Reformed “Spotlight”: What about the Victims?

It’s good to see that The Journey church has set up a Member & Attender Support Page. No doubt this must be a time of spiritual crisis for many in the congregation as they try to understand how a beloved pastor can sin so grievously. I personally know the tremendous confusion and distress that results when a preacher that God has greatly blessed in your life falls into sin. Many questions arise: Was I deceived? Is it all a deception? Was the blessing a delusion? Are other preachers just the same? Who can I trust? Why would God use such men to bless so many people? Was God not able to stop him from falling?

In such painful and puzzling circumstances a support page is a good pastoral use of technology. I especially liked the way that various preachers were invited to send living and vibrant video messages of pastoral and prayerful support towards the congregation and also to the fallen pastor and his family.

But, there’s something vital missing from all this. What about the victims? According to the church’s letter to their members, the pastor had hurt many people along the way over many years. His sins included:

  • Refusal of personal accountability (I Pet. 5.1)
  • Lack of self-control (I Tim. 3.2)
  • Manipulation and lying.
  • Domineering over those in his charge (I Pet. 5.3)
  • Misuse of power/authority (I Pet. 5.3)

Each of these sins involves a victim, perhaps many, and most of these wounded sheep will now be scattered across many churches, or perhaps even churchless through disillusionment. But watch the videos and read the statements. You would think these were victimless sins. Yes the pastor and his family need prayer and support, but the victims need it first and foremost.

I’m not picking on The Journey, it’s just that this gives such a sadly typical example of the way most churches ignore or forget the victims. Usually it’s not done deliberately but rather thoughtlessly. Oftentimes, it’s because the victims have moved on and are no longer part of the church. Sometimes, crisis-management is just so focused on survival that the wider consequences are not thought through. But it’s also possible that the same celebrity-worship that contributed to the pastor’s fall is still skewing extra pastoral attention to him to the omission of the lesser-known victims.

One way to put this right would be to post a “Victim Support Page” with similar videos, but this time directed towards these bleeding sheep for whom this disciplinary intervention came too late. Whatever support and care is being poured into the pastor and his family, the victims deserve double that. And if the victims can face it, the pastor himself should be involved in reaching out to each and every victim to ask for forgiveness before any consideration is given to any future ministry role.

Yes the pastor needs grace. But the victims need justice.

Other posts in this series here.

Check Out


What Happened When I Stopped Using Screens After 11 p.m |Alex Cavoulacos, Fast Company
“Not sold on giving your iPhone a bedtime? Here are the four things I learned from cutting off my screen time:”

I packed up my notes and walked off stage mid-sermon | The Good Book Blog
“I was preaching one Wednesday night when, in the middle of the sermon, I packed up my notes and walked off the stage-with no explanation to the congregation. I had just had it, and I wasn’t going to take it any more.”

What To Do When a Pastor Falls | Russell Moore
“This is not the first time this has happened. I’ve seen it since I was a child, from preachers whose names virtually no one reading this would know to preachers most would recognize. Maybe you’ve experienced this, and like me you find yourself reeling in sadness, regret, and even anger. So what should we do?”

Reflections on Fallen Pastors | Timothy Raymond, Credo Mag
“Maybe it’s just me but whenever I hear this kind of news, almost always through blogs, I’m deeply disturbed. I’m sort of spiritually messed-up for the next couple days. Specifically, I have reactions of confusion, sadness, and fear.”

Taking Notes By Hand May Be Better Than Digitally, Researchers Say | James Doubek, NPR
“‘When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can,’ Mueller tells NPR’s Rachel Martin. ‘The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.’”

7 Ways to Live with Diabetes to the Glory of God | Josh Philpot, TGC
One for my daughter. “Last September I celebrated two 10-year anniversaries, one being my wedding and the other the day I discovered I was a Type 1 diabetic. ”

Peaceful Polemics Online | Tim Challies,
“Our fast-paced, always-on, digital world brings us unparalleled opportunities to speak. It allows us to extend our voices around the world with the simple click of a single button. But it also offers unparalleled opportunities to do so poorly, to do so in ways that deny rather than display the fruit of the Spirit.

