<body>
Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Canis Lupus Pastoral

wolfpastorIdentifying the Wolf Pastor
I've been interacting a little bit with the survivor blogger phenomenon. 
These are individuals who claim they have experienced severe emotional and spiritual anguish under the rigid domination of abusive, overbearing church leadership.  Now that these folks have "escaped" from the tyranny of these demagogic pastors, they believe they have a duty to warn everyone with a personal blog that details the spiritual abuse they suffered.
I can understand to a degree the passionate motivation of a person who believes he has been spiritually ill-treated at a church over a long period of time.  A church is supposed to be a safe haven.  It's a place where a family can hear the Word taught and grow in the love of the Lord together with like-minded folks.  Pastors who "lead" with a heavy, controlling hand, who for example implement unreasonable "holiness" codes among the membership and demand absolute conformity by everyone, can quickly sour souls against attending church.  In some cases, such narrow legalism will forever turn away people from church altogether.
Despite the passionate motivation, as I have written in a previous post, I believe survivor bloggers go over-the-top with their expose' of their previous experiences.  They will attribute to their former pastors a spiritual darkness that falls near the realm of demonic, and in some cases borders on paranoia if not the outright absurd.  For example, commenters on one survivor blog I read suggested that recent internet connectability problems the blog was experiencing could possibly be due to abusive leadership hacking the account. 
Typically, though, the accusations survivor bloggers level against pastors are so imbalanced they paint an unfair picture of their true character.  The main pastor is often called a "wolf" who wants to only harm the flock, not protect and feed it like a faithful shepherd should.  He will be accused of being a controlling bully, even to the point of claiming he employs a network of spies who secretly inform upon non-conformists in the church.  Anyone, it is claimed, who asks pointed questions of him or the leadership are stifled, told they are rebellious, and threatened with dismissal.  The pastor is said to have no accountability to any one and other leadership are merely "yes men" enabling his continued reign of power.
I've argue that survivor bloggers are unhelpful with these sorts of criticisms.  There are a couple of reasons I draw this conclusion:
First, survivor bloggers only generate more strife and perpetuate divisiveness among church members by pitting them against the leadership.  Pastors are a group to be looked upon with suspicion, to be nit-picked to death regarding every little sniggling decision they may make on behalf of the congregation.
Second, the claims of the bloggers are ultimately one-sided, and in some respects even dishonest.  That is because they provide the readers with only one perspective of the story: the victims point of view.  Hence, there really is never a concise way in which a person can ascertain the truth of the charges leveled against the former pastor.  We can only take the victim's "word for it."  The leadership is often accused of lying anyways, so why bother asking them their side of the situation.
However, a real major problem I see with survivor bloggers and their supporters is the imprecision with their use of terminology.  For example, I noted in my previous article the inaccurate use of cult
Another illustration of what I mean is the use of the word wolf to describe a bad pastor.  A bad pastor who is automatically defined as a "wolf"  immediately poisons the conversation because the charge ignites a specific image in the minds of the hearers. The idea of a "wolf" presents a man who is only seeking to prey upon and destroy people's lives.  This is a problematic charge when a pastor may only just be unqualified as to leadership and yet is identified as a "wolf."  His overall character as a Christian person is then tarnished, slandered, and ruined because of foolish descriptions thrown about on a survivor blog.
One of the key reasons I see for this  imprecision is that these bloggers erroneously conflate the qualifications of an elder as outlined in 1 Timothy 3 with what truly defines a spiritual "wolf." A man who is occasionally impatient and unyielding with congregants, who has a rebellious teen, and who may struggle with personal pride, may not be qualified as a pastor, but that hardly identifies him as a "wolf" bent on destroying men's souls.  It is these type of men I believe survivor bloggers are wrongly identifying with true spiritual wolves.
