Abusers and Repentance

May 20, 2024Archive, blog

When a Christian leader harms his/her flock or members of their congregation or ministry sphere, a deep, horrible wound is opened up. Victims are traumatized. The system that allowed the abuser is obviously broken (and also needs to repent).

Typically: the victims are first unbelieved and the one in power is protected. The institution is revered over the cries of the broken. Any naysayers or whistle blowers are called pawns of Satan. Any dissent is named “spiritual warfare.”

But eventually the truth has a pesky (beautiful) way of coming to the surface. The institution has to admit they made a mistake maligning victims, and they place the offender on leave or sever their employment.

We see a lot of “comeback” stories of fallen Christian leaders who spend a few months working on their issues, then nearly immediately they jump back in. No matter that they’ve predated for decades. Surely a couple months of counseling means all is well. In the case of Driscoll, he moved from one locale to another, then started a church, seemingly unscathed by the devastation he had created.

The people behind the bus of a ministry leader’s ego, narcissism, abuse, and/or mental harm are left to pick up the pieces and try to coddle a new life on trauma’s crooked highway.

Today? I’m mad. I’m angry that predatory leaders seemingly get a hall pass to keep harming others.

I created these slides to reorient ourselves toward the cry of the broken. We must remember that Jesus had his harshest words for the religious elite who harmed people, and he spent dedicated time with those on the margins, who had been marginalized and harmed.

What does repentance look like? It’s far more than a contrite sounding apology. It’s far more than words. There are discernible actions, humble ways, and a deep recognition of the harm someone has caused others.

So often we see narcissistic leaders gloss over the pain they inflicted by villainizing their victims, waving a grace flag and saying we’re all sinners. Yes, we are all sinners, but not all of us preyed on others in a pattern that continues. True repentance is spontaneous, makes no demands of others, and runs like heck away from the limelight that allowed the abuser to thrive.


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