Jesus uses no manipulation or pressure

Several church leaders today would do well to learn from Jesus’ ways rather than to engage in manipulative and spiritually abusive tactics with church members. Here are some quotes from the book “The Jesus I Never Knew” that show us how Jesus never puts any emotional pressure on others.

As I survey the rest of Jesus’ life, I see that the pattern of restraint established in the desert persisted throughout his life. I never sense Jesus twisting a person’s arm. Rather, he stated the consequences of a choice, then threw the decision back to the other party. He answered a wealthy man’s question with uncompromising words and then let him walk away. Mark pointedly adds this comment: “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”

We sometimes use the term “savior complex” to describe an unhealthy syndrome of obsession over curing others’ problems. The true Savior, however, seemed remarkably free of such a complex. He had no compulsion to convert the entire world in his lifetime or to cure people who were not ready to be cured. In Milton’s words, Jesus “held it more humane, more heavenly first / By winning words to conquer willing hearts, / And make persuasion do the work of fear.”

In short, Jesus showed an incredible respect for human freedom. When Satan asked for the chance to test Peter and sift him as wheat, even then Jesus did not refuse the request. His response: “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” When the crowds turned away and many disciples deserted him, Jesus said to the Twelve, almost plaintively, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” As his life moved toward doom in Jerusalem, he exposed Judas but did not try to pre-vent his evil deed—that, too, a consequence of restraint.

This quality of restraint in Jesus—one could almost call it a divine shyness—took me by surprise. I realized, as I absorbed the story of Jesus in the Gospels, that I had expected from him the same qualities I had met in the southern fundamentalist church of my child-hood. There, I often felt the victim of emotional pressures. Doctrine was dished out in a “Believe and don’t ask questions!” style. Wielding the power of miracle, mystery, and authority, the church left no place for doubt. I also learned manipulative techniques for “soul-winning,” some of which involved misrepresenting myself to the person I was talking to. Yet now I am unable to find any of these qualities in the life of Jesus.

How could a church founded by the One who withstood the Temptation carry out an Inquisition of forced belief that lasted half a millennium? Meanwhile, in a milder Protestant version in the city of Geneva, officials were making attendance at church compulsory and refusal to take the Eucharist a crime. Heretics there, too, were burned at the stake.

Sometimes the church grows its own mini-Hitlers, men with names like Jim Jones and David Koresh, who understand all too well the power represented in miracle, mystery, and authority. And some-times the church simply borrows the tools of manipulation perfected by politicians, salesmen, and advertising copywriters.

I believe God insists on such restraint because no pyrotechnic displays of omnipotence will achieve the response he desires. Although power can force obedience, only love can summon a response of love, which is the one thing God wants from us and the reason he created us. “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself,” Jesus said. In case we miss the point John adds, “He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.” God’s nature is self-giving; he bases his appeal on sacrificial love.

The dream where God told me to leave

During the months that led up to my eventual departure from the financially and spiritually abusive leader at the church I attended, I received a dream that stuck with me.

In this dream, I was alone inside the church and a very tall, handsome, and strong looking man came up to me. He was smiling and seemed happy. He told me “Do not submit, do not obey”. 

I was so programmed by my abusive leader that my first reaction to this dream was that I thought a nice looking man would enter the church and deceive people into not submitting to and obeying our leader, the Apostle as he demanded to be called. 

The words this tall and happy man spoke were important because the church environment was one where the Apostle consistently emphasized how we were all to be sumissive and obedient to him. To not obey him was not to obey God and to call upon ourselves curses and demonic attacks. He distorted the real Biblical principles of submission and obedience to control us with fear. 

Now, back to the dream. The dream finally became clear to me after discussing it with a woman from the church who had a prophetic gift. We discovered that the dream represented an angel of God that was sent to me in order to tell me to no longer submit to or obey the leader of the church. His smile and happy composure are a reflection of the joy, peace, and comfort that faith in God is meant to bring – not forced submission, fear of judgment, and fear of demons. His happiness was also a depiction of the delight and joy that God takes in each of his children. In the midst of such a somber and painful walk of faith under this leader, a radiant angel full of joy came to show me a better, happier way. The dream was a clear indication from God that it was time to leave that church. We obeyed and departed from that man’s leadership. This time, it wasn’t an obedience based on fear but on joy. God can and does send us amazing supernatural signs to warn us and to rescue us from abusive and corrupt church leaders. He is a living God of revelation. Let this be an encouragement to those who come across this!

