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.
Basic Church Structures
What she is saying is the “same-old same-old” continues. She observes 3 things, what are people’s expectations (leaders versus congregants, versus denomination). But the real problem is that churches have gotten SO AWAY FROM NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANITY, THAT THEY HAVE JUSTIFIED IN THEIR OWN MINDS A DIFFERENT AUTHORITY, TRADITION, ETC.
Let me illuminate. First of all, there are leaders in the New Testament (and Old Testament for that matter). There are groups that want to eliminate the word “Pastor” out of the Bible. Sorry, it is there, the concept is there, and the pastor is somebody who “rules the congregation”. A requirement of being a pastor or bishop (overseer, again a reinforencement of the concept of a leader) is that he rules his own family well, because otherwise he cannot rule well the church of God. Paul deposits the foundation that the bishop is a church ruler. No where in the Bible do we find any missionary nor church ruler (bishop) nor elders, nor deacons ruling or serving officially over more than one church.
The problem is that people are placed into the local church’s official positions (bishop, elder, deacon, and maybe we could include apostle, as an apostle of the local churches, because one of the 12 apostles died out when nobody could any longer have personally seen and walked with Jesus from his baptism to his resurrection, a requirement for one of the 12, but not for an apostle of the churches).
If the God ordained restraints for a person entering the ministry are removed-watered down, skipped over lightly, or blatantly ignored, then any wolf in sheep’s clothing will get in. I have seen a number of local churches go through the pastor replacement process, and my observations are that in general 1.) the church gives up and takes anybody before God provides a really good man. No patience on a church level. An auxiliary here is that the individuals in the church basically what a charismatic man like the last pastor, and if that isn’t happening, they won’t come, and after a few months, they will “move on.” Definitely after a year or so. 2.) the church has made little to no preparation for such a situation (thanks to the previous pastor usually) as far as having, promoting, and allowing good men of the congregation to team preach and teach, so that when the pastor steps down, gets knocked out, or dies, there are people who can pulpit supply right there in the same church, and they are used to this (maybe not as frequently as they would once there is no pastor). 3.) It would seem that prayer is a prefunctory thing that doesn’t work, because rarely do most churches seem to find a good man. 4.) The assistant/youth pastors are usually worthless or deemed worthless by the congregation, so it brings up the question of why they were just hanging around? What were they doing before? 5.) Most church candidate committees are blind to the biblical requirements, and if they would happen to understand them, they still will not abide by the requirements rigidly, because they don’t want to be deciding and praying so much, just pick somebody, anybody, and get on with it. These are usually the first people to dump and run when the new pastor shows problems.
Barb, in her article, looks at this from a multi-denominational view. Being an independent Baptist, I would have to exclude what “the denomination says” about “our church government”. Also believing in a strong pastor, I do not think that the congregation has the authority in the local church, although the Bible clearly shows their voice in the NT (and strangely silent on any pastors of any NT church making a strong decision or even saying anything publicly that is recorded in Scripture, James maybe here), I would say that the replacing of the pastor is exactly when they would have the ultimate decision making power.
My observation here is the following: if the church votes a straight majority, then it is a popularity contest, and the most humble man (2-5 candidates) will be excluded because their humility will make them soft spoken, and people won’t get to know them, and the typical church congregation will ignore them. The top 3 charismatic, dynmaic, professional public speakers-type wolves will be those that end up in the final ballot for voting.
The point being, God’s workers must be spiritually evaluated and decided on. I would almost go with a pastor from a neighboring church to decide before making a circus out of the thing by popularity voting. Rarely, well, never, have I seen a candidate committee actually sit the candidate’s wife down and talk with her alone, and him alone and them the two of them together and then in the home setting to try and discern how well of a husband and father the man is. Simply too personal. Somebody probably should tell God to take those requirements out of the Bible. (Actually no, God orders us to investigate and restrict ministers in these areas, and because we CANNOT DO THE DIFFICULT, we get pedofile pastors and ministers. Go think!)
Therefore, IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT A FEW VERY SPIRITUAL MEN FROM THE CHURCH FILTER OUT THE CANDIDATES (these men should be the candidate committee). It is completely wrong, but here the majority of the churches go with the old “good ole boy” system instead of seeking God’s guidance. By this I mean, a few will hijack the candidate committee, and put in graduates from their favorite Christian University, assuming that they will “go along with what these people think and do”.
It is sad to say, but many churches will not be able to muster 3-4 godly, discerning men out of their group, even if they have several hundred members on a Sunday AM. There are reasons for this. First of all, a wolf will always run those kinds of men off unless they are very rich and generous, but if they endanger the wolf’s position, power, or gaining advantage, the wolf will run him off.
Secondly, a normal US typical pastor seems to be clueless about what his job is. Most seem to have “gone down the rabbit hole” (Alice in Wonderland), and they are off chasing rabbits instead of doing the work. These would be men who have misplaced the priorities, and instead of God’s work in the church first, other ministries under that, they place these other ministries on top of all the priorities, and short change God’s work. Typically a Christian school is an example of this. While the school occupies the pastor’s time, energy, and attention, his church barely gets anything except the skampiest of attention. While things can “hold together” normally, when the pastor is not there, this lack of godly men in the church becomes accute, while the church is full of Christian school teachers and people serving the school wonderfully, but are likewise clueless about what is important in the church.
