Thursday, August 28, 2014

How you can encourage a discouraged friend


Who do you know who is floundering, discouraged, and unhappy?

Why not take some time today to encourage them, to lift their vision, to stand with them, to paint a picture of a better future for them, and to speak words of life to them?

Practice ICNU - I see in you... You might want to say something like this to them:

"This is who I believe you are: I believe that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. I believe that you are God's workmanship – a work of art, a masterpiece, absolutely unique and needed for God's work in this world. I believe that God has a future and a hope for you. I believe that God will use your gifts to glorify Himself. I believe that you will have a fruitful and fulfilling career. I see you as a mature person who lives out a great future with God – one who rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously, always anticipating a greater reward. I see you as an overcomer and as a one who perseveres through difficulty to achieve lasting victory in your life for Christ."

Personalize this for your friend or family member. These can become words of life. Maybe they have never heard these kinds of words before. Maybe no one really believes in them like you do. Maybe it's time - or way past time - to liberally give these kinds of words away to someone you know.

May God give the people you love - the people who know who are struggling - the grace to live up to how wonderful you see them.
Speak empowering, life-giving words - speak His high calling - to someone. And why not start today?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

3 responses to a spiritually abusive leader


Have you been wounded by an abusive spiritual leader? How have you handled that hurt?

Recently, I posted an article entitled "7 Practices of Highly Successful and Deeply Hurtful Spiritual Leaders." A friend saw the article and affirmed these practices as warning signs. It caused him to reflect on his experiences in a previous ministry.

I asked him if I could post his thoughts. He graciously agreed although he wants to remain anonymous for now. My friend is my guest blogger today.

***

Recognizing a spiritually abusive leader can be an elusive process especially if one has been involved in a ministry for a period of time that extends back to when it may have been a healthy place. Those that remain faithful in serving in an abusive atmosphere have been wounded and many times have their thinking skewed, and their spiritual senses scarred.

I learned that there were three options available once the realization of abusive leadership was obvious:

1. Remain and maintain

Stay faithful to the Lord in spite of the caustic atmosphere and carnage. Keep doing your ministry and try not to get involved in the mess. This never works for long; you will end up being sucked into the vortex if you are doing anything worthwhile for the right reasons. You find yourself faced with the next two options.

2. Confrontation

This choice is carefully weighed in light of the wake of past results of confrontations that always ended badly for those who opposed the leader. Choosing this option guarantees your vilification and your ugly exit, although there are times when it it the right thing to do, especially if no one else has ever confronted the abusive leader directly.

3. Leave Gracefully

Be honest without diving face-first into an unheeded challenge for change. It may sound like a cop-out, but if many attempts have been made to confront the leader without success, it may be the best option.

I also learned that there needs to be a time for healing and reevaluating your own thinking process once you leave. One cannot come away unscathed from an abusive spiritual environment, especially if they were integrally involved in ministry.

Take time after leaving [to be] in a healthy church, and be open to realizing how your own thinking may need some readjustment. There needs to be forgiveness (a process), and also asking others for forgiveness.

God remains faithful and His word is true. Cling to that truth and continue to serve the Lord and others in a healthy place.

Question: How have you responded to a spiritually abusive leader? 


Related posts:

Jesus: Product or Person?
7 practices of highly successful and deeply hurtful spiritual leaders
How to leave a church

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why telling the story of your struggles inspires us

"Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble " (Psalm 107:2).

A friend once heard me suggest that we should be careful about how we share the extraordinary things God has done for us because we might unwittingly make others question, "Why doesn't God do those kinds of things in my life?"

My friend said, "The problem I have is I have many, many stories of amazing things that God has done, big supernatural things that have rocked me and greatly deepened by faith walk... I don't know how to NOT share those things because they are true representations of God's amazing power... I always felt that when God does something that amazing that it is my responsibility to share it. God is jealous God - why would He do such things if I wasn't supposed to share them? I'm in a bit of a conundrum here. Help me out!"

I am grateful for the question because it gave me an opportunity to clarify my thoughts.

I certainly do not want us to stop recounting the great things that God has done. After all, the Bible says, "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!"

What I am trying to caution us against is presenting an unrealistic, Pollyannish version of our faith.

