Years ago, my parents had a very painful exit from a church. Through that experience I witnessed the destructive force of what is called "spiritual abuse." I saw how devastating pastoral abuse is to a Christian’s psyche, sense of worth, relation to the local church, and at times one’s personal relationship with God. I saw how the kingdom of God can be hindered when a pastor abuses God’s people.
During that time I came across Ron Enroth’s book Churches that Abuse and was introduced for the first time to the term spiritual abuse or pastoral abuse. I then began reading and researching the subject and making some of my findings available to others whom I knew had experienced similar abuse. Over time I developed a burden to see victims of spiritual abuse helped, healed, and restored. I desire to see those persons who have been abused by the church to not become casualties in the kingdom of God but instead to become resilient, bouncing back closer to the Lord and more fruitful for His kingdom.
I spent years researching and writing my doctoral thesis, Moving Forward: A Descriptive Study of the Factors that Make People Resilient to Pastoral Abuse in Southern Baptist Churches, describing the characteristics of abusive religious systems and the processes that people go through in order to heal, become resilient, and move forward from spiritual abuse.
What is spiritual abuse? Enroth describes spiritual abuse in his own words:
Unlike physical abuse that often results in bruised bodies, spiritual and
pastoral abuse leaves scars on the psyche and soul. It is inflicted by
persons who are accorded respect and honor in our society by virtue
of their role as religious leaders and models of spiritual authority. They
base that authority on the Bible, the Word of God, and see themselves
as shepherds with a sacred trust. But when they violate that trust and when
they misuse ecclesiastical power to control and manipulate the flock, the
results can be catastrophic. The perversion of power that we see in abusive churches disrupts and divides families, fosters an unhealthy dependence of members on the leadership, and creates, ultimately, spiritual confusion in the lives of victims. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan House, 1992, p. 29)
In the coming days as I review my thesis and as I write towards a book proposal, I will be posting a number things. My goal is to write a non-fiction book for the person who has been burned by the church - or by a pastor. I would want this person to pick it up and find hope and healing in the Lord.
If you see something I post that is helpful to you, let me know. That may spur me on to use some of that material in the book.