“Unquestioned Authority” (part 7 of 12)

“In an unhealthy church, it is considered rebellion when someone questions decisions that are made or statements that are said from the pulpit. … in an unhealthy church, any and all questions are considered threats to the pastor’s “God-ordained” authority. Members who do dare to question their leaders or who do not follow their directives often are confronted with severe consequences.” –   Pastor Mike Fehlauer

What Spiritual Abuse Looks Like

As noted previously, unquestioned authority, control, and unquestioning obedience are some tell-tale signs of a spiritually abusive system.  If you’re in such a system or church, take stock of the following.

Writes David Henke, of The Watchmen Expositor in Beating the Sheep.

“The first sign of an abusive group is that it is authoritarian. When it comes right down to it, control is more important than personal spiritual welfare. Leaders in an authoritarian system are not teachable. The attitude, like that of the Pharisees, is that they are the teachers and rulers of God’s people, not their servants.

They may say they are teachable, but then set up rules which you must follow to approach them. Then they interpret those rules to rule you out of order. The former members of one particular group described to the author how their leader used this method to avoid accountability. He kept pointing out how their “heart is not right” in the way they brought issues to him.”

???

In an unhealthy church, anyone who asks questions or challenges decisions or policies is labeled “rebellious.”  Yes, there’s a difference between honest questioning and endless picayune criticism just for the sake of endless picayune criticism.  Discerning the difference and dealing with each unique situation and person openly and positively is key.  This is usually eschewed in an abusive environment, which is most often shrouded in secrecy and an unwritten “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

In an unhealthy, abusive church any and all questions are considered “insubordinate,” threats to the pastor’s “God-ordained” authority. Members who do dare to question their leaders or who do not follow their directives often are confronted with dire consequences – “dis-fellowshipping,” shunning, character assassination, etc.  This may result in a downward spiral.  Explains Mike Fehlauer in Warning Signs of Spiritual Abuse, II.

“Once a church member surrenders to a system of control, the leader gives limited information to each individual, carefully monitoring each relationship. As a result, each member is only able to relate to other members based on the information he receives from the leader.

In this way, if the church staff or pastor determines that one of the members has become a “threat,” they have a strategy in place to maintain the control they believe is required. Consequently, the church can sever relationships when necessary and keep this process cloaked behind a veil of secrecy.”

Stay tuned for “Buffaloes and Bum Steers” and  “A Healthy Church” – and see the difference!

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