Over the years I have met believers who seem to have a need to prop up their shaky spiritual self-esteem by pointing out how God so often comes through for them. God, they say, acts in their behalf in special, unique ways that He doesn't act in others' lives. The stories often feel competitive instead of edifying. The one-up-man-ship stories make them special and successful in the eyes of the world. The way they tell their stories give us an uneasy feeling that they are the stars, the special ones, and not God. "My successes prove to me (and to you) that I am special to God."

The problem with this approach to spirituality is that God often does not come through for us when we want Him to or the way we want Him to.

Think about Naomi in the book of Ruth. She experienced, as Larry Crabb tells us, Shattered Dreams. For a long, long time in her life, there was not a story of victory to tell. Yet, her faith in God stayed strong.

Jesus Himself on the cross said, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" At that time, there wasn't a story of victory to tell. (Of course, three days later there was a resurrection.)

We should be careful to not only tell our stories of victory, but also our stories of when God seems distant and silent. Why?

We do not want to discourage the people who are in a place of quiet desperation. Lots of God's people live there.

When we pastor-types parade people who tell story after story of victory in all areas of their lives as though they never had a struggle and as though victory is the Christian norm, I think we can do great damage to those among us who are hurting deeply. They begin to wonder, "Why am I not special to God?" They can begin to pull away from the One who can sustain, heal, and nurture their souls. They begin to think that God has "let them down."

See, my concern is basically pastoral.

Usually, God gives all of us both great victories and deep disappointments. We need to testify to His faithfulness in both of these experiences.

Unfortunately, in some circles, only the victories are allowed to be told. I believe that the people who can talk about only the victories are often those who are so insecure in their faith and identity that they can't admit their struggles.

Let's see God in both our victories and our failures. He's the God of them both.

Testify? Yes ! "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so." But let's remember that His redemption can be seen both as the Lord walks with us through the difficulties of life AND as He rescues us in powerful and often miraculous ways.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Inspiring ways to encourage your mission team members


Our Pearl Island team to Indonesia had a great last follow-up meeting last week. 

If you've led a mission trip, you’ve probably already done something like we did. But in case you have no follow-up plan, I thought I would share with you what we did.

We met in a home and had a pot luck dinner meeting.

I previously wrote to them, “To prepare, please read Session 10 in your CULTURELink Team member manual starting on page 211. (CULTURELink is training for our mission trip leaders. To find out about this world class training, click here.) If you want to keep your book, great. But if you can give it back, we can use it with various teams heading out next year.

I then wrote, “In addition, be thinking about your answers to these questions:

What on-the-field needs continue to vividly remain in your memory?
What about Pearl Island do you most miss?
What things about Pearl Island are you glad to have left behind?
What’s the one story about the trip that you have
What surprised you most about yourself while on the trip?
What attitude has surprised you about yourself since you have been home?
How have you been Living New as a result of our trip? (How has your life changed?)
Where will you go from here? What are your next steps when it comes to missional living?”  

We spent some time debriefing by asking and answering these questions.

Finally, at the end of the evening, we did something that I think was super-encouraging to everyone.

I had asked them. “Please come prepared to share one encouraging word that you would use to describe each person on our trip.” In advance, I prepared 9 sheets of paper – one for each person on the team with the names of each team member listed followed by some space for writing. At the top of the page, I wrote, “Pearl Island Mission Trip: Home and Looking Froward. What is one encouraging word you would use to describe each person… followed by a short “because”?

I passed out the papers. The team took 10 minutes to write an encouraging word and a “because” about each other team member.

Let me share just the responses of everyone for just one team member.

Available because she was always ready to be a part of what needs to be done and what God is doing. Caring because of the way she viewed each individual. Graceful because she was kind, natural, fluid grace. Passionate because you can actually see her passion. Calm and Collected because nothing seemed to phase her on the trip. Kind because she has such a kind heart that she showed by encouraging me and others. Loving because she cares so much about people and wants them to know Christ. Wisdom because of her careful explanation of the gospel.

Wow. Most of us NEVER have that kind of stuff said about us ro to us. See why I said this was super-encouraging? All 9 people had 8 of these kinds of wonderful things said about them. These truths will become empowering encouragements in later weeks, months, and years when the enemy throws darts of doubt our way.

I encourage you to do something like this if you haven’t planned it already.

Question: What have you done to debrief a mission team once you came back to the States? 

