The Pink Elephant in the Sanctuary

This article was written by Heidi, who wishes to remain anonymous. I have changed the title slightly but otherwise it remains unabridged.

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Spiritual: concerned with or affecting the spirit or soul

Abuse: to use wrongly or improperly or excessively; pervert: change the inherent purpose or function of something

It’s not something we talk about much in church circles, but something which I have witnessed time and time again. From the time I was old enough to comprehend that not all church folks are “nice people”.

This is partially pulled from personal experience but is not intended to be completely auto-biographical. So, don’t go there. I am addressing An Issue, not venting a personal expose.

Let’s imagine we know a girl, Susie Sincere-Believer (she’s hyphenated, which shows how modern we all are…) 😉 and we are watching her life from the outside.

Susie has become a believer in Jesus as her Savior and has recently begun attending a local congregation. Pastor Fred is nice enough and teaches her from the Word that G-d is good, gentle, kind and sweet.

As Susie grows in her faith, she seeks expression through service and gradually, over a period of time, the Lord places her in a position of leadership. She gets closer to Pastor Fred and sees things that bother her. But, well, Pastor Fred “knows the word” better than she does, she thinks to herself, so she is certain there is a Good Reason for it all.

She refuses to listen to the warning bells in her head, confident it is just the old nature and a “critical spirit”. After all, Pastor Fred taught on that just last week. We should love one another and look for the good! We should always try to “see someone’s heart” before we determine the worth or validity of their actions. So, Susie continues to ignore the warning bells.

Then Pastor Fred gets angry at her for a mistake she made. It was rectifiable, but he was put out. Rightly so, she reasons, after all he’s the one carrying this heavy burden of responsibility for our church and no body can stay quiet and calm all the time! Her heart is hurt and her joy is diminished, but she’s been taught that being “judgmental” is the worst thing for the Body and so she decides to simply be quiet and work harder. Maybe if she helps Pastor Fred even more, he’ll be relieved of some of his burden and not be so easily angered. She decides that she’ll have to relinquish control of some of her role of influence and remember to “do as she is told”.

But as Susie works harder and harder, Pastor Fred requires more and more from her. He demands more of her time, her effort and her faith. When she asks for some time off? He rants and raves. Susie has by now become so beat down and convinced she cannot make decisions on her own she again aquiesces.

Until one day… She decides she can no longer function in that environment and emphatically says, “NO!” and decides she is no longer going to be the enabler for Pastor Fred’s “vision” and “ministry”.

And then Pastor Fred, in his anger and disappointment, comes after her in any way he can, he maligns her character and slanders her family.

But this time? Susie isn’t available to be manipulated by him and she walks away.

What is the lesson Susie learned here?

Unfortunately, for many zealous and gung-ho new believers, the lesson is probably that pastors and leadership are not safe and are not to be trusted. Ever. Many times the young one’s, like Susie, never come back to a fellowship of any kind. They are battered and crippled. Emotionally, yes. Spiritually, definitely.

So, what does Susie do now? She’s lost her “spiritual family”, her “spiritual home” and her spiritual accountability. The only people in her life who are friendly to her now are the non-believers she left behind when she found Jesus.

Unless Susie is remarkable and different from the normal person, her fledgling faith will withers up and blows away in the winds of compromise.

And Pastor Fred looks by and pronounces that she was obviously too immature for the requirements of “ministry” and since she is so obviously in SIN, should be avoided.

Whose fault is this? Can we lay the blame squarely on Pastor Fred’s broad shoulders? Probably not. Susie didn’t heed the warning bells in her own spirit and therefore was, at the very least, complicit in her situation. But Pastor Fred is the “older/wiser” believer and he was given the charge of caring for her spiritual well-being. A good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep… Or at least I’ve heard that somewhere, haven’t I?

But what if the shepherd doesn’t? What if the shepherd employs emotional manipulation, high levels of control and a constant state of agitation due to unpredictable bursts of anger or frustration? What if the shepherd feeds off the adoration and loyalty of his sheep? Perhaps the shepherd doesn’t care about the safety of the sheep only about his own needs being met. At any cost.

Well, then that shepherd has perverted, changed the inherent purpose, of the spiritual ( having to do with soul & spirit) environment over which he was given charge. He is “spiritually abusing” G-d’s sheep.

And Ezekiel 34 tells us that the wicked shepherds will, one day, have to deliver an accounting for their actions and their excesses.

My question to those of us who can recognize these patterns and have, to one degree or another, used these very excuses to avoid holding the leadership of our congregations to the higher level of accountability demanded of their position is this:

Which more clearly shows the heart of a growing and maturing believer?

Are you the person who takes what is offered from the pulpit and doesn’t question, doesn’t search the Word on your own, doesn’t seek to defend the weakest among us in the Body?

Or are you the one who “tests all things, hold(ing) fast to all that is good”, who searches the Word on your own and does all within your strength and opportunity to defend and disciple the weakest in the Body?

Even if it costs you a great deal… Especially if it costs you a great deal.

These men and women will continue as selfish pastors, wicked shepherds and abusive leadership as long as no one holds them to that Divine standard of accountability. They will be free to continue to harm others as long as they are not exposed or confronted on their poor behavior and choices.

“Touch not the Lord’s anointed?”

Maybe… So, were you there when the person claiming this “divine position” had their head doused with anointing oil by a bona fide, of biblical proportion, prophet of G-d? Or do you just have the vague ramblings of an “impression on their heart”? Samuel anointed Sh’aul to be KING! That’s the leader of an entire people group, not merely the leader of 55 in a small, cramped room. Sh’aul was called and placed by G-d’s elite representative on earth to be the ruler of a NATION of G-d’s very own chosen people. That’s what that verse is referring to.

Funny how that verse becomes the one of choice when one thinks to challenge the behavior of men and women, members of the Body of Christ and joint heirs with Him. You know, folks just like the rest of us who follow Christ. I believe we ought to be extremely careful placing the calling or burden of kingship on mere men and women who may or may not have an ability to communicate knowledge and exegete the Scriptures, may or may not have the heart to care for and tend the sheep, may or may not be willing to lay down their lives for the people. How many times do we base that burden and calling on the personal testimony of one person and a charismatic personality? Fruit of the spirit is not the same as a successful marketing campaign. A harvest of righteousness isn’t the equivalent of full pews and a brilliant sermon followed by a large offering. G-d doesn’t view success according to our finite understanding at the measure the world uses to show value and validity.

Anointing is of G-d. Anointing is of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit. Anointing continues regardless of recognition, opportunity or a receptive audience.

The anointing of G-d doesn’t leave a trail of carnage among sincere believers. Baby believers. Well-intentioned servants and formerly close friends.

That’s something completely different.

I’ll let you figure out where that may have come from.

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