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Signs of Abusive leadership #1

Signs of Abusive leadership

By Pastor David Cox

Introduction

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.

[1] https://josephmattera.org/12-signs-abusive-leadership/

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