abuse? Just as emotional abuse affects one emotionally, while physical
abuse inflicts pain and bodily injury on its victim,
abuse affects one spiritually. It is the result of a spiritual leader
or system that tries to control, manipulate, or dominate a person. This control
is often in the form of fear. This is considered a major factor in
mind control or
There are those who feel the latter comes into play in cases such as these,
while others feel the thinking is in error. No matter where one stands, it
does not lessen the affects of spiritual abuse.
David Johnson & Jeff VanVonderen in The Subtle Power of Spiritual
Abuse describe the action: "It's possible to become so determined to
defend a spiritual place of authority, a doctrine or a way of doing things
that you wound and abuse anyone who questions, or disagrees, or doesn't 'behave'
spiritually the way you want them to. When your words and actions tear down
another, or attack or weaken a person's standing as a Christian- to gratify
you, your position or your beliefs while at the same time weakening or harming
another- that is spiritual abuse."
Does leadership in your church demand you consult with them (or your discipler)
before making major decisions or any decisions at all? Has leadership forbidden
you to go on vacation or spend time with someone (particularly one who has
left the church group)?
Do you find yourself periodically questioning your spirituality or standing
with God? Have you been preoccupied with checking out others in the congregation
to see who is living up to the rules and who isn't?
Are extra-biblical rules and standards equated as coming from God, with your
salvation or spirituality linked to following them? Do you find that cutting or not cutting
has now become an indicator of your spirituality?
Has the initial joy you felt when first coming to know the Lord been replaced
with worry? Do you feel you're not doing enough or are not good enough and
can't live up to what is expected?
Do services uplift and give strength or do you feel sad, beaten down, or
depressed afterward? Has your view of God changed to where he is seen as
a harsh taskmaster, eagerly waiting for you to mess up so he can chastise
you or leave you behind?
If you have experienced any of these, or similar, you may be a victim of
Abusive churches are often performance oriented, with an "us verses them"
or elitist mentality. Questioning is often discouraged, forbidden, or branded
as a sign of rebellion or lack of spirituality, though this may not be said
directly. Those who do not follow the rules may be labeled, shunned, shamed,
or removed from church positions or even disfellowshipped.
You may not be allowed to confront or question those in leadership as they
anointed". Members are taught that only God is to handle situations in
which leadership may have done wrong.
The focus of this site is the issue of spiritual abuse in Bible-based churches.
It has a secondary emphasis on the United Pentecostal Church International
(UPCI or UPC). Like others who run similar sites, the reason for concentrating
on one organization is merely due to personal experience and knowledge of
I am not implying that every UPC church is run in a spiritually abusive manner.
However, the one I attended fit this description. Since leaving in 1993,
I have encountered many people from various areas who came from UPC churches
with similar experiences of abuse. My concern is the lack of oversight toward
individual churches pastored by UPC licensed ministers as well as some of
Is this site saying that nothing good ever happens at a UPC church or that
people cannot come to know the Lord there and be saved or that they have
a monopoly on spiritual abuse or doctrine that is in error? Absolutely not.
Please keep in mind that it is not the church you are attending that saves
or delivers from things which are wrong in your life. It is God and God alone.
Do not give any organization, church, fellowship, or person the praise and glory that
belongs only to God.
Some may proclaim good things that are being done in their church group,
but this good does not dismiss or excuse anything bad. It is wrong- and
dangerous- to ignore abuses simply because good may also be found.
Certainly there are countless groups which can speak of good they have
accomplished or which has happened during their meetings, even groups whose
main purpose is to push the agenda of its leader(s) despite who they hurt
or use in the process. Does this in turn validate that everything they do
is proper and of God? Does this diminish the damage inflicted to others?
If we turn our heads and allow abuse to continue, pretend it never happens,
or excuse it because it also occurs outside of our group, we may later find
ourselves the victim of such abuse. How many must be hurt before it is addressed
and seen for what it is?
--Lois E. Gibson, site founder
Below is part one of an early 1990s interview with Stephen Arterburn about spiritual abuse.
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