Related post:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How to break free from past pain to your new life in Christ


Today, I spent some time counseling a friend. I found myself sharing some helpful insights I learned about 20 years ago from Dr. Mike Misja at North Coast Family Foundation. I shared these concepts with my friend today. It felt to me like he had an "aha" moment. 

Maybe you need an "aha" moment, too. Here's a summary of the journey many of us find ourselves on.

1) We come into the world with an Innocent Identity. We get hurt by mom, dad, brothers, sisters, teachers, coaches, etc. 

2) So, we develop a Damaged Identity. We still hurt and want to protect ourselves.

3) We develop a Compensating Identity. We project a) niceness, b) neediness, c) competence or d) some combo of the previous three. These Compensating Identities fail to work. We hit a wall. We either bounce off the wall and keep on trying the Compensating Identity again...

OR...

We repent of our idolatry and self-protective behaviors and believe the gospel, that we are beloved Children who have great worth apart from our performance because Christ gave His life for us and imparted great value to us; we are deeply loved, fully forgiven, accepted and complete in Christ.

4) If we repent and believe, we develop a new Maturing Identity - one that frees us to truly love others and that is in touch with our original Innocent Identity.

That's a quick fly-by. Here's what I then told my friend, "My strong encouragement is that you get to North Coast Family Foundation to work with someone there who can help you unpack the baggage of your past." Walking with a Christ-following trained counselor to understand these stages/identities can be a source of great growth. 

My friend might not be the only one who needs this help. Maybe you need it, too. 

Question: What paradigms have been helpful for you to understand your past pain so you can grow in sanctification? 


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Is it possible for someone to seek repentance too late?

Recently, I was asked a question, “When I heard the message Sunday morning I thought you said if somebody neglects God's appointed time, then when he turns in repentance to Him later (while still alive), God will in effect tell him, ‘It's too late.’  This conflicted in my mind with ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

My friend was referencing a message about the twins, Jacob and Esau. Esau sold his birthright and lost his blessing to Jacob. I had taught from Hebrews 12:17.

“For you know that afterward, when he [Esau] desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears” (Hebrews 12:17).

In the message I said, “Esau cried. But his tears couldn't wash away his sins. For him there was no blessing to be found. Esau did not come in time.

“His tears were not the tears of a godly repentance. They were tears of frustration and bitterness and regret. He wasn’t crying because he’d lost the favor of God. He was crying because he thought he’d lost the worldly advantages that come from having the birthright and the blessing.

“What a tragedy for someone to recognize too late, ‘I’ve sold the birthright and lost the blessing.’ And now the door is shut.

“The Bible teaches that there is an accepted time, a time when God will be found. There is also a time when God will not answer those that call on Him, because they neglected the appointed time.

“Someone may be here today and you know that Jesus has been calling and calling and calling you to Himself. But you’ve been putting Him off and saying, ‘Not now. Later. Maybe tomorrow.’ But tomorrow never comes for you, does it? Unless something changes in your heart soon, you will forever regret the choices you’ve made and you will one day call yourself a fool.”

Then I read a quote from John Calvin:

“They who neglect to follow God when He calls on them, afterwards call upon Him in vain when He has turned His back… They who suffer that time to pass by, may, at length, knock too late, and without profit, because God avenges Himself of their idleness. We must, therefore fear lest if, with deafened ears, we suffer the voice of God now to pass unheeded by, He should, in turn, become deaf to our cry” (John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Volume Second, Genesis, p. 95).

I said, “That’s what happened to Esau. Don’t let it happen to you! If you are here today sitting under this teaching of God’s word, then it’s not too late. But if you leave without repenting, I wonder…”

I quoted the following verses from Isaiah, “Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7).

So, my friend was looking for clarification. Here’s what I wrote to him.

***

Great question. We are dealing with issues related to irresistible grace, unconditional election, divine sovereignty, human responsibility, eternal security, etc. These are mysteries that we can't fully comprehend. I think the fact we can't fully understand add to our worship of our inscrutable God. In Romans 9-11, Paul deals with these issues with the result of his doxology in Romans 11:33-36. 

