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Category Archives: Authoritarian Abuse

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10 SIGNS OF PROPHETIC ABUSE AND OR MANIPULATION
By Joseph Mattera

Master Manipulator

I have been in the body of Christ now since the late 1970’s. I came into the prophetic movement in the early eighties and started moving out prophetically, even participating in prophetic presbytery while doing itinerant prophetic ministry. Furthermore, our local church has nurtured many outstanding prophetic leaders and voices as well as hosting numerous prophetic trainings and schools. My primary motivational gift and mode of ministry is prophetic, even when it seems like I am teaching. (I rarely use notes and teach and preach as prompted by the Holy Spirit when I am ministering.)

Furthermore, I have found the prophetic gift, including inspirational preaching, teaching and prophetic words to be the most edifying of all the gifts as St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14. However, with every true gift of God comes either a counterfeit and or an abuse. You can say that about all of the cluster of gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. The prophetic gift can especially be very dangerous if left un-checked, since people think the words spoken are directly from God and will often obey them without question or the use of discernment. Based on all my years of operating in the prophetic, as well as mentoring, nurturing, overseeing and hosting many prophetic ministers, the following are ten signs of prophetic abuse and manipulation. Continue reading “10 Prophetic Abuses and Manipulation” »

T4G16 Leaders

T4G16 Annual Conference Speakers

[Editor’s Note: For five years or so, a maelstrom of controversy has been building in reformed protestant circles regarding the protodenomination formerly known as Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), headquartered for more than 30 years in Gaithersburg, Maryland, near Washington DC. The organization that once claimed more than 100 affiliate churches and hundreds of affiliated ministers in numerous nations, originally named People of Destiny International (PDI), was founded by C.J. Mahaney and Larry Tomczak and two other lesser-knowns in the 1970s, spinning off the so-called Jesus Movement spawned in California in the late 1960s. Conflicts and strife within the PDI leadership has been recurrent for many years, finally peaking around the mid-1990s with the ouster and disfellowship of Larry Tomczak amid internal accusations of misconduct, mishandling of related matters, and irreconcilable doctrinal/philosophical differences. A continuous current of criticism and allegations of flagrant relational and leadership wrongdoing against Mahaney coursed on for decades before and after the Tomczak debacle, erupting like a volcano in 2011 with formal charges of misconduct and corruption by him being widely disseminated by one of those aforementioned lesser-known, also disfellowshipped, Mahaney associates turned blogger. Some aspects of those revelations received substantial accreditation by a civil lawsuit against SGM, Mahaney, and other named SGM leaders, alleging multiple incidences of sexual misconduct by SGM employees and associates, an organization-wide cover-up conspiracy, hush-money payments and perks, decades-long employment of confessed sex-offenders, and failure to report to authorities multiple known criminal acts of child molestation, as well as aiding and abetting of same, filed in October 2012. The original suit with its several amendments, was eventually dismissed due to expiration of statutes of limitations and jurisdictional technicalities, but it spawned a criminal investigation, subsequent arrest, trial, conviction, and incarceration of a longtime SGM employee in the organization-owned schools who was also a close associate and personal friend of a number of top SGM leaders, including Mahaney. The tentacles of the continuing controversy and conflicts have already reached deep into the Southern Baptist Convention and Reformed Theology realms and has been reported by numerous national media outlets. Knowledgeable, credible sources, however, presage that the expansive imbroglio is far from over and the complete story is yet to be revealed. What we do know with certainty at this time is that ongoing investigations are being conducted, facts are being compiled, books and articles are being written, and more revelations and fallout are forthcoming. SLM will report further developments in this disheartening and troubling matter as they develop and warrant. The following news-release by the Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) urging the leadership of the Together for the Gospel (T4G16) conference conveners to disinvite C.J. Mahaney—one of the original founders of the amalgamation—as a conference speaker, provides a good overview of the ongoing controversy. It is for that reason, and the strong view that all believers should be aware and informed about such matters that we publish it.] Continue reading “SNAP Urges T4G16 Leaders to Dis-Invite C.J. Mahaney” »

Master Manipulator

For nearly forty years now, I have been doing all I possibly can to teach, preach, and warn believers about the prevalent problem of authoritarian abuse in the church-realm at large and in Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal streams in particular. I’ve preached sermons, published audios of sermons, written scores and scores of articles, authored and published books, conducted teaching seminars, counseled hundreds of victims, and basically talked to everyone about this dastardly device of the devil who would listen (or pretend to) for five minutes about it over the span of four decades. I wish I could report (if for no one else’s edification than my own) that there is evidence that my efforts have had a powerful impact or made strong inroads into combating this insidious and spiritually decimating activity of the kingdom of darkness in the collective church as well as in individual believer’s lives. I really do. But, sadly, I cannot.

