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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and at times, from an earthly perspective, seemingly excessive, yet such temporal and transient afflictions are superseded by the real assurance that beyond the fleeting vapor of this mortal segment of life rewards — substantial and significant rewards — await.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” »

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: 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” »

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” »

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)” »

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” »

There is no matter more central and critical to spiritual knowledge and understand­ing than the matter of authority. That fact becomes even more apparent when one considers that the very term “Kingdom of God” actually connotes the Domain, Authority, or Government of God (cf., Rev. 12:10). The word, “kingdom,” in fact, is a compound word composed of two derivatives, king and domain, thus it connotes the domain of a king—in this case, the Kingdom of God or Christ. One cannot even begin to have a proper understanding of the realm of the Kingdom of God as well as the genuine Gospel of the Kingdom, which the Gospel writers expressly indicated Jesus preached during His fleshly ministry, without having an understanding of the matter of authority. Continue reading “Examining Biblical Authority” »

[Editor’s note: This article is adapted from the book, CHARISMATIC CAPTIVATION, by Dr. Steven Lambert, himself a Charismatic minister. The book exposes the widespread problem of authoritarian abuse in Neo-Pentecostal church-groups, and explains how it became infused into the very fabric, foundation, and functions of the Neo-Pentecostal church, emerging out of a false movement known as the Discipleship/Shepherding Movement (1970-77). References to “Discipleship” or “Shepherding” (and variables) doctrines, teachings, proponents and participants, and so forth, allude to those pertinences that arose out of that movement. The content of this article is contextual to the entirety of the book, and is best understood by reading the book. A small portion of the book’s content is published in the posted articles listed and linked at the end of this article.
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This post is a continuation of the previous post, which you should read to understand the context.

The adulterated concept of “spiritual covering” itself is problematic enough. Yet, its negative effect is increased by the fact that it is the predicate for several other, related elements of error comprising the heretical Discipleship/Shepherding doctrines and practices, one of which is the matter of “personal pastors.” Indeed, this element has been the basis for at least as much excess, errancy, and authoritarian abuse as the others discussed in this series of articles concerning those doctrines and practices. To those who employ these practices for sordid purposes or with less than pure motives, the perverted concept of “spiritual covering” is sanction for a most insidious kind of unauthorized personal domination and control of their subjects under the auspices of this very delusive and destructive version of “personal shepherding.” Continue reading “The Fallacy of Personal Pastors (Part 2)” »

[Editor’s Note: This article is adapted from the book, CHARISMATIC CAPTIVATION, by Steven Lambert. The book exposes the widespread problem of authoritarian abuse in Neo-Pentecostal church-groups, and explains how it became infused into the very fabric, foundation, and functions of the Neo-Pentecostal church arising out of a false movement known as the Discipleship/Shepherding Movement (1970-77). References to “Discipleship” or “Shepherding” (and variables) doctrines, teachings, proponents and participants, and so forth, allude to those pertinences that arose out of that movement. The content of this article is contextual to the entirety of the book, and is best understood by reading the book. A small portion of the book’s content is published in the posted articles listed and linked at the end of this article.]
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The adulterated concept of “spiritual covering” itself is problematic enough (for more on that subject, read the previous two posts). Yet, its negative effect is increased by the fact that it is the predicate for several other, related elements of error comprising the heretical Discipleship/Shepherding doctrines and practices, one of which is the matter of “personal pastors.” Indeed, this element has been the basis for at least as much excess, errancy, and authoritarian abuse as the others discussed in this series of articles concerning those doctrines and practices. To those who employ these practices for sordid purposes or with less than pure motives, the perverted concept of “spiritual covering” is license for a most insidious kind of unauthorized personal domination and control of their subjects under the auspices of this very delusive and destructive version of “personal shepherding.” Continue reading “The Fallacy of Personal Pastors (Part 1)” »

[Editor’s Note: This article is adapted from the book, CHARISMATIC CAPTIVATION. The book exposes the widespread problem of authoritarian abuse in Neo-Pentecostal church-groups, and explains how it became infused into the very fabric, foundation, and functions of the Neo-Pentecostal church arising out of a false movement known as the Discipleship/Shepherding Movement (1970-77). References to “Discipleship” or “Shepherding” (and variables) doctrines, teachings, proponents and participants, and so forth, allude to those pertinences that arose out of that “movement.” The content of this article is contextual to the entirety of the book, and is best understood by reading the book. A small portion of the book’s content is published in the posted articles listed and linked at the end of this article.]

