How Do You Define Spiritual Abuse? And 29 other questions for shepherds of the church to ask themselves

Spiritual abuse is a topic that is getting more attention these days. Perhaps in some people’s minds, that term is reserved for religious cults and their leaders. Perhaps in your mind, you think that it is a new phenomenon that is sweeping through the church as a result of the spirit of our age. This new, Millennial, victim-mentality is just a worldy thing that the devil is using to disgrace and divide the church. It’s just part of the #MeToo movement, you might say. I hope not.

Below is a list of thirty questions for the shepherds of the church of Jesus Christ to ask themselves personally when they look in the mirror and corporately as they look at each other. Every question deserves an answer. You deserve an answer. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, deserves an answer.

I am by no-means an expert on the subject, but I have some insight. Without going into a lot of sordid details, I can tell you that I have seen enough of it first hand to know what it is. I have studied the matter at great length, and I know enough people who have been victims of it.

Fear is the dominant and controlling virtue of an abusive pastor’s leadership philosophy, coupled with charm and self-importance. The three key words — whether declared or implied — to remember when dealing with a spiritually abusive pastor are: Obey. Obey. Obey.

Warning signs of an abusive pastor who isolates his prey would be statements like:

“Never remind of what I’ve said.” 

“Don’t tell anybody I said that. I will deny it.”

“If you talk, it will be bad for you. It won’t be bad for the church. It will be bad for you. Do you understand?

That list could go on for miles, but these are just few that I have personally heard.

There are plenty of resources out there to give you a better understanding of the topic. For brevity sake, I offer two resources to start with. The first is a podcast from Mortification of Spin titled Overstepping Authority. The second is a book titled, Let Us Prey: The Plague of Narcissist Pastors and What We Can Do About It, by Glen Ball, Darrel Puls and Steven J. Sandage.

Jesus had serious warnings and woes for the leaders in His day. (Matt 23:13-32) Peter tells us that “Judgment begins in the house of the Lord.” (1 Pet 4:17), and those “who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1).

Everyone reading this is encouraged to copy and tailor these questions for use in your church. Give a copy to your pastor and elders, and require answers.  If they don’t want to answer the questions, then find a new church.

  1. Do we believe that spiritual/pastoral abuse is a real thing?

 

  1. How does the [CHURCH NAME] session define spiritual/pastoral abuse?

 

  1. If there were spiritual/pastoral abuse at [CHURCH NAME], how would the victim(s) know how to report that?

 

  1. When we hear reports of abuse, do any of us on the session instinctively take a defensive posture towards those who come forward?

 

  1. Are the alleged victims required to exercise Matthew 18 with their alleged abuser before going to the session? If yes, what is the rationale? Would such a requirement be placed on women (or men) who were sexually abused?

 

  1. What are the steps to reporting spiritual/pastoral abuse?

 

  1. Does any member of [CHURCH NAME] know those steps?

 

  1. Is there some kind of published BCO for parishioners to refer to for guidance?

 

  1. If yes, do [church name] members know where to obtain a copy in print or digitally online?

 

  1. For the shepherds, what are the steps with handling reports of abuse?

 

  1. What are the steps for investigating abuse?

 

  1. For churches who have ministers serving “out-of-bounds” from their presbytery, how will [CHURCH NAME] session handle abuse cases involving [DENOMINATION] ministers who have their own procedures for handling abuse?

 

  1. Will the session immediately report the allegations to the denomination of the ministers serving out-of-bounds?

 

  1. If there were any future cases of spiritual/pastoral abuse, will [CHURCH NAME] contact the [PRESBYTERY] if it involves a [DENOMINATION NAME] minister, or does [CHURCH NAME] believe she has the right to shield [DENOMINATION NAME] ministers from oversight of their own denomination?

 

  1. Will the [CHURCH NAME] session conduct their own investigation, or leave it completely in the hands of the [PRESBYTERY NAME]?

 

  1. Is the opinion of the [CHURCH NAME] session that it is improper for [CHURCH NAME] members and/or elders to report abuse regarding [NAME OF MINISTER SERVING OUT-OF-BOUNDS] to their presbytery?

