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The Dark Side of Spiritual Abuse - Part 4
By: Philip Harrelson
Leadership seems to be the buzzword of our times. Bookstores now have multiple rows upon rows of books concerning this particular subject. Some of the content is very good and can help a person to hone their management skills and work toward becoming self-disciplined in a manner that will prove good for the organization that they are serving. I personally have benefited from some of the secular leadership books that I have read over the years. Despite all of these necessary and good resources only a small, in fact, microscopic amount of these books address spiritual issues in the life of the leader.
There aren’t any spiritual leadership concepts given in the books that Jim Collins has written. Patrick Lencioni does not address the spiritual side of a man who wants to build a Fortune 500 company. Peter Drucker’s works have almost elevated him posthumously to an exalted messiah among the leadership gurus of the last century. If we are not careful, there can be a tendency to think that we can build a church the same way that Steve Jobs made Apple successful. Once a spiritual leader buys into that particular idea that he can build a spiritual church with the same techniques that a profit-driven company is built, he deceives himself and he will create spiritual mayhem with the sheep he is meant to feed.
Spiritually abusive leaders are often very ambitious and driven toward success. It is important to understand the motives that drive men in spiritual leadership because our motives say much about our true intentions. Gary McIntosh in his book, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, identifies five types of leadership styles that lead toward tendencies to be spiritually abusive. The compulsive leader is characterized by being status conscious, looking for reassurance and approval from those in authority. He will have a tendency to try to control activities and keep order at all times doing this by being an extreme workaholic. They can be excessively moralistic, conscientious, and judgmental. He may have an angry and rebellious attitude but will repress his true feelings and hold in the anger and resentment. When these dark emotions turn on the church, the atmosphere immediately turns into one of control and extreme authoritarianism.
There are certain traits that usually show up in the preaching style of a compulsive leader. He will frequently be a gifted and charismatic speaker but has the tendency to minimize any impact of the Scriptures unless they are going to serve his own agenda. He will also be the hero of all of his stories and listeners will be “amazed” at his feats in personal outreach/evangelism, prayer schedule, and devotion to the Scriptures. He may even say something like this; “I am God’s appointed authority in your life. If you oppose me you’re opposing God.” He will almost have the capacity to turn himself into a rock star for a lack of a better description. He leads people to follow him instead of the Lord.
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Identifying that next leader is not easy. You must often times select a few prospects and begin to work with them waiting for the cream to rise to the top. While you are mentoring and waiting for maturity, here are a few things to begin to look for.
Leadership in the past. The best predictor of the future is the past. Is this a person who has worked well on a team previously? Maybe, they needed a break and stepped aside for rest, but are now able to get back on board.
The capacity to create or catch vision. When I talk to people about the future, I want their eyes to light up. I want them to ask the right questions. When you are sharing your vision with people do they get excited along with you? Do they offer suggestions that spur your imagination further? When you find someone who is able to catch the same vision as you, you have found someone that you can entrust much of the responsibility with. They will have a similar passion for the work as you yourself would.
A constructive spirit of discontent. Some people would call this criticism, but there's a big difference in being constructively discontent and being critical. The unscratchable itch is always in the leader. These people are a bit hard to sift from the genuine critics, but when you do you may have found a diamond in the rough. Just because they are questioning a few things does not mean they are not on your side. Give them an opportunity to help make a needed change and you may have found a great friend
Practical Ideas. Not everybody with practical ideas is a leader, of course, but leaders seem to be able to identify which are and which aren't. A person's experience will often times lend practical ideas. When someone offers an idea that is helpful, it may be that they have been involved in a project much like what you are facing which will make them a helpful candidate for your ministry team.
A willingness to take responsibility. Leaders will bear work, for the feeling of contributing to other people is what leadership is all about. When you find a person who is willing to take responsibility for not only the ministry you have given them, but also the success of it, you have found pure gold. These are people to build upon. The ministry is dependent on individuals who are willing to take responsibility.
A completion factor. In the military, it is called "completed staff work." The half-cooked meal isn't what you want. Someone who competes what they have set out to do is invaluable. When looking for leadership that will help you move your church forward, look for people who finish what they start, no matter how small or trivial the task is.[ read more...]
