7 Habits of Highly Abusive Churches

From an article by Patrick Zukeran, drawing on a book by Dr Ronald Enroth, ‘Churches that Abuse’.

Distinguishing marks of abusive churches:

First, abusive churches have a control-oriented style of leadership. Second, the leaders of such churches often use manipulation to gain complete submission from their members. Third, there is a rigid, legalistic lifestyle involving numerous requirements and minute details for daily life. Fourth, these churches tend to change their names often, especially once they are exposed by the media. Fifth, denouncing other churches is common because they see themselves as superior to all other churches. Sixth, these churches have a persecution complex and view themselves as being persecuted by the world, the media, and other Christian churches. Seventh, abusive churches specifically target young adults between eighteen and twenty-five years of age. The eighth and final mark of abusive churches is the great difficulty members have in getting out of or leaving these churches, a process often marked by social, psychological, or emotional pain.

He expands further on the concept of controlling leadership:

A central feature of an abusive church is control-oriented leadership. The leader in an abusive church is dogmatic, self- confident, arrogant, and the spiritual focal point in the lives of his followers. The leader assumes he is more spiritually in tune with God than anyone else. He claims insight into Scripture that no one else has. Or, he may state that he receives personal revelations from God. Because of such claims, the leader’s position and beliefs cannot be questioned; his statements are final. To members of this type of church or group, questioning the leader is the equivalent of questioning God. Although the leader may not come out and state this fact, this attitude is clearly seen by the treatment of those who dare to question or challenge the leader. The leader of the movement often makes personal decisions for his followers. Individual thinking is prohibited; thus the followers become dependent on the leader. In the hierarchy of such a church, the leader is, or tends to be, accountable to no one. Even if there is an elder board, it is usually made up of men who are loyal to, and will never disagree with, the leader. This style of leadership is not one endorsed in the Bible.

According to Scripture all believers have equal access to God and are equal before Him because we are made in His image, and we are all under the authority of the Word of God. In 1 Thessalonians 5:21 believers are directed to measure all teachings against the Word of God. Acts 17:11 states that even the apostle Paul was under the authority of the Bible, and the Bereans were commended because they tested Paul’s teachings with the Scriptures. Leaders and laity alike are to live according to Scripture.

Read entire article

Although only some churches go to cult-like abusive extremes, it’s worth being aware of these characteristics, and what they can lead to. No Christian should feel they have to subject themselves to these forms of treatment.


50 thoughts on “7 Habits of Highly Abusive Churches

  1. Another good post here. Spiritually abusive churches/leadership is far more common than I think most good Christian folk would care to admit.

    I don’t think anyone wakes up one morning and decides to become involved in a spiritually abusive church though… Obviously it’s more a case of the “cult” looking and feeling like a very normal place but once the adherant becomes involved, the drip-feed of brainwashing begins and the subtle control can then take effect, often without the person even realising what is happening. Relationships formed in said spiritual environ often then become a further extension of the control and the leaders influence and teaching.

    I like the phrase in the article above “…the leader in an abusive church is… the spiritual focal point in the lives of his followers…”
    If pastor so and so said it, it must be true is the train of thought here! Having a discussion on tithing with a CCC member, the phrase that ended the debate was “pastor phil says we should tithe so that’s good enough for me”
    Critical thinking skills are frowned upon, “touch not the Lord’s anointed” is thrown about and peo[ple who do have the balls to say something are blacklisted or withdrawn from or excommunicated.

  2. Bill says: “Critical thinking skills are frowned upon”

    Being spritual is also frowned upon. It has been preached in my CCC church that if your pastor tells you to do something but you believe that God is telling you to do something else then you do what your pastor says over what God says because if you disobey God in this way God will bless you by maintaining an open heaven above you which brings immense psycological and physical blessing.

    So I have to disobey God to get blessing in this world. Does this sound “anti-christ” to anyone?

  3. Yes Heretic, I have first hand experience with that rationale as well. Just don’t attempt to define what constitutes an “open heaven” from a biblical N.T perspective with your C.C.C pastor though as that is probably where things will go pear shaped.

    There really is very little difference between the church establishment of today and the ruling religious class of Christ’s day… Both despise being called to account, made to answer hard questions and most of all, won’t tolerate people who are prepared to speak up.

  4. Do you currently attend any local church, Bill? It makes a difference to the way I would address you on this.

    I wonder about the scriptures which do talk about submission in the context of all being equal. I mean, I totally agree that, before God, we are all loved the same and cared for the same, have equal access to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, etc, and God is does not prefer one person over another.

    However, God has clearly given some the rule, or headship, over others.

    For instance, he permits the husband to have headship under Christ in a family unit. He designates leadership of parents over children. He tells wives to submit to husbands, and husbands to love their wives, and compares this to Christ and the Church. Sela!!!

    He tells servants to obey their masters. Wouldn’t this equate to employees being submitted to employers? We are admonished to be submitted to governing authorities, whether they are kind to us or not.

    We are told to be obedient to those who have the rule over us.

  5. FaceLift says: “However, God has clearly given some the rule, or headship, over others.”

    Are you referring to within the church or without?

  6. “Do you currently attend any local church, Bill? It makes a difference to the way I would address you on this.”

    FaceLift, do you share the views we’ve heard expressed by many church leaders that if someone does not attend an organised, ‘institutional’ church, they are not in submission and therefore their views carry no weight? That argument is frequently used to dismiss the views of those who don’t attend a church on churches, even if those people have attended a church for many years in the past.

    Do you recognise an organised house church system as a valid church or regular gathering?

