NOTE: Please don’t overlook the “Misogyny” page in the right margin (Mars Hill is the “parent” page).
Do any, some, most or all of these descriptions fit your experience of Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll?
by Ronald Enroth, Ph.D.
(Cult Observer, 1992, Volume 9, No. 4)
…Sociologists of religion (as well as many ex members) know that some churches are also dysfunctional, even to the point of being spiritually abusive. If truth in advertising standards could be applied to religion, some churches would be required to display a sign reading: “Warning: this church could be harmful to your spiritual and psychological health.”
Farfetched? Not if my own research of the past few years has any validity at all. Sadly, spiritual and pastoral abuse is more prevalent than most people believe. Like child abuse, it often goes undetected, or else it is strongly denied. …When [spiritually abusive leaders] misuse their ecclesiastical office to control their congregations, the results can be catastrophic.
What are the hallmarks of unhealthy, aberrant churches? The key indicator is control oriented leadership, ministers who have a need to “lord it over the flock.” Abusive leaders demand submission and unquestioning loyalty. The person who raises uncomfortable questions or does not “get with the program” is cast aside. Guilt, fear, and intimidation are used to manipulate and control vulnerable members, especially those who have been taught to believe that questioning their pastor is comparable to questioning God.
Why does a pastor or priest sometimes turn into a spiritual tyrant? I believe it is because of the human desire to control others and to exercise power over people. Each of us has been exposed to the temptation of power, whether in the role of spouse, teacher, or parent. An excessive will to power, coupled with sincere religious motives, can lead to the misuse of spiritual authority.
More than any other age group, young adults are attracted to abusive churches, their seemingly dynamic programs, and their “take charge” leaders. Such churches often target young couples during the crucial child bearing years. As a result, the energy needed by these young couples for legitimate family interaction is siphoned off into a high intensity cause. Family obligations are sacrificed, and children’s developmental needs are neglected.
How can we recognize a healthy church? In addition to matters of appropriate doctrine, a healthy church is reconciling and restorative, not adversarial and elitist. Members of healthy churches seek to deepen and strengthen their family commitments. Legitimate leaders will welcome dissent and hard questions from members without threat of reprisal. Trustworthy leaders will encourage accountability, and they will establish checks and balances.
Choose a church carefully and prayerfully. Remember, not all religion is benign, and not all church experience is beneficial.
Ronald M. Enroth, Ph.D
The following is a list from an article:
The Signs of Spiritual Abuse,
by Steven Lambert
Apotheosis of the leadership — exalting them to God-like status in and over the group;
Multi-level authority/government hierarchy;
Absolute authority of the leadership;
No real accountability of the leadership to the corporate body;
Hand-picked sub-leaders, based on their demonstration of submissiveness to the ultimate leader rather than on the basis of their leadership skills, spirituality, and anointing and appointment by God;
Pervasive abuse and misuse of authority in personal dealings with members;
Paranoia and insecurity by the leaders;
Abuse, misuse, and inordinate incidence of “church discipline;”
Personal materialism, covetousness, and self-aggrandizement by the leaders;
Members and/or sub-leaders must make a “spiritual covenant,” sometimes a signed covenant agreement, pledging their total commitment and financial support to the leadership and church/ministry;
Partitioning of the group into smaller groups that are led by internally “raised up” lay-leaders who have not been anointed or appointed by God for leadership within the church;
Financial exploitation and enslavement of the members;
De facto legalism, or works mentality, and its resulting loss of the “joy of salvation,” though “freedom” is forever preached from the pulpit
Esotericism — hidden agendas and requirements revealed to members only as they successfully advance through various stages of “spiritual enlightenment,” i.e., unorthodox, unproven indigenous doctrines;
Isolationism — corporate and individual, especially with respect to exposure to outside ministry sources;
Performance-based approval and promotion system of members predicated on “proven” “loyalty” (i.e., submission) to the leadership;
Devaluation, suppression, and non-recognition of members’ bona fide God-given talents, abilities, gifts, callings, and anointing, as a means of subjugation;
Constant indoctrination with a “group” or “family” mentality that impels members to exalt the corporate “life” and goals of the church-group over their personal goals, callings, and objectives;
Members are psychologically traumatized and indoctrinated with numerous improper fears and phobias aimed at keeping them reeling in diffidence and an over-dependence or co-dependence on their leaders and the corporate group;
Lack of true personal spiritual growth and development, especially in terms of genuine faith and experiencing the abounding grace, forgiveness, goodness, blessings, kindness, and agape-love of God;
Frequent preaching from the pulpit regarding not getting out from under the “spiritual covering” of the leadership;
Members departing without the prior permission and blessing of the leadership leave the group under a cloud of manufactured suspicion, shame, and slander;
Horror stories frequently told by leaders about individuals or families who left the group without the prior permission and blessing of the leadership, and the terrible consequences and curses they suffered as a result;
Departing members often suffer from various psychological problems and display the classic symptoms associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
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