The Yeast of the Pharisees: Spiritual Abuse by Pastors and Counselors

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The Yeast of the Pharisees: Spiritual Abuse by Pastors and Counselors

The Yeast of the Pharisees: Spiritual Abuse by Pastors and Counselors was written by Edward J. Cumella, Ph. D. and originally Published in Christian Counseling Today 2005 Vol. 13 No. 1:35)

Spiritual abuse began in the Garden of Eden: Satan manipulated God’s words and convinced our earliest parents to follow him instead of God. This event epitomizes all spiritual abuse. 

Spiritual abuse is more about personality

Spiritual abuse occurs across denominations, in non-denominational churches, and across faiths—Christianity, Judaism, Islam, et al. It usually has little to do with the theologies of major religious groups and more to do with the personality of individual leaders. Spiritual leaders with personality pathology—especially narcissistic, antisocial, obsessive-compulsive, borderline, and histrionic traits—may become spiritually abusive. Because of emotional, relational, and cognitive problems characterizing these personalities, the Bible, theology, and church relationships can be distorted by such leaders to the point of serious harm. 

Christians believe that human beings have a spirit that connects us to God. As such, spiritual abuse consists of actions that distort or sever our relationship with God. Since identity derives from knowing who we are in relation to God, spiritual abuse harms self-concept and self-worth. Spiritual abuse also causes mental and emotional distress, and is therefore a form of mental/emotional abuse. In extreme cases, it includes physical and sexual abuse justified by the abuser as God’s will through the twisting of scriptures.

Spiritual abuse has debilitating effects

Spiritual abuse has debilitating effects and is thus a legitimate focus in counseling or pastoral care. Depending on its manifestation, spiritual abuse may involve actions—such as severe mental/emotional abuse or physical/sexual abuse of children—that professionals are legally required to report to state child protection agencies. When perpetrators of spiritual abuse are licensed or certified counselors/pastors, ethics compel reporting the perpetrator’s behavior to licensing boards or church/denominational oversight authorities.

Spiritual abuse is usually more severe in church than in counseling settings. Pastors are often accorded great respect and authority in critical life domains— marriage, sexuality, relationships, and finances. They lead communities that exert social pressures and offer belonging and fellowship. Abuse in these contexts affects most aspects of life. 

Spiritual abuse occurs on a continuum

Spiritual abuse occurs on a continuum. Some churches are virtually free of it; others are occasionally and mildly abusive; still others abuse frequently and with great intensity. Experiences of spiritual abuse are also unique to the individual. Some—such as those inclined to perfectionism, obsessions, anxiety, or self-derision—are more likely to hear messages as inflexible rules or condemnations. Others in the same environment and exposed to the same messages might not experience trauma. 

Spiritual abuse can arise in counseling offices, but is usually less severe than in churches, for several reasons. Counselors are rigorously trained to be person-centered, to listen, and to respect the beliefs and choices of their clients. Counselors are less commonly accorded the same authority as pastors, nor is counseling typically imbued with the authority of God. Counseling is temporary; counseling is commonly and easily terminated. But church membership can be seen as a lifetime commitment. Leaving counseling does not mean separation from family and friends, but leaving one’s church may.

Scripture addresses spiritual abuse best through Christ’s scathing words to the Pharisees (Matthew 23), who are perfect examples of spiritual abuse.

Spiritual abuse has 12 features

Authoritarianism. Rather than modeling and teaching obedience to God, abusive leaders expect believers to obey them. Councils of elders, deacons, etc., are expected to rubber stamp leaders’ intentions rather than provide accountability.

Coercion. Rather than respecting freedom and conscience, as God does, and offering messages that persuade based on scriptural integrity and reason, abusive leaders use strong-arm tactics to coerce believers into overruling better judgment and following their demands.

Intimidation. Rather than building up the Body in the bonds of love, abusive leaders use threats of punishment, excommunication, and condemnation to force people into submission and continued church membership.

Terrorism. Rather than inviting people to follow Christ with the Gospel of love and forgiveness, abusive leaders intensify believers’ fear, shame, and false guilt, teaching that problems in believers’ lives are due to the believers’ personal sins.

