Something’s Not Right! — or When Gaming Seeps Into The Leadership Of The Church

If you haven’t read “Something’s Not Right,” you might find it insightfully helpful. [1]

While it deals with far more serious situations than many experience (primarily sexual abuse), I am reminded of one of the points below . . . .

“It’s a “mega-church” thing, not really present in smaller ministries and churches.
(No, it is just more obvious in mega-larger churches.).”

I thought it might be helpful to formulate a list of “game-playing” moves & approaches of ministry leaders and pastors as they defend their own wrong-doing and/or seek to marginalize those who have called them out.

This extensive list is the result of reading a good number of insightful comments from various writers over the past months.

  • Using the pulpit ministry to address & defend one’s words and actions
  • Change the by-laws and/or constitution to fit and/or cover-up the wrong-doing, pastoral abuse, and/or dishonesty.
  • Selectively communicate information to members of the congregations so that some and not others know what is going on.
  • Selectively withhold information to members of the congregation so that some and not others don’t know what is going on.
  • Selectively communicate and without information to fellow leadership members so that it all gets so confusing.
  • Wield discretionary levers of power used to encourage some people to support them
  • One particular form of crazy-making in dysfunctional Christian orgs is to accuse you of being unforgiving of things they strenuously deny ever having done.
  • Pass the buck to others who were only doing what they believed was what the leader or pastor wanted to be done.
  • When criticized or questioned, point to something incredibly small that was done right — “Well, at least I . . . .”
  • Twist the Scriptures to defend one’s actions — “Spiritual abuse twists the Scriptures into a sword.” (i.e., Proverbs 17:9 used as an argument that their a wrong-doing should not be revealed.)
  • Off-balance the Scriptural truths or principles by avoiding what the Scriptures also teach the balance.
  • Fail to provide a safe place and safe people in which one can speak freely.
  • They darken the windows, rather than allowing or adding light into the room.
  • “Abuse is when people are willing to do harm for their own self-serving benefit. Sorrow is feigned, and confession is partial, forgiveness is exploited, restitution is an afterthought, and reconciliation is an illusion as long as truth remains unnamed.” — Wade Mullen
  • When we do not understand a leader’s capacity for deceit, we make it easy for the offender to continue.
  • Allowing error to go unchallenged is not “grace.”
  • “NDA’s” (non-disclosure agreements) are relabelled as “covenants” by ministry and church leaders.
  • Many times, getting at the truth is difficult because they fall just short of outright lies.
  • Intentional omission, ambiguous statements, clever deflections, nuanced statements, redefining words all become means of avoiding the truth and are means of propagating a lie.
  • False “apologies” — I am sorry you feel that way (or aka — I did nothing wrong.)
  • Intimidation and humiliation of revealing private information.
  • Willful ignorance as a tool of defense — could have known, should have known, but avoided knowing.
  • Counting on the silence of others to further the justification of what you said or did.
  • The shunning, and the promotion of shunning, of those who have called a leader or pastor out for wrong-doing — (when that person should have been thanked).
  • Silence and/or refusing to address an issue can be used as a defensive tool and even portrayed as a virtue.
  • Being in charge of a ministry or church, and refusing to accept the responsibility that comes with that position, is typically the standard operating mentality.
  • Empathy becomes a vice, not a virtue, since “emotions” and feelings are deemed as biblically suspect — “They are just being emotional.”
  • It’s not a “duck.”  I know that it looks like that, but it isn’t.  Trust me on this.
  • Double-speak:  “I am not saying.” while he is saying. (This allows one to say, “I said that . . . “)
  • Three painful responses when you call out wrong-doing:
    They don’t believe you
    They believe you, but won’t do anything about it.
    They believe you, but choose to actively oppose you.
  • It’s a “mega-church” thing, not present in smaller ministries and churches. (No, it is just more obvious in mega-larger churches.)
  • Consistently cite and interpret Scripture that reinforces and/or legitimizes their authority.
  • Change the meaning of biblical words and terminology to fit the unbiblical, dishonest, and/or abusive behavior of the pastor and leadership. (i.e. The words “the church” no longer means “the church.”  It now means  “the pastors and/or the leaders of the church.”)
  • Talk about “legal” / legality, not what was right and ethical.
  • Require more than one witness before something is to be believed as true.
  • It looks like the top guy in the organization doesn’t know, but the top guy in the organization does know. (If they are ignorant, then they should be removed from that position, but they won’t be.)
  • Inaction, because it is only one person who has spoken out.
  • Far too often, “relationships” make the decisions.
  • Loyalty trumps integrity all too often.
  • God’s people want to believe those in ministry and their pastors.  Talking to them about a problem/issue will probably result in you being distanced from them.
  • One tactic is to label you as “bitter.”  That label means that they need not address the issue.
  • Apathy generally hovers over most members of a ministry. (It’s not them and, therefore, not their problem.).
  • Most members of an organization do not see themselves as partakers of wrong-doing by their silence.
  • God’s people will allow some people to be dealt with harshly. (Though everyone is not treated with dignity and respect, they should be.).
  • Some Christian organizations or church members assume that someone else will do something about it and that they need not speak or act.
  • Tactical Words & Phrases To Evaluate: opinions, sowing discord, unity, submission to authority
  • You will be told that “You don’t have all the facts,” but it is actually because the facts are being suppressed by others, and/or have been under unnecessary leadership seal.
  • Most people who have tried to help will only try once if it becomes so unpleasant to step up and try to help.
  • Paying a price for helping or for exposing wrong-doing is usually one of the intended outcomes by the wrong-doers.
  • Most people do wrong for three reasons (Artistotle):  They believe they won’t be caught.  If caught, they will not pay a price.  If they pay a price, it will be less than the desired gain.
  • “One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm.  The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient.” — Charle M. Blow, journalist

. . . . .

“Baptists believe authority resides in individual members filled with the Holy Spirit.  That’s why ‘the base’ cannot pass the buck.  To forgo the responsibilities of autonomy while taking its privileges would multiply injustice . . . .

What we consent to, what we allow, is who we are.”
. . . . .


Note Rachael Denhollander‘s endorsement.  She has authored the book, “What Is A Girl Worth.”  That book has fueled the uncovering of pastoral abuse in SBC churches across America!

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