Secret Shame Of The Middle Class | Rod Dreher, The American Conservative
“This is a pretty sobering piece by Neal Gabler, a well-known and respected writer of serious books, who confesses that he and his wife are pretty much broke. And they aren’t alone.”

New Book

Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God by Tim Challies and Josh Byers

Kindle Books

Same-Sex Attraction and the Church: The Surprising Plausibility of the Celibate Life by Ed Shaw ($2.99)

What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an by James R. White ($1.99)

Bella’s Gift: How One Little Girl Transformed Our Family and Inspired a Nation by Rick and Karen Santorum ($0.99)

Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization by Steven Solomon ($1.99)

Reformed “Spotlight”: 10 Characteristics of Mr Controller

This is a slightly edited re-post of an article I wrote a couple of years ago which is relevant to our discussion of spiritual abuse. I also want to say that my focus in this series is not primarily the spiritual abuses of celebrities that end up on the “front pages,” but rather the largely unnoticed and unreported spiritual abuse that goes on in “ordinary” churches and Christian organizations. However, there is often a connection as the examples of the well-known are copied, and those motivated by the desire to be famous are more likely to resort to spiritual abuse when anyone or anything gets in their way.

In any discussion about spiritual abuse it’s important to distinguish between authority and authoritarianism? Let’s begin with some broad definitions:

Authority is the lawful use of lawful authority: God, the church, the state, or a business has given someone the right to govern and guide your life in a certain area, and that authority is being exercised in the right areas in the right way.

Authoritarianism is the exercise of unlawful authority: It’s someone who has not been given any authority over my life trying to rule and run my life, or someone who has authority in one limited area of my life, trying to rule and run other parts or every part of my life.

Authoritarianism is also the unlawful use of lawful authority: Someone takes the authority they’ve been given and abuses it by exercising it in ways that only benefits them and usually damages me.

Definitions help us to some degree, but illustrations can take us further. So let’s put together some marks of authoritarianism. What does this look like? How do I recognize it? How do I know if I’m being authoritarian or just exercising legitimate authority? How do I know if I’m being a victim of authoritarianism? Let’s see if we can build a description of “Mr Controller.”

1. Mr Controller is power hungry. He’s always trying to get more control over your life. He’s never satisfied with knowing what he knows about you, but always want to know more. He’s never content with power in one or two areas, but wants power in every area. He gets his biggest thrills from ordering other people around and making them feel subservient.

2. Mr Controller never suspects he may be abusing his power. He never says, “Please let me know if I you ever think I’m overstepping my bounds.” He has little or no awareness about his own tendency to misuse power.

3. Mr Controller gets easily and terribly offended whenever anyone questions his authority. “How dare you speak to me like that!” “Do you know who I am?” Any questioning is viewed as insubordination, rebellion, disrespect, etc.

4. Mr Controller thinks of himself more as a King than a servant. He rarely thinks or asks “How can I serve you?” Instead, his prevailing attitude is “How can I rule you?” He’s out to gain more control not to give more help.  He empowers himself rather than others.

5. Mr Controller threatens when threatened. Whenever his authority or power is questioned or challenged, even when it’s done humbly and appropriately, he warns of unpleasant consequences for the questioner. He certainly never pauses to ask, “Did I exceed my authority? Did I handle this correctly? Have I made a mistake?”

6. Mr Controller keeps a long record. His position of power has enabled him to build big memory files on his “victims,” which he does not hesitate to use (or hint at using) when necessary.

7. Mr Controller tells rather than teaches. He orders people around without explaining why. “Just do it!” He doesn’t take the time or make the effort to explain himself or his “guidance.” He prefers law and sanction to teaching, instruction, and motivation. He’s afraid that if he teaches principles and aims at changing the heart, that people will then work out things for themselves rather than be dependent upon him for everything.

