Spiritual abuse happens when someone volitionally manipulates another person to accomplish an unrighteous agenda. All abuse, including physical and sexual abuse, is spiritual abuse. You cannot physically or sexually abuse someone without harming their inner being and their spiritual selves.
When a Pastor hurts someone using an excuse that does not line up with scripture he has done spiritual abuse. Anyone can have an excuse, but this does not constitute a righteous reason. A Pastor that elevates himself above the laity is typically one of the first signs he is spiritually abusive since his actions are unfounded in scripture. The role of Pastor is not about being a boss as the goats think.
Messiah told us himself not to elevate ourselves above other people.
But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi,’ for One is your Teacher, the Messiah, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father, for One is your Father, He who is in the heavens. Neither be called leaders, for One is your Leader, the Messiah. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
The person who rises up in their pastoral role to dominate other people and take on the preeminence is a goat and a false teacher who has taken on the role of a leader. Messiah condemned this practice telling us to be servants instead. They are yet carnal and their eyes have not been opened by the Ruach. Anyone can read a Bible and come to the conclusion many do in the main stream churches.
We are not told in scripture that it is the pastor who will teach us, but rather the anointing of Messiah.
1 John 2:27
But the anointing which you have received from Him stays in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as the same anointing does teach you concerning all, and is true, and is no falsehood, and even as it has taught you, you stay in Him.
Messiah called us to be servants. Scripture tells us that he came to set an example for us to follow and is why he came as a servant the first time.
1 Peter 2:21,22 For to this you were called, because Messiah also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps, who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth,
The office of Pastor or Rabbi is commonly a magnet for Narcissistic types who view the role as the “head of the church.” Scripturally, the word Pastor is used in plural form. What this means is, there is no Scriptural evidence that there was a singular senior head pastoral practice among the early Ekklesia. Pastor, as many know, is the Latin word for shepherd, and the Greek word for pastors is rendered as poimenas, which also means shepherds. Therefore, a pastor is not a professional title, but a metaphor for one of the various functions of the Ekklesia. A shepherd is a person who cares for and nurtures the people of Elohim, but not within the context of a professional hierarchical title.
This passage gives an example of Moses opposing hierarchical or “special” positions that would suppress all of God’s people from using their giftings to the specially qualified.
3 John 1:9,10
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
Abusive pastors are usually controllers. They like to micromanage their organization and their people. There is one way to do things, and it is his way. You will not find a lot of biblical liberty that taps into the diversity in Christ’s body. Alternate opinions are not encouraged or celebrated.
Along with his tight control over how the church operates, you will also sense that only those who can do anything are in lockstep with him. Think Hitler here. Hitler believed in a superior way, and he granted promotion only to those who gave allegiance to him. You had to be trusted to carry out his policies, using his methods. The spiritual abuser will “test” his candidates, usually with extra-biblical guidelines—his guidelines. The people promoted within his system will think and act similarly to him. They are pawns, who won’t buck the system—his system.
One of the instructive things you’ll find with his underlings is that if you ask them a question they do not know the answer to, they will not be able to answer you. They will have to check with HQ before they can give you an answer. The Spirit of God and His Word are no longer leading the church. The leaders “keep in step” with another kind of spirit.
If you are not around your pastor, are you less guarded? Are you free to be you? I am not talking about the “fear of pastor syndrome” where insecure people are intimidated by authority figures or people who overly exalt their pastor, thinking he is larger than life. One of the pastor’s greatest strengths is his ability to build up another person while humanizing himself. Do you feel edified and free to be the person God is calling you to be, or are you more cautious about your words and actions when you are around him? Think about Hitler again.
If I were around Hitler, I would guard my words and actions. If I were around Yeshua, I would be relaxed and free to be myself. If I were not relaxed, He would lead me to that place (Psalm 23:1-6). I know I can make a mistake around Yeshua. I would be nervous about messing up around Hitler. The abusive pastor makes you more self-aware and self-conscious. You feel more constricted and less free, especially when around him.
Can you tell your pastor what you are thinking? Let’s go back to Yeshua again. Prayer is one of the most beautiful mediums you have as God’s child. You are encouraged to talk to Him. You can tell Him anything and never fear undesirable repercussions. Your pastor is the Lord’s under-shepherd. God called him to emulate the Savior as he provides an example for you to follow. You should be as free to talk to your pastor as you are free to speak to the Lord.
Has he created an environment for personal growth and relationship building? True Shepherds develop environments of grace where those they serve can grow and mature into the unique behaviors of the Holy Spirit and reveal righteous fruit. The humility of the shepherd accomplishes this, not his pride.
A humble man will want to hear about areas of weakness because he’s never about himself. The humble pastor welcomes grace-motivated, grace-concerned individuals who are seeking his best for Elohim’s glory. That kind of pastor is an active learner because he is willing to change, grow, and mature. He needs to be child like as Messiah instructed.