Every member of clergy, and every lay person at some point, has to come to clarity on the issue of pastoral authority. Where does it start and where does it end? If pastoral authority is not recognized, we nullify the structure of the church that our Lord, its founder, set in place. If no boundaries are observed in pastoral authority, we’ll find ourselves mindlessly following every wind of doctrine and would have reduced our salvation to nothing more than a game of “Simon Says.”
God has clearly called us to love Him with all our minds, and that means we are required to confront hard topics, study, and intelligently come to a conclusion on the matter. In short, we are called to be thinking Christians. For far too long we have accepted folk theology and tradition as law. Certainly there is a place for tradition, as we study what the fathers of the faith have to say on the issue we wrestle with today. Yet, more and more it seems we have elevated those with titles above or superior to the rest of the Body. Somewhere in church history we seem to have confused the titles Pastor/Bishop/Elder with King/Lord/Crown. We seem to intertwine the words ‘servant’ and ‘sovereign.’
Those of us who have grown up in the church and/or find ourselves a part of an abusive church often become desensitized and explain away over-extensions of authority or spiritual abuse as the will of God. We are often waiting for God to tell us it’s time to leave. Do you believe that spiritual abuse is real? Why or why not.
Spiritual Abuse is rampant, so much so that there are a number of books and other resources for those in need of recovery. Not quite sure whether you’re a victim? Chances are that if this article makes you really uncomfortable, you are. To take a test from TOXIC FAITH by Steve Arterburn and Jack Felton, click here
Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. “The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer. Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’ Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven.” Matthew 23:1-9
Being a part of the church for the last twenty-eight years and being in ministry for at least the last sixteen, I have both experienced spiritual abuse first-hand and stood witness while it took place. I have seen pastors tell people when they could and couldn’t get married or divorced. I’ve witnessed pastors demand the tithe or else. I’ve witnessed others use the pulpit to get the last word or hurl insults. I’ve heard it stated that when the pastor speaks, you might as well accept it as if God himself was speaking to you. I’ve seen too many victimized to stay silent. I don’t know what you feel reading this, but for me it hurts. The reality is that people leave broken and often times never make it back. Talk to me. Have I gone too far? Have I said too much? Or is time for us to get things back in biblical order? Click here to respond unless, of course, you need permission from your pastor… Lighten up if you’re not laughing.