Domination And Control

by Anonymous

In a marriage, if a husband demands submission the wife will either willingly yield and become a subservient doormat or will walk away from him. But when the husband loves his wife extravagantly to the extent he is willing to lay his life down for her, she happily submits. Paul said this is the great mystery concerning the church (Ephesians 5:32). The leader of the church - our beloved Jesus - does not force us to submit; rather we willingly yield to His tender sacrificial love.

A central feature of an unhealthy church is control-oriented leadership, with the expectation of people to come under their authority.

Some pastors have surrounded themselves by "yes" people. Why? Because they are pliable and more easy to control. Older, wise, seasoned, mature men and women of God are a threat to this style of leadership so they are pushed aside in favour of people who meekly follow their leaders.

Leaders in this environment "target young adults ages 18-25 who are in the middle class, well educated, idealistic, and often immature Christians. Young adults are the perfect age group to focus on because they are often looking for a cause to give their lives to, and they need love, affirmation, and acceptance. Often these churches will provide this, and the leaders frequently take the role of surrogate parents" according to Pat Zukeran.

Some strong leaders believe it is their responsibility to monitor the lives of their people. When a newcomer arrives they are watched and scrutinized. A more mature and faithful member of the group keeps an eye on them. Then if they perform well and conform they are warmly encouraged to become more involved. If they don't, they are judged, labelled, categorized, marginalized and eventually ostracised.

In some churches there is an over-emphasis on addressing behavioural issues amongst the members. A lot of time is committed to dealing with personal issues and holding meetings with people citing this is 'discipleship' or 'heart journey'. Some even promote covenant relationships.

In these churches there is a culture of micro-management whereas they exercise control over people's lives to the extent they say who they can and cannot date, and see nothing wrong in telling people off for having a coffee with a person they believe is not conducive to church unity. Relationships are managed from the leadership.

"Another tactic is the "shepherding" philosophy. As practiced in many abusive churches this philosophy requires every member to be personally accountable to another more experienced person. To this person, one must reveal all personal thoughts, feelings, and discuss future decisions. This personal information, is not used to help the member, but to control the member." - Unknown

In Mark 10:42-43a Jesus says, "But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you:" That is very clear isn't it? No one has the right to exercise authority over another person. No one!

The constant appeal to become more broken is a subtle form of manipulation and intimidation. Only God can lead a person into brokenness if brokenness is required. No one has the right to trespass into territory that belongs only to God. Experts in the field of psychology, in relation specifically to cults, explain that breaking a person down is one very common cult tactic.

Guilt, fear, and intimidation by the leadership is used to manipulate members and keep them in line. Sadly, even though a church may appear to be thriving, controlling leadership becomes like aggressive cancer that soon takes over every part of the body. With regards to leadership the Bible clearly states, "Not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock." (1 Peter 5:3, ESV).

When leadership actively encourage people to dob others in for whatever reason, they are revealing their leadership style - which is domination and control. It's actually a tactic that is used in spiritually abusive churches. It works like this: Loyal people are like spies who feel they have a responsibility to tell on other people who they think have stepped out of line. They are doing this to suck-up to their leaders and hopefully gain some brownie points with them.

Information gathering and reporting it to leaders is wrong and leads to a lack of trust amongst the people. It has in some cases been justified as a way they can minister more effectively to the people concerned. This is not the real reason. It's so they can more effectively control and manipulate the people. I know that sounds harsh - but that's the truth.

When people confide in one member of the leadership or ministry team, that information should NEVER be passed on unless a crime had been committed or about to be committed. If a ministry team member feels the need to pass the information to a more senior leader, they should ask permission of the person before sharing personal information. Much damage has been caused by the gossip amongst leaders and wanna-be leaders.

I know one person who did a test to see how long it would take from the time they said something to the time it was reported to the leader and the leader responded by chastising the offender. It was five minutes.

If someone says something about a leader that person becomes accused of operating under a spirit of accusation. As in any abusive relationship, the abuser never takes responsibility for his or her actions but makes the victim feel bad. Bible verses like "Touch not mine anointed" (which is misquoted as is NOT about church leadership) are quoted to make people shut up.

You cannot confront leaders of an unhealthy church as they believe they are always right. Everyone else is wrong. Even if there is a mass exodus, the defectors are the ones who are in the wrong. Jesus talked about this when He spoke of looking at splinters in other peoples eyes and not noticing the plank in our own eyes.

This writing is the copyright of the original author and is reprinted on this site by permission.

Page added January 22, 2015


August 23, 1997
Copyright © 1997-2015 by Lois E. Gibson
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