Oh, hundreds of the thousands who have obtained (can’t say “read,” because the publishing industry’s own research indicates that less than 20% of all books purchased are read by their purchasers and less than half of that number read entirely) the two books I authored on the subject so far in their various published formats (print, ebook [PDF], epub, Kindle, Nook) — Charismatic Captivation and Charismatic Control — have corresponded via some medium to tell me how the books helped to them, and some that it most literally “saved” them from the destructive effects of victimization of authoritarian abuse upon their life. How could that not be extremely encouraging and edifying? After all, that was the primary motivation for spending three and half years writing the book (I guess I’m a slow writer).

Certainly, I’m grateful and exceedingly humbled that God would chose to use me and my paltry efforts to actually help someone with regard to their spiritual life, psychological being, and relationship with the Lord. Though the negative “cost” upon my own life and ministry for my has been extreme, in some aspects excruciating, and at times, from an earthly perspective, seemingly excessive, yet such temporal and transient afflictions are superseded by the real assurance that beyond the fleeting vapor of this mortal segment of life rewards — substantial and significant rewards — await. It is for those “joys of the master” that we toil, enduring the hardships inuring from our labors of evangelism and fulfilling our ministry callings (2 Tim. 4:5). Continue reading “Identifying Hyper-authoritarian Doctrines and Practices” »

The matter of the Discipleship/Shepherding controversy and “movement” is virtually unknown to many believers who have come to the Lord since the controversy erupted in the mid-1970s. Additionally, apparently there are many who came to the Lord prior to the development of the Discipleship movement who, nonetheless, have no awareness or only a vague awareness of its existence. Personally, I do not know how such a highly publicized and public controversy could have possibly escaped any believer’s notice, nevertheless, that is the claim of many.

Despite that unawareness, however, those who are unaware are not by virtue of that unawareness unaffected by the matter. Quite to the contrary, many of those same people who claim to be totally uninformed concerning the controversy attend churches or are part of organizations or networks in which the basic tenets of Discipleship are being espoused and practiced, albeit, in most cases, now covertly. It is these uninformed and unsuspecting victims of deception I most hope to reach with the message of this book.

There are a large number of professing believers who are not of this category of the uninformed, who are quite aware of this controversial matter, who have nevertheless, evidently of their own free will, opted to align themselves with these heretical beliefs and practices by attending churches or being members of groups or organizations who espouse them. These people have apparently made this choice despite the fact that the Discipleship/Shepherding philosophies, doctrines, and practices have been unequivocally repudiated and proven to be utterly false, and their originators have long since been discredited and fallen into disrepute.

My hope is that those who continue to associate themselves with these doctrines and practices will read and seriously weigh the evidence presented in these pages, and that they will, as a result, renounce and repent from these destructive heretical teachings and practices. That is my hope and prayer, as well as my reason for writing Charismatic Captivation.

Sadly and unfortunately, however, it has been my experience that many of those who have been heavily indoctrinated by “doctrines of demons” such as this, which are inspired by “deceitful (seducing, KJV) spirits” and promulgated “by means of the hypocrisy of liars,” tend to become “seared over in their conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Tim. 4:1,2) by the error. In other words, the false doctrine becomes virtually indelibly imprinted upon the minds of those who have been fully indoctrinated by the devilish error. The deception permeates the entire belief system of those indoctrinated by it. Unless they are willing to yield to supernatural deliverance by the Spirit of God, as the brand seared into the hide of a cow by means of a red-hot branding iron is unremovable, it is virtually impossible to remove this deception from the minds of those who have been infected with it. Continue reading “The Discipleship/Shepherding Movement” »

17 Signs You’re an “Empire Builder,” Not a “Kingdom Builder”
By Joseph Mattera

Ever since the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity divided in the 11th century, some of the greatest fears of the once united Christendom has been realized—fragmentation and division.