One church may be in a small rural community where it is easy to develop close personal relationships. Another may be in a big city where shallow impersonal relationships are the standard. (In the country they all wave to each other – even to strangers. In the metro areas, they don’t speak to one another even when they walk abreast on the streets.
One town may have a growing populating while another may have a shrinking population. Industry is brining people into one area and as a result the pews seem to fill up all by themselves. Factory shutdowns may be causing another town to be losing its population, hence it looks like the church is not doing a good job since it too is shrinking.
One town may have a wealthy populace while another may be in a poverty stricken area. There is not going to be much need for a food bank in a wealthy area, but it may bring many new contacts and converts to a church in an impoverished area. If a pastor of the wealthy community says, “Hey, we need a food bank.” since he sees the success of the struggling community church, he may be wasting church resources and time.
One church might be a new church and another very established. (Established doesn’t always mean it has arrived, it just means it’s been there for a while.) I have worked in 2 church start ups and in 4 established churches. It is much easier to get things started and rolling in a newer church than one that has been around for 50 years. I could get programs started in one day in that small baby church where it took me months to get the same program started in larger established churches. Because it works overnight in one town does not mean it will work over night in another.[ read more...]
As technological progress continues, it axiomatically leads to increasing rates of stress, overload, complexity, and change, speed, debt, and meaninglessness. Yet how can we protect ourselves, or families and our churches from the exhaustion and burnout of our age? The following suggestions may provide some relief, both for you and for those you minister to.
- Put more control in your life.
- Learn to laugh.
- Generate good will. The greatest thing we can do to buffer ourselves against the ravages of stress is to continually spread good will to those around us.
- Limit negatives. Stop negative self- criticism. Limit your time with negative people.
- Stop digging. If you're in a hole, the first rule is to quit digging. If you're overloaded, start saying "NO!"
- Accept your limitations. God is the author of limitations, and He gave them to us for our protection. We violate them at our peril.
- Defend your boundaries. Establish appropriate boundaries and defend them against the onslaught of an extraordinarily demanding world.
- Prune the activity branches. Like new branches on a fruit tree, additional activities and commitments add themselves to our lives every year, often without our permission.
- Value simplicity. No one ever lived a simpler, more unencumbered than Jesus.
- De-accumulate. Everything we own also owns us. Each possession must be cared for, maintained and paid for.
- Control the "paper tumor." Every year the amount of paper and information it contains seems to metastasize without pity. When at all possible, use the "OHIO" rule - "Only Handle It Once."
- Restrain technology. Maintain a healthy skepticism of any new technology and don't buy it unless you can control it.
- Value traditions. Identify the traditions in your personal, family and church life that have special significance and protect them vigorously.
- Establish stability zones. People generally benefit from having certain areas in their lives where change is kept to a minimum, and stability and reliability are assured.
- Move less often. Church leaders are often called on to relocate frequently. But at a time when the rest of the world continues to change so wildly, leaders who have a choice may want to consider the benefits of greater longevity in one position.
I have so many titles for this article running through my head. "Stinking Thinking". "As A Man Thinketh In His Heart". "You Are What You Think". "So Go The Thoughts, So Go The Man". Let me start by asking you a few questions.
- Are you totally discouraged right now?
- Do you feel overwhelmed?
- Is your mental thought process completely shut down?
- Do you feel trapped?
I have a friend who consistently responds “I’m happy and blessed” when I ask him how he is doing. Now I like this guy, I really do. But, sometimes, I just want to say “get real" when he tells me that. I don’t know, maybe he really is happy all the time. I guess it’s possible. Anything is possible right?!
I’m going to get blasted over this article. I’m going to get tons of emails from the "Happy All The Time Crowd". They’re going to tell me I’ve gone off the deep end. They will let me know that the Christian should always be happy. It’s our right. It’s our obligation. We should always have this enormous smile that tells everyone around us that we are HAPPY.
Christians are not allowed to get bummed out. Christians, especially Christian ministers are definitely not allowed to sink to the cloud of discouragement. A minister should never allow himself to get to a place of feeling down. Right?
Sounds good doesn’t it. But in the real world that’s a bunch of baloney. Just ask the old Prophet of God. One minute he’s killing off 500 false prophets, and wishing he could die the next.