 

  1. Can a victim come forward truly feeling safe and assured that the session takes cases of spiritual/pastoral abuse seriously?

 

  1. Will our track record prove that?

 

  1. Will any member of the session accuse the alleged victim of causing trouble?

 

  1. Will any member of the session label any alleged victims as “Millennial cry-babies” who are part of the #MeToo movement?

 

  1. Will he/she/they be accused of being messengers or instruments of Satan?

 

  1. Can members of [CHURCH NAME] or attendees have full confidence that the session will do all it can to protect the sheep from abusive shepherds and not the other way around?

 

  1. Is the session truly prepared to deal swiftly and aggressively with a shepherd no matter what the celebrity status of the shepherd?

 

  1. Can the session truly say that it will discipline or even defrock a shepherd if that shepherd is in any way abusive to the sheep, no matter the perceived fame and draw-power that shepherd may have at [CHURCH NAME]?

 

  1. In short, will the [CHURCH NAME] session allow celebrity status to protect a shepherd at the expense of holiness and righteousness?

 

  1. Is Jesus, our Good Shepherd, jealous to protect the legacy of [FAMOUS PREACHER/CHURCH] or is He jealous to protect His sheep from abuse at the hands of under-shepherds no matter what the PR implications may be?

 

  1. In light of victims who have already come forth, has [CHURCH NAME] session asked the question, “Is there anyone else in the congregation who is afraid to come forth?”

 

  1. Would the [CHURCH NAME] session consider an internal investigation to find out if there are other victims of pastoral abuse? If not, then why?

 

  1. If yes, would third-party ministries such as Peacemakers, Blessing Point Ministries, and the like to be called upon to investigate to ensure public trust?

 

  1. Regarding past, current, and possibly other cases, can each member of the [CHURCH NAME] session stand before the Good Shepherd and expect to hear the benediction, “Well done thou good and faithful servant”?

 

Yes, it is long list, but I think each question is deserving of an answer. If churches have yet to create safeguards and policies concerning spiritual/pastoral abuse, now would be a time to start.

 

 

Lennox Letters: Summer 2019 – PCA General Assembly Edition

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Painting of Chief Rain in the Face by brother and friend, Mark Little Elk (Lakota)

Dear Jesus Follower,

We are Patrick and Regina Lennox – MTW missionaries to Native America. We met at a Bible college in 1995. Together we have been in ministry for over twenty years. I (Patrick) am a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS Orlando, M.Div, 2014). From 2004 – 2014, I served at a Reformed church in Sanford, Florida as the director of education, youth, and local missions. Eight of those years, Regina and I led short-term teams to serve among the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, NC. From 2017 – 2019, we served at the Mokahum Ministry Center on the Leech Lake Reservation near Bemidji, MN, working with fellow Native brothers making disciples and training leaders in Indian Country. We are members of our sending church, Orangewood Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Maitland, FL.

Big Story!

IMG_20190627_132853_866 (1)It’s official. We are partnering with Third Millennium Ministries to bring biblical education, for the – Native American – world, for free. It has been a long time coming, but the Lord has brought it to pass. We are very thankful for this new chapter of outreach. Please continue reading to learn more about our new ministry journey and how you can be a part of it. (You can read about how it all began in Behind the Scenes of Providence).

 


To be clear, we are still MTW missionaries. All support continues through MTW. 


The Need

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Corn we grew at the Mokahum Ministry Center in Minnesota.

To give perspective, there are currently 573 federally recognized Native tribes in the U.S. plus the many other yet-to-be recognized, plus the tribes with state recognition. Add to that the 634 First Nations recognized by Canada, and you begin to understand that the indigenous people of North America are a diverse people. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, there are 5.2 million Native people and 1.4 million in Canada. That is 6.6 million Native image-bearers of God from the more than 1,200 federally recognized people groups with distinct cultures, languages, histories, present realities and futures. The people are diverse. The fields are ready. The Lord of the Harvest bids us go and reap the harvest.