So how exactly do we distinguish between the two? I believe Scripture lends us some insights.
Let me consider a couple of passages.  One from the OT and a second from the NT.
First in Ezekiel 34 the prophet gives a word of judgment against false shepherds.  Though God's judgment is proclaimed specifically against religio-political leaders in Israel immediately before the Babylonian exile, there are some applicable points we can draw relating to pastors. 
If one looks at Ezekiel 34:1-10, there are at least four observations to be seen.
1) The false shepherds feed themselves from the flock (1-2).  In other words, these were leaders who only saw their role as designated leaders as a means to pursue their self-interests at the expense of those they were appointed to serve.  Honestly, this is the attitude of true spiritual abuse because even though these leaders may not have direct, personal contact with the congregation, they were abusing their God given authority.
2) They do not feed the flock (3). Simply put, they do not strengthen the people by the proclamation of the Word.  In the context of the OT, the leaders were to remind the people of their covenant obligations before God.  This can only be accomplished by drawing the people to the written Scripture that reveals how they were to love the Lord and walk before Him in godliness.
3) They did not shepherd the weak (4).  The picture is of an unhealthy, sick lamb that the shepherd essentially ignores and allows it to die from its illness.  In like manner, those people who are spiritually sick are ignored by the leaders and left to themselves.  There is no personal involvement or concern for their spiritual well-being.
4) By ignoring the weak sheep, they are allowed to wander off into spiritual error.  They are led astray by every whim of doctrine away from spiritual truth and eventually spiritual doom.
Here we have at least four marks of a "spiritual wolf."  Leaders who are self-centered and uses the people for self-interests, who do not teach them the word of God, who ignore the spiritually weak, and allow them to wander off into soul-damning error.
Turning to the New Testament, there are a number of passages I could consider, but let me zero in on Acts 20 where Paul presents his final words to the Ephesian elders and the church.  I should point out that with these final words, Paul, who will never again see these people, warns with much earnestness the need to be on the guard against what he calls "savage wolves."
1) They come in among the body (29).  This implies the "wolves" mingle among the regular members in the church.  They are not necessarily limited to only being pastors, but could be lay level individuals.  By application, this can mean that self-proclaimed survivor bloggers are capable of being a wolf just as much as the pastors they say "abused" them.
2) Wolves also come from among leaders or elders (30).  These particular individuals, however, are primarily marked by what they teach. They teach "perverse" things; twisted, heretical doctrine that draws people away from the truth.
Notice, though, it is what they teach that marks them
There is no discussion about whether they are "controlling" or overly "authoritarian" or shut down questions being asked of them. It is not the pastor's inability to diplomatically manage disagreement among the members or him being short-tempered with dissenters that is in view here.  What marks out a leader as being a "wolf" is the false doctrine he spreads. 
Hence, a pastor may be sweet, loving, accepting and accommodating to everyone in the church, but if he teaches that homosexuality is not a sin and God approves of gay marriage, the man is a wolf.  The people at Biologos, though they are not technically pastoring a church, are in essence wolves who destroy men's souls.
In both of these passages, false shepherds who are spiritually abusive wolves are indicated by at least three truths:
- they seek their own self-interests with their appointed position,
- they do not guard the flock against heresy and
- they in fact will teach heresy leading disciples to ultimate destruction. 
These are people we can confidently conclude are outside true salvation.
On the other hand, much of the leadership declared by survivor bloggers as being spiritually wolfish are not genuinely wolfish.  They are Christians who may lack the biblical qualifications to lead the people because of personal areas where they are yet to be sanctified.  They should be admonished and exhorted, not slandered publicly on a survivor blog.   
to be continued…