Condemnation. Rather than refraining from judgment lest they be judged, an abusive leader liberally condemns those who leave his church, outsiders, and those whom he defines as sinners. The message is that believers will join the ranks of the condemned should they deviate from the leader’s teachings or leave his church/denomination. Individual members become the scapegoat when something goes awry in the congregation. 

Classism. Christ was no respecter of persons. Abusive leaders are preoccupied with power, promoting church hierarchy, referring to and treating people according to their titles and roles. Those lower on the hierarchy are taught that their needs don’t matter. 

Conformity. Abusive leaders have the greatest hold over inexperienced, naïve, and dependent individuals who are seeking a strong leader. These individuals suppress their objections to the leaders’ teachings for fear of being shamed or ostracized. Hence, abusive churches often appear unified, but beneath the surface there is discontent, anguish, whispers, rumors, secrets, and a desire among many to leave.

Manipulation. Rather than taking scripture in context, interpreting the Bible with the Bible and according to long-held Christian beliefs, abusive leaders twist scripture to convey their personal opinion rather than God’s intent. 

Irrationality. Because scripture is manipulated, one interpretation may contradict another. Interpretations may contradict reason and obvious reality. This requires suspension of critical thinking. Some abusive leaders claim to receive direct messages from God about their church or individual members, but these messages typically deviate from Scripture and reality. 

Legalism. Rather than treating others with love, grace, and forgiveness, as Christ commanded, abusive leaders offer little grace. They communicate instead that one’s worth and the amount of love one deserves depend on performance and status in their church. Abusive leaders expect believers to make heroic financial, time, and emotional sacrifices for their church and its members.

Isolation. Rather than respecting family ties, community obligations, and friendships, abusive leaders are concerned that such influences will interfere with their control over  believers, so they encourage isolation from family, friends, and the outside world, and wage war against the outside world as a sewer of sin devoid of anything redeeming.

Elitism. Rather than modeling and encouraging humility, abusive leaders beam with false pride and teach the same to believers. An attitude arises of, “We’re it! We’re special! Everyone else is condemned!,” partially compensating for the shame and worthlessness that believers feel because of other experiences in the abusive church. The leader instills that believers must protect the church’s image at any cost. 

Ensnarement. Rather than promoting maturity among believers, abusive leaders inevitably promote self-doubt, guilt, and identity confusion, since believers struggle with the contradiction between what their conscience and reason tell them and what they are being taught. This ambivalence, coupled with fear of condemnation and loss of direction and fellowship, make it difficult and painful for believers to leave abusive churches.

Think about a cult, for at its most severe, a spiritually abusive church is a cult. It has so diverged from solid Biblical teaching and grown so warped in the authoritarian rule of one man, that it has become a place of idolatry where God is no longer worshipped. “Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough… Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees…” (Galatians 5:7-10, Matthew 16:6). 

Assessing religious abuse

Assessment is simpler when clients already define their religious experiences as abusive. When clients do not recognize their possibly abusive experiences, cautions apply: 

Respect adult clients’ religious choices. Labeling religious experiences as abusive may interfere with religious autonomy. However, therapist authenticity, integrity, and responsibility require that possible religious abuse be addressed openly. It may be useful to assist clients in articulating the issues to arrive at their own conclusions about abuse. Remember, not everyone experiences the same events in the same manner; seemingly harsh religious experiences may not traumatize everyone.

Regarding children, utilize an objective standard of abuse. Most authorities agree that religious abuse has definitively occurred when the experience has led to serious and diagnosable behavioral, cognitive, emotional, or mental disorders. Short of this, it is inadvisable to use the word “abuse” to describe religious experiences. 

A psychometrically valid and reliable questionnaire may be useful in this assessment, such as the Remuda Spiritual Assessment Questionnaire (www.remudaranch.com), which contains a factor score measuring spiritual abuse. It is short, easy to use, with either paper and pencil or computerized administration, and free of charge to healthcare professionals.

