Christianity,  Theology/Bible

How To Recognize an Abusive Leader

Jonathan Leeman has some wise words about how to recognize abusive leadership in a church:

All of us, at times, will be called to endure humbly a leader’s mistakes and sins. Nonetheless, should you find yourself in a church where the leadership is characteristically abusive, I would, in most cases, encourage you to flee. Flee to protect your discipleship, to protect your family, to set a good example for the members left behind, and to serve non-Christian neighbors by not lending credibility to the church’s ministry.

How do you recognize abusive leadership? Paul requires two witnesses for a charge to be leveled against an elder (1 Tim. 5:19), probably because he knows that leaders will be charged with infelicities more than others, often unfairly. That said, abusive churches and Christian leaders characteristically

    • Make dogmatic prescriptions in places where Scripture is silent.
    • Rely on intelligence, humor, charm, guilt, emotions, or threats rather than on God’s Word and prayer (see Acts 6:4).
    • Play favorites.
    • Punish those who disagree.
    • Employ extreme forms of communication (tempers, silent treatment).
    • Recommend courses of action that always, somehow, improve the leader’s own situation, even at the expense of others.
    • Speak often and quickly.
    • Seldom do good deeds in secret.
    • Seldom encourage.
    • Seldom give the benefit of the doubt.
    • Emphasize outward conformity, rather than repentance of heart.
    • Preach, counsel, disciple, and oversee the church with lips that fail to ground everything in what Christ has done in the gospel and to give glory to God.

Source: Jonathan Leeman, Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus, 9Marks (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 118-19.