Labels: ,

18 Comments:

Blogger Julie Anne said...

Would this qualify as false teaching, Fred?

http://bgbcsurvivors.blogspot.com/2012/07/false-teachers-who-mark-and-avoid.html

7:21 PM, July 28, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

If I recall that post correctly, what you note as "false teaching" was not "false teaching." Teaching implies doctrine and false teaching would mean doctrine that would be contrary to what is taught in Scripture regarding salvation, God, sin, and the other key doctrines that distinguish the Christian faith.

What you note about shunning, or marking out and avoiding (and if I had you guys slandering me and bad mouthing my church I know I would shun you), or telling church members NOT to associate with those who are under discipline, has more to do with disagreeing with the tactics a pastor may take in shepherding his people.

You may not like it, but it isn't creepy as you note, nor is it "false teaching" nor is it worthy of a dedicated blog. In fact, after interacting with you and your friends for the last two months, reading your complaints and so forth, that Chuck fellow isn't really guilty of anything he is falsely accused of doing. He's been slandered as a cult leader, being creepy and so forth, but I'm sorry, nothing you have presented truly proves your accusations. It really comes down to you guys not liking his shepherding style and his preaching style.

8:11 PM, July 28, 2012  
Blogger Julie Anne said...

Fred, it is quite apparent that you did not read it. Have you really done the research on Romans 16:17? And is my former pastor using it appropriately? Everything I have read from your own boss indicates he is a false teacher and also based on your summary on this blog post.

Once again, it sure sounds like you are coming to the defense of someone you have been in contact with. I have felt that for a while now based on words you have used on other sites. I think you are evading the question and I wonder why? Why are you afraid to tell me?

I have seen a serious lapse in judgment in you and those I have communicated with at your church. They seem to assume that just because a man goes to Shepherd's conference year after year, get invited to some expositor's school, that they get a free pass into the "approved pastor's" club.

Think for a moment here. This guy sued my unbelieving daughter for writing one review on Google. One review. He accused her of going church to church and around the internet spreading stuff. She didn't. She hates the church and hasn't gone in years. Yet he has her named on the lawsuit. Come on, Fred. Wake up. What kind of pastor does that?

7:44 AM, July 29, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Hey Again Julie A.

You write,
Fred, it is quite apparent that you did not read it. Have you really done the research on Romans 16:17? And is my former pastor using it appropriately?

Actually, I did read it. I just re-read it again so as to have it fresh in my mind as I write this response. I have done research on Romans 16:17 that involves much more than visiting a few on-line Bible dictionary sites because I have taught on this passage before.

The problem with your analysis is that you read into it this false dichotomy between pastors and church members and then suggest "false teachers" are only exclusive to pastors. None of the sources you link in that post, one to the Christian Ethereal Library or John Gill's commentary on that passage, support your view. The text is rather plain,

Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.

The word "those" implies a distinction is made between Christians who are anchored in apostolic orthodoxy and individuals who come in causing divisions and offenses contrary to that apostolic orthodoxy. One possible example form the previous context in Romans 14 and 15 would be either Jews saying gentiles need to be Jewish in order to be really saved or gentiles telling Jews they need to abandon their Jewishness in order to be truly saved. Nothing suggests this is only pastors in view here.

Everything I have read from your own boss indicates he is a false teacher and also based on your summary on this blog post.

Did you read his published commentary? John states that what truly is at stake here is apostolic doctrine. These false teachers teach contrary to what was the "Faith." That being, Christian doctrine.

Now. As to Chuck, as I have already noted, I don't believe you have demonstrated that he is a "false teacher" or that he is a "cult" leader, cult and false teachers being nearly one and the same in my understanding. He teaches biblical doctrine that is in line with Scripture, so these words here in Romans 16 do not apply to him.

Instead, what you don't like about him is you didn't care for the way he may have handled the dismissal of that one previous pastor and the aftermath that ensued with you and your pals. That's not a matter of doctrine.

Moreover, I would additionally say these words in Romans 16:17 don't necessarily apply to you either because to my knowledge you don't advocate anything heretical that is contrary to the faith. What is in view with you and your friends is your all's attitude and divisive personalities that slander and gossip against those in the body. But that's just as much a grievous sin as teaching false doctrine and you guys don't seem to get it.

6:53 AM, July 30, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Once again, it sure sounds like you are coming to the defense of someone you have been in contact with. I have felt that for a while now based on words you have used on other sites. I think you are evading the question and I wonder why? Why are you afraid to tell me?

