Timely Thoughts on ‘Survivor Blogs’

Fred Butler has been writing some good stuff about Christian ‘Survivor Blogs.’  He is not without sympathy for those who have been on the wrong end of overbearing pastors who “lord in over the sheep,” in contravention of 1 Peter 5.  I myself have suffered at the hands of proud, control-freaks in ministry (twice), and I have counseled several couples who have been battered and bruised by Christian “leadership.”  It happens far too often, and these men will answer for it.

But anyone who has counseled biblically (and there are lots of Christians who don’t), knows the watchword of Biblical Counseling:

The first one to plead his cause seems right, Until his neighbor comes and examines him. – Prov. 18:17

This important truth is the reason why it is unwise to follow survivor blogs.  Another reason, as Fred brings out, is that they are frankly mostly void of redeeming and spiritual qualities.  Whether we have been hurt or not, we are under obligation to react properly in a Christ-like way.

Here is the post: http://hipandthigh.blogspot.com/2012/06/responding-to-wolf-watchers.html

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26 comments

  1. Paul, one wonders if Hymenaeus and Alexander would have run to such a blog, complaining about the abuse of the apostle and his sing demeaning language like, “He even turned us over to Satan! We feel so crushed and devalued.”

    I’ve seen both – pastors that overreach, and sheep that refuse proper and loving correction. The overreaching pastors that I’ve seen have been universally ungrounded in doctrine. The refusing sheep are in the same camp, and our American, individual rights focused culture, mixed with a deficient doctrine of God and an elevated doctrine of man in our churches.

    One thing my dear mother taught me when I was a child and has kept hammering over the years, “It’s a sin to get your feelings hurt.”

  2. This whole issue points out Paul’s admonition to Timothy, to preach the word with GREAT patience and careful instruction. Not just patience, but mega patience. All too often pastors incorrectly think people understand what is required of them by the Scriptures.

  3. Like you, Paul, I am familiar with the abusive “pastor” species. And it far too often goes well beyond “getting feelings hurt”…There are victims here and one cannot, in the human sense, blame them for crying out in pain. For one reason, they cry out because no one else will listen to them in that insular pastor-dictator microcosm where they’ve been. Agreed, that is not the Biblically-prescribed response to any suffered offense, but one can understand ignorance dominating individuals who have been “taught” only in such a poisonous environment.

    Perhaps even more egregious in their violation of Biblical standards are some of these so-called discernment blogs–because those authors are not untaught, average American pew-warmers, but ostensibly trained seminarians and theologians….but they rail away, heaping calumny and shouting “heretic” toward anyone who is not fully in line with their position on nearly anything.

  4. I have been on various sides of these types of disputes and have found them always to be very complicated. Sometimes it may be all the leadership’s fault, at other times the fault of the person who leaves and quite often both share in the fault. Leaving a church can be like a divorce, whoever is at fault, both parties can go away embittered and not seeing the situation in perspective. Except in very extreme cases I am convinced the best thing to do is simply to walk away.

    1. Fred,
      I first heard of Julie Ann Smith on the news about that former pastor suing her. I have to admit, at the end of the day, I did think the pastor might have went overboard with the lawsuit. I’m surprised that when I went over to read your blog, it’s the same lady you are dealing with–and as I read of what she has been writing about since I first been on her blog (and the comment sections), I have to say, it’s getting a little unhealthy because from what I see, things are getting trivial, too much self-importance and things blown out of proportion with the comments bordering on the slanderous (such as one commentator saying you are out to get more hits and ad hits–sigh). In the end, such survivors’ blog effects the sanctification of all parties involved–and Christ getting a black eye. Going to Christ with our pain and even evaluating one’s own self for sins to repent of is so important for “survivors”–and that’s not to say things did not happen to them.

    2. Fred,

      You exercise sober judgment in these articles. But if you put yourself in the firing line…;-)
      Be encouraged. This needed to be said. Perhaps you might write about the proper response to pastoral heavy-handedness?

      P

  5. Agree from what has been said that survivor blogs are not spiritually uplifting but feed on negativity and become unhealthy. Also, whatever happened to Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians: why not rather suffer wrong? why not rather be defrauded? To continually harp about the negative experiences can only bring forth more of that fruit (Galatians 5), rather than truly seeking God, the only one who can truly heal the hurt and pain.