The popular accusation of neglecting to meet together

A few months ago, a pastor called me and found out that I had left my former church. The first thing he told me was that a believer cannot survive on their own and if I don’t join another church, I will be destroyed by the devil. This is the exact sort of intimidation and spiritual abuse that caused me to leave my former church and that I will not tolerate from church leaders. Not to mention that Jesus, Elijah, Jonah, Joseph, Moses, and John the Baptist are a few concrete Biblical examples that prove that a believer will definitely have periods of solitude and will survive just fine with God on their side. The lie that tells people they will be destroyed without a church membership is an intimidating tactic to fill church buildings and actually ends up driving people away from them.

For this pastor to tell me this right up front, without asking me about why I left my former church, means that he assumed I was being a “rebellious” believer who was forsaking the gathering of the saints. This is based on Hebrews 10:25 which says “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Funny how many church leaders use this verse to accuse those who do not attend church regularly enough and to make them out to be evil sinners. However, these same church leaders never ask themselves why a believer would even neglect to meet together with their congregation in the first place. Maybe it’s because their leadership is spiritually abusive, financially abusive, manipulative, never wrong, and accusatory. Maybe the individual saint who neglects to meet with such abusive people is actually in the right and the leadership is in the wrong.

By leaving my former church, I wasn’t neglecting to meet together with other believers. Instead, I was choosing who I actually want to meet together with – a leadership and believers who are not spiritually abusive and who are encouraging. That’s the difference.

The Bible actually tells us to neglect meeting together with certain people.

1.  ‘Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”’ Matthew 16:6 (Be on guard and stay away from the deception and corruption of religious leaders)

2. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:11

3. “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,” Titus 3:10 (A leader can stir up division by spiritually abusing believers which leads to a church split. A leader can also stir up division by causing a hurtful divide of wounds between them and the global community of the Church).

4. “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” 2 Timothy 3:5 (Because of his/her position of church authority, the abusive leader has an appearance of holiness, but they deny the power of God to work in and through them)

5. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them” Ephesians 5:6-7 (An abusive, manipulative leader is a deceiver and can speak many empty words to manipulate and control)

6. “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. ” Romans 16:17 (A spiritually abusive leader creates obstacles in a believer’s life and also creates obstacles that keeps that believer from sound doctrine)

It looks like the Bible itself tells us to make it a habit to neglect to meet together with church leadership that is abusive and that creates a church culture of abuse. Neglecting to meet together with people such as these is never wrong and no one has the right to twist Hebrews 10:25 from Scripture to tell you otherwise.

Spiritual Abuse, joy, and being slain in the spirit

In this video, visiting minister Rodney Howard-Browne is heard harassing and publicly defaming a church member. The pastor of the church approved this spiritual abuse. (Raise volume to hear the church member asking to be left alone in the video)

The visiting minister is right about one thing. The real problem in Montreal is indeed the religious spirit. It’s the religious spirit of the pharisees that several ministers have, thinking they are always right, spreading false teachings, leading with pride rather than humility, and spiritually abusing the sheep. There are ministers who abuse believers by telling them that they have spiritual problems and that they are demon posessed every time that these believers do not agree with a church leader. “Insecure leaders shield themselves from criticism. Secure leaders learn from criticism” – Ed Stetzer.
There is no leader who is never wrong and one who pretends to never be wrong is always a wrong one to follow.

If it was really a demon disturbing the work of God in the video, this is how Paul would have handled it and this is what should have happened:

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. Acts 16:16-18

Paul didn’t shame the woman with the demon, didn’t debate with her in public to defend his own reputation, he just dealt with the demon and it was solved right there in public.