Treating religious abuse

It is not possible in this overview to detail treatment for spiritual abuse. Detailed treatment resources appear in the bibliography. However, there are some basics. Common issues arising among clients in recovery from spiritual abuse include betrayal of trust, learning anew whom to trust, fallout with and forgiveness of God and family, grief over lost years, and understanding grace and God’s loving nature. Those who have experienced spiritual abuse often evidence the following additional difficulties: 

• Feelings of worthlessness as opposed to dignity and self-respect
• Efforts at control as opposed to an ability to surrender trustingly to God
• Shame vs. self-acceptance
• Guilt about vs. recognition that past sins have been forgiven
• Anxiety about performance and punishment vs. peace
• Moral rigidity vs. grace and unconditional love
• Isolation and secrecy vs. a sense of belonging and ability to be authentic with others
• Addictions/compulsions vs. healthy boundaries and coping skills
• Confusion vs. clear understanding of the Gospel and nature of God
• Hopelessness vs. a sense of meaning, purpose, and direction

Regardless of spiritual abuse history, spiritual interventions are contraindicated when clients don’t want them, are psychotic or delusional. If spiritual interventions are warranted, inform clients at treatment inception that you may use spiritual interventions and obtain informed consent. Spiritual interventions are most effective once trusting therapeutic relationships have developed. However, Christian counselors should express a commonly understood Gospel truth, including Christ’s atoning sacrifice, forgiveness rather than punishment, and God’s unconditional, unmerited grace and love rather than legalism, performance, or the need for perfection.

Primary spiritual interventions include:  teaching spiritual concepts; bibliotherapy; prayer; spiritual imagery and meditation; forgiveness; counsel from pastors or spiritual directors; encouraging involvement in a healthy faith community; cognitive restructuring focusing on the nature of God; a mature understanding of suffering, self hatred and perfectionism as obstacles to receiving God’s love; and an application of clients’ values to their own lives to reduce cognitive dissonance. Self-help groups, such as Christian Recovery International, may be recommended.

It may be necessary to guide clients toward finding a healthy faith community. The four F’s suggest that healthy faith communities offer:

• Food: sound Biblical messages promoting personal growth and maturity
• Fellowship: supportive relationships
• Fit: commonality with other members
• Fruit: service to community and one another

It is a sad commentary about the modern church that abusive Christian leaders are so pervasive that we must write articles like this and give them prominence in order to warn the faithful. Yet it is also true that perverted pastors, false prophets, and evil leaders have always existed in the history of Israel and the Church. And most importantly, if we cling to God and stay vigilant, He promises to make the way straight for us. 

Copyright © 2006 Christian Counseling Today. (Originally Published inChristian Counseling Today2005 Vol. 13 No. 1:35)
Edward J. Cumella, Ph.D., a Licensed Psychologist, is Director of Research and Education at Remuda Ranch Programs for Anorexia and Bulimia, Inc., the nation’s largest inpatient eating disorder facility. He presents frequently at national and international conferences and has published at least 50 papers on mental health topics, including spiritual abuse. 


Arterburn, S., Felton, J. (1993). Faith That Hurts/Faith That Heals. (Reissue ed). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Arterburn, S., Felton, J. (2001). Toxic Faith. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press. 
Bawer, B. (1998). Stealing Jesus. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Blue, K. (1993). Healing Spiritual Abuse. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Chrnalogar, M. A., Howey, P. M., Martin, S. D. (2000). Twisted Scriptures. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
Enroth, R. M. (1992). Churches that Abuse. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
Enroth, R. M. (1994). Recovering from Churches that Abuse. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
Johnson, D., VanVonderen, J. (1991). The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers. 
VanVonderen, J. (1989). Tired of Trying to Measure Up. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.
VanVonderen, J. (1995). When God’s People Let You Down/How to Rise Above Hurts That Often Occur. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

Spiritual Abuse: Shepherds – or Fleecers – of God's Flock?

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Spiritual Abuse: Shepherds – or Fleecers – of God's Flock?

[This article was written by June Hunt , Special To Christian Post | Jun 30, 2012 12:20 PM]

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of The Christian Post or its editors. 

"Will you continue to stand by and let your church drown financially?"¹

So began an ad for "Financial Empowerment Seminars." The target audience: church members wanting to invest profitably, while also benefitting their churches and communities. The seminars were led by a man who now faces federal prosecution by the SEC for defrauding investors of more than $11 million in a Ponzi scheme. Meanwhile, these "investors" need to rebuild not only their financial security, but also their emotional security, especially after being betrayed by "spiritual leaders" who were found to be spiritual abusers.