 

Churches need planting · Pastors need training · Believers need discipling

Sound familiar? Yes, these are perennial needs that will exist throughout the world until Jesus returns. But in the corner of the world where the Lord has burdened us, the challenges are greater than in non-Native communities. Native Christians need well-trained Native pastors. We have personally lived with the fallout of what happens when untrained pastors do not properly handle the Word of Truth. The people of God suffer from lack of biblical discipleship. Jesus deserves more than that. Let’s make sure He gets what He paid for.

Although statistics are hard to come by, the consensus among Native leaders and our experience on the field shows that most Native pastors are bi-vocational, and many of those lack proper biblical and theological training. It is also recognized that many of those Native pastors desire more biblical and theological training, yet are unable to leave their work, families, and churches to get it. That is where we come in.

Our Response

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Dear friends, Craig and LaDonna Smith of Tribal Rescue Ministries

By God’s good providence, we have been able to meet and work with many Native Christian leaders and laity over the years. We plan to continue to build on those relationships and establish new ones that we may gain inroads to find those pastors and prospective leaders who want biblical and theological training.

First, we will establish study cohorts of three or four men each to engage in a class utilizing Third Mill curriculum. We already have the core of a cohort ready to begin studying using Third Mill’s series The Apostle’s Creed. Pray as we begin in August.

 

Leo Czarina Regina

Leo Bird (Cherokee, Mokahum Ministry Center), Czarina (Ojibwe, MMC student), Regina.

To build up these cohorts will require a lot of travel. It is our goal to make Third Mill curriculum available on every one of the 325 U.S. Native reservations and surrounding communities, as well as Canadian reserves and communities. This is too much for us. Obviously, we’ll need help. But we serve a big God who can do abundantly more than we could ever ask or do. Dream with us as we face this monumental task.

During our time at Mokahum, we used Third Mill curriculum with our students. They were deeply moved by what they learned and appreciated the clarity and depth of the material. We are convinced that Third Mill provides the best biblical and theological curriculum for distance learning and will greatly grow the church of Jesus Christ among the various tribes, tongues, and nations in North America.

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Rev. Samson Occom (Mohegan, the first ordained Native American Presbyterian minister)

Secondly, for many years we have had a deep desire to establish a study center for Native disciples not unlike Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri model. We believe a discipleship center to “Discover the God who is and your place in his kingdom” would meet a pressing need in Native America. The campus would serve both Native laity looking for more intentional discipleship unavailable to them in their present setting and for those Third Mill students who are able to attend for short periods of time. Space will not allow for us to elaborate on all that we envision, but please pray and track with us to see if the Lord establishes the Samson Occom Institute for Biblical and Theological Studies and the Occom Discovery Center.

Let’s keep talking.

 

Our Challenge to You

You have made it to page three. You have moved from mere curiosity to interest in what the Lord is doing in Native America. We are asking that you would move beyond momentary interest to continual prayer. We ask that you beseech the Lord and ask him if he wants you to join us for the long haul.

We need a team of praying and supporting partners.

We need to raise additional support. By nature of our ministry, our travel costs will increase as well as other ministry costs.

Please consider joining our support team. Pledged giving is most helpful as we plan for the future. But all gifts are helpful and appreciated.

Please help us spread the word about what the Lord is doing in Native America.

Please pass this newsletter along to someone on your church’s mission committee.

Please pray for us as we strive to serve in Native America, and follow us on our journey at www.LennoxLetters.com.

If you would like to partner with us, there are multiple ways to do that.

Give us a call. Let’s talk about it.

Sign up for our newsletter. Text us your contact info and we will sign you up.

For His Kingdom,

 

Patrick & Regina Lennox #14241

MTW Missionaries to Native America

(p) 407.416.1482

(blog) http://www.lennoxletters.com

(e) lennoxletters@gmail.com

(t) @patricklennox

(fb) /Patrick.r.lennox

(Instagram) /patrick_lennoxletters

Skype: LennoxClan5

 

[This post is a revised edition of a hard-copy newsletter in June 2019 for distribution at the PCA General Assembly]

 

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes of Providence: Tracing the Hand of God from Carriage Lane’s Missions Conference All the Way to Indian Country

In 2016 we were invited to participate at the Carriage Lane Presbyterian Church’s (Peachtree City, GA) week-long missions conference. Our story with Carriage Lane actually goes back to our Cherokee days when we met Norm Dunkin and all the great folks who ministered within the Qualla Boundary every summer.