Joy is a fruit of the spirit, produced by the gradual working of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life, not by someone yelling JOY at you and pushing you on the floor, as we see in this video. Show us one Bible verse where a minister went around pushing people to make them fall on the floor? There is none. If God is really present, you don’t need a minister to send you to the floor, God’s presence can automatically cause that response, see Revelation 1:17. That’s the difference from the authentic and the man-made. On the day of Pentecost, the tongues of fire came upon men without any minister having to go around and touch people’s heads saying “the fire of God” like in this video.

A few people are laughing and clapping and all of a sudden this minister says that we have a revival and an outbreak. It’s funny how since this video in January 2016, nothing’s changed in the city. So much for a revival. How can there be a revival when false teachings and spiritual abuse is in your midst. Everyone wants a revival but no one wants to repent.

Real revival – also known as a move of God – is preceeded by repentance.

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14

Spiritual Abuse – Laughing in the spirit

This is Evangelist Eric Gonyon from River Bible Institute headed by none other than Rodney Howard-Browne in Tampa, Florida. Here, he is showing the congregation at Good News Chapel (the old Fabre street church) in Montreal, Canada, how to laugh in the spirit.

Show us one Bible verse where Jesus taught his disciples how to “laugh in the spirit”. You can’t because there is none. Slapping people in the head to make them laugh? People can smile and have joy on their own without some minister coming around to slap them in the head without their consent. Who are these ministers to think that they can lord it over the sheep like this? This is spiritual and physical abuse taking place at Good News Chapel in Montreal, Quebec. It’s time we call it out for what it is.

Joy is a fruit of the spirit, produced by the gradual working of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life, not by someone yelling JOY at you, forcing you to laugh, or slapping your head. Show us one Bible verse where a minister of God went around pushing or slapping people to make them laugh? You can’t because there is none.

It’s ok to feel ready to leave

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize them by their fruits. Their church leadership position can make them appear holy and right and mask their bad fruits. When you shop for fruits at the grocery store, you need to look past the layers of coloring and wax that cover the bad fruit on the shelf in order to truly see the condition of that fruit. Their goal is to sell you bad fruit by making it seem good and covering up its defects. The same is true with bad leadership in a church and the same careful checking is needed.

Don’t worry about leaving bad leaders. Jesus’ greatest warning to his disciples was to guard themselves against false teachers and to watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees – something they didn’t really understand. In the same way today, we don’t really understand the severity of Jesus’ warnings against false or crooked leaders. We’ll talk to ourselves and say things like: Leave my leader? He’s a church leader. He’s been one for years. He can’t be that bad if he’s a church leader. Sure he has flaws and I see signs of crooked/abusive/corrupt dealings, but maybe I’m being too critical and unloving. Maybe I need to be more forgiving and loving toward him and he will change. He told me he’s my spiritual father. He told me it’s against God’s will for me to go anywhere else. He told me I’d be cursed if I leave him. Leave my leader? Really?
Like the disciples, we too need to understand what Jesus meant when he told them to watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and why He was so serious about it. The false teachings and practices of corrupt and abusive leaders infiltrate our sincere desire for God very subtly like leaven in dough, and they begin dominating and corrupting our mind and soul, just as the leaven dominates the dough.

 Jesus is ready to throw corrupt and abusive leaders in fire, so it’s ok if you feel ready to leave them.

“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew‬ ‭7:19‬ ‭

Church leaders and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

It is possible for a church leader to have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Usually, a leader with NPD will lead the church as more of a cult rather than a true church. This is why it is important for church members to be aware of NPD in order to be able to identify it in leaders and take measures to protect themselves.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder has 9 traits. Church leaders with at least 5 of the traits are diagnosed as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder. If a church leader has less than 5 of the traits, they have narcissistic traits, but not the complete disorder. Those with all 9 traits are diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder and as psychopaths. The higher the number of traits, the more dangerous the church leader can be.