Personally, I approach theology from a reformed perspective. Generally speaking, I adhere to what theologians call the "doctrines of grace." I find myself resonating with the theology of people like Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Lloyd-Jones, J.I Packer, R. C. Sproul, Sinclair Ferguson, John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Tim Keller, Alistair Begg, Al Mohler, and Matt Chandler. It's a theology that places a very high view of the sovereignty of God and of divine election that does no violence to the doctrine of human responsibility.  

Now, in Hebrews, Esau is being held up as a warning to believers or to so-called believers. So, I don't think the application is an "after you die" application. 

Hebrews, as you know, is a difficult book. Hebrews 6, for example, seems to me to be dealing with false professors of faith - people who claim to be believers for a time (and even look like believers) but who ultimately fall away. It is impossible, it says, to renew them to repentance (Hebrews 6:4-6). But, the author of Hebrews says, "I don't think that applies to you who are true believers" (Hebrews 6:9).

Hebrews 12:15-17 is an encouragement, also, for us NOT to be persons who had opportunity to repent and believe but failed to take advantage of it. I definitely believe its an "in this life" application. Esau, after all, was alive when he tried to "repent" but couldn't.

In the message, I tried to emphasize that what Esau regretted was not that he lost God, but that he lost the tangibles. So, his "repentance" itself was faulty. (At the end of his life, he patched things up with and got along well with Jacob. Why? He got what he wanted after all - wealth, flocks, pleasures, and worldly success. So, he was willing to let Jacob off the hook. He didn't want the eternal. He wanted the temporal.)

I believe that anyone who comes to God in true repentance at any time in his life, will be forgiven. True repentance itself is a gift from God. The ones who fail to obtain grace are those who try to "repent" in a faulty way. For them, it's too late. 

Esau didn't receive that gift of true repentance, i.e., "Esau I hated" (Romans 9:13). From the Divine Sovereignty side of things, God did not give him the gift of true repentance or forgive Him because he wasn't chosen; he wasn’t one of the elect. On the human responsibility side, Esau didn't have a heart of true repentance because he didn't want God and the spirituals, the intangibles as much as he wanted tangible, worldly blessings. 

As far as God's sovereignty is concerned, God will woo and win those He has chosen. The elect cannot resist His irresistible grace (or, as some call it, His efficacious grace). They will come to Christ. On the human responsibility side, the elect are responsible to repent and believe and they do repent and believe. They want God and His salvation. 

As far as God's sovereignty is concerned, God offers salvation to all, including those who are not ultimately saved. But for His inscrutable reasons, His calling is not efficacious for them. On the human responsibility side, the non-elect do not repent and believe even though they are responsible to do so. They do not want God and His salvation. They can and do resist the call of God and end up at best with a worldly sorrow that is too late. 

[When you consider] the quote from Calvin [that I referenced in the message, it seems clear that] he surely beloved that a person could come "too late" in this life. 

The issue seems to be the nature of a person's repentance. If it's true repentance, then whosoever will may come and you're not too late. 

Remember, the “whosoever wills who come” do so because God effectually calls them. True repentance isn't self-initiated. It is a gift God gives to His elect as II Timothy 2:25b-26 says. "God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will."

Bottom line, I think the Hebrews 12 passage about Esau is there to create a sense of urgency in us. Psalm 32:6, Isaiah 55:6-7, Psalm 69:13, II Corinthians 6:2, and Isaiah 49:8 indicate that there is a time when God may be found and implies that there is a time when He may not be. Therefore, we all must seek Him today, not tomorrow. 

This should not only motivate us to seek God today for ourselves, but to urge others to do so now. It's an aid to give urgency for our evangelism and our praying for the lost. 

This is a difficult topic and believers have not always seen this the same way. I hope this helps.


Question: Who do you know that you need to have a greater sense of urgency about winning to Christ?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Introducing a free spiritual journey inventory... because you don't have to stay stuck spiritually


This past weekend, Pastor Chad Allen delivered an important message at Cuyahoga Valley Church from Genesis and the life of Jacob about the dangers of staying stuck in middle of our spiritual journey. Chad graciously gave me permission to post a portion of his message where, frankly, he was on a roll sharing grace-based, gospel-centered bullets of application. He was seeking to help us know whether or not we are stuck in the middle of our journey with Christ. 

***

What signs of spiritual maturity have you seen in your life? How are you different now than you were in the weeks, months, and years before today? What changes, what new life has Christ brought into your life? 

Or do you feel stuck?

