Read the following words from the prophet Jeremiah …

"What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people — the shepherds of my sheep — for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for," says the Lord. Therefore, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to these shepherds: "Instead of caring for my flock and leading them to safety, you have deserted them and driven them to destruction. Now I will pour out judgment on you for the evil you have done to them. But I will gather together the remnant of my flock from the countries where I have driven them. I will bring them back to their own sheepfold, and they will be fruitful and increase in number. Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord have spoken! [Jeremiah 23:1-4. NLT]

What a sobering message this is for church leaders today. God entrusts leaders with the responsibility to lead, feed, guide, and care for his people. When leaders fail to do so or lead in destructive and/or abusive ways, God is extremely angry.

How do you know if your church or group is a safe place?

Click here and take a quick survey from a web site dedicated to helping victims of spiritual abuse.

How did your church rate?

More on spiritual abuse tomorrow …

6 thoughts on “Spiritual Abuse (Pt.1)

  1. Thanks for taking the time to post on this Mark.
    I have always believed that whilst Spiritual Leaders are human and prone to failure – they still should strive to be ábove reproach.
    In a sense, people are often at their most vulnerable. They place trust in Spiritual Leaders when they join a Church and ‘hand their heart over to Jesus’. They often come to Church at a vulnerable time in their life.
    Accordingly, Spiritual Leaders are in a unique position – and can nurture people with open wounds, or alterantively can manipulate people for power, relational advantage and/or for financial gain.
    If major Contemporary Churches in this country were bone-fide then answers to questions regarding finacials, would be forthcoming.
    The article in the Business Review Weekly (June 2005) was handled extremely poorly by the named Churches named in the article.
    Refer: http://www.rickross.com/reference/hillsong/hillsong10.html
    I recall waiting for a response on one Senior Pastors blog (not yours) when the article first appeared.
    One person plucked up the courage to post a question asking for it to be discussed – and very soon after, a person with an alias ‘moneybags’appeared and quashed any discussion – directing any enquiries to Hillsong’s General Manager (ie. another Church). There was no further discussion on the matter.
    Any requests for information or clarification have been refused – and I say this respectfully, it is little wonder that the newtorked Contemporary Church have come under a barrage of fire from the media, politicians and thinking Christians alike in recent years. BRW also ran a follow-up article and large Auistralian Churches refused to provide them with financials … In my opinion, if a Church recieves the priveledge of receiveing tax concessions and other benefits, then they are not only accountable to their members – but also to the tax paying community in which the operate … especially when these Spiritual Leaders are ‘living very well” thank you.
    I believe that there is some really great things about the Contemporary Churches – Kid’s Ministries, the people, the music, communication, syle, social stuff … but things need to change.
    I have no idea as to why large Contemporay Churches cannot become ‘lighthouses’ of integrity, transparency and – teaching and exegeting the scriptures with complete integrity. Detailed financial statements for all realted entities should be provided every year to all members and anyone who asks.
    If you cannot trust a religious leaders with temporal and earthly things such as money – how can you trust them with spiritual and eternal things…?
    As much diligence needs to be applied in the Contemporary Churches to protect against financial abuse – as it is to protect Children in Childrens ministries from other forms of abuse.
    If the Contemporary Churches self regulate – the only cousre of action will be for the Government to step in an regualate Churches.

  2. Hi Lionfish,
    Just a question… Who do you class as a contemporary church? Is City Life included? If so, I have you know that CityLife Church has the highest integrity, transparency and is actually a ‘lighthouses’ for Jesus. All their accounts are made public to the members, so everything is above board. I know that as a fact for I used to attend until I moved. I have nothing but the highest respect for the leaders at City Life. Government regulating Churches is NOT a wise idea. That becomes open to control and could escalate to other things such as abuse of the people’s rights to worship God. Just look at China’s regulated church! Shalom
    Ps. Please take the 30 minutes needed to watch this amazing look at the underground church in China. Grab the tissues and click on the link below:

  3. Hey Lionfish,
    A few observations about Citylife:
    1. They have an annual AGM with the business manager giving a full report on all financials. Everyone is invited. In fact they beg people to come(!) There are several reports, financial documentation and spreadsheets are provided, and then the floor is opened to any, and I mean any questions.
    2. There are no “exports” from Clife as far as i know? Other than church plants. May there be many more of those. O, there’s books of the previous minister. How dare he write theological books and make them available!
    3. They have annual audits (external).
    4. Their mission and community outreach is extensive – with board and complete financial accountability. From observation these ministries run at a high cost to the church, but will not be sacrificed for other purposes or pursuit.
    From personal experience I am aware of very dodgy financial practices of smaller churches that never come under scrutiny.
    So, yes, financial accountability and transparency is of utmost importance, but do not place the practices of some under the banner of “all contemporary churches”.
    And, Mark, on this post of “Spiritual Abuse” – great thoughts, and so helpful for the many who are on the journey of recovery.

  4. Hi Marija,
    I have been impressed with CityLife through Mark’s approach and my interactions with Nicole. They appear do be operating openly and not avoiding any issues. That is refreshing.
    Contemporary Church: Generally a Church with an ensemble of charactersitics – independent governance, focus on modern worship music, seeker sensitive services, striving for ‘relevance’, abandonment of creeds, liturgy, and traditionalism, lots of books and conferences – pastors with wax in hair and untucked shirts etc.

  5. Hi Lionfish,
    Glad you approve of City Life. Too bad there isn’t one near you, then you could experience it first hand. 🙂 Maybe one day you’ll be blessed by one close to you, in the future, if Jesus does not come back before then. 🙂
    The LORD does not look at your creeds, liturgy, and traditionalism, nor if or not you have lots of books or lack of them, or how many conferences one has – nor is He concerned about pastors with wax in their hair(or if they HAVE hair! 🙂 nor untucked shirts (or PINK shirts and GREEN ties for that matter), etc.
    1 Samuel 16:7b says “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
    Col. 2:8 says, Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the TRADITIONS of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
    Outward appearances are irrelevant to God. Man’s character and what’s on the inside is what counts. The condition of a man’s heart is more important to God. Clothes do not make the man either. Just consider what a man in Africa wears! Does that make a difference to a man’s faith by what clothes he wears? We should be humbly aware of our appearance rather than acting to conform to the world’s standards. God judges our hearts, not our physical appearances. We are to clothe ourselves with humility in Christ, with His love.
    1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
    The Christian life is supposed to be one of death to self in order to live a life by faith. Paul told the Galatians in chapter 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”
    Ephesians 1:18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.
    Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
    Ephesians 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
    Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called—
    Ephesians 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
    Ephesians 4:6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
    Ephesians 4:22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
    Shalom my new friend… Have a nice day.

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