The 9 traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder are:

1. Grandiosity 

The church leader has an unrealistic view of themselves. They see themselves as larger than life and holier than others in the church – even holier than other church leaders in the city. They feel that they are as important to the church as God is to them. They believe they have a very powerful and divine purpose and everyone is less important and must listen and submit to his/her purpose and mission. Nothing in church is more important than they are. They organize several prayer meetings to pray and intercede just for them. Sick and struggling church members are forced to intercede for the leader and get very little attention in prayer, even if their need is great. The church leader’s need is always greater. The church leader makes sure that preaching topics are often about their ministry gift (pastor, teacher, apostle, prophet), and on how all the church members must obey and submit to them. To disobey them is to disobey God Himself and to summon curses and demons upon oneself. Their very being is to be admired and obeyed by the church and those who do not admire and obey them are subject to fear tactics to force obedience. They often insist that the church must give them double honor, often in the form of money, gifts, and reverence.

2. Arrogant and Domineering

The church leader sees others as inferior to them in intelligence or in anything else. Therefore, they believe they can control and manipulate others in the church to use them to serve their purposes – and this is what they do. They control every aspect of a church member’s life, demanding obedience to them for every part of their life. The church leader is in charge of what car or house you can buy, what school to send your kids to, and who you can marry. The church leader arrogantly boasts in themselves and anything else that makes them look good during his/her sermons. If someone tries to correct the church leader on an error, they get arrogantly opposed and reproved for not being submissive and showing them honor.

3. Preoccupation with Success and Power

The church leader needs to feel powerful and in control. They need to feel like a king or queen who sits on a throne above the church. They desire success and power in order to get into higher positions (in business, society) where they can spread their throne of control and manipulation to have things their way. The church leader is always preoccupied with tithing and with collecting enough money from the church members. There is lots of talk about money collection during services. The leader checks to see if each person is giving their ten percent. Those who are not are ridiculed publicly or punished privately and subject to fear tactics to get them to give more money. This money collection drives their need for success and power. The leader is also preoccupied with being successful in business. The leader speaks of opening new businesses and can use talents of church members to start new businesses and profit using them. It’s all because of their hunger for success and power.

4. Lack of empathy

The church leader is unable to genuinely care about the feelings of others or put themselves in someone else’s shoes in an emotional way. This results in them mocking others, putting others down during their sermon, or making out of place comments about others. They never feel wrong about it either. A narcissistic leader has a cold empathy which allows them to understand your fears, weaknesses, hopes and dreams. They are very good at reading all this about you. They sometimes use their human reading abilities and mask it into a “prophecy”. They then take everything they can read about you and then use it all against you to control you to do as they want. If they know yours fears, they know how to use fear to control you. If you fear God’s judgment on your family or demons, this is what they’ll use to make sure you obey them. If they know your hopes and dreams, they’ll tell you to obey their every order or else those dreams wont happen.

5. Belief of being unique

They believe that they have a very special calling and that they are better than any other church leader in town. Their church is the one true church in town and all the others are outside of God’s will for you. We’ve already touched on this aspect a bit earlier so we’ll carry on.

6. Sense of entitlement

The church leader feels that they are entitled to anything and anyone’s time or money. They feel entitled to getting church members to doing things for them for free, because they alone are God’s chosen king who must be served. They encourage church members to serve them or else they wont be blessed by God. They invade and take over the lives of church members, using them for their personal benefit.  There is rarely any appreciation when people do anything for them because they believe they were entitled to it in the first place.  They rarely lift a finger to help out with work that needs to be done in church. They believe they are entitled to let other “servants” do it.

7. Requires excessive admiration

The church leader wants to be admired and paid attention to at all times because they need to have their false self validated, the one that they portray in public. They need the church to pay attention to them, to complement them, to admire them, and to worship them. The want the church in constant prayer for them to keep the members focused on them. It is the only way the illusion of their false self can stay strong.

8. Exploitative

The church leader will take advantage of church members for their own best interests. They will use the talents of the church members to create their own businesses or to get things done for them personally. They will get church members to take care of their home and their grass. They will get church members to prepare sermons and preach for them, regardless of how busy or overwhelmed that church member is at the time. They will not pay church members for their service. Instead, they tell them it’s all done for God, because they are God’s king. They demand much from church members and use them until they burn out.

9. Envious of others

The church leader will be envious of other leaders in the city and of other churches, and try to compete with them or copy them, even if they believe their church is the best one and only true one in town. They will also think that everyone else is envious of them, because they are so great and worthy to be envied.