8. Mr Controller clings to power. Unlike true leaders who love to train other leaders and delegate power to them, he clings to power and refuses to let go. Because, of course, no one is as wise and competent as he is.

9. Mr Controller hates to be controlled. He’s often resistant to anyone being in authority over him or telling him what he should be or do. He’s often a vociferous critic of other sources of power and authority around him. He figures, “If I can weaken him/her/them, I strengthen myself.”

10. Mr Controller lacks self-control. This is his weirdest characteristic. You’d think that such an addiction to control would produce a deeply disciplined person. Not at all. Most controllers have major deficits in the self-control department. Perhaps it’s because they are so busy interfering in other people’s lives that they neglect their own. Maybe it’s because they find it easier to direct and discipline others than themselves. I don’t know, but watch out for this. Behind most authoritarian personalities is usually a lack of biblical authority, often manifested in bad morals or bad temper.

And remember, there are Mrs. Controllers too.

Other posts in this series here.

Check Out


Aren’t Gay People Made In The Image Of God, Too? | Ricky Alcantar, The Blazing Center
“As a Christian I would humbly point to Scripture and say three things in response to an honest question like this.”

Be Quick to Read and Slow to Comment | Nathan W. Bingham
“It’s a sad day when Christians, not unbelievers, are the ones driving many Christian blogs to shut down their comments section. Would it be such a bad thing if Christians only commented on articles that they had read in full?”

4 Christlike Characteristics of a Biblical Comforter | Bob Kelleman, RPM ministries
“What type of person do I need to be in order to offer Christ’s sustaining comfort to others?”

The Sovereignty of God in the Salvation of My Father’s Slayer | Francis Nigel Lee, Banner of Truth
“Francis Nigel Lee died on December 23, 2011 in Australia. One thing he left behind is the story of the conversion of the man who murdered his father”

The 1st Fully Kinesthetic Classroom in the USA | Kidsfit Kinesthetic Classroom | LinkedIn
Now this would have been my kind of classroom. “What we’re trying to show is that more movement equals better grades, better behavior, better bodies.” ”

Avoiding Hyper-Calvinism as We Preach | Barry York, Gentle Reformation
“Could it be that, in heart and practice, many of us in Reformed churches are not preaching evangelistically because we allow our Calvinism to bind us rather than propel us as it should? Perhaps we can learn from a controversy in Spurgeon’s time. ”

New Book

Rooted: Theology for Growing Christians by Brandon Smith and J. A. Medders

Kindle Books

Designed for Joy: How the Gospel Impacts Men and Women, Identity and Practice edited by Jonathan Parnell and Owen Strachan (2.99)

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul David Tripp ($3.99)

What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America by Cal Thomas ($1.99)

The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry by Jared C. Wilson ($3.99)


Jesus Paid it All, Elder DJ Ward
I’ve watched this so many times. It’s phenomenal, even though it makes me feel as if I’ve never really preached.

Reformed “Spotlight”: What is Spiritual Abuse?

In my first post on spiritual abuse, I said I would provide a definition that would help in subsequent discussions. I’d welcome your input on this so that we can develop a clear and comprehensive definition, but here’s my suggestion to start the conversation, followed by my “exposition”:

Spiritual abuse is a sinful use of spiritual authority by Christian leaders to promote, protect, or enrich a person or a Christian institution regardless of the spiritual damage done to innocent parties and the cause of Christ.

First, the term “spiritual abuse indicates that unlike physical or sexual abuse, the primary pain is felt in the soul. Calling it “spiritual” also highlights that it is more difficult to detect because its primary weapons are usually more psychological, mental, emotional, relational, and, well, spiritual.

Second, notice the use of the word, “sinful.” There is good and proper ecclesiastical authority. God has ordained officers in his church to administer his kingdom on earth. We must not let the abuse of this by some push us to the extreme of rejecting all pastors, elders, deacons, membership standards, discipline, etc.

