Signs of Spiritual Abuse


Found this interesting.   While attending Kairos 2 they spoke briefly about 4 signs of Spiritual Abuse.

1. Power Posturing

2. Performance Preoccupation

3. Unspoken Rules

4. Paranoia  (I think….I left my book with all my notes in the Hub’s vehicle and I keep forgetting to fetch it).

I have been involved in a church that had all of these characteristics.  Long before blogs, I am talking 15 years ago, I wrote an article about Spiritual Abuse which is out there in internet land but I am not going to link to it because there was at least one paragraph I would edit today. I will share some of the article at the end of this blog.

The topic still interest me today.  Why?  Because spiritual abuse is everywhere and it is subtle and it’s so detrimental to our souls.  Even after having experienced spiritual abuse through an organizational church, I still was not immune to attending a church where spiritual abuse was going on and I didn’t recognize it right away.  Much like a person who is physically abused, spiritually abused people can fall into church after church of spiritual abusers if they aren’t healed.  You can’t just recognize the abuse and get out of it, you must seek to be healed from the abuse in order to form healthy relationships in the future.

As I dug a little deeper, I found a flyer that outlined seven characteristics of Spiritual Abuse.  This flyer is an adaptation from a book titled, Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, The: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church by David Johnson  and  Jeff VanVonderen.  Click here for a link.

Their list includes:

1. Power Posturing – Leaders focus on their own authority constantly reminding other of it and even siting the Bible to promote their own authority.

2. Performance Preoccupation – Focus is on members performance and promotion is based on performance.  Strict adherence to the law or rules.

3. Lack of Balance -Members are taught that they cannot interpret the Bible but must rely solely on the leader.  Beliefs are based on primarily on feelings or experiences especially those of the leader.

4. Unspoken Rules – Performance is based on rules but the rules are not written down or stated rather they are discovered only when broken making them impossible to follow.

5. Paranoia -The leader projects paranoia on his/her followers usually by teaching they are persecuted and people are out to get them.

6. Misplaced Loyalty – Loyalty to the leader or system must replace all other loyalty, even loyalty to family and friends.

7. Secrets – Leaders cannot live up to their own rules so they hide their own short comings.  They also hide money and most decisions are made in secret.

You may not have experienced all seven of these at one time but it is likely that you have experienced some of them.  Why?  Because often time leaders begin to feel the need to guard what they or God has built.  Call it fear.  Call it pride.  It happens.

If you see these signs in your church…what do you do?  Here is an excerpt from the article I wrote many years ago:

Fighting Spiritual Abuse

We have come to the conclusion that Spiritual abuse exists
and is in fact  thriving. So what can we do about it? What can we do
about family and friends that are in spiritually abusive situations? Individuals
in spiritually abusive situations rarely recognize the abuse.

Since spiritual abuse is a spiritual problem the battle
must be fought on a spiritual level.

What causes spiritual abuse? Two major factors play a
part in spiritual abuse. In the spiritual realm the abuser becomes blinded
by a spirit of pride, spirit of religion, and a controlling spirit. The abused
individuals take their eyes off Jesus Christ and begin to worship the religion
and the man instead of Jesus, thus setting up a situation of  idolatry.
The abused individuals will also become blinded by the spirit of pride and
the spirit of religion, thus they do not recognize any abuse.

What can we do about spiritual abuse? All spiritual battles
must be fought in the spiritual realm. We cannot fight a spiritual battle
with physical weapons. We must learn to fight this battle in the spiritual
realm. God in His Word has provided all the weapons we will need to fight
and win this battle. Our main weapons are the Word of Jesus (the Bible is
our sword in the Spirit, sharper than any two-edged sword), the Name of Jesus
(in which we have all authority over Satan), and the Blood of Jesus (which
can cover any situation).

How do we use these weapons? Every good soldier knows
that before we can go into battle we must prove our weapons on the practice
field. Our lives are our practice fields. Read the Word of God everyday.
Hide the scriptures in your heart. The Bible has something in it for every
situation we face. Speak the Word of God on the situations in your life.
If you need protection in your life read Psalms 91 out loud over your situation.
Isaiah says that the God’s words will not return to Him void. When we pray
God’s Word the prayers will not return to us void. We must know the Word
of God in order to effectively fight in the battle. In the name of Jesus
we have all authority over Satan. Every demonic spirit must obey when we
come in the name and authority of Jesus Christ.

We have to remember that some battles take longer to
win than others. You may have to pray for something everyday for months or
longer in order to weaken the enemy’s hold, once weakened the enemy will
very easily be removed. Begin to bind the demonic force in the name of Jesus
everyday during your prayer time. Also, ask God to shine His light in the
situation and open the eyes of the blind so they recognize their situation.
Finally, plead the blood over the individuals involved and the situation
in general. If you can, anoint the individual with oil or the physical church
building where the situation is taking place. Before using the oil be sure
to dedicate it to represent the Blood of Jesus. The oil can be washed off
or wear off so it must be reapplied occasionally.

Remember that the individuals involved in spiritual abuse
probably did not set out to abuse or be abused. They have been deceived by
Satan. They are blind to what is actually going on spiritually. They cannot
be reasoned with. If you attempt to enlighten them they will probably tell
you that you are the one deceived. Even though they are deceived and very
often they view all other believers with contempt and condemnation, it is
our duty as Christians to love them and pray for them. We must model our
lives after Jesus Christ, He said we are to forgive our brother seventy times
seven. We must forgive them. Most of these individuals have known Jesus at
one time or another. They have felt the Holy Spirit, they knew God at one
time. They just got off track and lost sight of Jesus. When they lost sight
of Jesus, they lost their love. It is very easy to become abusive when you
have no love.

How will the battle be won? When we (the church) bind
together in unity and begin to battle and pray for our lost brothers and
sisters. The Bible speaks of only one church. God’s church will be united.
Even though most of these individuals do not recognize any beliefs other
than their own, God still loves them and wants them to be united with His
church. Every religion seems to have taken a portion of the truth and recognize
it as the whole truth as opposed to only a part of the truth. They get off
balance by doing this.


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