Even in the 16th century when Martin Luther led the Protestant Reformation, there was the hope that there would only be a few major expressions of the body of Christ—never in their wildest dreams did the reformers envision all the denominations and now various branches and networks of Christianity that have evolved—which has given opportunity for a spirit of lawlessness, independence and empire building among some insecure but gifted leaders. Whether all these expressions are of God or not is not the purpose of this article. Continue reading “17 Signs Distinguishing Kingdom Builders From Empire Builders” »

SEVEN REASONS WHY MANY BELIEVERS FOLLOW “SUPERSTAR” PASTORS
By Joseph Mattera

The church has seen the rise of “celebrity cult status” pastors who act like spiritual superstars.

In this article I define superstars as those who act as little gods who believe they are above everybody else. They walk around with an entourage, body guards, and are inaccessible to family, friends, high level staff and peers, and are an unaccountable island to themselves.

Furthermore, no matter how much these leaders violate biblical ethics, they still maintain their leadership position because most of their followers are blinded by their devotion. Many of these superstars have started in the ministry for the right reason but because of un-dealt with emotional dysfunction related to their youth. They carry these dysfunctions over into their ministry and church family.

There are some social and psychological reasons for this aberrant behavior / both from the vantage point of the leader and their followers.

The following are some of these symptoms and reasons:

7 Reasons Why followers follow superstar pastors

1. Many Christians need a male figure to emulate.

Many believers come from dysfunctional family backgrounds and need a male figure hero to emulate as a father figure. Some folks view their spiritual leader as a surrogate father, hence they will be protective of said leader to the point in which their emotional connection and loyalty clouds biblical truth

2. Many Christians have no identity of their own and live vicariously through their leader.

Those without a healthy self-identity gravitate towards a strong, confident leader with a compelling vision to the point in which their own individuality is subsumed or fragmented. Thus, this creates a vacuum of being and essence which makes them vulnerable to a charismatic leader; e.g., this is how false prophet Jim Jones was able to lead 900 well-educated followers into committing corporate suicide in Guyana in the 1970′s.

3. Many believers have a strong sense of failure and live through the success of their Leader.

Many people live a boring life without purpose and feel that they have more meaning when vicariously live their life through a person they deem successful.

4. Many followers lack their own intimate knowledge of Christ and are ignorant of Scripture.

Unfortunately, most Christians are Bible-illiterate and will believe anything their leader teaches them, even if it is heretical. Hence, their leader can live a life or lead their church in a way not congruent with Scripture and they wouldn’t even know it!

5. Many stay connected to the leader primarily because of their social community.

After being in a church for several years, folks usually assimilate into that particular faith community (which is a great thing in most cases) and build their social network around their church life and ministry. If they leave their church, they have to cut off many of these social ties, thus, they will continue in a church even if the leader is living an ungodly life full of pride, abuse, and manipulation

6. Many are connected to a superstar leader because it gives them religious status.

There are many people I have met who attend a certain church only because they have a lot of members, even if they are not being discipled or ministered to in a personal way. They get fed from other sources but remain in their church because the celebrity status of their leader gives them status with other Christians in their city.

7. Many have low self esteem and don’t recognize when they are being abused or manipulated.

Those with self-esteem will allow others to abuse, disrespect, and even manipulate them because they don’t have enough self-dignity to disapprove or even recognize it. Many of these folks were abused or neglected at home and live with a sense of guilt and feel an unconscious need to have authority figures who act the same way as their parents did (to satiate their feelings of guilt in some cases).

In closing, in rare instances where I perceive believers start attending our local congregation who come from these dysfunctional churches, I am not as quick (as usual) to discourage their attendance, but am willing to open up our congregation to them as a place for them to receive personal ministry and (hopefully) flourish in their faith.