  6. The siren call coming from these survivors seems to be that they are warning others who are being victimized by this and other pastors. They are “earnestly contending for the faith.” Of course, that is what Paul was doing while languishing in a Roman prison (Phil. 1:7,16-17), and other brethren were witnessing out of sinful motives “supposing to cause distress” in his imprisonment. But Paul’s response was most unlike this woman and her supporters.

    I’m not saying this pastor doesn’t have a case to answer. He may. But he answers to God. These sorts of survivor blogs, if they encouraged godly humble responses, would be serving God. But “exposing” these men online because the technology is available to do it only encourages the spread of negativity and presents a poor witness to onlookers. Where is the spirit of 1 Peter 2:23; 3:8-11 or 1 Corinthians 4:12 or 6:7? That is what the blogs should be exhibiting.

    I do not wish to defend abusive ministers. I have seen them operate and have suffered at their hands. It is one thing to speak with those near and dear about these things (provided it isn’t gossip). It is another thing altogether to set oneself up as a defender of the right against these men.

  7. Well, I’m going to butt out, but have to say first, thanks Paul for at least using the word “abusive” to describe the wolves–that’s more accurate than “over-reaching” There seems to be much more condemnation of the victims here than of the tyrants. You say they “answer to God”……Indeed so do we all. But it seems to me that there is no intervening level of accountability is a major part of the problem. Most of these dictator “pastors” have, at best, a board of yes-men to rubber-stamp their otherwise uncontrolled actions. Lacking a plurality of elders is commonplace in the modern church and the lack of Biblical structure in the local assembly lends itself to myriad abuses….that and the “touch not mine anointed” mentality promoted in those places.

    1. Ed,

      Your comments are spot on and I agree with you. My concern here is the narrow avenue of survivor blogs, not the problem of tyrants as such. That subject is a scandal in the churches and I would not wish to turn a blind eye to it. Eric has said that a lack of theological training is common with these abusers and I agree. But I have known some who had theological nous and were lords over the flock.

      Here’s my opinion (for what it’s worth): THESE MEN ARE NOT QUALIFIED TO BE IN THE MINISTRY! They were never called by anybody but themselves. Our seminaries are spewing these and other un-called men into the churches and have been for over a generation. 1 Tim.3 is being systematically ignored and this is the result. God doesn’t need tens of thousands of “pastors” to do His work. He needs the ones He calls and qualifies and not one more. Jesus chose 12. The “twelve” chose seven deacons for a huge new church congregation. God needs the right men, not “pastor-packaging factories” (most modern seminaries). He needs Log Colleges (Tennent) and Pastor’s Colleges (Spurgeon), not giant monoliths with fountains and sculptures and athletic fields. And I’m monologing… 😉

      1. Thanks, brother. I agree with you fully, on all counts. It’s just difficult for me to isolate the disturbing (and disturbed) blogs from that which caused them to be. (and please, monologue on…..:) )

  8. Paul said: “He is not without sympathy for those who have been on the wrong end of overbearing pastors ”

    I personally have been fodder for discussion on three of Fred’s posts (“Wicked Sheep”, Sheep Attacks – certainly not feeling the love here, and the article you referenced in your post) and Fred also posted on my blog. I fail to see the sympathy that you speak of and I’ve read many of his comments. I’d love it if you could prove me wrong, however.

    If you acknowledge that there are men who should not be pastors, then you must also acknowledge that there are some very damaged sheep out there. In my case, the pastor is in an independent church with no spiritual oversight. There is approximately a 13-yr history of accounts of abuse. I was not aware of that when I began my blog, but people voluntarily sent their stories. The names/dates differ, but the stories remain the same: people left in spiritual confusion, some never setting foot in church again, not wanting to pray, read their Bibles because they cannot ever measure up to the standards the former pastor presented. Some entire families have never gone back to church again.

    After reading Fred’s posts, some linked around the blog world, I’m frankly tired of the whining I’ve read from people (pastors?) who would much rather talk about the negativity of spiritual abuse blogs than deal with what you, Paul, so importantly discussed: “THESE MEN ARE NOT QUALIFIED TO BE IN THE MINISTRY! They were never called by anybody but themselves. Our seminaries are spewing these and other un-called men into the churches and have been for over a generation.”

    Paul, what can be done with regard to those men you describe? Do you have any ideas? How can we keep those men from the pastorate before they leave a trail of destruction? From what I’ve heard from him personally, he had run-ins at the Bible college he attended, so people probably had a good clue of things to come. To me, the anger focused on spiritual abuse blogs is misdirected – it belongs on the pastors who created the mayhem and perhaps on other pastors/professors outside who saw what was going on, who overlooked or ignored clear signs, and chose to do nothing to intervene.

