Page updated 23 September 2018

Page Suggestions: Wolves in Sheep's Clothing

Definitions Associated with Spiritual Abuse



"Abuse is fundamentally a mentality. It is a mindset of entitlement. The abuser sees himself as entitled. He is the center of the world, and he demands that his victim make him the center of her world. His goal is power and control over others. For him, power and control are his natural right, and he feels quite justified in using whatever means are necessary to obtain that power and control. The abuser is not hampered in these efforts by the pangs of a healthy conscience and indeed often lacks a conscience." -A Cry for Justice-


Dissociation (in the wide sense of the word) is an act of disuniting or separating a complex object into parts.

Identification of the neural substrate of a particular brain function through various methods; an experience of having one's attention and emotions detached from the environment.

A rhetorical device in which the speaker separates a notion considered to form a unitary concept into two new notions to affect an audience in some way.

False Teacher

The False Teacher is a person who presents himself to the Christian church as a legitimate teacher, but harbors the deep-set desire to gain control of the church in order to gain personal benefit from the members of the church.

The "Inner Circle"

People in the inner circle feed the pastor’s ego and will go to great lengths to defend and protect him. They have a strong bond and most likely get preferential treatment or some kind of emotional reward for feeding the ego. The pattern is they will report any kind of suspicious activity to the leader, any dissension in the group, anyone who may not be fully on board.

That inner circle sure is a dangerous place to be. Before my "fall from grace" I was a part of the inner circle. There were a number of red flags I saw in the year-and-a-half leading up to the fallout, but I didn't want to be labeled a troublemaker by questioning the authorities that were. I reasoned away compromise after compromise, cover up after cover up. God saw right through me, however, and placed a situation in my path that I could not ignore. I realized as I took my stand that what God thought of me was far more important than what the elders thought of me.

What happens in that vicious inner circle is that the church leadership derives affirmation from their group of "faithful" followers. The "faithful" followers are rewarded with affirmation from the leaders. And around and around it goes.

The affirmation trap is an easy one for me to fall into (and I imagine it might be easy for others as well), because I want to be liked. I want to be considered valuable and feel like I'm worth something. But I say it's a trap because oftentimes we value what the elders think above what God thinks, and begin living accordingly. When we are finally forced to stand up against sin amongst leadership, they will do everything in their power to make us feel worthless, unloved and unwanted.

I've had to learn over the past three years to derive my affirmation from God in His Word. Recognition is still nice, but my goodness, it's not worth the fall. -Lydia Thomas, 03 July 2012-

No talk rule

In abusive spiritual systems, people’s lives are controlled from the outside in by rules, spoken and unspoken. Unspoken rules are those that govern unhealthy churches or families but are not said out loud. Because they are not said out loud, you don’t find out that they’re there until you break them.

The most powerful of all unspoken rules in the abusive system is what we have already termed the "can’t talk" rule. The "can’t talk" [rule] has this thinking behind it:

"The real problem cannot be exposed because then it would have to be dealt with and things would have to change; so it must be protected behind walls of silence (neglect) or by assault (legalistic attack). If you speak about the problem, you are the problem. -The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse By David Johnson and Jeff Vanvonderen (Bethany House, 1991, 2005)-

This is an excellent article on the no-talk rule by labeling it "gossip" and twisting the meaning of Matthew 18: Rethinking Matthew 18 – Part 2 "Gossip – Control"

"Elephant in the room" or "Elephant in the living room" is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss; It is based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook.

Spiritual Abuse

Spiritual abuse is a spiritual role-reversal where a shepherd, instead of clinging to and emulating the Great Shepherd by shepherding God’s people (Acts 20; 1 Peter 5; 1 Timothy 3; Ephesians 4), subtly demands that members exist to meet the shepherd’s needs (James 4:1-4Bible quote(verse 1) From whence [come] wars and fightings among you? [come they] not hence, [even] of your lusts that war in your members?

(verse 2) Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

(verse 3) Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume [it] upon your lusts.

(verse 4) Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.James 4 verses 1-4
). Rather than relating as a servant leader, the pastor "pulls rank" and "lords it over others" (Matthew 20:20-28Bible quote(verse 20) Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping [him], and desiring a certain thing of him.

(verse 21) And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.

(verse 22) But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.

(verse 23) And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but [it shall be given to them] for whom it is prepared of my Father.

(verse 24) And when the ten heard [it], they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.

(verse 25) But Jesus called them [unto him], and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

(verse 26) But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

(verse 27) And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

(verse 28) Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.Matthew 20 verses 20-28
; 1 Peter 5:1-6Bible quote(verse 1) The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:

(verse 2) Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [thereof], not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

(verse 3) Neither as being lords over [God's] heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

(verse 4) And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

(verse 5) Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all [of you] be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

(verse 6) Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.1 Peter 5 verses 1-6
), not for the benefit of the flock, but for the benefit of the pastor. Rather than speaking the truth in love and rather than ministering grace and truth (Ephesians 4:11-16, 29Bible quote(verse 11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

(verse 12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

(verse 13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

(verse 14) That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

(verse 15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ:

(verse 16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

(verse 29) Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.Ephesians 4 verses 11-16, 29
; Colossians 4:3-6Bible quote(verse 3) Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:

(verse 4) That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

(verse 5) Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.

(verse 6) Let your speech [be] alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. Colossians 4 verses 3-6
; Titus 2:10-12Bible quote(verse 10) Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

(verse 11) For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,

(verse 12) Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.Titus 2 verses 10-12
), the spiritually abusive pastor intimidates, judges, condemns, shames, and blames the sheep without regard for the spiritual wellbeing of the sheep (Jeremiah 23:1-4Bible quote(verse 1) Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.

(verse 2) Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.

(verse 3) And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.

(verse 4) And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.Jeremiah 23 verses1-4
; Matthew 23:1-39). -Bob Kellemen, Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition-

page 2 Types of Abuse