By Brilliant Pongo
ABOUT three years ago I joined a prophetic church largely out of curiosity and I quickly began to investigate the operations of how things work my fascination was mainly with the culture and behaviour of the members of these churches and the celebrity type leaders, who are treated as ‘demigods’.
Because of my previous stance and views vis-à-vis these churches I was treated more favourably by the leadership and found my way and acceptance into the inner circle very quickly.
In no time I was tasked with doing some media and PR work to assist the ‘truth’ and aid the image of the leader.
It was from that position that I was able to carry out my investigations and I was able to observe and understand a lot that goes on behind the scenes, which I will reveal in due course but for now I want to focus on spiritual abuse in general and its excesses particularly in some modern day prophetic movement churches.
My hope is that by writing about these excesses publicly, we can begin to dialog openly about this very real problem. Hiding it or pretending it does not exist simply adds more confusion and anger to those who have walked through the trauma of spiritual abuse.
So I wrote these traits of spiritually abusive ministries and churches. This is not an exhaustive list, but it typifies what happens. My heart in sharing this is to simply shed light on unhealthy, manipulative, controlling practices.
Listed below are 10 traits of Spiritually abusive church leaders …
* They often have a distorted view of respect. They forget the simple adage that respect is earned, not granted. Abusive leaders demand respect without having earned it by good, honest living.
* They demand allegiance as proof of the follower’s allegiance to Christ. It’s either his/her way or no way. And if a follower deviates, he is guilty of deviating from Jesus.
* They use exclusive language. “We’re the only ministry really following Jesus.” “We have all the right theology.” “We wrote this syllabus of the prophetic” “We pioneered this movement.” Believe their way of doing things, thinking theologically, or handling ministry and church is the only correct way. Everyone else is wrong, misguided, or stupidly naive. (Some Prophet refers to such as nincompoops)
* They create a culture of fear and shame. Often there is no grace for someone who fails to live up to the church’s or ministry’s expectation. And if someone steps outside of the often-unspoken rules, leaders shame them into compliance. Leaders can’t admit failure, but often search out failure in others and uses that knowledge to hold them in fear and captivity. They often quote scriptures about not touching God’s anointed, or bringing accusations against an elder. Yet they often confront sin in others, particularly ones who bring up legitimate biblical issues. Or they have their circle of influence take on this task, silencing critics. ( some even call themselves the prophetic mafia)
* Often have a charismatic leader at the helm who starts off well, but slips into arrogance, protectionism and pride. Where a leader might start off being personable and interested in others’ issues, he/she eventually withdraws to a small group of “yes people” and isolates from the needs of others. These ministries and churches harbor a cult of personality, meaning if the central figure of the ministry or church left, the entity would collapse, as it was entirely dependent on one person to hold the place together.
* Cultivate a dependence on one leader or leaders for spiritual information. Personal discipleship isn’t encouraged. Often the Bible gets pushed away to the fringes unless the main leader is teaching it. ( teachings have to focus on papa’s wealth and created testimonies of how papa spoke wealth or health into someone’s life)
* Demand blind servitude of their followers, but live prestigious, privileged lives. They live aloof from their followers and justify their material extravagance as God’s favor and approval on their ministry. Unlike Jesus’ instructions to take the last seat, they often take the first seat at events and court others to grant them privileges. They typically chase after wealth–at any cost, and often at the expense of the very people they shepherd. ( members are milked for rent to pay for church venues; but the millionaire leaders constantly prophetically promising to buy a church building)
* Buffer him/herself from criticism by placing people around themselves whose only allegiance is to the leader. These leaders and churches view those who bring up legitimate issues as enemies. Those who were once friends/allies swiftly become enemies once a concern is raised. Sometimes these folks are banished, told to be silent, or shamed into submission. ( This tactic sadly works on the majority who would have been spiritually abused and traumatised)
* Hold to outward performance but rejects authentic spirituality. Places burdens on followers to act a certain way, dress an acceptable way, and have an acceptable lifestyle, but they often demonstrate licentiousness, greed, and uncontrolled addictions behind closed doors. (Some are sexual perverts with sexual predator instincts preying on their members)
* Use exclusivity for allegiance. Followers close to the leader or leaders feel like lucky insiders. Everyone else is on the outside, though they often long to be in that inner circle. If someone on the inner circle speaks up about abuses, lapses in character, illegal acts, or strong-arming, that insider immediately moves to an outsider. Fear of losing their special status often impedes insiders from speaking up.
In light of these traits, I’ve asked myself: where does this come from? (Aside from the sinfulness of the human heart). As an author (and mostly as a speaker), I’ve had a little bit of experience in pulling back the curtain on ministries and churches that abuse. My hunch is that Spiritual abuse and abuse of others stems somewhat from our culture’s hunger for celebrity.
But we would be foolish if we do not see the involvement of occultism and hints of occultic behaviour in some of these leaders. (Yes, even in the church we find them).
*Brilliant Pongo is an award winning author