    I’m not sure what I can do- I just moderate a spiritual abuse blog – validate their pain, try to give people hope, a reason to seek God again. I’m hoping people like you who understand there is a real problem will take this situation to heart and see if something can be done, changed, challenged.

    Meanwhile, in 9 days I face my former pastor in court. This is the man who has sued me and my daughter and others for $500,000 for posting negative comments about him on Google and on my blog, and who is likely stalking the internet looking for other comments of mine to add to his lawsuit or future lawsuits (he already amended the initial lawsuit to add more phrases he lifted from my blog).

    1. it “sounds like” you are wanting some form of “Christian consumerism”. “just give me a perfect pastor and church”. it doesn’t work this way in church life as buying an item at the store. a Christian has a debt of love to other Christians especially those with whom they closely fellowship. the Bible strongly warns against divisiveness in the local assembly.

      i’ve been burned too but didn’t think i needed to contact “Comsumer Reports” and have them look into it. the pastor will, as all pastors, face a stricter judgement from God. if you don’t agree with a pastor, just leave. your leaving speaks volumes either about him or you.

      also, your remedy of “spiritual oversight” is worse than the supposed problem. you are only adding another layer: who then oversees the overseer?

      all Christians will be judged individually. they will not have their pastors, their husbands or wives besides them to either blame or support them at the Bema Seat.

      as Christians we need to have discerning love. isn’t sympathy and empathy only as good as the giver? why would anyone want someone’s empathy if the person who gives it is uniformed? what i am saying is that we only have one side of the story. even if both sides were presented, the internet is not the forum to judge disputes. slander, defamation, abuse are serious matters that need to be dealt with face to face.

    2. Julie Anne, I’m sure you’ve figured out by now there’s not much sympathy to be had around the blogosphere.

      For one thing, most people seem not to realize how bad is the abuse by some of these wolves…they seem to think you might have gotten your “widdle feewings hurted” I’ve seen the other stuff. I don’t know your specific situation and would not ask, but I have seen some “stuff”

      The pastors always have the advantage: “touch not the anointed” and all that. I would not commend you for the public outcry, but I can understand it. How easy for outsiders to tell you “just suffer it; that’s what the Bible says”…and yes, it does. But it also says that pastors are to love and care for His sheep; that wolves posing as shepherds are here to kill and destroy the flock.

      The idea that these men are to be only accountable to God is entirely wrong. There needs to be accountability within local congregations and by such things as denominations, etc. That’s a major shortcoming of the one-man-show as opposed to the plurality of elders in a local congregation.

      That same passage of scripture which is thrown at you about suffering the abuse…..also condemns taking another believer to court to resolve an issue. For those who are saying you might be liable because of “slander” or “libel” I would say that the perfect defense to such a charge is that what you said or wrote is true. (I’m not a lawyer, but I play one on the internet)

      Again, I am not fully supportive of your internet forum methodology, but I am sympathetic to your plight…when no one else will listen, one does seek a hearing. It is very disturbing to me to see how often you are made the villain in this matter and how very little attention is directed to the “pastor” in this case.

      At the very least, know that I will pray for you…..that God give you peace, draw you to Him in such a way you find the pain of all your experiences lost in the sea of His grace.

      1. Thank you, Ed, for your thoughtful reply. I will be the first to say that I don’t know that my “methodology” was the best. I prayed about it and also got my husband’s okay. A number of people are critical about my method, many of whom apparently don’t have much of a clue about spiritual abuse, so I take your words with a little more credibility, Ed. I know my heart is for the hurting and abused lambs and I’m a little emotional tonight after hearing of more shunning in my former church. A young man was seen talking to someone at the courthouse who is on the “Mark and Avoid” list and so his name was just added to it. What this means is he will no longer be able to connect with certain family members. He is being shunned. You can read about my former church’s practice of Mark and Avoid and how scripture was twisted False Teachers Who Mark and Avoid

  9. Julie Anne,

    Welcome to my blog. I cannot spend long in answer to you. Forgive my brevity. Fred’s concern (and mine) is not with a ministry to those who have been burned. There are many and they need God’s help. But God’s help is given in God’s way. He expects us to suffer wrong, even from those who call themselves Christians, for Christ’s sake. People who have been hurt, if they are Christ’s, have no right to complain about it before the watching world. This does not aid the church’s mission and the Enemy will use it against the cause of the Gospel. I’m sure that is not what you would want.