If you feel distant from God, you may be stuck. 

If you haven’t shared your faith with someone in months, you may be stuck. 

If you are a follower of Christ and you’ve never walked across the street, driven across town or flew across the globe to love and serve others in the name of Christ, then you may be stuck. 

If you are dating or engaged to someone who doesn’t love Christ, you may be stuck. 

If you haven’t opened your Bible in weeks or prayed in days, then you may be stuck. 

If you are repeating the same mistakes without any victory, then you may be stuck. 

If you aren’t faithfully tithing to the Lord, you may be stuck. 

If you know hundreds of song lyrics but can’t muster up one memorized Bible verse, then you may be stuck. 

If you care more about what people think about you than what God thinks about you, you may be stuck. 

If you keep asking God to bless your plans instead of asking God to help you live for His plans, you may be stuck. 

If you are uncomfortable with the things I’m saying right now, you may be stuck. 

But you don’t have to stay there!

Some of you here today are struck in the middle of who God is making you to be. Maybe you’re stuck on the threshold of giving your life to Christ. Maybe some are not even in a relationship with Jesus yet. We hope and pray that changes. Some of you are growing and we praise God for that. But some of you are stuck. In the middle. You need movement.

I’ve been stuck. You’ve been stuck. I’ll have moments of being stuck. You’ll have moments of being stuck. But we can’t live there. We can’t thrive there. We can’t experience what God has for us if we get stuck.

Let’s be Motivated to Move.
Let’s Meet with God regularly. 
And let’s Mature along our journey.

***

If you think you might be stuck , then I urge you to watch and listen to the entire message. Click here

Related posts:
20 ways to evaluate your spirituality

Develop a personal plan to Live New every day

Monday, August 18, 2014

Are we worshipping weekly or worshipping weakly?


We will either worship weekly or we will worship weakly. Take your pick.

Whether yours is a house church or a "big box" church, whether yours is a missional or an attractional church, whether yours is a suburban or urban church, too many of us have a sporadic commitment when it comes to attending weekly worship services.

In the Western world we have many choices to make. So, people decide on Friday or Saturday which of the various options they have on Sunday will be embraced. Sadly, worship too often takes a backseat to work, sports, recreation, travel, and various ways of seeking after personal peace and affluence.

In our CVC Bible reading for today, Nehemiah 8, we see an Old Testament version of the importance of regularly gathering together as God's people to hear the word of God taught and applied to our lives.


1 And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel.
2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month.
3 And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
4 And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand.
5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood.
6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, "Amen, Amen," lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places.
8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. Nehemiah 8

The Old Testament saints were not so spiritually superior that they felt themselves above the need for regular worship. The New Testament saints were not so free under grace that they felt no need to worship weekly. The gospels show us that Jesus Christ Himself gathered regularly with God's people on the Lord's day.

We simply cannot develop a cavalier attitude about worship. A "maybe I will, maybe I won't" attitude about attending worship regularly is not biblical or helpful.

Our first sin of the week – neglecting God and His worship – will surely lead into other sins during the remainder of the week. No wonder, then, God withdraws His favorable presence of blessing from the ones who worship so casually and carelessly and haphazardly.

Settle this once and for all. Say, "Each Lord's day for the rest of my life, unless providentially hindered, I will find my place in worship at the house of God."

Don't be legalistic about it/ But don't be antinomian about it, either. Decide now and make this a commitment for the rest of your life. At the end of your days, you will never, ever regret saying, "I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord."

Question: What reasons to attend services regularly would you give to someone who is questioning the need to go?  

Friday, August 15, 2014

7 practices of highly successful and deeply hurtful spiritual leaders


The recent dismissal of Mark Driscoll from the Acts 29 church planting organization has caused me to think again about the pitfalls of being successful as a spiritual leader.

I'm certainly not going to share my opinions about the Driscoll situation. Personally, I have benefited from his ministry and teaching and I know many others who feel the same. However, I also have a great deal of respect for Matt Chandler who was part of the dismissal process for Driscoll. So, why should I take sides? After all, what do I really know about that situation on the West Coast?

It doesn't help when people like me who know very little about the conflict and look at it from a distance share uninformed opinions. Rather, I want to pray for my brothers Mark and Matt and for the kingdom. God will sort it all out, give up the appropriate discipline and approvals, and build His kingdom in spite of the failures of His leaders.

