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Bb892 Spiritual Abuse

10 Ways to Spot Spiritual Abuse

Spiritually abusive ministries:

  1. Have a distorted view of respect. They forget the simple adage that respect is earned, not granted. Abusive leaders demand respect without having earned it by good, honest living.

  2. Demand allegiance as proof of the follower’s allegiance to Christ. It’s either his/her way or no way. And if a follower deviates, he is guilty of deviating from Jesus.

  3. Use exclusive language. “We’re the only ministry really following Jesus.”Believe their way of doing things, thinking theologically, or handling ministry and church is the only correct way. Everyone else is wrong, misguided, or stupidly naive.

  4. Create a culture of fear and shame. Often there is no grace for someone who fails to live up to the church’s or ministry’s expectation. And if 498916_37287262someone steps outside of the often-unspoken rules, leaders shame them into compliance. Can’t admit failure but often searches out failure in others and uses that knowledge to hold others in fear and captivity. They often quote scriptures about not touching God’s anointed, or bringing accusations against an elder. Yet they often confront sin in others, particularly ones who bring up legitimate biblical issues. Or they have their circle of influence take on this task, silencing critics.

  5. Often have a charismatic leader at the helm who starts off well, but slips into arrogance, protectionism and pride. Where a leader might start off being personable and interested in others’ issues, he/she eventually withdraws to a small group of “yes people” and isolates from the needs of others. Harbors a cult of personality, meaning if the central figure of the ministry or church left, the entity would collapse, as it was entirely dependent on one person to hold the place together.

  6. Cultivate a dependence on one leader or leaders for spiritual information. Personal discipleship isn’t encouraged. Often the Bible gets pushed away to the fringes unless the main leader is teaching it.

  7. Demand servanthood of their followers, but live prestigious, privileged lives. They live aloof from their followers and justify their extravagance as God’s favor and approval on their ministry. Unlike Jesus’ instructions to take the last seat, they often take the first seat at events and court others to grant them privileges.

  8. Buffer him/herself from criticism by placing people around largethemselves whose only allegiance is to the leader. Views those who bring up issues as enemies. Those who were once friends/allies swiftly become enemies once a concern is raised. Sometimes these folks are banished, told to be silent, or shamed into submission.

  9. Hold to outward performance but rejects authentic spirituality. Places burdens on followers to act a certain way, dress an acceptable way, and have an acceptable lifestyle.

  10. Use exclusivity for allegiance. Followers close to the leader or leaders feel like insiders. Everyone else is on the outside, though they long to be in that inner circle.

To read the rest of this blog by Mary DeMuth, go here.

  1. Cathy

    So very true these things of abuse are happening all the time. Without God as the center of leaders hearts to follow Jesus they want others to follow them, its so sad!

    • robertafish

      Hi Cathy,
      Yes, it is very sad. I think we need to talk about it more so people can be aware when it’s happening. Often we become so used to it, we think it’s normal.

  2. debbie

    I just read the book, “Adventures in Forgiveness” excellent book, very sad too, all about this topic, i was so heartbroken when i learned the truth of what is happening in the authors life, and the spiritual abuse she has endured. I was totally blind to what could be taking place in the name of religion……it took me a good while to calm myself down, because i was outraged by what this person has endured, and i am sure there are others who have not written their stories.

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