    Would you consider fellowship among Christian friends – a gathering that is not part of an organised house church system – a church or gathering?

    Do you feel that a gathering of any sort needs to have any sort of ‘covering’ to be regarded as a valid regular fellowship?

    Just asking these questions now, in response to your post to Bill, as these are issues I hope to explore further at some stage in this blog.

  7. “Being spritual is also frowned upon. It has been preached in my CCC church that if your pastor tells you to do something but you believe that God is telling you to do something else then you do what your pastor says over what God says because if you disobey God in this way God will bless you by maintaining an open heaven above you which brings immense psycological and physical blessing.”

    I’ve heard that from three churches in Northern Sydney, one including CCC and another including a Hillsong-wannabe church. The third was actually a cult, known by the infamous movement in America, ‘Oneness Pentecostalism’, ‘Unitarianism’ or the ‘Jesus Only Movement’. This movement also loves pumping it’s members with Ray Comfort and John Bevere DVD’s specifically ‘Relating to Authority’ and ‘Hell’s Best Kept Secret’ .
    I do not recommend ‘Hells Best Kept Secret’, to anyone.

    BTW. I think it’s from John Bevere, the term ‘being planted in a church’ came from.
    That saying is unscriptural.

  8. Facelift – hi there. Sorry to disappoint you but I attend no religious man-made organisation. I am a part of the church of Jesus Christ, it has no physical walls and there is no physical meeting place. “Where 2 or more gather together” is about as numerically significant as it’s get’s for me and just as Christ said, he is here in our midst when we do so. I do also fellowship online thru email with like-minded believers.

    Fellowship from a scriptural perspective involves “walking in the light” –

    1 John 1:7 “…But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin…”

    I have been in church life long enough to know that 99.9% of what goes on has very little to do with “walking in the light” and VERY much to do with building upon a foundation of sand and stroking the ego church pastors and leadership.
    FYI I really have little interest in dialoging with you Facelift, sorry but this is about as much as I’ll get into with you.

  9. Leadership is the issue in the modern day church.
    We need to respect it as one of the gifts of the holy spirit.
    It’s office is equal with the prophet, apostle, teacher and pastor, evangelist and healer.
    Since everyone in the body of Christ has some ground in each category, all need to respect everyone’s unique giftings.

    To exalt leadership is to belittle the other gifts in the body of Christ, and in doing so limits God to move through His assembly when they come together. As the exalted office tightens it’s grip on the congregation, it limits the giftings that the Holy Spirit has given to others.
    (The Apostle Paul talks about how the eye cant tell the arm to be an eye.)

    This just doesn’t apply to leadership but whenever in any church scene where a church exalts an office above others giftings or offices.

    When the church exalts the prophetic office, leadership and morality tend to leave.
    When the church exalts the evangelical office, the above seem to be the other offices that are affected again.
    When the church exalts the leadership office, the prophetic and healing gifts are stifled.
    When the church exalts the educational office, the above gifts can be stifled if teachings become more carnal driven. If teachings are more spiritual driven, the pastoral, leadership giftings can be stifled.

    You get the idea. Each gift supports the other gift in the body of Christ.
    If the church didn’t have such diversity of giftings, it would be swinging from religion to religion, cult to cult, spirit to spirit, emotion to emotion, man to man, business to business, success to success, war to war, confusion to confusion.

    These churches exalt the office of leadership to such an extreme that as a result the majority of the other giftings suffer.
    Lest we forget.

  10. Facelift – I have observed your posts on SP2 and SP02….
    I do not know if you realise it or not, but to some – you are offensive and foolish (do not even try to quote 1 cor 2).
    The assumption that just because a man has married ‘you’ (“under christ”) – the thinking that this gives him the authority over you is condescending and deficient in human sensibility …
    “Sela”…ha! You celebrate this demonic chain of leadership and responsibility that is mandated rather than naturally grown? I suspect that you are in the midst of this evangelical/pentecostal slough – i pray that you escape this controlling and limited mindset that is strangling your thinking…
    I pray that you do not continue living within a safe and superficial system that claims to satisfy your social, aspirational and spiritual needs – that you would begin to think as a humble global citizen, rather than as a blinkered lower-middle-class (aspiring to the upper-middle classes) pseudo-tertiary level commentator

    Selah

  11. specksandplanks, what you said about the different bias in churches is spot on, that is so true in my experience. especially the leadership bias quashing the prophetic and healing, Great observation. I wonder if churches who are weighted in different areas balance each other when they are in contact or fraternity.

  12. FL raised the issue of wives submitting to husbands, and walk-thru-walls commented on it… we haven’t discussed this issue here yet. But I’d just add that to me, unity seems to be a key scriptural principle, and genuine unity, whether in marriage or in a gathering of believers, does not occur through domination of some by others, or by anyone claiming their ‘right’ to have things done their way.

  13. walk_thro_walls,
    You second guess what I meant by ‘sela’, an completely miss what I think. If a husband is to be like Christ is to the Church, he will first of all love his wife, and give himself up for her, which deals with the question of who or what a wife is to submit herself to. I said nothing about a wife submitting herself to a man regardless of his conduct towards her. However, you could read 1 Peter 3, which gives the attitude of both husband and wife, including the conduct of a saved wife towards her unsaved husband.

    The point is that there are levels of submission in the NT. I merely pointed a few out. I have scripture for everything. If it offends you then either discuss relevant points with me, prove me wrong, and I’ll repent, and be grateful to you, or see what I am saying and, if necessary, repent yourself. But at least tell me where I offend you.

