How to deal with abusive leadership in church


Abuse takes many forms, and can be done by pretty much any person. It can be done by your parents, your siblings, your co-workers, even yourself. But of all the people, we won't expect that it would come from the one everyone considers to be the servant of all—your church leader.

Peter reminds all church leaders in 1 Peter 5:1-4, "As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don't lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honour."

Have you ever had a church leader who abused you in any way? Here are some ways to know if a church leader is being abusive:

● He/she becomes overbearing or controlling;

● He/she tends to ask too many favours in the name of Christ or ministry;

● He/she tends to force him/herself on another person too much to the extent that the person is influenced to give in to his/her demands;

● He/she does not allow a group of elders or leaders to hold him/her accountable for decisions (might even push for a one-man leadership);

● He/she keeps demanding that you submit to him/her beyond the boundaries of Scripture;

These are but some of the symptoms you can find. Have you or a friend experienced this? Here are some things you can do to address abusive church leadership:

1. Pray for your leader

The first thing you should do would be to pray for your leader, asking God to intervene in the situation. Jesus is called the "Great Shepherd," and our leaders are ultimately accountable to Him even if they don't hold themselves accountable to anybody. Ask God to deal with your leader.

2. Forgive your leader if he/she has hurt you

Do not ever try to deal with your leader with a hurt because how you deal with him/her will always be coloured by what you feel. Forgive him/her of the offence, and cut off Satan's foothold in your relationship.

3. Do your best to address the leader in love

Talk to your leader, speaking the truth in love (see Ephesians 4:15). If you are unable to win him/her over, then talk to the church elders, who can help deal with the issue at hand. They can accompany you as you talk to the leader. If these efforts fail, then leave it into your elders' hands, and let the issue go unto God (Do these in the spirit of reconciliation, according to Matthew 18:15-17).

4. Save yourself

As for you, do your best to say "no" to abusive acts and demands from any leader. If you find that your leader is becoming abusive, stay away from him/her but don't hate him/her. David didn't kill Saul even though he had the chance to do so, and God honoured him.

5. Wait on the Lord

Don't be discouraged to serve the Lord because of your bad experience. God makes good things out of bad times, and just like what happened to David who was almost killed by King Saul, or Joseph who was framed by Potiphar's wife, or the eunuchs who were rendered useless in Jezebel's time, God will surely bring redemption to you. Serve the Lord and don't lose your love for Him.