One of the hardest things for the mind to comprehend is how a victim of sexual abuse or violence, often becomes a perpetrator. Statistics indicate approximately 30% of sexual abuse victims become perpetrators, representing approximately 40% of all perpetrators.
There are no statistics available on Spiritual Abuse, that I could find, so I share these sexual abuse statistics, not to say it is the same in spiritual abuse cases, but to make a point. If a percentage of victims of any form of abuse become perpetrators, then it stands to reason that sometimes the congregants sitting in pews will live out of learned behaviour, and become spiritually abusive.
I’ve said it before, but it is worthy of repetition: Not all hurts and wounds in the church are spiritual abuse. We are human beings, and we fail one another. It’s kind of like a family unit. The difference between the dysfunctional family and the one that is not dysfunctional, is not that there are none of the same bad behaviours. The question is, “Is the behaviour accepted as normal and is it a constant thing?” We all have dysfunctional days, when someone gets in a crank and the whole household pays. These ‘off’ days are normal. If every day is like that, it becomes stressful, and negative behaviours and attitudes take over. That is dysfunctional.
The same is true in church. Are you always afraid of leadership? When the phone rings and it’s your bishop, your preacher, your pastor or your priest, do you immediately wonder, “What did I do wrong?” Or do you find yourself encouraged, thankful that you were remembered?
The extent of the dysfunction and Spiritual Abuse, will directly influence the impact it has on the congregation as a whole and whether that behaviour becomes the norm in the church family. Yes, there are times that a single member, or several, will be abusive, however, if a large percentage are, then odds are that leadership is abusive.
My mentor, John C. Maxwell, teaches, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” When leadership walks in humility, yet in God-given authority, it will reflect in the congregation through a healthy church. Yes, there will be issues, but leadership will listen, and hear with their hearts, and then gently mentor their people through those issues. If leadership is abusive, they will dominate, and do whatever they have to do, to protect personal pride. There will be control and a Jezebel Spirit, or a blend of Ahab and Jezebel, as some leaders retreat in apathy and fear, some resort to manipulation, while others throw their weight around.
Members observing this kind of behaviour will potentially become abusive as well. And leaders sometimes encourage it, if it helps their agenda.
What is the solution? Leaders need to be just that–leaders–and ask God to search their hearts and give Him free rein to expose what lies hidden. When leadership is first surrendered to God, laying down pride and agenda, then God is able to flow through, and heal the people. Healing in a congregation always starts with leadership and spreads to the congregation. If a Jezebel Spirit is hidden at a leadership level, Spiritual Abuse will happen, likely at a leadership and congregation level, and chaos is inevitable.
Discerning believers will see it, likely confront and be rejected, and will either walk away or retreat in apathy. Other Jezebel Spirits will either fit the agenda, or will rise up in resistance and leave the congregation.
Where leadership is humble enough to take ownership, God will begin to heal and restore what the enemy has stolen. He promised. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
© Trudy Metzger 2012
Go to first post in this series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/