Adapted from the “Nine Traits of Narcissism” post found on Gentle Kindness

Sin versus Corruption in Church Leaders

What is the difference between sin and corruption in a church leader? The difference is that the corrupt leader lacks the humility to recognize his/her sins. Therefore, with no recognition of their own sins, corrupt leaders do not recognize any need for repentance or change.

“Corruption is the sin which, rather than being recognised as such and rendering us humble, is elevated to a system; it becomes a mental habit, a way of living. We no longer feel the need for forgiveness and mercy, but we justify ourselves and our behaviours.” – Pope Francis

“Jesus says to his disciples: even if your brother offends you seven times a day, and seven times a day he returns to you to ask for forgiveness, forgive him. The repentant sinner, who sins again and again because of his weakness, will find forgiveness if he acknowledges his need for mercy. The corrupt man is the one who sins but does not repent, who sins and pretends to be Christian, and it is this double life that is scandalous.” – Pope Francis

corruption

Whats wrong with the book “Under Cover”?

The book “Under Cover” by John Bevere is used by many churches, small groups, and cell groups in order to teach believers unconditional submission and obedience to church authority. In many cases, this book is elevated as being more important to read and study than the Bible itself. The book says that God will guarantee protection for you if you submit to and obey a church authority at all costs, because to disobey a church authority is to disobey God. There are no exceptions given.

The book says that if you fail to submit to and obey your church authority, you are removing yourself from God’s appointed protection for your life, leaving you an open target for God’s judgment, curses, and demonic attacks. The problem is that not all church leaders are sincere, honest people. Jesus warned us there would be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Another problem is that church leaders are human and make plenty of mistakes just like we all do, so they shouldn’t always be obeyed. This book attempts to use the fear of God’s judgment and the fear of curses to keep believers from disobeying a leader or questioning anything he/she says, since to even question a leader is seen as disobedience to God. This book take away the believer’s ability and right to think critically and examine teachings for themselves. They must simply accept what a leader says because the leader is the one who said it.

In Acts 17:11, the Bereans were commended for thinking critically and examining things for themselves rather than simply accepting them because a leader said so.

“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Acts 17:11

Can you see how easy spiritual abuse now becomes with this book? Since the book states that the leader cannot be disobeyed or questioned, the leader can now do whatever he or she wants, without being accountable to anyone. Believers in the church must do whatever their leader tells them, because disobeying would mean curses and demonic attack.

Church leaders are using the book “Under Cover” to control every aspect of a believer’s life. Believers are told that they cannot purchase a car, change job, date a person, or make any other life decision without their leader’s approval and blessing. Failure to inform the leader of a life decision results in you being told that you are living in disobedience and will be cursed. If the leader does not agree with the car you are buying, the job you are applying for, or the person you want to date, they will tell you that it is not in God’s will for you, even if it is. The leader will oftentimes not even pray about the decision. If the leader doesn’t like the decision, they will just tell you that God told them it’s not right. If you do make that life decision by going against your leader’s words, they will embarass you in church, tell you that you are living in sin, and tell you that demons will destroy your entire life.

Church leaders are using the book “Under Cover” to put believers under oppression by creating a climate of fear in the church. Believers are living in constant fear of being cursed by God because they did not perfectly submit or obey their leader. Church leaders are engaging in corrupt financial, sexual, and spiritual activities and are using the book “Under Cover” to protect themselves from any accountability. The rest of the congregation is left powerless to do anything about the evil in the leader’s life, even if they do suspect it. If they speak out, they are told God will judge them and demons will destroy them for not honouring their leader. If they leave this church, they are ridiculed by their leader in front of the whole church for “abandoning God”. Leaving  will result in them being told that God will curse them and demons will destroy them for their decision to leave the church, which is not actually a church, but a cult.

Obedience to God does not always coincide with obedience to another human, even if he/she is a church leader. The truth is that there is no man on earth that is always speaking and doing exactly what Jesus would do if He were here. In fact, church leaders are those most likely to be deceived into thinking many of their own desires and their own inner voices all come to them from God, when they actually don’t always do.

This book is dangerous. We must raise awareness on the severe damage that leaders have done to honest and innocent people’s lives with this book so that it does not keep happeing again and again.