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Here we are with Dr. Richard Pratt and Rob Griffith of Third Millennium Ministries. Dr. Pratt was the keynote speaker at the Carriage Lane Presbyterian Church’s annual missions conference.

During our visit last year, I met up with fellow RTS seminarian, Rob Griffith, of Third Millennium Ministries. Although I knew of Third Mill’s ministry, I didn’t really understand that their materials were really for everyone, not just poor pastors in remote parts of the world. Once Rob explained to me all the ministry is about, the wheels in my head (both of them) quickly started turning. I thought immediately of the mission field I serve – the indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, the Native American/Alaska Native/First Nations peoples of North America. Although my wife and I are called to a discipleship/leadership school located in Minnesota, we got excited at the possibility of Third Mill’s materials reaching the remotest places in Indian Country.

So Rob introduced me to Richard Pratt after the Saturday men’s breakfast. I told Richard how much I loved his approach to ministry and how I intend on take advantage of Third Mill as much as I could for Native America. I suggested that he make a video personally inviting Native American/First Nations peoples to participate in Third Mill materials. But I told him that his name was actually a liability in Indian Country. It was probably one of the most notorious names in Indian Country, second only to Custer. Keep reading…

Carlisle_pupilsBriefly, there was a U.S. military man named Richard H. Pratt, who started the first government Indian boarding school in Carlisle, PA, which began a movement of off-reservation schools for Indian children where children were taken from their family and communities to be subjected to civilization of the savage under the doctrine of “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” Christianity and the “white man’s ways” were forced upon the Native children. Space will not allow to list the suffering that took place in those schools. This dark era in U.S. history (1879 – 1979) inflicted untold pain on our Native neighbors still felt in Indian Country today.

Because is this history, there are hurdles to overcome with our first neighbors. Unlike the Richard Pratt of old, this Richard Pratt’s approach to education is the exact opposite – teach the Bible in the context of the people where they live without imposing cultural standards upon Christ’s disciples. Richard thought it was a good idea, so he told me to write a script and he will create a video . . . That was an Ebenezer moment for us.

Back at Home

Third Mill behind the scenes

Behind the scenes

As soon as I could, I got to work on the script. I wrote up a draft and ran it by two Christian leaders in Indian Country to review it. With their blessing, I gave it to Third Mill for Richard to record. By late spring, the video was completed. We were invited to be there for the recording. . . Once it was recorded, they asked us what we would like to see done with the video. . . Not knowing how exactly to get this video invitation out there, I posted it on our blog, LennoxLetters.com.

Native America and General Assembly 2016

PrattCarrReginaHuronPatrickThen it hit us. MTW was going to highlight their work among Native American and First Nations peoples at the MTW luncheon at our General Assembly. Their guest speaker was going to be Huron Clause (Mohawk, Kiowa) of CHIEF Ministries – a long-time friend of MTW. We thought that it would be great if they showed the video Richard made a few months earlier, so Regina urged me to make some phone calls to the home office to see if this could work. Anxiously I waited for the answer, and by God’s good providence, it was a done deal. . . I was able to introduce Richard and Huron to each other. After the lunch, Richard had invited Huron to visit Third Mill’s home office if ever he was in Florida.

The Big Day

The following October, Huron took Richard up on that invitation. Through my meddling and God’s providence, Regina and I were able to be a couple of flies on the wall during that visit. It was a great meeting between these two important ministries . . .

HuronPrattWe are blessed to have a small role in all that God is doing with these various ministries. I think how Carriage Lane made a long-term commitment for a short-term project with Mission to the World in Cherokee. From there, we met Norm and the gang, which led us to Carriage Lane, where we ultimately met Richard Pratt through a fellow RTS seminarian, Rob Griffith. It took all that for us to meet a man who is ten miles down the road from our house. What will the Lord do with that? We’ll keep you posted.

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Regina, Patric, Huron Claus (CHIEF Ministries), Richard Pratt (Third Millennium Ministries)

 

(The above article is an abridged version of an article in Lennox Letters originally written for Carriage Lane Presbyterian Church in Peachtree City, GA.)