Some of the sinful tools used by spiritual abusers include injustice, misrepresentation, intimidation, exclusion, isolation, humiliation, manipulation, authoritarianism, demands for unconditional loyalty and obedience, shame, legalism, false accusation, self-pity, suppression of dissent and criticism, use of rules to silence, inability to admit wrong, covering up and minimizing leaders’ sins, and so on.

Third, “spiritual authority” refers to any office, role, or responsibility in Christian churches, para-church organizations, charities, conferences, seminaries, etc. It is not confined to ecclesiastical office or church courts. Spiritual abuse can take place wherever someone is given any degree of spiritual responsibility or spiritual authority over others.

Fourth, the term “Christian leaders” (plural) underlines that although there is often one person who is the primary abuser, there are usually others who cooperate with him due to fear, desire to please, personal gain, or pragmatism.

Fifth, the aim of the Christian leaders is no longer the good of souls and the glory of God but the promotion, protection, and enrichment of a person or an institution.” The leader, the church, or the organization’s existence, reputation, and wealth becomes the over-riding concern.

Sixth, this is all done “regardless of the spiritual damage” suffered by the victims, such as false guilt, shame, inability to trust spiritual leaders, draining of self-confidence, disillusionment with the church and with Christians, serious distortions in their view of God,

Seventh, damage is also done to the “cause of Christ.” The abuser’s church or organization may continue and spiritual abusers may still occupy positions of influence and popularity. But the cause of Christ as a whole is damaged, as people see the hypocrisy, the double standards, the self-centeredness.

Spiritual abuse is a sinful use of spiritual authority by Christian leaders to promote, protect, or enrich a person or a Christian institution regardless of the spiritual damage done to innocent parties and the cause of Christ.

So that’s my definition. I’m very open to correction and other suggestions.

Other posts in this series here.

Check out


Print, eBook, or Audio? Tips for Finishing More Books
Some tips on how to “Read More Better.”

The A.R.C. of Racial Reconciliation | Reformed African American Network
Jemar Tisby: “I had the honor of presenting at the 2016 Together for the Gospel conference on the A.R.C. of Racial Reconciliation. It was part of a breakout session I did jointly with Ligon Duncan, Chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary.  n it, I explained the essential elements of all genuine racial reconciliation.”

9 Things You Should Know About Autism
“April is National Autism Awareness Month, a time dedicated to understanding autism spectrum disorder, a condition that affects 1 in 68 children in America. Here are nine things you should know to help raise awareness and prepare you to minister to those with ASD.”

Outsourcing memory and wired for distraction | Gentle Reformation
“Nathan Eshelman’s excellent post called us to reassess how the internet and social media eats our time. I want to follow that by calling you to assess how it eats your brain!”

Covenant College Forfeits Women’s Tennis Championship Match Because Scheduled On Sunday
“Covenant College has elected to forfeit the Women’s Tennis USA South Conference championship match, scheduled for April 17, 2016. The championship match takes place on a Sunday, and as an institution owned and operated by the Presbyterian Church in America we observe the Sabbath by not competing in athletic events on Sunday.”

Why are the Dutch the tallest people on earth? | Proceedings of the Royal Society of London
This one is for my giant Dutch friends (Dutch giant friends?) here in Grand Rapids. Over the last 200 years, the Dutch have grown 20 cm in height, making them the tallest people on earth and challenging door manufacturers everywhere.

You Were Made to Meditate
“You will mediate. The question is not whether you will meditate, but on what. What is it for you today? What occupies your idle thoughts? What is the default of your heart? What’s your flavor of the day? What are you looking forward to? That’s the object of your meditation. And it can indeed be captured for Christ, and be a powerful means of grace in the Christian life. It is, in fact, the high point of receiving God’s word.”

Kindle Books

The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus by Zack Eswine $3.99. Excellent book!

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield $0.99. Probably everyone has this now, but just in case…

Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media $0.99.

Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences $1.99. This is not a Christian book but maybe all the more powerful because of that as it argues for differentiating between male and female genders.


Watch: College Kids Can’t Explain Why a Short White Man Isn’t a Tall Asian Woman
Welcome to our brave new world.