Equipping and Empowering for Victorious Kingdom Living

Verbal Abuse in the Church

Does unity in the church require ignoring verbal abuse from the pastor or other members? In the interest of unity, should we just suck it up when we experience a pattern of abusive behavior? That’s the question I’m living these days.

I’ve just been “fired” from my volunteer leadership position at our church. The how and the why are excellent lessons in what NOT to do if you are seeking unity.

I served faithfully and well until I accidentally stumbled upon a sacred cow I didn’t even know was there. A minor point of doctrine that I actually taught well and with sensitivity, but one of the members of the class took umbrage with. He proceeded to denounce me loudly and publicly in the class, and even louder and longer in a leadership meeting later. I’m pretty unshakable, but his rage triggered a vulnerable spot in my soul.

I tried to seek biblical reconciliation with him (Matthew 18:15-20). He refused. I sought support from the pastor. He said, “Let it go.”

Then I was suddenly fired in a whirlwind of lies aimed at making me look bad and leadership look good. The board wasn’t too worried.

Sadly, this isn’t unusual in the Church.

I hear a new story of church hurt almost every day.  In the very place where we’re supposed to be loving one another (John 13:34), submitting to one another (Eph. 5:21), and learning to function as the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27), we experience abusive behavior and power plays. In the very place where we are supposed to heal, we hurt and are hurt. This seems to happen not only in churches but also in Christian businesses and Christian relationships.

The reality is, we all have a mean streak in us somewhere. We all have hidden wounds that manifest in ugly ways and hurt others. We all say or do things we later regret.

The question is: What do we do with those behaviors and attitudes?  

Do we just shrug our shoulders and say, “That’s just the way I am.”? Or do we make the church a safe place to be vulnerable? To own up to our mean streaks? To reconcile in humility?  And to receive healing, both from our Lord and our community?

People are not going to heal and learn to behave better just because they attend a church. It isn’t the attendance that matters. It’s what’s taught and what’s expected. If there is never teaching on relationships and healing damaged emotions, why would we expect a change? If there is never teaching on humility and biblical reconciliation, it won’t happen. If there isn’t a modeling of how we should be with one another, we’ll just keep on in our carnal behavior, trying to hide it from the church until it explodes unexpectedly. And someone gets hurt.

This teaching can and must happen from the pulpit. The leadership must take the lead in modeling biblical reconciliation and relationships. But what if the leadership is also wounded and not trained in godly relationships?

First, get healed and get trained. This should be a prerequisite for any church leader. Second, those who are healthy can take the initiative to encourage others to heal through small groups and discipleship.

Let me recommend two resources to get you started.

Kingdom Now: Pursuing Unity in the Body of Christ to Change the World is a 13-week study on the “one anothers” in scripture. When done in a closed group committed to growth, amazing things happen. Let’s do what we can to rout out and heal out abusive behavior in the body of Christ. (BTW, Amazon has Kingdom Now at the lowest price I’ve ever seen it, so now is a a great time to order it.)

Communicate For A Change: Building Great Relationships Through Great Listening  by my friend, Gary Sweeten, is an excellent training manual on communication. I took this class from him in the 1990s and it changed my life and my communication. He has now published that class in this book.

Communicate for a Change

I encourage you, beg you, to start now training and modeling biblical “one another” relationships in your church, your family, your business, your life. Before someone gets hurt.

2 responses to “Verbal Abuse in the Church”

  1. Donna Holm Avatar
    Donna Holm

    What an awful situation, with so much hurt all around. Of course Satan is laughing it up, knowing that his jabs into the Church’s most vulnerable spots hit their marks. We know that churches are full of imperfect people, hospitals being for the sick and all that, but it still really hurts when a fellow member does us wrong. I am praying for healing and comfort for you, (along with a refill of Grace), and for the eyes of the offenders to be opened and their hearts convicted. God works in mysterious ways; maybe some truths need to be exposed in order to be cleaned!

  2. Rochelle Avatar

    Pat, I am so sorry this has happened to you! Is this the church we visited with you & that you have served with since moving to TX? Who fired you? The pastor? Has anyone there reached out to you? I’ll be praying for you & Bob for this situation!

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