freak.

Basically, from what my experience has been, the rule of thumb is that the leader generally outlines what his subordinates are to do, dealing with goals, and he leaves them to work out the details of the how to and etc. If they are newbies, then he will get involved in the details, or he will usually assign somebody else that is aware of the how tos and details to instruct them, and if there is nobody to do that, he will sit down and teach the newbie how to do it (holding their hand).

The point is that in normal organizations the leaders have subordinates to take care of details and the leaders “lead” working more with overall goals that the particulars of matters. When something is really problematic, then they may get involved in the details.

Having said that, every leader has the right to know the particular details of how his goals and orders are being carried out if he so wants to know.


Spiritual Abuse and Why Are Toxic Leaders Allowed to Remain in Power So Long?

This is a reaction and my own opinion to an article by this title.
Spiritual Abuse and Why Are Toxic Leaders Allowed to Remain in Power So Long?


You should read Barb Orlowski’s article. It is good. The whole website from what I have seen is good. But I want to comment on some things that she says, and add my own “two cents” about her topics.

Continue reading Spiritual Abuse and Why Are Toxic Leaders Allowed to Remain in Power So Long?