Wednesday, July 04, 2007

When Pastors Become Bullies

During the years since I became a Christian in 1969, I have heard many arguments against the existence of God, and many arguments against the legitimacy of Christianity. I still haven't heard anything to persuade me that I made the wrong decision when I committed my life to Christ. But my faith has been tested on many occasions. One of the primary causes of such tests has been the hypocrisy I have often seen in the Church, particularly among its leaders.

One area in which hypocrisy often seems to exist is in the area of spiritual authority. More than a few pastors have been known to quote scriptures out of context in order to create an oppressive atmosphere within the local church in which they have been able to rule the flock like little self appointed emperors. They seem to be under the impression that when Jesus told Peter to "feed the flock", he really intended to tell Peter to bully the flock!

Dare to criticize such a pastor in any way, and you are likely to hear about how awful it is to "touch God's anointed". These egomaniacal so-called "leaders" interpret scriptures in such a way that it becomes virtually impossible for ordinary people within the church to criticize or hold their leaders accountable for anything. No wonder we Christians have been forced to deal with so many public scandals which have brought shame to the Body of Christ.

I find it interesting to reflect upon what it was about Jesus that caused people to acknowledge his authority in their lives, because it bears very little resemblance to the actions of many people who claim to speak in Christ's name.

Jesus came to this earth with the heart of a servant, even though he had no obligation whatsoever to do so. He washed the feet of the disciples in order to demonstrate that the sign of a truly godly leader is compassion and humility. He said that much would be required of those to whom much had been given. In short, He saw leadership as a responsibility, not as a free pass to say and do whatever one wanted to say or do.

Sadly, that lesson seems to have passed right over some people's heads.

For people who are unfortunate enough to find themselves in churches where one or more of their "leaders" lack the humility and compassion which all good Christian leaders ought to have, and also for those deluded individuals who think that being placed into a position of authority within the church entitles them to ride roughshod over the feelings of those who attend their churches, I have a couple of book recommendations (both of which are for books which I bought at the bookstore for Moody Bible Institute here in Chicago):

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen (Bethany House Publishers)

Churches That Abuse by Ronald M. Enroth (Zondervan)

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