When Church Discipline Becomes Abusive

It’s not surprising that the growth of the Internet has given the global Church the power to voice their faith and concerns about the Christianity community. I’m not fond of labeling all churches within a movement as a cult, but there are times when cult tendencies become so widespread within a movement that people begin taking notice. I have posted before about some experiences I had in another movement, but what really caught my eye was how the same tactics are used in a variety of denominations.

Matthew Paul Turner courageously posted a piece about Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington that has the global Church deeply disturbed. It’s not the fact that he posted the testimony of one man that disturbs us, it’s the tactics used against this man he reports about, that is so disturbing.

I had quite a discussion with a friend last night who had also left the same environment I did. We discussed how much freedom we really have in Christ to gather, worship, and study as equals. When Peter offered to build Jesus a temple, his response was simple, “No.” Jesus’ plans were to build a new temple, in us. So why do so many Christians feel the need to build modern temples and call them churches? It’s the People who are the Church, not the buildings or programs. It certainly is within our freedom to create organized places to socialize together and develop a governance to keep the community center supported financially. However, what often happens in these kinds of community centers is deeply disturbing and the global Body is taking notice.

Many cry out, “This should not be happening in The Church!” It certainly is a heartbreaking situation when we come to love and trust a leader of such an establishment only to find accusations of alleged abuse and it’s extremely difficult to see the truth. We often tell teenagers that their love for each other has them blinded. It seems that this may be the case within the Body as well.

Does the entire Body of Christ have the authority to speak up about what happens in just one community center? Or is it a private matter for that local Body alone? Andie Redwine, Writer and Co-Producer of Paradise Recovered, has this to say;

“My position is that Mark Driscoll has a wide audience that transcends denomination. MPT gave Andrew a place to go to chat about what happened to him. The fact that we are all so moved by it means that the onus is on Driscoll to make a statement.” (MPT refers to Matthew Paul Turner)

She certainly has a point. This particular pastor has a much wider audience than just his local community of believers. When a pastor opens up to the public audience with videos, books, audios, public speaking, etc then he sure does open himself up to public outcry from the Body as a whole. Another thing to keep in mind is that Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington (not to be confused with the fascinating and gracious work of Rob Bell at Mars Hill Bible Church) has a seriously crafted membership that requires a disturbing amount of rules to live by that has many labeling as legalistic. Again, they do have the freedom to create their own governance, but the people have the freedom to not agree to it. Just because someone initially submits to it, doesn’t mean they are legally obligated to stay under such leadership. How much more reminding do we need that we live in America where we have the freedom of religion?

Regardless of how we all feel about this particular community, The Church is raising awareness of Spiritual Abuse. The government protects your freedom of religion, but you willingly submit to the church community of your choice. You have the freedom to walk away without suffering from harassment. Sadly, many congregations do not understand how to draw the line between church discipline and harassment. If you believe you are in danger of being harassed or stalked upon leaving a church community, don’t be afraid to call a lawyer and talk to a professional counselor.

Are you blogging about Spiritual Abuse in support of victims? If so, please comment with your link and I’ll add it to the list.

Matthew Paul Turner

Eric Pazdziora

David Hayward

Dr. Robert Cargill


Quivering Daughters

Michelle Pendergrass

Mike Fehlauer

Lisa Kerr

Matthew 5

 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Matthew 5:2-12 ESV)



  1. [...] last thing, but certainly not last in importance. God will not condemn you for speaking up about an abusive church government. The condition of sin was extinguished through the death and resurrection of Christ the Lord. God [...]