Read the previous article: 10 Reasons Some Church Leaders Become Divas

Source: http://josephmattera.org/seven-reasons-many-believers-follow-superstar-pastors/

angry-controlling-preacherThe Kingdom of Heaven Does NOT Forcibly Advance
By Steve (S.J.) Hill

Matthew 11:12:
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force.[1]

…the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing and forceful men lay hold of it.[2]

…the kingdom of heaven is forcibly entered and violent men seize it.[3]

All my Christian life I have found the idea that Jesus somehow endorses violent human effort (even if metaphorical or spiritual) for His cause as very odd. It contradicts the rest of His teaching, the life He lived, the example He set, and the rest of the New Testament.[4] Typical translations of Matt. 11:12 fit like a gorilla in a tuxedo. You don’t have to be a scholar to know: “something just ain’t right!” The fact that there’s some divergence among translators provides us with its own warning: difficulty ahead. It’s always a mistake to be dogmatic, or to make much of a little, on a point based on an obscure and difficult passage. Continue reading “Solved: Conundrum of Violence, Violent men vs. Meekness!” »

In the previous post, The Outrageous Claims of Mars Hill Church “Investigators”, I indicated my strong disagreement with the conclusions of the group of elders and an overseer who identified themselves as the “investigators” who conducted an investigation into the long train of abuses, misdeeds, and other allegations against the founding senior leader of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Mark Driscoll. Those men concluded that “While we believe Mark needs to continue to address these areas in his life, we do not believe him to be disqualified from pastoral ministry.”

I ended that post by saying that abuse of spiritual authority is one of the most, possibly the most, egregious affronts in existence to the One who is the Source of all legitimate authority, and that in a follow-up post I would offer 25 reasons why that is so that immediately come to my mind. This post consists of those 25 reasons. Continue reading “25 Reasons Hyper-Authoritarian Church Leadership IS Disqualifying” »

Former Mars Hill Pastor, Mark Driscoll
In a statement on the website of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, the Board of Overseers, as they referred to themselves, stated: “On Tuesday, October 14, Pastor Mark Driscoll submitted his resignation as an elder and lead pastor of Mars Hill Church. The Board of Overseers has accepted that resignation and is moving forward with planning for pastoral transition….” The statement also stated that “for nearly two months…a group of elders investigated a series of formal charges brought against him (Driscoll)” and that the “investigation” conducted by “a group of seven elders plus one member of the Board of Overseers” consisted of “some 1,000 hours of research, interviewing more than 50 people and preparing 200 pages of information.” Their conclusion was:

“…that Pastor Mark has, at times, been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner. While we believe Mark needs to continue to address these areas in his life, we do not believe him to be disqualified from pastoral ministry.”

“Pastor Mark has never been charged with any immorality, illegality or heresy. Most of the charges involved attitudes and behaviors reflected by a domineering style of leadership.

Now let me see if I got this right. Driscoll, who they continue to honor by calling him “Pastor Mark,” “has at times been guilty of arrogance….” First of all, being “guilty of arrogance” is not an “at times” kind of thing. A person is either arrogant – which is a condition deriving from an attitude, not an act or action that one only does “at times” or from time to time – or they are not arrogant. Arrogance does not come and go; it’s a condition of the mind and heart that when present is constant and consistent. In speaking of the supreme humility of the Son of God, Jesus, which he manifested in humbling Himself, first to come to earth as a Human, and then to the point of death on a cross, Paul said, “Let this MIND (KJV) [‘attitude,’ NASB] be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Php. 2:5-8). Humility – the diametrical opposite of arrogance – is a state of mind, as well as heart. It’s an attitude. Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, directed believers with unambiguous and clear language: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Php. 2:3-4). Continue reading “The Outrageous Claims of Mars Hill Church “Investigators”” »

[Note: With the matter of authoritarian abuse by ministers surfacing in the news more than ever before, it is vital that the church and church leaders begin to look seriously (though such is not a popular or prevalent thing among the vast majority of ministers today) at the root causes underlying the above-the-surface produce of such sinful activities by those who assume the place of authority in churches today. It is also vital for the Body of Christ to know that God has been issuing prophetic warnings about this prevalent problem of hyper-authoritarianism, particularly in the Neo-Pentecostal movement, for decades, but mostly, as is typical of prophetic warnings, to little avail. Instead of heeding those warnings by the prophets God sends to each generation, the church by-and-large still ignores them, the message, and the Source of the message…until, that is, it affects them personally, and then they want to know why God didn’t warn them or keep the destructive consequences from happening to them. Unfortunately, the church still kills the prophets God sends to them, though today they “kill” them by ignoring, refusing to recognize and support, or in various ways marginalizing them and their ministries; this is particularly true of the ecclesio-politically-powerful elite, the de facto ecclesiastical aristocracies, and the Charismatic “La Cosa Nostra,” meaning those who by various means have seized the human thrones of power of the various streams of the earthly institutional church. The following is an excerpt from my book, Charismatic Captivation—Authoritarian Abuse & Psychological Enslavement in the Neo-Pentecostal Church, originally published in 1996. The sub-premise of the book is that the heretical hyper-authoritarian doctrines, dogmas, and practices proliferated during the Discipleship/Shepherding Movement were surreptitiously infused into the fabric, foundation and functions of the Neo-Pentecostal church, in particular, producing a plethora of problems that inhibits it from fully apprehending the purposes and plans that Jesus, the exclusive functional Head of the Church He is building, intended for it to apprehend.]

