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Healthy churches have healthy leaders. Peter says that a healthy pastor will feed his flock and be an example to them, not lord it over them.
Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, [that] observe and do; but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not.
For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay [them] on men’s shoulders; but they [themselves] will not move them with one of their fingers.
(Matt. 23:1-4)
The religious system that Jesus addressed here was a dangerous and abusive one. The leaders elevated themselves above the common people, and wore their assumed authority and righteous works for the world to see. In order to keep control of others, they convinced them that they weren’t spiritual enough to attain this position. They had a corner on God, so to speak.

These scribes and Pharisees spoke for God and interpreted His Word so the “common” people could understand. The problem is that their “interpretations” were heavy, weighty works that no one could possibly adhere to. The scribes and Pharisees did not adhere to them either, but they kept up their spiritual appearance so one would notice.

There is a secondary issue here, and that is that each individual person gave up their power to these leaders and this system of bondage. Every individual has a God-given right to choose for themselves and listen to the inward witness of the Holy Spirit, and act accordingly. That action may bring harsh response, but no action is what allows these systems to continue.

Jesus listened to the Father, chose to disagree with the leaders (Pharisees), and took action according to his convictions. His action resulted in not only persecution for His teaching, but also in death. He knew the end result of confronting a religious system that was governed according to the law and its interpretation by hypocritical leaders. A religion that punishes others with physical death for disagreement is under the law of man not the grace of God.

Victim or Victor?

Although Jesus was seemingly a victim of the religious leaders and their abusive beliefs, He truly was a victor. Although he knew what they would do in response to His teaching, He taught truth as He was led by the Father. His intent was to bring abundant life by the truth which set people free. The religious leaders could not kill him until it was time because He always did what the Father told Him. Now the Holy Spirit is come and if we will always do what the Holy Spirit shows us, we will not be victims but will be victors.

Have you ever felt victimized by a church or religious leader? If so, ask yourself if any of these things are true:
  1. Was the leader or church not following Christ’s true message of setting the captive free?
  2. Did you ignore or doubt your inward witness?
  3. Did you decide to trust what someone else said, and not ask hard questions about what was happening?
Power or Force
Spiritual abuse takes place when a spiritual leader uses his or her position of authority to manipulate, control, and mistreat others. This authority is perceived authority, it is a false authority. It is exerting power over others.

When a leader is operating under the anointing, it breaks the yoke of bondage. This is sometimes recognized as a sensation of freedom, joy and peace. One minister said it felt like being dipped in warm honey! It is a power that releases. Force is perceived as binding. It can be bondage to the law, or bondage to beliefs or bondage to an interpretation of scripture. Trying to force someone to believe their way. If you feel bound, put down, or shamed by a church or leader, remove yourself. God does not expect you to submit yourself to abusive teaching or behavior.

Sometimes a leader will advertise their title or office (such as prophet or apostle) to try to
convince others that they truly have the power or prestige of that position or perhaps they
are saying it in faith. Just be aware that what’s on the outside can be very different than
what is on the inside.

True Spiritual Authority
For he taught them as [one] having authority, and not as the scribes.
(Matt. 7:29)
True spiritual authority will be immediately recognized without any titles being given. John the Baptist’s authority was recognized, yet he refused any title. When Jesus spoke, crowds marveled at his speaking with authority and power.

True spiritual authority is used to liberate the oppressed and set the captive free. False spiritual authority is used to control others for the feeling of power it gives and to stroke the

Here are some warning signs of a dysfunctional or abusive spiritual leader:
  1. Must be in control
  2. Has an attitude of superiority
  3. Can’t be questioned
  4. Uses scriptures or prophecy to manipulate
  5. Image is everything
  6. Materialistic, or greedy
Often the people who are attracted to this leader and/or church are those who have already been victimized by others; family, spouse, employers. This leader may appear to be strong, in control, and have all the answers. The reason this is attractive to some people is that it is easier to let someone else tell you what to think and do than do the hard work yourself!

It takes time and effort to study the scriptures, meditate, and listen to the Holy Spirit for guidance. What you come up with from this time of prayer and reflection may disagree with popular opinion. It is just so much easier to go to church, get excited and not ask questions. (Do I have any Amens on that?)

Having said that, there is definitely a balance involved unless you want to make yourself annoying to everyone by questioning everything that is said and done and being contentious. There is no perfect church, no perfect minister because we all vary in background and preferences.

Healthy Churches

Healthy churches have healthy leaders.
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage but being examples to the flock.
(1 Peter 5:2-3)

Peter says that a healthy pastor will feed his flock and be an example to them, not lord it over them.
Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father and the younger men as brethren; the elder women as mothers, the younger as sisters, with all purity.
(1 Tim. 5:1-2)
A church is like a family and Paul admonishes Timothy to treat all members with respect.

Signs of a healthy church:
  1. Balanced ministry to a diversity of needs
  2. Encourages personal growth
  3. Leave church services feeling uplifted
  4. Open & loving to those who don’t hold the same views
  5. Emphasize developing your own ability to hear from God
The most important thing that you can do is to pay close attention to your own inner witness. The Holy Spirit dwells in you, so trust Him more than the words or advice of others. He will never lead you astray!

Charles Capps Ministries
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Annette Capps
Web site: Charles Capps Ministries
Annette Capps is the daughter of author and teacher Charles Capps. She is an ordained minister, businesswoman, and pilot.

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