This new term "spiritual abuse" may not be something you're familiar with, but you may have heard about it or seen its effects in the life of someone you know … or you may be recovering from it yourself. (It is possible to be in a spiritually abusive relationship … and not even know it.)

Spiritual abuse is an umbrella term primarily describing three different kinds of harmful acts: (1) mistreatment: a person in spiritual authority mistreating another person; (2) manipulation: the use of religious words or acts to manipulate someone for personal gain or control; and (3) Scripture twisting: any intentional misuse of Scripture in order to twist the truth. Works of a spiritual nature can look noble, virtuous and inspiring, however, as the old saying goes, "Looks can be deceiving." Or, to quote Proverbs 16:2 (NIV): "All a person's ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD."

Although spiritual abuse is a relatively new term, its practice has persisted ever since the serpent in the Garden of Eden distorted and outright lied about God's words to Adam and Eve. In doing so, he managed to create doubt in their minds regarding the character of God and His relationship to those He had created.

The result, of course, was that they found the thought of becoming like God more appealing than remaining dependent on God. That thought led them to trust Satan's words rather than God's words, and their descendants have struggled with this same problem ever since. The serpent said to Eve, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden?' … 'You will not certainly die …. For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil'" (Genesis 3:1, 4-5 NIV).

The serpent skewed God's words and seduced the first couple into taking the fatal bite!

At the core of spiritual abuse is excessive control of others. Spiritual abuse is acting "spiritual" to benefit oneself by using self-centered efforts to control others. Some common examples of spiritually abusive relationships include:

• Church leaders who use guilt or greed to compel attendance, financial giving or service
• Spiritual leaders who take emotional or sexual advantage of others in the name of "comfort or compassion"
• Religious people who accuse those who disagree with them of being rebellious against God
• Ministry leaders who demand absolute, unquestioned obedience no matter what … whether reasonable or not … whether biblical or not

Jesus taught about domineering, spiritual leaders who wield their authority and "lord it over" the people.

"Instead," He added, "whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:42-45 NIV). Spiritual leaders are called to be servants, not dictators – to be sacrificial toward their followers, not to be exploitive of their followers.

How well I remember a recent caller on Hope In the Night who said she had donated all of her assets – $70,000 from her home – to help build a church. Later, she learned the spiritual leader had used the money to buy a comfortable home … for herself. Then the caller somehow became the scapegoat for problems at the ministry, even being blamed for the unrelated deaths of the leader's two relatives.

Illegalities aside, such spiritual abuse is blatant manipulation. No wonder this naïve, new Christian vowed to never darken the door of a church again!

If you are trying to determine whether or not a particular group may be spiritually abusive, consider the following questions:

 ___ Do they exalt someone as an irrefutable authority in the group?
___ Do they demand your absolute allegiance?
___ Do they discourage your questions?
___ Do they shame people publicly?
___ Do they insist on making major decisions in your life?
___ Do they have a long list of rules related to dress, hairstyle, diet or activities?
___ Do they judge those who do not keep their list of rules?
___ Do they consider themselves the "only true church"?
___ Do they consider those who leave their group "apostates," "backsliders" or "doomed"?
___ Do they teach that godly people should give more financially so that they will receive more?

Notice Paul's words of warning: "If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ … he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing." [And who is teaching these different doctrines? Those who are … ] "… imagining that godliness is a means of gain. … But as for you, O man of God, flee these things" (1 Timothy 6:3-5, 11 ESV).

Yes, flee! Having assisted others to leave, I can assure you that separating from a spiritually abusive group can be grueling because the leaders use fear, false guilt and shame to keep members from leaving. If you are in such a group, daily pray the following prayer: "For you are my rock and my fortress … lead me and guide me; you take me out from the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge" (Psalm 31:3-4 ESV).

Regardless of the difficulty, you must leave. Your spiritual life depends on it!

The original article can be found here.

June Hunt, counselor, author, radio host and founder of the worldwide ministry Hope For The Heart, offers a biblical perspective while coaching people through some of life's most difficult problems. June is the author of How to Forgive . . . When You Don't Feel Like It, © 2007 Harvest House Publishers. Learn more about June and Hope for the Heart by visiting hopefortheheart.org/CP. Here you can connect with June on Facebook and Twitter, listen to her radio broadcasts, or find much-needed resources.Hope for the Heart provides spiritual guidance, heartfelt prayer, multi-media resources, and biblical wise-counseling. Call 1-800-488-HOPE (4673) to visit with a Hope Care Representative, 7:30 a.m. until 1:30 a.m. (CST).