One of the common denominators of false cults, false religions, and the occult is that their doctrines and practices are predicated upon the “isms” of vain, humanly invented philosophies. The same is true of the heretical hyper-authoritarian Discipleship/Shepherding doctrines, dogmas, and practices that were infused into the fabric, foundation, and functions of the Neo-Pentecostal church, which fact is further corroboration that they are all of the aforementioned characterization: cultic, false, and occult. One of the most significant “isms” of the Discipleship heresy is one that is specifically mentioned and condemned in the Bible—Nicolaitanism. Continue reading “Nicolaitanism in the Church Today” »

[Editor’s Note: After his first introduction to the ministries of C.J. Mahaney and Larry Tomczak in 1974 at a Jesus Festival in Erie, PA, Brent Detwiler, personally met Larry in 1978 when as one of 25 pastor interns at Melodyland Christian Center in Anaheim (Ralph Wilkerson) he was fatefully chosen to be Tomczak’s host. He then personally met C.J. Mahaney the first time in August 1979 at a three-week conference at the church co-pastored by Mahaney and Tomczak in Gaithersburg, MD. In 1981, Detwiler asked C.J. and Larry to provide oversight for a church he founded in Indiana. This first church adoption along with another church plant marked the unofficial beginning of what was then called People of Destiny International. In August 1982 Detwiler moved his family to Wheaton, MD to launch the group’s Leadership Training School, later renamed Pastors College, and to join C.J., Larry, and another man as the group’s first apostolic leadership team, marking the official beginning of Sovereign Grace Ministries movement, and a relationship between Detwiler and Mahaney that spanned three decades. A few years before the turn of the millennium, Mahaney gradually began making public a major sea-change in his theology and doctrinal beliefs away from the Charismatic/Pentecostal beliefs and practices that had been a part of the theological foundation of SGM from its beginnings and to align more with Evangelical/Reformed Theology doctrines and to forge relationships with prominent leaders of that stream. This seismic shift by Mahaney engendered growing tensions, disagreements, differences, and conflicts within the ranks of the SGM protodenomination, particularly among those who continued to hold to Charismatic/Pentecostal beliefs and practices. As the primary teacher of SGM’s curriculum at the Pastors College, Detwiler, was one of the staunchest defenders of same, and continued to hold the line with respect to those beliefs and practices, in particular regarding the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and the typical issues regarding tongues, eventually becoming the de facto lightning-rod for the controversies and conflicts that ensued. Over time, Mahaney adroitly employed his political power as the movement’s founder and senior leader to out-manuever and eventually over-power Detwiler within the organization’s polity, producing a gradual fall from favor among the group’s leadership. In 2008, Detwiler was removed as a teacher at the Pastors College he founded twenty-five years prior. He was disfellowshipped from SGM the next year. In 2010, Detwiler began publishing a series of documents recounting years of attempted appeals to Mahaney and the SGM leadership to consider specific and documented critiques and criticisms of C.J.’s personal spiritual condition, sinful conduct and unbiblical attitudes toward others, his leadership methodologies, and a long record of questionable leadership practices. After first publishing “The Documents” on a document-publishing site, Detwiler later started a blog to store and make publicly accessible the documents, as well as to publish articles regarding these matters and other troubling and troublesome matters that have since continued to emerge regarding Mahaney and SGM, to include civil lawsuits, allegations of coverups of child-molestating by SGM employees and/or volunteer workers and failure to report same to law enforcement. Mahaney continues to deny and deflect the majority of the most significant criticisms, charges of wrong-doing, and any role of participation in any coverups or even knowledge of child-molesters functioning in SGM, and withdrew the original SGM church he founded from SGM and relocated it to Louisville, KY. The Pastors College was forced to close for financial reasons, lack of enrollments, and because an articulation agreement that had existed for many years between it and the Southern Baptist Convention’s primary seminary was cancelled by the seminary. Reportedly, at least 41 churches have withdrawn from SGM over the last few years, and many of its former top leaders, some of whom are Mahaney’s relatives, have disassociated themselves from SGM.]