    I’m not bothered if what I say here is offensive or foolish to anyone. And I will quote what ever scripture I think is appropriate. RP is the only one here with the power to moderate that!!!

    My only aspiration is to please God. I ignored your ‘sela’ as it is not worth thinking about, being wrong!
    _________________________________________________

    RP,
    There is certainly leadership defined in the NT. If a person is outside God’s structure for the Church they are one of the lost sheep Jesus told Pastors to leave the 99 to rescue.

    There is too much on this subject in the NT for any God fearing Christian to miss.

    Being offended by some inept or wrong-thinking Pastor isn’t evidence that there is no leadership structure designated by Christ as the Head of the Church.

    For instance, both Jesus and Paul wrote to Churches in entire cities or communities. He spoke to their Overseers and conveyed messages through them to the whole assembly. The Apostles in Jerusalem were definitely regarded as the oversight of the city, and their words and doctrine were put into action across the whole city, an eventually out into he nations.

    We are all on the same level as far as entry into heaven and salvation, love, etc, but saying we’re all on the same level in terms of leadership and authority in the earth, as we are trained and equipped for service in the kingdom is a mistake. There are definitely leaders appointed ot train and equip e saints or the wrk of the ministry. We are definitely told to not neglect assembling together.

  14. OK, Bill, you don;t want to talk to me. Fine, but I’ll talk to you anytime.

    I guessed that you were not attending a church. That’s your prerogative. I’ll put something to you though.

    Jesus commanded all believers to preach the gospel to all unsaved people. He gave us the great commission to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations – ethnic groups, tribes, tongues etc.

    he didn’t leave it there. he commanded us to baptise them i e name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to teach them to observe all he taught his disciples, then their disciples, etc, right up o us, who are still his disciples, raised by his disciples.

    So now you have left your curch, and are on your own, with few Christian friends you meet with occasionally, and consider this to be representative of Biblical Church life.

    So how do you obey Christ’s command to preach the gospel, help people receive Christ, make them into disciples, baptise them and to teach them in the same commission?

    How do you do is without gathering a group?

    How do you look after that group without training them to do the same – preach, help people receive Christ, baptise them, disciple them and teach them to do the same – preach, help people receive Christ, baptise them, disciple them and teach them to do the same, etc, etc?

    So, what, you abandon them once they have asked Christ into their lives? Shove them out to fend for themselves?

    You tell them to take care of themselves without being discipled, looked after, cared for, trained, taught to win others, make disciples, and nurture and care for them? I think you are opposed to this kind of abortive contempt for new souls. I think you understand the responsibility of nurturing new believers. I think you grasp the concept of adding daily, or even multiplying the Church.

    So your group, if you obey Christ’s commands, and it follows Christ’s pattern for the Church, would have to grow, and continue to grow, whether slowly or quickly, and along with this would ultimately come the responsibilities of pastoral leadership and guidance.

    You know where I’m going with this don’t you?

    You don’t have to answer. I’ll understand.

  15. Quite base again there FL…
    You have missed the point – You are offensive. Several of your statements in your reply drip with the arrogant judgmental tone of which I am speaking.

    Can you support your rude attitude with scripture? (Yes, I know Jesus got cranky in the face of capitalistic sin and fecklessness; and Peter and Paul were moody – but this does not mean P&Ps’ characters are condoned by scripture). Being able to back up what you say “with scripture” becomes quite irrelevant when you are acting in a bloody-minded way.

    My point is (now, try not to allow yourself to get distracted by some tenuous link that you can make to a scripture or issue while missing the actual substance of what is being said to you):

    From the posts I have seen from you on this blog, what you say on many issues may well and truly have merit – however any truth that you may speak (type) is extinguished by the bushel of your tone, attitude, pettiness and rudeness.

    I have just jotted down a list of 7 “typical” responses that I would expect from a dyed-in-the-wool-hierarchical-Levitical like yourself…Let’s see…

  16. Walk_thro_walls,

    I think you suffer from the same thing you claim I do, frankly.

    You’ve failed to address any point I have made in regard to hierarchy or submission, and have, instead focused on the irrelevant.

    I had a recent discussion with Russell Earl Kelly, where he was extreemly arrogant and sharp with me, to the point of being dismissive and rude, but I guess that’s just the way he is. The point is that we got through to an interesting discussion. I don’t see where his rudeness, which was pointed out by others, interrupted the clarity of the points he made, even if I did disagree with some of them.

    Yes, I can be brusque, but I’ve also copped a fair few blows on S1, S2 and S02. You’re not being so soft yourself.

    You actually answered your own question or me, by pointing out when Jesus, Peter and Paul had a tendency to use what we would term sarcasm, and the odd sharp saying to get a point across. Thanks! (Oh, sorry, that’s arrogant isn’t it!)

    Now, what are your arguments for or against submission or hierarchy in the Church?

  17. w_t_w, to Facelift,
    ‘You celebrate this demonic chain of leadership and responsibility that is mandated rather than naturally grown? I suspect that you are in the midst of this evangelical/pentecostal slough – i pray that you escape this controlling and limited mindset that is strangling your thinking…
    I pray that you do not continue living within a safe and superficial system that claims to satisfy your social, aspirational and spiritual needs – that you would begin to think as a humble global citizen, rather than as a blinkered lower-middle-class (aspiring to the upper-middle classes) pseudo-tertiary level commentator’

    Maybe you could work on this as an example for me of how to ‘tone-down’ rudeness!

  18. Facelift, the problem with discipling in a lot of charismatic churches is that we are trying to get “goats” to act like “sheep”. The gospel is so watered down, perhaps not in your church, that there are many false converts.