What does it mean to "lord it over?"

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What Does It Mean to “Lord It Over”?  This is something heard in some Christian circles because the phrase is found in the Bible.  God's church leaders are not to lord it over God's people, which is another way of saying they must not abuse God's people.  Yet, genuine abuse of all kinds does happen in local churches.  Some abuse, like sexual abuse is done secretly.  Other abuse such as emotional, social, or even physical abuse happens under the guise of God's authority.  This is arrogant manipulation of the apostate sort.  However, it is too often tolerated.

At the same time, there are people in churches who have chosen to take offense at something the pastor(s), elder(s), deacon(s) or leaders have done who then accuse these leaders of abuse or lording it over them.  So, according to the Bible, what does it mean to "lord it over" or abuse others?

The following is from one of the appendices in my book, The Perfect Pastor? 

What does the Bible say about how church leaders govern?

Biblically, the jurisdiction of elders to rule or govern is shown by the following New Testament words:

  1. Exousia – a term that connotes delegated right and duty to exercise authority over something or someone. In the New Testament, the contexts refer to the authority that issues from the Head of the Church, King Jesus and is delegated to His ruling officers. It is an authority that is subject to Christ and His Law or Word.

        Some principles we can glean: 

a.     This delegated authority is the duty and right to think, decide, act and govern within the sphere of authority to which the officers are placed (session, presbytery, or general assembly). This delegated authority is the duty and right to make policies that determine the direction and emphases of Christ’s church that is in keeping with God’s revealed will. We have illustrations of this:

(1)  Jesus Christ (in Matt. 9:6-8; Mk. 6:39)

(2)  The Roman Centurion (Mt. 8:9)

b.     In a general sense, all believers are subject to all God-ordained rulers and authorities (Lk. 10:19; Rom. 13:1ff; Ti. 3:1-2; etc.)

c.     This leadership authority is given to officers for the purpose of building up, and not for tearing down (2 Cor. 13:10).

d.     This position is a stewardship from God Himself. Officers are answerable to the Lord for their faithfulness:

(1)  Officers are accountable to the Lord under the biblical authority God has assigned (local, regional or national church rule).

(2)  However, officers are not answerable to the people or congregation (1 Cor. 4:1-5; Ti. 1:7).

Note:  It is often asked, “What about the command for all believers to be subject to one another?” (Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 5:5). 

(a)   First, this subjection is to be done “in the fear of Christ” meaning that all are ultimately subject to Him, and all are to be subject in Him.

(b)  Secondly, Scripture never teaches that the sheep or congregation has authority. In fact, many passages, such as 1 Thess. 5:12 and Heb. 13:17, teach otherwise.

(c)   The subjection to one another is qualified by the context(s). It is a subjection under Christ, out of love, for the highest good and need of God’s people.  God’s sheep place themselves under the subjection of the God-ordained authorities of His Church, and God’s officers are subject to the Lord, and demonstrate subjection to Him by loving and serving His people.

e.     Scripture defines for us the manner in which this authority is to be exercised:

(1)  From a motivation of love (John 21:16).

(a)   making appeals from love for Christ’s sake (Philemon 8-9).

(b)  with compassion for distressed sheep (Matt. 9:36; Mk. 6:34; Jas. 5:14).

(c)   sacrificially, willingness to lay down their lives for the sheep (John 10:11,15)

(2)  With a servant’s heart (Matt. 20:25; Lk 22:26).

(3)  With a watchful care for the flock (1 Tim. 3:5; Heb. 13:17).

(4)  Voluntarily as shepherds (1 Pet. 5:2).

(5)  Examples as shepherds (1 Pet. 5:3).

(6)  Guarding themselves and the church (Acts 20:28).

f.      Scripture also informs us how officers are not to be characterized:

(1)  Having uncontrolled home (1 Tim. 3:4,5,12).

(2)  Desertion of the office and/or church in times of distress (Jn. 10:12).

(3)  Not to serve under compulsion or greed (1 Pet. 5:2ff).

