“It is increasingly rare to meet someone who has not experienced some kind of spiritual abuse within the church, or seen the church reject the way of Jesus for something else. It is not unusual to find pastors using their congregations as platforms to advance their influence and profile. It is not uncommon to find churches that relate to neighbouring congregations as competition, rather than as family in the kingdom. It is not uncommon to discover scandals of power and abuse in the church that have been hidden to protect the “right people” from getting in trouble.”
This quote is a passage from Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel’s latest book, The Way Of The Dragon Or The Way Of The Lamb. The book chronicles their journey as they try to find where the power of Jesus is, what it is found in, and how it is distinct from the power of the world. I will review it soon, but this passage struck a cord. And not in a good way.
I know this reality too well. I have seen a great deal of spiritual abuse within the church, and lived through the abuse as well. But I don’t want to sit on this and have a pity party for myself.
If it is increasingly rare for people in the church to not suffer some spiritual abuse, we live in a very wounded and broken church. And as someone that has been in church leadership, I cannot hold myself apart from what has happened and claim some kind of innocence. I am just as susceptible to the temptation for power and self-gratification as anyone. As a former pastor, upon reading this, my heart sunk. I immediately wondered if I had been the cause of spiritual abuse within the churches that I have ministered. I don’t think that I did anything to hurt anyone or cause them to go in a way that was other than the Way of Christ, but I know that I’m still a sinful man. I am not above sin.
So, I want to formally apologize to the congregations that I have pastored and done ministry in. I am sorry if my actions were harmful and damaged you spiritually. I am sorry if what I said from the pulpit or in private conversations convinced you of any other way but the Way of Jesus. I am sorry if I used you to glorify myself, to boost me, rather than honour you and Creator and God that made you. I am sorry that my sin went unchecked and hurt you, as individuals and as a whole.
I humbly ask for your forgiveness, as I submit myself to the corrective Hand of God.
I know that this might sound strange or seem to come out of nowhere, but as a victim of spiritual abuse, I know that does help the healing process when the abuser does start to make moves to reconcile the past. It doesn’t instantly fix, but it does help the healing process.
And I also know that I am not the only pastor that needs to apologize. There are plenty of pastors that are guilty of spiritually abusing their congregations in different ways. It is good to correct course and not do those things again. But we cannot start to grow and heal as a Body of Christ without forgiveness, asked for and given. Consider this an example for others to follow in.
May God begin repentance and healing to a sick Church.