  19. By the way, I come from the UK lower socio-economic lower-working classes, where I was very, very content until I was thrust into the middle class mire by winning a scholarship. From then on it was all downhill until I was found by Christ. I was insulted for speaking like the toffs and being ‘edumacated’ by my streetmates, and looked down upon for dressing like and living amongst the estate kids. I was pilloried on the street and at school for being different, even though I wasn’t. I was also small and skinny until I was 16 and suddenly grew to 6 foot, when, strangely all the bullying stopped, so I was physically manhandled by a variety of thumpers who were out to prove they had power over someone, even if it was someone smaller and weaker physically. I learned to use my tongue and wit as a defence. Don’t feel sorry for me. It made me a better person once I was found by Christ. But I am straightforward with my language.

    As I said, my aspiration is Christ, not class. I live and work with people many wouldn’t have the time of day for. I love people, all people, from anywhere and any human made ‘level’ or ‘class’.

    I don’t have much patience for people who claim to be Christian and yet have disdain, and are rude and offensive towards the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and leaders he has appointed. I don’t mind critics or criticism, but sometimes they are plainly against anything and everything the Church in Australia stands for, and especially, it seems from where I’m standing, the Pentecostal Church and its leadership. I will stand up for those I think are falsely accused or badly represented.

    None of us is perfect. None of us gets it all right. None of us has it all together.

  20. FL says:
    “There is certainly leadership defined in the NT. If a person is outside God’s structure for the Church they are one of the lost sheep Jesus told Pastors to leave the 99 to rescue.”

    Please back that statement up scripturally. That sounds like cherry picking.

    FL says:
    “There is too much on this subject in the NT for any God fearing Christian to miss.”

    Please also back that statement up scripturally.

    FL says:
    “Being offended by some inept or wrong-thinking Pastor isn’t evidence that there is no leadership structure designated by Christ as the Head of the Church.”

    Actually it’s perfect evidence that no man should be head of the church except Christ himself.

    FL says:
    “The Apostles in Jerusalem were definitely regarded as the oversight of the city, and their words and doctrine were put into action across the whole city, an eventually out into he nations.”

    Much to Apostle Paul’s resentment.

    Gal 2:6
    Moreover, [no new requirements were made] by those who were reputed to be something–though what was their individual position and whether they really were of importance or not makes no difference to me; God is not impressed with the positions that men hold and He is not partial and recognizes no external distinctions–those [I say] who were of repute imposed no new requirements upon me [had nothing to add to my Gospel, and from them I received no new suggestions].

    Another incredibly loose statement. The Romans conquered them! That’s how effective they were! Paul on the other hand… He preached the doctrines of Christ and His finished work. He preached his Gospel of the Uncircumcision while the hard-headed Jew continued preaching the Gospel of the Circumcision to their household, Israel. God gave them a time period to understand what Paul was talking about. They failed to change. They were saved, but still bound themselves to the house of Israel and not to gentiles.

    FL says:
    “We are all on the same level as far as entry into heaven and salvation, love, etc, but saying we’re all on the same level in terms of leadership and authority in the earth, as we are trained and equipped for service in the kingdom is a mistake. There are definitely leaders appointed to train and equip e saints or the wrk of the ministry. We are definitely told to not neglect assembling together.”

    I’ve learnt more and been more equipped and motivated by random members in the body of Christ then people in positions of authority. Some inspire me, but that is nothing compared to those random people in the Body of Christ who see me on a weekly basis.

    In the terms of assembling together, I’ve learnt just as much (if not more), from actually hanging out with God, rather than hearing the same message and magazine preachings from the pulpit.

  21. FaceLift Says:
    “So now you have left your curch, and are on your own, with few Christian friends you meet with occasionally, and consider this to be representative of Biblical Church life.

    So how do you obey Christ’s command to preach the gospel, help people receive Christ, make them into disciples, baptise them and to teach them in the same commission?”

    You really need to get a revelation of the church of Jesus Christ FaceLift. You talk about something that you do not know much about.

    FaceLift Says:
    “So, what, you abandon them once they have asked Christ into their lives? Shove them out to fend for themselves?
    You tell them to take care of themselves without being discipled, looked after, cared for, trained, taught to win others, make disciples, and nurture and care for them? I think you are opposed to this kind of abortive contempt for new souls. I think you understand the responsibility of nurturing new believers. I think you grasp the concept of adding daily, or even multiplying the Church.”

    That sounds like the Megachurch anyway. They give you a bible, pray with you and then don’t see the newly saved again until they are back-slidden. Not to mention that building or adding to the Church is not our job but Christ’s. We are not to make disciples under our leadership, but to make make disciples under our Lord Jesus Christ.

    FaceLift Says:
    “You know where I’m going with this don’t you?”

    Well since you don’t know what you are talking about, no. You’ve confused works with the works of the Holy Spirit. What you’ve just described is Bride of Christ, half in rags and the other half in glory; half in bondage, half in freedom.

    I hope you discover what the true church is all about. It’s an incredibly liberating experience when you discover it.

    FaceLift Says:
    I don’t have much patience for people who claim to be Christian and yet have disdain, and are rude and offensive towards the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and leaders he has appointed. I don’t mind critics or criticism, but sometimes they are plainly against anything and everything the Church in Australia stands for, and especially, it seems from where I’m standing, the Pentecostal Church and its leadership. I will stand up for those I think are falsely accused or badly represented.