You might agree with me that most preachers are emotional people. Now some people out there are not real emotional, but most of the preachers I know are people who allow emotion to guide them. Now that’s not a bad thing. I’m convinced that the Lord has a hard time using people who are hard to move emotionally. This is why he anointed David to be king when he was only a boy. God said of David, “He’s after my heart”. Other words, he’s a person who is able to touch me with his emotion. Without emotion, David would be led of his own ideas and agenda. But, since he was a person whose heart could be touched, God said, “I’ll use him in ways he never imagined he could be used.”
Emotion is a good thing. We need to be emotional! God is emotional. Look what the scriptures tell us about him.
- He gets angry.
- He gets jealous.
- He laughs.
- He’s emotional!
We, being created in his image are allowed the same privilege of being emotional.[ read more...]
One of the many amazing stories in the Bible is the story of the twin sons of Isaac, Jacob and Esau. Although twins, these two boys were radically different. Esau loved the outdoors and became a hunter. Jacob preferred to stay at home and learned how to cook. Esau was born first and was covered in hair. Jacob was born second with a death grip on his brother’s heel. Esau became a daddy's boy. Jacob was sheltered by his mother. Without sharing the entire story, I will fast forward to a part of the story that has always bothered me.
Note the four statements in bold type;
18 And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son?
19 And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me.
20 And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son?And he said, Because the Lord thy God brought it to me.
21 And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son,whether thou be my very son Esau or not.
22 And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.
23 And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau's hands: so he blessed him.
24 And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am.
Though Isaac had intended to bless his oldest son, Esau, Jacob deceives his father and comes in Esau's place to receive the birthright. From the moment that Jacob begins to speak, Isaac is suspicious that something is wrong. The first suspicion comes from how quickly 'Esau' manages to go out and kill an animal, bring it back, clean it, cook it and then serve it to his father. The second suspicion comes from Jacobs’s voice. As soon as Jacob speaks, Isaac immediately recognizes the voice of his second son. The Scriptures show that on at least three occasions, Isaac questions the identity of Jacob. He knew something was wrong. He smelled a rat. Yet, instead of investigating any further, Isaac goes ahead and gives the birthright to Jacob.
This is very strange and bothersome behavior from Isaac. Not only because he knew something was wrong, but also because Esau was his favorite son. Considering the love he had for Esau why did Isaac bless Jacob instead? Why did he not investigate to make sure he was blessing the right son? Why didn't he ask more questions? Why didn't Isaac seek the truth? Very strange indeed.[ read more...]
Amy Wilson Carmichael was born December 16, 1867 in a small village in Northern Ireland. Her parents were evangelical Christians and she committed her life to Christ's service at a very young age.
One story of Amy’s childhood noted that when she was little, she always wished she’d had blue eyes instead of brown. As a little girl, she prayed for God to give her blue eyes, but she never received them.
Carmichael was the founder of a women’s group in Belfast that quickly grew to over 500 women and they needed a larger place in which to meet. She saw an ad in a newspaper saying an iron building could be built for £500 that would seat up to 500 people. A donation and a plot of land were given, and the building of the first “Welcome Hall” was built.
Amy felt led to fulfill her call in missions. In many ways, she was an unlikely candidate for missionary work. She suffered neuralgia--a disease of the nerves that made her whole body weak and achy--and she was often bedridden for weeks on end.
At the 1887 Keswick Convention, she heard Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, speak about missionary life. Initially, Amy travelled to Japan for fifteen months, but she later found her lifelong vocation in India.[ read more...]
It is critically important who you surround yourself with. The men and women you choose to help you reach your goals will make or break you. Here's a few things to look for in potential leaders.
1. Look for people who can make things happen.
Most of the time, you have to take people at their word. The fortunate aspect to this is when you do hire them, you know within a few days, sometimes hours, if they can make things happen or not. At that time you can make the necessary decision.
This application is not always possible in ministry, but the advice is still the same; Watch what people do more than listening to what they say. Actions always speak louder than words. People that make things happen seldom make excuses. Instead they create their own opportunities when none might have existed.
2. Look for people who can influence others.
A person's ability to make things happen is directly related to their ability to lead people. This is called influence. Whether a church ministry leader or a construction crew leader, a leader must be able to influence and persuade people.
When you are selecting a potential leader, don't just look at the person, but look at all of the people that person influences. The more people they influence, the greater leadership potential they have.