But the Driscoll story has reminded me of some lessons I have learned over the years in ministry about leadership.
I've compiled a list of protective and manipulative practices that abusive spiritual leaders often use. I wish I had learned about these things before I ever started in ministry.

7 practices of highly successful and deeply hurtful spiritual leaders

1. Surround yourself primarily with your best fans.

Hurtful leaders struggle with handling criticism well. They get defensive. They fire back. Because criticism is so painful for them, they tend to surround themselves with people who only give them praise and applause. They use the busyness of their ministry and the importance of their role to limit the contact that critics can have with them. They live isolated and insulated lives as leaders.

2. Blame any conflicts on the devil.

When troubles happen in the ministry, the one who is blamed is Satan. The leader tells the story that he is so successful that he is on the Devil's top hit list. Personal issues are rarely considered to be the source of the problem. Instead, the leader looks for sympathy from the people because the devil is attacking him, his family, and his ministry. This tactic keeps critics off-balance and silenced. After all, who wants to be a tool in Satan's hand attacking such a successful leader?

3. Allow your success to give you a sense of entitlement.

Normal accountabilities are no longer valued. Routine decision-making processes no longer apply. Pay, power, and perks are expected to increase. Secret, side conversations with people of influence within the ministry begin to happen on a frequent basis.

4. When reporting to your boss and your board, control the content of the conversation.

Hurtful leaders make sure that their subordinates do not have much opportunity to speak to bosses or boards. Instead, the abusive leader sets the agenda with those he reports to by telling stories of success and by painting critics as sources of spiritual warfare. Because the leader controls the conversation, the boss and the board see the leader as the reason for the success and the unfortunate victim of detractors.

5. Make sure you put your spin on the news.

Because ministry is so difficult in this fallen world, problems happen and bad news is inevitable. The hurtful leader has an uncanny ability to get ahead of the bad news. He shares the bad news with others in a way that protects him but throws his subordinates (and others in the ministry) under the bus.

6. Practice triangulation.

A triangle has three points: rescuer, a persecutor, and a victim. The hurtful leader makes sure that he plays the role of victim. In a sick way, he gains energy for life and ministry by seeing himself as being persecuted. He runs to a rescuer to find affirmation and resources to carry on. At some point, the rescuer simply cannot carry the weight of his or her role, or the rescuer begins to question whether or not all that the victim claims is persecution is actual. The rescuer decides he's not going to play that game anymore. That's when the leader who is playing the role of the victim turns the former rescuer into a new persecutor. He then goes and finds another rescuer. This process repeats itself over and over again. That's why you often see a host of wounded and dead bodies in the wake of a hurtful leader. The hurtful leader has a vast capacity to vilify anyone who dares to criticize and has an insatiable thirst when drinking from the waters of victimization.

7. Say that the ministry is about God's fame while making sure you use the ministry to build your own brand.

The hurtful leader could never get away with flagrantly doing things for his own glory. Over and over, the leader talks about how it's all being done for God, for the spread of his fame. And perhaps the Ministry even started that way, but with success comes the temptation for a shift to be made. Instead of simply wanting to reach a generation for Christ, the leader wants to be KNOWN as the head of a ministry that reached a generation for Christ.

May God save us from this kind of abusive spiritual leadership. May He give us the sense to recognize it quickly and confront it powerfully when we see it. May we have wisdom to know when it’s time to gracefully remove such leaders whenever possible or to gracefully move on when we can’t remove them.

I must admit that I see some of these things in myself. I pray that God will forgive me for some hurtful things that I myself have done. I pray that God would minimize these tendencies in my life and nail them to the cross with Christ. I pray that He would raise me up to walk in as much newness of life as possible this side of heaven.

A prayer:

“Lord, forgive us for hurtful, manipulative, self-serving leadership. Instead, make us like You, Lord Jesus. You were and are a true servant. Help us all grow in godliness and holiness. Tear down what's hurtful. Build us up as true, pure leaders for your glory. In Jesus' name, Amen.”


Question: What have you learned about recognizing abusive spiritual leadership?

Related posts:
If you want God to do great things through you, you gotta start here
3 ways to stay humble while growing in leadership influence
10 Characteristics of fruitful and faithful ministers who finish well

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