    I wish you had the same attitude towards the wolves on staff that fleece the flocks of cash and bring down their whips of condemnation onto their bare skin, barking at them to work for them. I love the church with all my heart. I see what the wolves do and I get angry. I just wish I had the balls to speak out against them before them like Jesus did. They need to be exposed. They need to be accountable and they need to be dealt with. They do more harm to the body of Christ then (if you believe) what we are doing now. They bought division to begin with- we just failed to recognise the subtlety.

    But now that we know and are crying ‘wolf’ (hehe!), we are being rude and offensive?

    FaceLift Says:
    “None of us is perfect. None of us gets it all right. None of us has it all together.”
    And we should accept that humbly, rather then declare that the local church has got it wrong and that “WE ARE THE ONES WHO SHALL WIN THE WORLD FOR GOD!”. Pride has no room to declare such a statement. This is why I am against such moves as Hillsong and C3. They reek of pride and vain-glory and leave a wake of destruction and hopelessness to those that fell through their erronous ways and false doctrines.

  22. Clearly Jesus intended for his sheep to be in a flock, not outside it. A flock is a structure, it has leadership and is ordered. It is clearly defined.

    There is much scripture on leadership structures and appointments in the NT. You could run through your concordance and check ‘obey’ or ‘rule’ for a start. This will give you Hebrews 13:17, “Obey those who have the rule over you, and submit yourselves…” Check the Greek and see those words mean exactly what they say, and the context reveals exactly what he is saying here. There is no reason for anyone to mistake what Paul is saying.

    You mention Paul. He wrote that all things should be done decently and in order, and that there was an order in the Church – “God has set some in the Church – First apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues…” (1 Cor.12:28). Thee are many scriptures which talk about God’s pattern and order for the Church.

    You need to use the full context of scripture, not selective items.

    Gal. 2:6 is referring to ‘false brethren, crept in’, Judaisers, not the Apostles. Your doctrine is well up the creek there!

    You are saying Christ’s apostles were ‘false brethren crept in’! No, the apostles were appointed an anointed by Christ. The scattering in Jerusalem occurred because they were persecuted by the Jewish lawyers and headship, not because the apostles were in error!

    They were also told by Christ to go into all the world, but remained in Jerusalem, so God obviously allowed persecution so they were scattered, and the end result was the whole of Asia heard the gospel, and the ‘whole world was turned upside down’! Hardly a disaster!

    Paul was sent to the Gentiles, and Peter to the Jews. They were equally effective. The gospel was preached and the known world was reached.

    You may have learned heaps from the body of Christ apart from the leadership. I have too, But we are led by shepherds, not sheep. The are appointed anointed and called for the service of training and equipping us. That is God’s will. We should submit to God’s will.

    Your experiences with assembling with saints, negative though you claim them to be, in no way negate God’s will for us to continue to assemble. It’s not about what ‘you’ ‘learn’. It’s about how effective you are in working within the Body to reach the lost. I’s not about ‘hearing great messages which tickle your ears’. It’s about being equipped to serve.

  23. Correction. Verse 4 references ‘false brethren’. Verse six, the leadership in Jerusalem.

    But, surely here, Paul is revealing his apostleship, separation and call, not his disdain for leadership, or for the position of the apostles in Jerusalem, ‘who seem to be pillars’. He states that we are all equal before God. I have said this. But how then do you distinguish between eldership, oversight, rulership, apostleship and those who are being led? What is the point of appointing elders in every city if they are not there to help lead the flocks?

  24. Predictable FL….
    I totally agree with you – i am being verbally aggressive and making unfair judgments and using ego-driven condescending language…

    I am quite aware of it – I would deserve a rebuke within any community (let alone a Christian one) if I spoke to other members like this – I am matching your tone and style… nonetheless.

    Again – in case you missed it: “…but this does not mean P&Ps’ characters are condoned by scripture…”(- neither is your behaviour) Thank you for qualifying my assertion that you don’t quite read what is being put in front of you.

    Watch me stop trying to be a prick now (I can stop. Can you? – another side issue – don’t you feel the “02” is less caustic and viscous than your old stomping ground? Why the need for rudeness?)

    I empathise with your experience – I worked in Bracknell and Kent with the estate “chavs” – it can be an oppressive environment where it really can be near fatal if you don’t gain acceptance and “respect”. What brought you to your decision to follow Christ? How did that balance with the acceptance issues on the estate?

  25. “Now, what are your arguments for or against submission or hierarchy in the Church?”

    Thanks for asking.

    In a nutshell:
    Submit to your leaders – fine… great. As you correctly say we all have to submit to a number of authorities. Society is based upon adhering to overt and covert Social Facts.

    But the extent of this submission is what i think is the key issue. Within a church meeting/gathering – submitting to your leaders (whatever the title) makes sense – there must be order and functions performed in any assembled body.

    When this submission begins to extend to how people spend their time, make decisions about the future, how they spend their money, who they associate with – this has the potential to become poisonous – especially when leaders start sprouting “curse verses” and “bumping members down” the lay-leadership ladder for simply trying to put reasonable limits on this submission.

    Where exactly this line of acceptable submission is – I’m not sure. I imagine there are many views…(I am aware of the multitude of bible verses – but what about actual tangible and practical limits).
    Thoughts?

  26. Well, in essence I would agree with you, w_t_w.

    I was brought up on Millbrook Estate in Guernsey. My parents were honest people, hard workers, good tenants and paid their rent on time, so we were eventually moved to a new estate where things improved. I had an experience with God at a Wesley Methodist Youth group, but they didn’t have altar calls, so I wasn’t really saved, but I had an encounter which impressed me. I left the Island and travelled, married and arrived in Australia to start again, receiving Christ one year later when an Anglican minister knocked on our door and led us through Romans Road.

