The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse — Part 2

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderan

Read summary of Part 1 here

Part 2: Abusive Leaders and Why They Are Trapped

CHAPTER 9 — “Because I’m the Pastor That’s Why”

• “Leadership that demands authority because it’s in an authorial position rests upon a false basis of authority.”

• “Anyone who suggests that something is wrong quickly becomes ‘the problem.'”

“Instead of ones authority being based on the fact that they are wise, discerning and true. It’s based on the fact that one is solely in charge.”

• “Authority is in the truth one speaks, not the position one holds. Whenever or wherever we see a system or a person posturing or assuming a position of authority based solely on role, office, or position, we are dealing with a false basis of authority. If a person’s spiritual authority rests on the sole fact that “I am the pastor,” there is a good chance they have taken that posture because they have no real authority.”

CHAPTER 10 — “You Can Trust Me”

• Leaders can often lead double lives gaining trust by acting one way and then spiritually abusing after they’ve gained the trust. Acting in a way opposite of what they preach can also happen as well as double-talk where straight answers are never given.

CHAPTER 11 — “Image is Everything”

• How things look is more important than what is real.

• False leaders turn to people’s opinions and outward appearance as the sources of their validation and real needs are not met.

• If a spiritually abusive leader is not given a place of honor–is not publicly acknowledged–he or she will be sure that no one else is either. What prevails is jealousy and competition.

• The way you can spot an abusive system is that the leaders require the place of honor.

CHAPTER 12 — “Straining Gnats, Swallowing Camels”

• “You’re out of order!” declared the elder leading the meeting. The church’s young pastor had just told the assembly that he and his family were spiritually starving and financially dying. “We have important business to deal with here. You’re not on the agenda.”

• When ministry becomes more important than people, when following rules and laws are more important than people’s hurts and pains there is an inverted spirituality that is abusive and unhealthy. “The insignificant is made significant and the significant is made insignificant.” “The real needs of people are neglected for the agenda.”

CHAPTER 13 — “The Weight of Religion”

• When religion gives a set of rules to follow we immediately are burdened by the weight of never living up to the standard, of always falling short. But God’s grace isn’t about being burdened, it’s about freedom and living through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, not a list of dos and don’ts.

CHAPTER 14 — “No Admittance”

• Where there is no life-giving reign of God, only a substitute God who suddenly demands a great deal of activity from us to “prove” we are “worthy servants.”

• “There are people longing for God, and they hope that the logical place to discover the truth about God is in a place that claims to have it–the church. But when they go, all too often what they discover is a system that gives them more work to do in order to be “close” to God.

CHAPTER 15 — Spreading “the Gospel”

• If the message does not lift weights off people, set them free, and reconnect the people to their true source of life then it is not the authentic good news but something that is harmful.

CHAPTER 16 — The People Get Devoured

• “It is the unsatisfied hungers–mentally, egotistically, emotionally–that cause a shepherd to devour his own. You follow, you trust, and you think it is completely safe.”

• “Abusive systems don’t serve and equip people, they use people. Worse, they use people up.”

• “Unless I stay rightly connected with God, my entire sense of value as a person will come from how I perform as a person and how others reward and applaud my behavior.”

• “I may encourage you to come and serve and give to the glory of God, but the real reason I’m encouraging you to do that is because I will look like a success if you do. I will use you to make me look good. At this point, my ego has begun to feed upon you.” (emphasis mine)

Next we’ll look at Part 3: Post Abuse Recovery

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