This post from Crying Out for Justice is spot on. A warm thank you to Jeff Crippen for writing it. Over and over again, I have heard the stories of those affected by abuse-enabling pastors and churches. The churches themselves are abuse systems far too often. The testimony of the targets is disregarded and disbelieved in these places. The abuser is believed, backed up, enabled, and strengthened in harming. It’s worth looking more closely at this.
The post from Crying Out for Justice asks the question, “Where are all these abuser enabling pastors coming from?” I add my own. question: “Why are secular counselors more often equipped to identify evil and provide help to those being abused than these pastors who claim to speak for the Lord?”
Yes, I believe seminaries are not adequately preparing pastors to recognize evil when they see it, and when there are so many books that spell out, exactly, how it operates in people, there is no excuse for not knowing these things. Evil doesn’t normally come billowing clouds of sulfur in the form of a red devil with a pitchfork and a tail. It comes beautifully, deceptively and with a tongue that can spin clever lies.
I believe something else as well. The lack of love in pastors and churches blinds them and prevents discernment from the Lord. When you have two people with two vastly different stories, how do pastors know who is lying and manipulating in a counseling session? Wouldn’t you think that the real presence of the Holy Spirit would allow the truth to be seen? If these were men of prayer doing the counseling, wouldn’t the indwelling of the Lord in their thoughts show clearly the truth in the testimony of the abused and help them spot the smoke blown by the liar? The absence of discernment from the Lord is the hallmark of our times.
Pastors are not only enabling abuse. They sometimes are the abusive ones. As our culture spins more and more out of control, and we see more and more churches that long ago lost their first love, if they ever had it, there are a growing number of abusive pastors with fawning, sycophant followers who refuse to see their malignant narcissistic leadership for what it is.
There is no denominational corner on this. These abusive and corrupt leadership structures exist in churches across the spectrum. Seeker big box monstrosities are just as likely to have an abusive pastor as a dried up little doctrinal sermon club/church. The common denominator is sin unchecked and the the ensuing absence of love that means an absence of discernment from the Lord.
No pastoral training is complete without warnings from teachers and professors about how evil operates . Knowing the enemy’s devices is absolutely essential. Without that knowledge, pastors, tragically, can end up enabling evil and further harming those already abused, resulting in lasting damage to the faith and families in their care.