  27. Talking of sheep and goats – don’t underestimate the flock. I just watched ‘Black Sheep’ (NZ film from 2006) tonight, with friends. 🙂

    Too tired to discuss things further tonight!

  28. FaceLift says: “Clearly Jesus intended for his sheep to be in a flock, not outside it. A flock is a structure, it has leadership and is ordered. It is clearly defined.”

    Sorry FL but this statement makes you sound like a moron which you clearly are not. A flock is a bunch of sheep. It has has no structure at all. A flock of sheep will follow a single wayward sheep which is why we in the church have to be careful and not follow random “leaders”.

    I suggest Jesus chose his metaphore carefully. Jesus is the Shepherd. There is no structure of command in a flock except that we follow Jesus’ voice.

    I am appalled that you could so convince yourself that a flock of sheep has a structure. The thought is so ludicrous it should make you question what other bizare fruit you are yielding.

    Say La-la.

  29. You have a low opinion of Pastors, Heretic. Also of Jesus’ teaching.

    He is the Good Shepherd. ‘Good’ Shepherd. He shows Pastors, undershepherds, how to shepherd his flock. He left the earth and appoints pastors.

    Why all them pastors? Because pastors take care of sheep on behalf of the Chief Shepherd. They are to imitate Christ and also be ‘good’ shepherds under him. They are called by Christ and are gifts to the Church from him, separated, anointed and appointed to tend the flocks of God.

    ”Pastor’ – ‘poimen’ – ‘a shepherd, one who tends herds or flocks’ (not merely on who feeds them) is used metaphorically of Christian ‘pastors’, Eph 4:11. ‘Pastors’ guide as a well as feed the flock; cf. Acts 20:28, which, with v. 17, indicates that this was the service committed to elders (overseers or bishops); so also in 1 Pet. 5:1-2, ‘tend the flock…exercising the oversight,’ RV; this involves tender care and vigilant superintendence [W E Vines}.’

    What are the qualities of the Good Shepherd.

    He knows his sheep by name. He counts them in and out of the sheep-fold. He guards them and protects them. He watches over them. He leads them. He uses his rod and staff to correct them, direct them, comfort them or rescue them. He leads them beside still waters. He guides them to green pastures. He steers them through times of darkness and even through the valley of the shadow of death to get them to safety and sustenance. He defends them against the lion and the bear and the wolf.

    He leaves the 99 in the safety of the fold to rescue the one lost, and bring them back into the fold once found. Finding and recovering a lost sheep in this way is cause for great celebration, since otherwise they might perish, being separated from the flock, fold and shepherd.

    Jesus saw people in Israel scattered and lost and compared them to sheep without a shepherd. He saw the need to gather them all to himself. He called his disciples his ‘little flock’, saying there were others, the nations, to be added. He told Peter to tend his flocks of sheep and lambs as a Pastor under him.

    Jesus is the great Lamb of God who gave himself over to slaughter for our souls.

    God calls his people the sheep of his pasture.

    ‘You were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls’ (1 Pet. 2:25).

    ‘The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away (1 Pet. 5:1-4).

    Paul, to the elders at Ephesus:
    ‘Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the Church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood’ Acts 20:28).

    To the sheep of the pasture:
    “Obey those who have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as those who must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you (Heb. 13:17).

    There is far more on this, including John 10, Ephesians 4, 1 Cor. 12, but, like you, I am appalled – that you didn’t understand the structure God has given for his own flock.

  30. Good dodging and weaving there FL! Again there is no structure in a flock and you have no response to that. You are correct though that 1 Pet. 5:1-4 is the core of the matter but wrongly you add your headship and rulership theology to it.

    Yes there are elders who are overseers but an overseer is someone who:

    1. Is an example to the flock v3 (that is, do what I do, not what I say)
    2. Warns of danger

    There is no “authority” here where someone has a “position” in the hierarchy and can tell others what to do.

    There is servanthood but no lordship.

    “There is far more on this, including John 10, Ephesians 4, 1 Cor. 12, but, like you, I am appalled – that you didn’t understand the structure God has given for his own flock.”

    Very weak FL:
    John 10: no structure within the flock mentioned
    Eph 4: talks of people who are ministry gifts to the church – no authority structure there sorry
    1 Cor 12: again no authority structure there at all

    You say “God has clearly given some the rule, or headship, over others”
    Do you have any clear scriptural basis for this? I think not. Adding your opinion to scriptures again I am starting to think.

  31. I see you’ve added the word ‘authority’ to structure, Heretic. Nice move! But not unnoticed.

    Jesus – Servant of all.

    Jesus – possessor of all authority in heaven and earth.

    Are you saying your body has no structure? Are you Heretic the Jellyman? Wobble, wobble, wobble!

    Now let’s experiment with your bodily functions. I know you don’t like to comply with instruction, but just humour me. Instruct your fingers to scratch your head. Marvellous. Wiggle your toes. Yes! You see, structure and intelligence. Order and form. Functionality and freedom. Leadership and followership.

    Christ is the head. We are the Body. We all have function. We all belong. We all have purpose. None is more important than the other. In fact the least often has a higher degree of importance at times. We are all submitted to one another. We all serve one another. We all have a purpose, or maybe more than one purpose. We build one another in the bond of love. We are gifted severally as the Holy Spirit will sand directs. We are an organised entity. We have form and function. We are structured for purpose on purpose. We are all set in the Body by God. he selects our purpose and instructs us in ho t be useful to the whole.

