There is no one place spiritual abuse happens, but since spiritual abuse is the misuse of power of a spiritual leader, spiritual abuse often happens in the sanctuaries, the fellowship halls, and offices of our churches.
For those who have experienced spiritual abuse, the house of God is tainted making it difficult to worship in a church building. Is it any wonder that we are seeing a decline in church attendance? Perhaps it is not the declining religion in America, but the gross misuse of God’s house by spiritual leaders that explains this trend.
A sanctuary that should be a place of respite and reflection is turned into a place of shame and guilt. A fellowship hall that should be a place to enjoy and be enriched by table fellowship is turned into a place of isolation and exclusion for those who are not invited to the table. An office that should be a place of compassion and healing is turned into a place of self-doubt and pain.
As a new generation of spiritual leaders emerges to lead and guide God’s people, it will fall to us to transform God’s house for so many who have suffered from the guilt, shame, and self-doubt of spiritual abuse. We will have to be more creative in inviting people who have experienced God’s house as a place of hurt and pain. We will have to be more watchful that power and influence does not leak into our spiritual leadership. We will have to be more present and more active in helping God’s people heal. We will have to study and prepare more diligently to overcome the way the biblical interpretation has been misused to oppress and silence. We will have to be more attentive and more vocal in being witnesses to the evidence that God is working in and among God’s people to urge and lead God’s people to wholeness, not brokenness.
We will have to be the ones who model and embody this by journeying towards wholeness and completeness ourselves. May we encourage each other as we journey together so that God’s house becomes a place of hope and healing again.