    Paul expressed the right attitude in Phil. 1:15-18:

    “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.”

    It is hard to imagine people calling themselves Christians wanting to add to an Apostle’s suffering, but there it is. Paul did not focus on THAT, but on God.

    This pastor will face God for his choices and motives, whatever they may be. God searches our hearts.

    I don’t know the details of your case, but I believe putting your complaints about this man on Google and naming him publicly a good while after you left his church (if that is true) could be construed as a form of defamation. How HE responds is out of your control. But you ought to consider your actions in this matter.

    As for your question about what can be done. Perhaps you will allow me to ponder that and write on it soon? I think Fred also plans to.

    I pray you will not suffer because of this action against you.

    Your brother,

    Paul H.

  10. I’ve seen responses come through my e-mail, but I’m going to have to postpone a decent response for a few days as my court date is tomorrow – well actually today in about 13 hrs. and I’m out of town this weekend. I will respond, though. Thanks for your patience.

  11. Ed and Julie Anne,

    I hope you do not think that in highlighting the inadvisability of public Christian Survivor Blogs that I am endorsing this pastor’s actions? I most certainly am not! I shall write my thoughts on false shepherds soon, but Ed is well aware of my views about the majority of men in the ministry not being called by God. How to address the problem of heavy shepherding and those who should not be shepherds in the first place is, of course, part of the same basic problem. And there are no easy fixes.

    Having said that it does not follow (as I’m sure Ed sees, and as I would hope Julie Anne would see), that survivor blogs are either good or God-honoring. In Julie Anne’s case, grading a church as one would grade a restaurant and publicly naming the pastor and speaking about his ministry and person the way you did, long after you have left the church is definitely not God-honoring.

    Why? Because he is “the Lord’s anointed?” Assuredly not! He is certainly NOT that, whatever else he may be. No, the issue here is that the NT is quite clear about our proper response to being wrongfully accused and mistreated. If we do not follow that teaching we are de facto in the wrong, and we may give Satan a foot in the door. He will surely use the media to make, not just the Beaverton Church look bad, but believing congregations in general look bad.

    The fact is, anyone who has counseled biblically knows that if the counselee has suffered abuse, many times they must be led to see the truth and reality of future reckoning on those abusers. God is not mocked. This pastor has brought great shame on the cause of the Gospel through his actions. But the world will only use that one way. To mock Christians for their hypocrisy. Have Julie Anne’s actions in “exposing” him done more harm to the cause of Christ than good. I think it is myopic to believe otherwise.

    I sincerely hope this man acts like a Christian and rescinds the suit. But if he doesn’t, don’t think the Googling and blog are thereby vindicated.

    Your brother,

    Paul

    1. Paul, my intention was to speak in generalities about the refusal of the “church world” to deal with such “pastors”…certainly I did not mean, or imply except by my own poor manner of writing, by accident, that you personally endorsed this pastor’s actions. I apologize for giving the slightest hint of that.

      If every one in an abusive situation remains silent and suffers it out, the abusers will continue to abuse and to prosper (yes, under God’s eye and control, I know, but….)…I will not ladle out more blame to the victim than to the criminal.

      Your myopic brother,

      Ed

      1. Julie Anne, you ask:

        “Do you see a biblical precedent for exposing false teachers?”

        Answer:

        Yes I do. BUT, we must qualify what we mean by “expose.” Nowhere in the NT are we called upon to name any one in public. The most apropos verse, 1 Tim. 5:19-20, clearly makes it an in-house matter and the charge is brought by 2 or 3 witnesses. It is not a matter for the public at large (Paul is writing to churches and ministers). 2 Jn. 1:10 warns us not to receive such false teachers into our houses. It does not tell us to announce their false teaching in a public domain.

        Bringing the passages into contemporary life, we should certainly not expose false teachers in the way you have chosen to do. If a person has taught through writing books or TV we could properly call attention to their teachings. But this pastor has not, I think, written books or been on TV or radio, and if he had, you could only expose what he taught (a la Harold Camping). But it appears that you have done more than that on complaining about this man on Google and on your blog. Hence, you have not aligned yourself with biblical teaching.

        Moreover, you have deftly sidestepped the NT passages presented to you which oppose the position you have taken. Of course, this is not to say that this pastor is not indeed a charlatan (he may be). But if he is, it is a matter for the church, not the public square. The NT teaching on false teachers centers on spotting them, stopping them from assuming positions within the churches, and avoiding them if they gain positions.

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