    But…

    Paul to Timothy:
    “I charge you therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.’

    Ah, this sounds rather like a charge to use the authority invested in a pastor or an Apostle, or certainly an elder in oversight.

    How will you reconcile the instruction to ‘obey those who have the rule over you’ if you don’t understand what the words ‘obey’, ‘rule’ and ‘over’ mean?

    At the very softest this means ‘Be persuaded by, listen to and obey those who are leadership guides over you’. ‘Peitho’ ‘be persuaded, listen to, obey’: ‘Hegeomai’ – ‘to lead, go before, to be a leader, to rule, command, to have authority over, a prince, of regal power, etc’.

    Ah, what the heaven! Why argue with you. You don’t want to see it because you don’t want to admit you might have to submit to someone under God’s authority who is called to be a Pastor to your life. I can’t help that.

    Sheep are ordered into flocks. Each flock has a shepherd, and undershepherds if they are large. God’s (not man’s) God’s authority is invested in the shepherd, who is also God’s servant to the flock, a keeper of the flock, protector of the flock, and a feeder of the flock.

    Baaaah!!!

  32. FL: “I see you’ve added the word ‘authority’ to structure, Heretic. Nice move! But not unnoticed.”

    FaceLift: Have your forgotten that our discussion is about this bollocks:
    A flock is a structure, it has leadership and is ordered. It is clearly defined.

    This discussion is about authority! Have you not noticed? If this is the kind of pathetic point scoring you sink to I am not sure it is worth reading the rest of your comment. I will consider that later.

    Se lah later.

  33. I have shown you structure, leadership and order. All in the last comment actually.

    Authority also, but you have to be convinced of structure, leadership and order first. Or do you think the body of Christ lacks structure, leadership or order? Jelly babies!

    Wobbly sheep!

    Baah! Baaah!

  34. OK, Heretic/heretic1, whoever, so there’s no order in the Church, no structure, no leadership.

    So how do we function? Or maybe we don’t. We just are!

  35. Facelift – In response to your post regarding my lack of oversight/authority:

    All I have to say is that there is a big difference between feeding the flock as a true biblical shephard and feasting upon the flock as a wolf in sheeps clothing- you catch my drift?
    I simply no longer allow wolves into my midst and will not break spiritual bread with those who have no interest in the truth of God’s word but who would rather pontificate on the doctrines of men – there is simply nothing to be gained by either party in this instance. The dead can bury their own dead, I’ll follow Christ thanks very much.

    Also, I happily pay my taxes, bills and invoices when they are received and submit myself to the laws of the land as long as they do not contradict the word of God. So yeah, I guess I’m a real anti-Christ, rebellious, hard-hearted, stiff-necked and backsliden Chrisitian for not attending an orthodox, tithe-paying, social and moral rights club that passes/goes under the guise of “church”

  36. Bill, I like the quote that Odyssee has recently added to the ‘Pastor says, Do as I say’ thread. The style of leadership described there is vastly different.

  37. Facelift, are you in a position of formal leadership in your Church? You dont have to answer if you dont choose to, but it would be more transparent if you did. Ie. people should declare their own interests in the discussion.

  38. I wasn’t being critical of your lack of oversight, as you put it, nor do I consider you an antichrist, Bill. I see your anger at certain leadership structures, and disagree with some of your ideas, but concede that there must be valid reasons for your offence at churches and pastors in general which have sent you, what appears to me (call me wrong if you like), outside the Church.

    OK, you say you’re not outside, but inside. You fellowship with other like-minded Christians. Fine. No problem.

    But it doesn’t compute with my understanding of what scripture says about the Church. Not that I think I’m right about it any more than you, so help me with this, but I can’t reconcile some of the instructions for believers with being outside the generally accepted church life, not assembling, not being part of a living entity which lives and works together under Christ as the local church, as part of the Body of Christ, the Church (this is why I address you differently, incidentally. It wasn’t intended as a put down, but an access point for dialogue).

    I wanted to know how it is possible to carry out the great commission from a standpoint of being outside the church and non-active. I don’t see how we can be obedient to Christ from the standpoint of being alone. We are commanded to preach the gospel, lead people to Christ, disciple them, baptise them, teach them to do the same, and help Christ gather people unto him. That is the Church.

    Even if we start it over again with new ideas based on the scripture, eventually we will have gathered others and responsibilities and leadership needs kick in. It is inevitable, unavoidable, totally necessary. God called us to build the Church with Christ. The building is souls.

    Not every church is abusive. Many are open and friendly. None is perfect. If they were, the moment we walk in we spoil it anyway.

    I’m trying to be nicer in my delivery!

  39. It’s been mentioned a few times that leadership brings order in the church.
    This statement is false. What brings order in the church is when everyone gets on by submitting to eachother.

    When one exalts themselves over another (like leadership), the church fellowship is in dis-order. Anyone can try to be responsible by bringing harmony to counter the dis-order in church. I have seen people who naturally have the gift of leadership who don’t exalt their office and it’s a beautiful thing to have in the body of Christ. They submit to the body, the body submits to them. They are treated like everyone else. They receive prayer like anyone else and are honest about their circumstances like everyone else. Just like everyone else, they make the church run.

    They are LIKE shepherds but they are not the shepherd. I think that is something important to stress. It’s a nice image to see someone being LIKE a shepherd in the body of Christ, but Christ is our Shepherd. Just like we are LIKE god but we are not God.

    So in the end Facelift their is no structure. But their is a natural, stable order in the body of Christ that makes all things work for His glory.