Thirdly, some denominational groups and weird churches are out there. These people likewise have gone down the rabbit hole, but a different one. They pick a hobby horse to ride (KJV only, prophecy, conspiracy theories, etc) and they ride them to the exclusion of normal, good, balancing doctrine. What good does knowing all the ins-and-outs of prophecy if you do not know basic doctrine? Note that the former pastor 1.) did not teach all the counsel of God, and 2.) did not let other men of God come to help him round out what he was weak on.
The problem here is that what problems the church has had has a tendency to reproduce itself, and the church will look for a new pastor “better than the last” but with all the quirks, foibles, and non-sense as their last pastor. They tend to focus on not repeating some things (probably right in that), but repeating the spiritual foolishness and lack of spiritual insight of their last pastor.
So a church with a bad pastor, probably will end up with another one just like him. A church with a good pastor will probably find a good man of God with discernment and continue on. Remember, you only deserve what you deserve. If you didn’t fight the windmills with the first pastor, a new man will not change anything most of the time. Barb’s article basicly says the same thing.
Allowed to Remain
In Barb’s article, she calls attention to another issue, that of whether or not the pre-entry filtering process worked or was worked, later on, the bad or good pastor as it may be, TURNS BAD. This happens. The filtering process is supposed to keep this from happening by preventing certain types of people from the ministry.
Anyway, what happens when a good man goes bad. First of all, the common reaction is loyalty to your pastor. Both wolves and good pastors teach loyalty to themselves and their church. What I commonly see is this attitude: “It is better to not say anything, let it pass without comment, because a public venting of this will hurt the work of God.” Let me say that first of all, when a pastor abuses a member in his confidence to protect, the work of God has already been hurt. The criticism of the unsaved complaining about the hypocrisy of the church is the least of our worries. The damage done to those abused, and to other Christians knowing about the hypocrisy is grave. There is only one remedy for this, public confession in the ring or circle of the damage done, and abandonment and repentance of that sin. That is in the case of the individual, the pastor.
But many churches will overlook anything their beloved leader does (just about) and want him to continue on with his ministry. At this point, the ability that the man has to preach, teach, lead, is null. It doesn’t matter. He has disqualified himself, so he should find another line of work outside of the ministry or religion altogether. If the disqualifying was sexual in nature, then he should also exclude any work that would allow him to abuse again. A pedofile pastor that steps down to teach P.E. in a middle school is just so obviously wrong why do people even think this is acceptable?
I would here also note that there are certain elements that most pastors are too feeble and fearful to preach on. Basically, when a person SHOULD LEAVE HIS CHURCH, the conditions and causes, his attitude, and how to exit “gracefully” without ignoring the problems (i.e. what is his responsibility before God as far as the church he is leaving). When have you heard a sermon on that type of thing? Never!
See my tracts
ch43 Time to leave your church?
ch16 Example of the man of God
ch19 Marks of a False Prophet
ch26 “Don’t touch the anointed of God”
ch38 Recognizing a good pastor
ch41 The marks of a bad minister
ch42 Destitution of Pastor
ch45 Grading a Bible Teacher
ch49 The Biblical Pastor: The Biblical Duty of Pastor
ch51 Cowboys versus Shepherds
The fault of not teaching clearly, forcefully, and sincerely on these topics causes the church to be blind as far as false prophets, and good men going bad. Secondly, the lack of even mentioning these things, much less giving your people the authority, right, and God ordained duty to see to them if necessary makes the pastor unhuman, divine, and never to be crossed. I am a pastor, and I have preached all of those tracts (more than once most of them) in my church. They are printed and on public display for anybody to pick up and read.
The point is that when a good man goes bad, somebody has to step in and get him straightened out or removed. This would seem to be most obviously the duty of the elders, but most churches do not have elders, or if they do, they are yes men to the pastor. Deacons equally are usually selected with the single requirement that they have to be yes men to the pastor. So the duty would fall to a few spiritual in the congregation, and without support, mostly that will not happen. The person challenging the leadership usually has his own spiritual pride issues, so that doesn’t work either.
Again, a healthy spiritual church is one where the pastor is not the center of everything, the center of power and praise. He MUST PUSH OTHER SPIRITUAL MEN INTO THE LIMELIGHT OR HE WILL BECOME A FOCUS OF EXALTATION AND PRIDE. Just try this once and you will see what I am talking about. Announce a month ahead of time in every service, that on such and such a Sunday, the pastor will be on vacation, and brother so-and-so will preach in his place. Most of the time, the attendance falls drastically if the people know the pastor will not be there. Why? Is their obligation to worship God lessen any by the absence of the pastor? No. So why? Because the people come to hear the pastor, not one of their own. They are into “angel worship” or messenger worship, and there are serious problems there.
“The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way.” Jeremiah 5:31-32
The problem with these kinds of pastors is that they are twisting and turning the truth, preaching what helps them maintain their control and worship and adulation of themselves. They are not teaching the word of God, the whole counsel of God. I am a pastor myself. I do not like people to oppose what I suggest. (I try to limit what I impose, and also limit what I suggest.) But there needs