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Charisma News posted this great article on the subject of spiritual abuse by Jennifer LeClaire. The abuse issue is very,very real in the church today. For that reason, it has been our custom to make “guarding against spiritual abuse” a matter of primary importance by including the subject in our new members classes.
I have also personally encounted a number of these wolfish practices just since returning to Lagrange. With that in mind, here are some extracts from the Charisma article they posted this week.
Also, please consider checking out the other related articles we’ve posted in the past.
Whenever you see these traits, may I suggest that you not ignore the signs. In fact, flee for your lives saints!
>Power-posturing is a telltale sign of spiritual abuse.
Power-posturing leaders spend a lot of time focused on their own authority and reminding others of it. Johnson and VanVonderen say this is necessary because their spiritual authority isn’t real—based on genuine godly character—it is postured….This leader can never be questioned, and is usually not accountable to anyone. Those around him are usually mere “yes men” who do his bidding in exchange for delegated authority to lord over others.
>Performance preoccupation is a sign of spiritual abuse.
Johnson and VanVonderen note that obedience and submission are two important words often used in abusive church structures. Don’t get me wrong. Obedience and submission are important. But spiritual abuse often shames or scares people into obedience and submission. True obedience is a matter of the heart. Spiritual abusers apply undue pressure that is not from God. That pressure is usually applied to get you to do the leader’s will, not God’s will.
>Unspoken rules are common in instances of spiritual abuse.
In abusive spiritual systems, Johnson and VanVonderen offer….. “Unspoken rules are those that govern unhealthy churches of families but are not said out loud. Because they are not said out loud, you don’t find out that they’re there until you break them,”
>The “Can’t Talk” rule is seen where spiritual abuse is present.
Johnson and VanVonderen explain that the “can’t talk” rule blames the person who talks, and the ensuing punishments pressure questioners into silence. If you voice a problem you become the problem. If you question why the church no longer picks up the poor kids in the ministry van but has shifted its focus to more affluent neighborhoods, you are removed from your role as a volunteer driver. Others see your fate and decide they’d better not rock the boat.
>Lack of balance and extremism is often present where spiritual abuse lives.
This manifests as an unbalanced approach to living out the truth of the Christian life. Johnson and VanVonderen explain that in these systems it is more important to act according to the word of a leader who has “a word” for you than to act according to what you know to be true from Scripture, or simply from your spiritual-growth history.