Mark Driscoll’s “Domineering Leadership Style” Does Not Disqualify Him as a Pastor According to Mars Hill Board of Overseers
By Brent Detwiler

Mark Driscoll is giving up on Mars Hill Church like C.J. Mahaney gave up on Covenant Life Church.  Driscoll he is leaving because the church is “unhealthy for our family-even physically unsafe” and he doesn’t want “aspects of my personality and leadership style” that have been divisive to “detract from our church’s mission.”  “That is why…we step aside from further ministry at the church.” In other words, Driscoll is taking the high road! The church has done him wrong but he has done it right. He is resigning with “profound sadness” not because he should but because he is godly. In his mind, he is putting Mars Hill Church first. Continue reading “Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney ‘Leadership Styles’ “Not Disqualifying” Says Boards” »

Editor’s Note: For more than 35 years I’ve been doing all I can to alert the Body of Christ to the prevalent problem of ungodly, unChrist-like hyper-authoritarian church leaders. They are the bane of the church in that they pervert and distort the whole concept of human under-shepherds who are supposed to be mirroring and representing the Great Shepherd, the literal and functional Head of the Church that He is building. Human leaders shape the earthly church in many ways — some of which are tangible and obvious, others intangible and subtle. For many years, the author of the following article has worked closely with, coached and counseled, and observed church leaders. Primarily, his work and associations have not been with the Pentecostal/Charismatic branch of the church; nevertheless, his observations about church leaders and leadership often have application to that realm as well. My book, Charismatic Captivation, remains, 18 years after its release, to be one of the leading books dealing head-on with the matter of hyper-authoritarianism in the Neo-Pentecostal church, in particular, and continues to be found by hundreds of new readers and scores of booksellers every year around the world. One of the reasons for the continued demand for the book, I believe, is that it is a prophetic book, written from a prophet’s perspective, scribed through a prophetic pen. One significant hallmark of genuine prophets is that they disdain and eschew ecclesiastical politics, to their self-detriment and deterrence of their ministry in many ways. Certainly, this book’s contents reflects all of that. It is direct and straightforward. It spares not. In writing it, I made no attempt to be politically-correct, but every attempt to put to paper exactly what I heard the Lord speaking in my Spirit, without sugar-coating it. For these reasons, the self-appointed, de facto Pentecostal/Charismatic aristocracy has by no means accepted or received the message of this book, even to the present. The backcover copy captured and prophesied the essence of why the book’s message has been so disdained by many Charismatic ministers: “Charismatic Captivation exposes the widespread authoritarian abuse that has been flourishing virtually unabated for decades since it was first infused into the very fabric, foundation, and functions of the Charismatic/Neo-Pentecostal church during the ‘Discipleship/Shepherding Movement.'” The symptoms of toxic church leaders the author of the following article identifies are essentially identical to the signs and symptoms of abusive church leadership identified in my books and other writings. The only comment I would make about the article regards the first sentence. While I would agree with it when applied to the entire institutional church as a whole, unfortunately, the percentages of toxic church leaders within the Pentecostal/Charismatic is higher than the church-at-large. There’s a number of significant reasons for that, albeit that matter is beyond the scope of this post. The recent spate of church leaders being exposed as being dominating and controlling abusers of authority and the far-reaching effects of their antichrist leadership methodologies demonstrates the extensiveness and expansiveness of this spiritually destructive cancer that a large portion of the church has stubbornly refused to recognize and thus allowed to metastasize virtually unabated for decades, despite the warnings and admonitions of some of its prophets. Espousal and practice of these symptoms of spiritual toxicity in leadership are by no means limited to the ecclesiastical realm, but are also increasingly found in the Christian business arena as well, particularly among the ranks of business enterprises that spiritually identify with Neo-Pentecostal streams and associate their business endeavors with the more spiritual-sounding realm of “marketplace ministries,” where the cult-like tactics of domination and control are the same, despite the claim to a more sophisticated and spiritual stratosphere than that of the normal business realm.[End Editor’s Note]