    I love signposts. I read everyone’s comments. Head off for the day and think, pray and meditate on what’s being said. I learn so much. Thanks RP for heading SP02 up! Love it!

  40. However Facelift, just like me (who is continuing to unlearn false pente-church-hood), you still sound really conditioned by church-hood and church mentallity.

    I encourage you to ‘step out of the boat’ and see if you converse with God one on one rather then going to church for a few Sundays. I think you’ll be surprised how much how God just wants to fellowship with you. Walk to the beach. Admire his creation. Sing or dance with a worship CD. Get in a space where you are open to hear from God. Let him teach you for a while what he wants to teach you. This is what Jesus did.

  41. FL i’m beginnig to see (from my pov) how the church of england view leadership compared to the penty model so often discussed here and it is in my view opposite. It’s more how can those leaders help you in your calling rather than how can I help those leaders with their calling. find it very liberating and leaves little room for abuse.

  42. Well, of course, I agree with the concept of leadership which demonstrates servanthood and humility, and a Shepherd who is one of the ‘blokes’ or one of he ‘gals’. Great. Fine. Marvellous.

    But you know that life isn’t quite as simple as you say. There are those who creep in unawares, or even grow up from within a group who are ravenous wolves, and whose job is it then to deal with such uprisings, because it is always the nature of a wolf to take a few sheep with him or her. that’s where the sheep has no authority, no rod, no staff, and often no awareness that the thing in the sheep’s clothing dripping with fresh blood is actually a wolf, and not one of them there sheep. And don’t say that I underestimate sheep. I don’t. How often has a wolf got in amongst the sheep completely undetected and caused havoc?

    The Biblical pattern, in fact, speaks of leaders making decisions which affect the growth and life of the church.

    Hence Paul rebuking the entire Corinthian church for allowing a man to remain in heir midst who was sleeping with his father’s wife, and ordering them to put him out until he repented. “You are puffed up, ad have not rather mourned, that he that has done this deed might be taken away from you”.

    And what right then has Paul to say, if we are all on the same level, that even though he was absent in body he was present in spirit to deliver this man’s body unto Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit might be saved in he day of the Lord Jesus?

    And you make the mistake of thinking that chuch should be run on consensus, or as a democracy.

    But often a church leader has to step out into the arena of fearlessness when all others would turn and run, to make decisions only a leader can make and a champion can take to lead the people into the places God wants to take them.

    “Alas for you lawyers and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces; you do not enter yourselves, and when others are entering, you stop them!”

    “Alas for you lawyers! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not go in yourselves, and those who were on their way in, you stopped.”

    Leaders have to go in so others can follow. Jesus did so, and taught others to follow. Shepherds lead the flocks of God. The key of knowledge is to enter in.

    A servant of all – yes.

    Humble – yes.

    One of the team – yes.

    With authority to make decisions when necessary – yes.

    With faith to go where others fear – yes.

    With God’s call and vision to lead – yes.

  43. speckandplanks,
    ‘I encourage you to ’step out of the boat’ and see if you converse with God one on one rather then going to church for a few Sundays. I think you’ll be surprised how much how God just wants to fellowship with you. Walk to the beach. Admire his creation. Sing or dance with a worship CD. Get in a space where you are open to hear from God. Let him teach you for a while what he wants to teach you. This is what Jesus did.’

    No he didn’t. He started the church, and is still building the church. He stepped out from time to time to hear from his Father what to do next, and how to dal with the multitudes who were following him everywhere. Today he is constantly interceding on our behalf. He is totally engrossed in our progress.

    He didn’t separate himself from the disciples for very long. A night here. A few hours there. He was with them, from the beginning of his ministry to the cross, and even beyond, training them and equipping them to do what he did.

    Apart from Judas, his disciples gave their entire lives to the ministry he passed on to them. They all died in faith, doing what Jesus called them to do, tirelessly, and without question, even Thomas.

    They oversaw years of tremendous growth and multiplication as the gospel went around the known world. Can you imagine how much time and effort they put into their call and destiny?

    They did not separate themselves from the church for one moment. They gave themselves over to prayer and the study of the word, so the Church would thrive and enjoy strong leadership and growth. They, with Christ, are my examples. How can I do less?

    I can be involved with my local church and fully engrossed in our mission, then separate off for a while for refreshing, restoring an revisioning.

    I, unlike you, do not have a problem with the Pentecostal Church. I love it. It is good. Itis experiencing world-wide growth. There is a dynamic which is exciting, even for young people, who are flocking to the altars in many nations.

    I mix with heaps of people from other denominations. I have friends from all over the Body. I read books by authors outside my stream. I am not blinkered. I am not stupid. I read my Bible and pray. I hear the Holy Spirit. I do not surrender to every word a Pentecostal preacher says. i eat the meat and spit out the grizzle. I am not a robot, a clone or brainwashed. I am sure of my calling. I am engrossed and engaged. I enjoy the structure, order and organisation. It is not perfect, but it is not burdensome to me.

    Thanks anyway!

  44. I TOO still would rightfully rather see pastor first live a sermon instead of too often now merely preach it to others and I really do think it is so farcical how some sinfully, proud evangelical pastors are ready to condemn others, to gossip about, to now preach about the other person’s sins but someone how they can’t seem to deal with their own false abuse of others, their own sins, and their own false pride.. http://postedat.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/get-real-now/

    (Prov 27:2 KJV) Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.

    (1 Cor 14:33 KJV) For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

    (James 3:16 KJV) For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

    http://postedat.wordpress.com/2009/08/23/to-the-bad-preacher/

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