Spiritual Abuse Is Real

When you talk to people who have been under abusive leadership, certain words often come up: authoritarian, manipulative, controlling, mean, cruel, vindictive, defensive, and unable to take criticism.

Things don’t always start out this way. Often this sort of abusive behavior will begin with a leader making cruel jokes at someone’s expense, or maybe just being hypercritical of the staff that work under him. But, then it can advance to more severe things over time.

People who find themselves at odds with a spiritually abusive pastor, will often feel isolated, shamed, ostracized, silenced, and made to feel like they are unsubmissive, insubordinate, and one who undermines the church’s God-given leadership.

Of course, it should be noted that not everything the world would call “abuse” would count as abuse. In some circles, if a pastor points out a person’s sins, or declares certain behaviors to be unbiblical, then that counts as “abuse.” Obviously, we would reject such a notion. So, we need to recognize that the term abuse can be misunderstood and manipulated.

That said, we are talking here about genuinely sinful behavior where another person is domineered by their pastor or Christian leader, a category the Bible itself acknowledges in places like 1 Pet 5:3. Read more»

Michael Kruger, “What Is Spiritual Abuse?” February 8, 2021


    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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