Fourteen Symptoms of Toxic Church Leaders
By Thom Ranier

Most church leaders are godly and healthy. A toxic church leader, one that is figuratively poisonous to the organization, is rare. But it is that church leader who brings great harm to churches and other Christian organizations. And it is that leader that hurts the entire cause of Christ when word travels about such toxicity. Continue reading “Fourteen Common Traits of Toxic Church Leaders” »

Multitudes of sincere and trusting believers are caught in the virtually invisible web of religious captivation in the churches they attend, the ministries they are under, and the networks they are aligned with…and don’t know it!

These faithful followers of Christ are unaware victims of spiritual abuse, psychological enslavement, and exploitation perpetrated under the heavy-hand of hyper-authoritarianism. That is to say, the leadership of the church-group of which they are a part is dominating, controlling, manipulating, and exploiting their followers for their own personal gain and private kingdom-building.

Through systematic indoctrination, victims have been duped into accepting as biblical and beneficial the oppressive and abusive predominance imposed upon them by unscrupulous, tyrannical church-leaders.

Without realizing the spiritual effect of what they are doing, myriads of sincere and faithful followers of Christ, in submitting themselves and surrendering their God-given right to self-governance or personal autonomy unto their spiritual leaders, have become “slaves of men” in blatant violation of God’s explicit warning against that very thing: “DO NOT BECOME SLAVES OF MEN!” (1 Cor. 7:23). Continue reading “Recovering From Authoritarian Abuse” »

“By faith Abraham, WHEN HE WAS CALLED, OBEYED by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb 11:8-10)

“Now these things happened to them as an EXAMPLE, and they were written for OUR INSTRUCTION, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Cor. 10:11)

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for OUR INSTRUCTION, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4)

Men craftily design and disseminate their humanly-invented doctrines and dogmas, founded in strife, envy, self-aggrandizement, and selfish-ambition, and aimed at controlling and corralling others, like crabs in a bucket, to preclude them from fulfilling their callings and dreams. Like Joseph’s family, they surmise their calling is to be “dream killers.”

One such concept posits that you may have a “calling” from God, but you dare not “go out” to pursue it, until you’ve received your “commissioning,” for “calling” and “commissioning” are not the same thing. And, very often according to them, THEY are the ones who will determine and decide when you are “ready” for your commissioning, which must come from them, when they lay THEIR hands upon you. In the meantime, you must “sit at their feet” and “serve” them to “prepare” you for your “commissioning.” Continue reading “A Lesson From Abraham” »

charismatic faux worshipAre you one of the many loyal and sincere church members who faithfully and cheerfully attend, support and participate in a local church, but have a nagging, persistent inward “thought” that “something is just not right here?”

Then, you begin realizing, somehow, somewhere along the line you began losing your joy, your zeal for the Lord. It used to be you could hardly wait for the services and to be involved; now it is drudgery to go at all. You used to have such a light and blissful feeling as you worshiped the Lord in the services; now you just go through the motions, feeling heavy, staring placidly toward the platform, sometimes wishing you were somewhere else. You used to be able to “look past” the leaders, and focus only on the Lord; now, all you see during the service is people, people behind the pulpit, people on the platform, and people in the pews. You used to feel God’s love and pleasure with you; now it seems all you feel is unworthiness, guilt, and that nothing you do is ever enough or pleasing to Him.

“What on earth has happened to me? What’s wrong with me?” you ask yourself. “Is it just me?” Then, you begin to look around the room and study other long-time members. You compare how they are now to how they were when they first came. Is their life, as it should be, appreciably better, or have they and their family experienced an inordinate share of tragedies, seemingly inexplicable difficulties, and reversals? By and by, you begin to realize that many of the other members have lost their “first love” too, their zeal, their enthusiasm, their joy in serving the Lord, and that, though Christians, like everyone else, certainly experience adversity, many of these members’ lives have been on a gradual, downward spiral, instead of advancement and blessing. Continue reading “33 Signs of Spiritual Abuse” »

“Covenant Relationships” is a very familiar term bespeaking a commonly accepted concept in Pentecostal/Neo-Pentecostal circles, despite the irrefutable fact that neither the term nor the concepts it represents are found in Scripture and in fact are decidedly unscriptural. Moreover, the concept of human spiritual covenants was resoundingly debunked and denounced by one of the most highly regarded theologians and teachers the Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal streams ever had, who emphatically warned that besides the sacred covenant between the Lord and His disciples “the ONLY other valid covenant is that of marriage between a husband and wife,” and that the effect of entering into any other kind of spiritual covenant with humans “will be a CURSE!”