Your old pastor emailed me when I put up my second post on wicked sheep to tell me how much he appreciates my being discerning with my post and comments interacting with other "survivor bloggers" and to explain his side of the story. I responded to him by thanking him for the comments but I told him what I have said to you, that his law suit is a terrible idea and he needs to drop it. He didn't tell me anything that wasn't already in their statement located at their website and what I have read at your blog and in the comments. So I don't have any "inside" information. Besides, why would you be afraid if I did and talked about it publicly?

The only "defense" I have given to him and his church came directly from me and my experience with similar matters. I believe their side to all of this has been lost in the media and maligned by the simple-minded in the comments of your blog, and others like that FBCJax watchblog, who hate any authority whatsoever and give you and your friends an automatic pass because of alleged "spiritual abuse."

There is a long, three year history and backstory to what brought them to bringing a lawsuit against you guys, albeit a foolish one. People seem to have this idea that you attended the church for a little while, got upset at the leadership, left, and then put your negative comments up on Google and WHAM, a petty minded pastor leveled a lawsuit against you. But that is not what happened. It wasn't just one comment by your daughter. There is serious baggage here that you have turned into your white whale. The typical outsider is completely clueless to it.

But while we're on reviews, on the DexKnows.com site there is a review with your name attached to it.

http://www.dexknows.com/business_profiles/beaverton_grace_bible_church-b269546/reviews/?pdt=pifree

A person named "Julie Anne Smith" left a review that is dated 7/28/12, which would be this past Saturday, that states:

Went to this church with my husband and kids, yelled at by pastor and other members of the congregation, all calling us homosexuals. Massive piece of trash church. Never, EVER EVER go here. I hate this church.

First off, is this "Julie Anne Smith" you or are you being impersonated?
Did Chuck really "yell" at you and did the congregation call you homosexuals?
And do you really hate this church?

Those are some pretty serious accusations. The one about being called homosexuals is a new one. Hadn't heard that one before.

But hey, maybe it's not you who left that comment. Could be a person trying to tarnish your good name with an over-the-top remark that makes you look truly hateful. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt until I hear otherwise.

7:10 AM, July 30, 2012  
OpenID fortyone20ministries said...

Hi Fred.

You say: "They [Christians who may lack the biblical qualifications to lead the people] should be admonished and exhorted, not slandered publicly on a survivor blog."

I believe that this is the third post I have seen by you on this topic. Are you not doing to Julie Anne and the "simple-minded" commentators on her blog, that you say they are doing to Pastor Chuck? Your opinion is clear, you've stated it here and on Julie Anne's blog (which you have every right to do), and yet you are doing the same thing you accuse us of. You keep going back to it, and you portray spiritual abuse victims (at least those who are speaking up about spiritual abuse) as "simple-minded", "divisive", and it's clear you don't have a good opinion of us.

Should you not be the example (since you are clearly more "complex-minded" than us) and let it go as you've advised us to do?

10:14 AM, July 30, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I wrote,
"They [Christians who may lack the biblical qualifications to lead the people] should be admonished and exhorted, not slandered publicly on a survivor blog."

Lydia writes,
I believe that this is the third post I have seen by you on this topic. Are you not doing to Julie Anne and the "simple-minded" commentators on her blog, that you say they are doing to Pastor Chuck?

No. I do not. I am not accusing them of allowing pedophiles free reign at their churches nor am I calling them a cult without providing meaningful evidence to back up those charges.

Additionally, I am not going around to other unrelated websites and leaving disparaging comments against them. I have also allowed her and her supporters (like yourself) the opportunity to defend themselves against my challenges, which I will say Julie has done, though not convincingly in my mind.

You keep going back to it, and you portray spiritual abuse victims (at least those who are speaking up about spiritual abuse) as "simple-minded", "divisive", and it's clear you don't have a good opinion of us.

That is true. I have a very low opinion of the way survivor bloggers handle themselves against the wrongs they claim have been done against them. I think they have assumed the roll of a victim. It's completely unhealthy.

Should you not be the example (since you are clearly more "complex-minded" than us) and let it go as you've advised us to do?