(4)  Not abusively, ‘lording it over the sheep.’ (Matt. 20:25; Mk 10:42; Lk. 22:25f; 2 Cor. 1:24; 1 Pet. 5:3)  (for more, see below).

2. Hegeomai – a term that means to “lead” or “guide.”

a.       Of a political ruler (Mt. 2:6; Acts 7:10)

b.      As chief speaker (Acts 14:12)

c.       As church leaders (Heb. 13:7,17,24)

3. Proistemi:  literally, “to stand before” as a leader stands before the people.

a.     To have a charge over (1 Thess. 5:12).

b.     To lead (Rom. 12:8).

c.     To manage (1 Tim. 3:4,5,12).

d.     To rule (1 Tim. 5:17).

What does it mean to lord it over people?

  1. What it does not mean:

a.     It does NOT mean that God’s officers should not reprove and rebuke (2 Tim. 4:2).

b.     It does NOT mean that God’s officers should never at times reprove or rebuke severely (Ti. 1:13; 2:15).

c.     It does NOT mean that God’s officers should not ‘come with a rod” when it is appropriate (1 Cor. 4:21).

    2.  What it does mean:

a.     Abuse – (from Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language)

(1)    To use ill; to maltreat, to misuse; to use with bad motives or to wrong purposes

(2)    To violate; to defile by improper sexual  intercourse.

(3)    To deceive; to impose on.

(4)    To treat rudely, or with reproachful language; to revile.

(5)    To pervert the meaning of; to misapply; as to abuse words.

b.     “Lord it over” is translated “subdue” in Acts 19:16.

c.     Two verses that demonstrate the abuse of authority are

(1)  Matt. 20:25

(2)  Luke 22:25

d.     Therefore, to “lord it over” means:

(1)  The excessive or coercive use of authority for unbiblical, sinful, and/or self-serving purposes rather than for the glory of God and the edification and loving welfare of God’s people.

(2)  Hence, officers of God’s Church are not to “lord it over” His sheep by ruling abusively or coercively (1 Pet. 5:3). The abuse of authority happens when leadership steps beyond the boundaries defined by the Word of God.

Therefore, some questions to consider:

  1. Have the elders acted in any way that has clearly violated Scripture?

  2. Has the Session developed policies that are out of sync with their delegated authority to determine the direction and emphases of the local church according to Scripture?

  3. Have the policies or actions of Session built up or torn down the church (2 Cor. 13:10)?

  4. Is there anything session has said or done that demonstrates or proves they have NOT acted

a.     From a motivation of love for the sheep (John 21:16)?

b.     With compassion for distressed sheep (Matt. 9;36; Mk. 6:34; Jas. 5:14)?

c.     Sacrificially (John 10:11,15)?

d.     With a servant’s heart (Matt. 20:25; Lk 22:26)?

e.     With a watchful care for the flock (1 Tim. 3:5; Heb. 13:17)?

f.      Voluntarily as shepherds (not under compulsion or greed) (1 Pet. 5;2)?

g.     By guarding themselves and the church (Acts 20:28)?

     5. Have the elders led or guided the church down the wrong path doctrinally or behaviorally             (sinned)?

     6. Have they failed or abused their role by having a charge over, leading, managing or ruling?

     7. Have the elders sinfully mistreated or subdued any member or members of the church?

     8. Has there been any excessive or coercive use of authority for unbiblical, sinful, and/or self-         serving purposes rather than for the glory of God, and the edification and loving welfare of           God’s people?

     9. Can any of these questions be factually, truthfully, and Scripturally demonstrated by two or        more witnesses?

When should a charge be brought against an elder, elders, or pastor?

1.   When it can be proven that his actions demonstrate the above definition and description, and such sin is injurious to the body of Christ. It is injurious when it is disruptive and destroys the church’s testimony.

2.   What are the some of the sins that necessitate church discipline?

      a.  Unresolved problems between members of the church (Matt. 18:15-17)

      b.   Disorderly and undisciplined conduct (2 Thess. 3:6-11)

      c.   Divisiveness (Rom. 16:17-18; Ti. 3:9-11)

      d.   Obvious and persistent patterns of sin (1 Cor. 5:1-13; 1 Tim 5:20)


This an edited and revised study taken primarily from an unpublished booklet by Dr. George E. Meisinger, The Local Church and Its Leadership. (self-published) 1981.