For more than three and a half decades, I’ve been doing all the Lord has allowed, anointed, and enabled me to do to set captives of spiritual authoritarian abuse free from the bonds of witchcraft, or the “yoke of slavery,” in which they are ensnared. I’ve spoken and written extensively in books and articles about the many profound spiritual and psychological effects hyper-authoritarianism inflicts upon its multitudinous victims. Continue reading “The Curse of Unauthorized Covenants” »

At a juncture in American history when the sitting president has revealed himself in obvious and undeniable ways to be an avowed Marxist with a belly filled with fiery ambitions of a would-be world-dictator, hell-bent on transforming the republican form of government that for nearly 240 years has well-served this, the greatest nation on Earth, into a totalitarian socialistic nanny state, the matter of legitimate versus illegitimate authority is being speedily forced to the top of public discourse. A plethora of political as well as social science experts and pundits agree that the United States of America at this hour stands at the threshold of collapse and utter ruin. It can hardly be mere coincidence that every segment of American society, from political to economical to ecclesiastical, is inundated with people driven by what Augustine called libido dominandi—lust for rule or dominion.

The scope of this two-part article series is primarily leadership in the ecclesiastical realm. However, much, if not all, of the principles regarding legitimate and illegitimate authority—i.e., abuse of authority—addressed herein can also with some adaptation be applied to authority in any realm of society and human interaction.

The main focus of the initial installment of our discussion was the matter of hyper-authoritarianism in general and how easy it is for the most principled spiritual leaders to cross over the “thin line of leadership” between leading and lording, discipling and dominating, coaching and coercing, to operate in “foul ground” without even realizing it. In this part, we begin turning our attention to some of the whys and wherefores of ecclesiastical predominance. Continue reading “The Thin Line of Leadership (Part 2)” »

At a juncture in American history when the sitting president has revealed himself in obvious and undeniable ways to be an avowed Marxist with a belly filled with fiery ambitions of a would-be world-dictator, hell-bent on transforming the republican form of government that for nearly 240 years has well-served this, the greatest nation on Earth, into a totalitarian socialistic nanny state, the matter of legitimate versus illegitimate authority is being speedily forced to the top of public discourse. A plethora of political as well as social science experts and pundits agree that the United States of America at this hour stands at the threshold of collapse and utter ruin. It can hardly be mere coincidence that every segment of American society, from political to economical to ecclesiastical, is inundated with people driven by what Augustine called libido dominandi—lust for rule or dominion.

The scope of this article and the series it inaugurates is primarily leadership in the ecclesiastical realm. However, much, if not all, of the principles regarding legitimate and illegitimate authority—i.e., abuse of authority—addressed herein can also with some adaptation be applied to authority in any realm of society and human interaction.

There is a very thin line between leading and lording, discipling and dominating, coaching and coercing. So thin is the line, it is at times and in certain scenarios nearly indistinguishable. Continue reading “The Thin Line of Leadership (Part 1)” »

Contrasting Healthy and Unhealthy Churches
By Joseph Mattera

As a leader who has been the senior pastor of a local church in a major urban context, I have observed a fine line between what many deem healthy and unhealthy churches.

I define a healthy church as one that is relationally functional regarding its top leaders (elders, deacons, trustees, pastors and ministers) and its regular attendees and membership. Also, a healthy church has organic growth based on a balance of outreach and in-reach, or pastoral and evangelistic ministry, as well as discipleship and organizational systems that perpetuate the vision of the church.

The challenge of differentiating between healthy and unhealthy churches is that much of Christendom has adopted outcomes and methodologies that conform to a worldly standard for what we define as success for any enterprise. Continue reading “Healthy vs. Unhealthy Churches” »

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