If you take a look at what I've written on the subject, I have a total of four posts addressing this issue. Two of them specifically address the situation in OR and my interaction with it. So I haven't really even engaged the issue in any significant way, especially to the point that it has consumed my life and I'm dedicating a blog to the subject of "survivor bloggers."

Moreover, the "survivor blogger" phenomenon transcends this issue in OR with Julie A. and her former church. It represents a rather large presence on the internet that involves many churches and pastors. Since writing up just four posts on the subject, I have had a few people comment to me personally and via email how they had similar people say and do similar things at their churches that caused either a rift or an outright split at the church.

Some of these situations happened before the internet, so the damage done by these survivor people was minimal and didn't reach far. The internet has changed that. I am just offering my thoughts on something that I think many churches encounter, but regrettably, the tide is in favor of the alleged abuse victim rather than the pastor(s) who are more times than naught being falsely accused of "abuse."

10:47 AM, July 30, 2012  
Blogger Julie Anne said...

Fred - you seem to have difficulties spelling my name even after I corrected you the first time you mentioned me on a blog post. I go by Julie Anne - two words, Anne with an "E". I checked out the Dex review you referred to. It was not spelled the way you have it. It was spelled JulieAnn which is NOT how I spell my name. If I have something important to say, I say it on my blog and I certainly will not misspell my name. This is clearly an imposter. I'm actually cracking up: Chuck yelling out to a heterosexual couple with 7 kids that they are homosexual? I'm surprised you'd ask me such a question.

I don't hate the church. I love the people there. I'm tired of seeing lives/families torn apart by this man and his control tactics.

My daughter had ONE comment on Google when she was sued. This is the kind of thing that makes me say: where are you getting your info?

10:47 AM, July 30, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

That's good to read that wasn't you.

So. Does it bother you that you have people now impersonating you leaving terrible reviews just so that church will have a 1 star review? There are several others left by individuals who have probably never been to the state of Oregon let alone that church blasting it on your behalf. That doesn't trouble you?

Again, I am not getting any inside information. I don't expect to convince you of that I guess. None the less, I don't buy your claim that your daughter left one negative review and that drove that church to sue you and your friends. There's has to be more to this story than that, which I am sure will all come out eventually.

10:58 AM, July 30, 2012  
OpenID fortyone20ministries said...

Thanks for your response, Fred. Fair enough on all counts, I am wondering one more thing though.

You said:"I have a very low opinion of the way survivor bloggers handle themselves against the wrongs they claim have been done against them. I think they have assumed the roll of a victim. It's completely unhealthy."

You present a great problem. What's the solution?

I agree that victimization is unhealthy. At this time in my life, I refer to myself as having been victorious through spiritual abuse. However, I have not always seen myself that way. I spent at least a year being the victim (I'm okay if you think I'm a bad Christian for being in that state for that long), but I had to realize in a time with just me and God that Jesus did NOT die for me to lead a victimized existence - He died for me to be reconciled to God, to be a whole person. That realization takes time - in my case, it took a LONG time.

I don't live in regret of that stage of my life. It enables me to see someone like Julie Anne and know she's not being vindictive, she's just hurting. I can see the little glimmers of healing in her blog, because I recognize the similarities between her and I. It enables me to weep with her when she weeps, and rejoice when she rejoices. I exhort and encourage her.

Given my experience, it would be insensitive and wrong to do anything else.

So again I ask: What would you do for those who have been abused by the church?

12:07 PM, July 30, 2012  
Blogger Julie Anne said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:57 PM, July 30, 2012  
Blogger Julie Anne said...

Does it bother me that people are leaving negative reviews who have not attended the church? Not particularly. He is the one who filed the public lawsuit. He is the one who went against the advice of many to go against scripture. Natural consequence, no?

You don't buy that my daughter left one only negative review? Why not? It makes complete sense. She left our home because she couldn't bear to go to church any more in that environment. She left and didn't have any dealings with church people, church, or God. He was primarily after me (obviously by the numbers of phrases he attributed to me in the defamation lawsuit).