Here is a good question to ask; What kind of people do they influence? Do they influence other leaders? Or do they influence followers? A person who can influence leaders has much greater potential than a person who can only influence followers.
Influence also includes how they treat people. Do they respect people? Do they have a genuine love for people? Do they treat people right?
3. Look for people who can equip others.
It is one thing to persuade and influence others. It is another thing to equip them with the necessary tools and training to succeed. Most of the people in your church will need to be trained and equipped in order to succeed. If the leaders you choose cannot equip and empower their followers, then they will ultimately be standing alone at the end of the day.[ read more...]
Let’s look at some real examples of effective preaching. Our text will be from Acts 2 where Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, and from Acts 3 where the lame man was healed while they were on their way to the temple. In both of these instances Peter ministered in such a way that thousands were saved. I think we can learn a lot from Peter (Acts 2:14-38 & 3:12-26).
Effective preachers must study. As you look at these two messages from Peter, you will see that he had studied the word. In both instances he was suddenly given the opportunity to preach, and he was “instant in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). There is no shortcut to “studying to show yourself approved, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
When I first started preaching I would minister on a different book of the bible every service – and we had three services each week! I used at least seven commentaries on each book. After researching them thoroughly, I would then seek the Lord as to how He wanted me to present the message and what kind of application He wanted for His people.
This took a lot of time and effort, but it was well worth it. It placed ample research under my belt to draw upon later when I wouldn’t have as much time. Taking shortcuts to in depth study will rob you of the rich jewels that the Lord desires to give you from His word and Spirit.
Effective preachers must memorize the Word. There is nothing more powerful than the Word of God. Peter, in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, quoted large and obscure passages of scripture. He didn’t pull out a scroll and start looking things up, he knew them by heart. We have the promise that His word will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:10-11). It is sharper than any two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). The word will do more in the hearts of people than I ever can. When I was first saved I made up my mind that I wanted to give people God’s answer to the problems of life and not only what I thought. My opinion is not worth much, but what God has to say is of eternal value.
Nothing has helped me in my preaching and teaching more than the memorization of scripture. Even if people have a hard time taking it all in, it will go on to work in their lives for years to come. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would “bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever he has said unto us” (John 14:26). His promise is that He will bring the appropriate scripture to us when it is needed the most. It was said of Jesus that when He was in a house in Capernaum, and there was so many people crowding into the house that there was no longer any room, that “He preached the word unto them” (Mark 2:2). It’s the word that makes our ministry truly effective as it did Jesus’.[ read more...]
Has it ever happened to you? It happened to me again today. Someone said I said something that I didn’t. They did it to defend themselves and their lifestyle of sin. I guess they figured if they could make me look small, it would somehow make them bigger, or at least more righteous.
Several years ago, I realized that people will (dog) the Pastor or the church in order to make themselves appear better than the church. This way, when someone comes to invite them to church, they can use this as a way of saying, “your Pastor is no better than I am. Why should I come to your church?!” And boy if you did say what they said you said. Or if you did what they said you did, now they have every reason in the world to never come to church. As if by some miracle, you were as wise as Solomon and did everything perfectly.
I believe Jesus understood this. Mary and Martha would have blamed Him for their brother’s sickness and death, but the fact of the matter was it was their own lack of faith that allowed their brother to die. And for their lack of faith, Jesus wept. Adam himself wanted to blame his wife for his own sin. As much as Eve did play some part in tempting Adam, the real one at fault was no one else but Adam.
I’m sure if you have been in ministry long at all, you have counseled people only to have them use your good counsel to try to destroy your character and reputation. Personally, I refuse to allow other peoples sin to affect me. When they want to make excuses and bring my name into the situation, I have decided to quickly turn the conversation around and allow light to come into the problem. “The real reason there is a situation, is you have had an affaire, not that I counseled you or did not counsel you about this.” I think you get my thinking here. There are several examples I could give.
“My brother would have lived if you would have been here Jesus”. No, he would have lived if you would have prayed for him to live. Why bring my name into your faithlessness. “My family would have stayed together if the Pastor would have spent more time with us.” No, your family would still be together if you would have slept in your own bed. “I’d still be in the church if that Pastor wouldn’t have offended me with his preaching.” The only thing that is offended by good preaching, is sin. Why don’t you confess your faults and be healed instead of blaming the Pastor for your unrighteous lifestyle.[ read more...]