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in MY WORD, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the TRUTH, and the TRUTH will make you FREE.” (John 8:31,32; NASB)

It was for FREEDOM that Christ set us FREE; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a YOKE OF SLAVERY. (Galatians 5:1; NASB)

Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of Me; and that COVER with A COVERING, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin: That walk to go down into EGYPT [symbol of captivity in Scripture], and have not asked at My mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh [symbol of Satan and autocratic dictators in Scripture], and to trust in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your CONFUSION. For his princes were at Zoan [aka, Goshen, where Pharaoh met with Moses and Aaron; Easton’s Bible Dictionary], and his ambassadors came to Hanes. They were all ashamed of a people that could not PROFIT them, nor be an help nor PROFIT, but a shame, and also a reproach. (Isaiah 30:1-5; KJV; emphases and parentheses added)

The second primary conceptual error on which the heretical hyper-authoritarian Discipleship/Shepherding doctrines are established, is the matter of “spiritual covering.” Indeed, so-called “spiritual covering” is the very centerpiece of these wholly unbiblical teachings and the authoritarian abuse they engender, which is absolutely endemic in Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal (Charismatic, “third wave,” and New Apostolic Reformation) sects. Over the course of the 20th Century it became institutionally infused into the very fabric, foundation, and functions of these groups, meaning in their protodenomination and network organizations. Virtually none of those in existence today are free from the influence and attitudes of domination and control over their adherents. It is witchcraft of the highest order for the basest of motivations—mammon—the love of money and self-aggrandizement. Continue reading “The Myth of Spiritual Covering (Part 1)” »

Multitudes of sincere and trusting believers are caught in the virtually invisible web of religious captivation in Charismatic and other Neo-Pentecostal churches, and don’t know it. They are unaware victims of spiritual abuse and exploitation 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, and manipulating their followers, and exploiting them for their own personal gain and private kingdom-building.

Horror stories of authoritarian abuse and exploitation and psychological enslavement in certified Christian churches abound. From time to time, particular isolated incidents have erupted in highly publicized news stories. However, those high-profile cases really are only the tip of the iceberg. The truth of the matter is, I know from my more than thirty years of ministry, ecclesiastical enslavement and exploitation is widespread in certain sectors of Christendom in this country. And, it is vital to understand, I am not talking about radical, fringe religious sects and cults, but well-respected church-groups espousing orthodox Christian beliefs, whose membership is comprised of a cross section of average Americans, individuals and families, of every race, education level, station, and walk of life.

Though religious predomination is certainly nothing new, and hyper-authoritarianism is by no means limited to the Neo-Pentecostal branch of the Church, it has, however, especially flourished in the Charismatic and so-called “second, third, and fourth wave” (i.e., Neo-Pentecostal) groups since it was infused into the very fabric, foundation, and functions of that branch of the Church in the early- to mid-seventies. Moreover, it is the Charismatic branch of which this ministry has been a part since its inception, which gives me not only the “right” but also the duty to bring reproof of error and errancy in that realm (2 Tim. 4:1-5, et al.).

This kind of “Charismatic captivation” is prevalent among Charismatic and other Neo-Pentecostal churches and groups primarily as a result of widely-taught and -accepted hyper-authoritarian doctrines and practices first introduced in the 1970s by an alliance of five ministers who rose to prominence, and spawned what became known as the “Discipleship/Shepherding Movement.” Those doctrines and practices remain an integral part of the governmental foundation of many churches and groups yet today. Continue reading “Charismatic Captivation” »