Again, that paragraph sure sounds like you have inside information. You give more preferential treatment to pastors who show allegiance to J. Mac (even tho he dissed Phil's and Bill's advice to drop the lawsuit). That's whacked logic, Fred.

How will the information come out eventually? The lawsuit is over. Hmm, more insider info?

10:08 PM, July 30, 2012  
Blogger Big Bren said...

Hi Fred, I'm working on an "insider" scoop on the horrific spiritual abusing pastor in Oregon. When I get time to finish it I'll post.

6:03 PM, July 31, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

And you are...?

I don't really see how more "insider" you can be than Julie A and her friends seeing that they attended there. Unless you are giving the church's side of the events, what new could you possibly bring to the table?

6:56 PM, July 31, 2012  
Blogger Big Bren said...

Can't use my real name apologies. Family doesn't want me cyber-stalked by these "survivor" types.

I thought I could help. I attend this church and have seen the "spiritually abused" jump on my church and were more than willing to be judge, jury and executioner of the place.

7:26 PM, July 31, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Lookit, I don't mean to come across as harsh. I am just not a fan of anonymity even if it is favorable to my particular viewpoint. Still, under the circumstances you lay out, I can understand it.

Look forward to reading what you got.

8:52 PM, July 31, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Lydia writes,
You said:"I have a very low opinion of the way survivor bloggers handle themselves against the wrongs they claim have been done against them. I think they have assumed the roll of a victim. It's completely unhealthy."

You present a great problem. What's the solution?


I wrote about that specifically in a previous post found HERE if you find that you believe you are being spiritually abused at a church, then leave. It is, as I stated in the post, really that simple.

Continuing,
I don't live in regret of that stage of my life. It enables me to see someone like Julie Anne and know she's not being vindictive, she's just hurting.

I would say you are giving her too much credit. Especially seeing that you only know her side of the story and her interpretation of the events surrounding this church bringing a lawsuit. I believe there is much more to this story that it is vindictiveness coming through on her and her friend's part.

7:01 AM, August 01, 2012  
OpenID fortyone20ministries said...

Fred writes, "I wrote about that specifically in a previous post found HERE if you find that you believe you are being spiritually abused at a church, then leave. It is, as I stated in the post, really that simple."

I've read that post. On one hand, yes, when we approach our leadership in the spirit of Matthew 18 concerning any Biblically-rooted concerns (not just authoritarianism or abuse) and nothing changes, we are commanded to treat that leadership as tax collectors. On the other hand, healing takes time, especially when there has been abuse. When you don't take time to cleanse a wound, it will get infected. Emotionally, humans are the same way. If we don't deal with the pain we encounter, it will consume us and manifest itself in ugly ways. What I was specifically wondering was how you thought this healing should occur, and from your response, I am thinking you feel distance should do it. Agree to disagree.

You also say, "I would say you are giving her too much credit. Especially seeing that you only know her side of the story and her interpretation of the events surrounding this church bringing a lawsuit. I believe there is much more to this story that it is vindictiveness coming through on her and her friend's part."

I only know her side of the story? On the contrary. I read through the legal documentation filed by Pastor O'Neal and BGBC in order to better understand his position when I first learned about this case. I have also read his statement on the church website where he defends the lawsuit. (Don't agree with his defense, but he certainly has one). These are the only places where the other side of the story is told (to my knowledge). Will I ask for additional information from Pastor O'Neal or Julie Anne? No. This is not my battle.

You are right to be discerning, Mr. Butler. Probably the difference in how our discernment plays out has to do with a difference in spiritual giftings - my spiritual gift is mercy and based on your writing, I would say yours is more along the lines of prophet or teacher. I am no more simple-minded than you are a wolf in sheep's clothing. Don't mistake my compassion for and empathy with Julie Anne as a lack of discernment or a sign of spirtual weakness. It is my greatest spiritual strength.

8:47 AM, August 01, 2012  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home