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Author's Note: This commentary was written in response to an article written by Donald Miller titled “How To Spot a Manipulative Church Leader” on his blog “Storyline.”
It is heartbreaking that manipulation by church leaders goes on, probably in many churches. It breaks God’s heart, too. But the truth is, it’s just plain sin. No different from many manipulative actions I’ve committed against people. Manipulative Christians (not only pastors) are still redeemed, still dragging their flesh around, still being gradually purified by God, just like all of us. They need grace during the restoration process just like we do. But should those being abused and manipulated by them just remain there, silently returning again and again to intentionally overlook the abuse? No!
God calls each one of us into intimacy with himself. He also calls us to worship him and no one else; to fear him and no one and nothing else. A believer in this situation must begin by examining their own heart. They must ask the Lord what his intention is for them – does he want you to leave? Then leave. Don’t second guess his voice, for he knows much more about the nature of the pastor’s sin and your own sin than you do. Remaining where you are when he calls you to move does not honor him and it weakens you. But continue to pray for that pastor and church from a merciful heart.
If he calls you to stay, trust his heart and wisdom. He may have placed you in that place and time, with your character and gifts and needs, by design to be his means of pruning the fruitless and diseased twigs of fear and self-protection and idolatry from this pastor even as he prunes the passivity and idolatry from you. This certainly may involve confronting him, but only after honest examination of yourself. (Luke 6: 41-43) Humbly acknowledge that you, too, have manipulated, lied, hidden, run from God… sinned. Church is just a gathering of wounded people longing for healing who want to worship Jesus together and grow his presence in our relationships. All of that only occurs when you and I humble ourselves before God and relinquish our demands. (Rom. 12:3; James 4: 10-11; 1 Pet. 5: 6-11)
The point is, worship God and him alone, and be careful not to sin yourself by borrowing God’s wrath. God is the only one with all the information, the only one seeing inside each heart thoroughly, the only one with eternity in view, and the only one who will save. So submit your pain, your anxiety, and your anger to him. Anchor your soul and your hope in Jesus, not in a church or a pastor. Too many of us are seeking our Moses, desiring a pastor who will tell us about Christ and what he wants rather than worshiping Christ and getting to know him ourselves. The intermediary form of interaction with God bled to death on the cross! All believers are now priests in the name of our eternal high priest, Jesus. (1 Pet. 2:9-10) Don’t be seduced away from your true King to listen to a man posing as a king, but neither allow disdainful pride to slither into your thoughts and attitude. That manipulative church leader is just another child, desiring to please God but struggling with and, at times, trying to cure, his own sin by painting it over. Haven’t we all done that?
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Lisa Walker Thomas
07 Jan 2016
Powerful! It's so easy to point the finger at someone else's sin, especially when our sins our hidden from view! This is a teaching article, it will change minds and hearts which is Kingdom business. Thought provoking article.
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