One of the most popular podcasts of 2021 was The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. For those of us who’ve been talking about spiritual abuse for several years, the podcast brought a kind of relief initially. “Finally,” I thought, “now people will understand the harm toxic church cultures cause.” I felt a similar relief when I published my Giant Church Inc story at the beginning of 2020. Once people heard the stories, I thought, they’d understand and would work to make changes. That wasn’t the case. Since TRAFOMH had such a broad reach and a large audience I hoped it would bring the conversation to the forefront and cause a united effort to make changes. It has certainly done that within some good organizations and humble church leaders. I see the evidence.
Giant Church Inc is a term I use to describe any toxic church culture or Christian organization. It can be a workplace (that claims to be Christian) with eight employees or a multi-site church with thousands of members.
New Name – Same Game
Still, I’m saddened to know that Mark Driscoll moved to another state, started another church with a different name, and continues to use the same strategies and tactics to bully, control, and manipulate the congregation. A different name means nothing when everything else on the inside is the same.
I had two purposes for writing Giant Church Inc: tell the truth about what is happening within Giant Church Inc and point the Church to Jesus. My purposes haven’t changed. By pointing to Jesus, and learning to know him better and better, we will see toxic cultures more readily. Because if the leadership and the culture of the church, or Christian organization or workplace are not Christlike – success as we measure it doesn’t matter. Jesus called us to be disciples making disciples. Jesus called us to himself.
Giant Church Inc posts will look different in 2022 and may be fewer. I will highlight the work of those cultivating cultures of goodness, and point out the difference between healthy and unhealthy, toxic, or abusive Christian organizations. This includes businesses and non-profits. Emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse happens in the workplace too often, and many people don’t know how to recognize it. I’ll share helpful resources from experts, authors, and fellow advocates.
The People Who Know
Experts like Diane Langberg. She is a psychologist, author, and speaker who has been doing this work for almost 50 years. I continue to learn a lot from her. Her book Redeeming Power is a necessary resource for anyone who wants to learn more about power dynamics, especially in Christian systems.
Another person that knows is Nikki G. She is the newest member of the Tears of Eden board and we’re so glad she’s joined us. She hosts weekly events on Clubhouse, offers one-on-one and group coaching, and is working toward her certification as a Life Coach and Trauma Recovery Coach. You can read more about her in the Instagram post I included and find ways to connect with her. For anyone who is in or has left high demand and/or abusive work places or churches, Nikki G. can help!
Give Me Three Steps
I’ll share an occasional story, also. I wish I could say I hear fewer stories, but the opposite is true. And I’m always saddened. Saddened at how pastors and church leaders abuse their power. Saddened by the profound harm caused. Saddened by those who refuse to see and intentional or not, participate in the abuse. David French wrote an article recently called Why Christians Bond With Corrupt Leaders.
It’s an insightful and fascinating read! His observations are spot on. He writes about the three steps toward bonding with corrupt leaders.
First, we make a “leap from receiving a benefit or blessing through a person to granting them excessive appreciation or loyalty. Step two is when the personal becomes tribal.”
The third step is when any criticism, even helpful critique from those on the inside, is viewed as hostile. French writes, “Talk to virtually any victim of abuse within the church. From the moment they report misconduct, they almost always experience deep alienation, suspicion, and even outright anger. They’re immediately cast ‘outside.'”
And that’s how Christians bond with corrupt leaders.
O God, break the bonds!
“Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd demanded that they keep quiet, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” Jesus stopped, called them, and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord,” they said to him, “open our eyes.” Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they could see, and they followed him. Matthew 20:30-34