NOTE Some survivors of CSA attacks may be familiar with the ‘rougher than expected’ nature of their predators. Alike the identified ‘pastors’, these teachers may hide their outbreaks to whenever they’re exposed to their ‘hunting’: isolated youth.
There are two things that are at the heart of the leadership crisis in the church.
The first is that we’ve backed away from a biblical definition of a leader—humble, gentle, kind, faithful, loving, servant. The kind of character qualities that are in the Timothy passage when it talks about qualifications for elder; the kind of character qualities that are in the fruit of the Spirit—we’ve backed away from these qualities.
And our definition of a leader now is—strong personality, quick witted, forceful, domineering, able to win the day in a discussion or argument, can cast vision and collect people. I’m going to say this: no wonder we’ve produced a culture of ministry bullies who mistreat people.
We’ve diminished and devalued the importance of a strong, watchful, comforting, confronting leadership community around a leader
These are leaders who look at staff not as a servant, but see those people as tools for his success; leaders who look at a congregation not as disciples that need his care—sheep that need a shepherd, loved ones who need nurturing, love, and comfort—but instead as consumers. And leadership success is now defined as collecting as many consumers as you can.
We’ve backed away from the biblical definition of a leader, and we are paying the price for this new definition.
Best-selling author Paul David Tripp offers 12 gospel-centered leadership principles for both aspiring leaders and weathered pastors as they navigate the challenging waters of pastoral ministry. This resource shows the vital role that the leadership community plays in molding leaders.
There’s a second thing: we’ve diminished and devalued the importance of a strong, watchful, comforting, confronting leadership community around a leader. We have diminished the importance that every leader needs pastoring, every leader needs care, every leader needs watchful eyes, every leader needs, at points, to be rebuked, every leader needs to be protected, and every leader needs strong community in his life.
The Christian Leadership Model
Now think about this. If we’ve forsaken the biblical definition of a leader for this brash definition, and if we’ve diminished the value of a leadership community, no wonder we’re in the trouble we’re in.
I’m shocked that the trouble isn’t greater!
You cannot walk away from God’s norms and be okay. Listen, we don’t need a new model of leadership. We already have one. It’s right in the pages of the New Testament.
So as long as we’re changing the leadership definition, and we’re devaluing the importance of community, this crisis will continue.
Paul David Tripp (DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary) is a pastor, award-winning author, and international conference speaker. He has written numerous books, including the bestselling daily devotional New Morning Mercies. His nonprofit ministry exists to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. Tripp lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Luella, and they have four grown children.
For there are many unruly men, empty talkers and mind-deluders, whose mouths must needs be stopped, men who are upsetting whole houses, teaching the things which ought not to be taught – for the sake of base gain. Titus 1:10-11
To demonstrate their duty and submission to their spiritual overseer and pastor David Koresh, many “Christians” were willing to be transformed into human torches in the town of Waco, Texas.
To demonstrate their obedience and duty to “Obey them that have the rule over you,” many “Christians” submitted to their spiritual overseer and Pastor the Rev. Jim Jones, and “partook of the communion of death” in the jungles of Guyana, South America.
Many Christians will be quick to express the “extremeness” of the examples mentioned above in regards to people following their leaders, yet nevertheless, there is a lot more relevance to what has just been said than most of us care to recognize – relevancy that lands itself right at our own doorsteps.
When someone joins themselves to an organization or an institution called the “local church,” the times that will be spent there are very formative.
These formative times give ample opportunities for the “religious leaders” or “spiritual overseers” to brainwash the people by planting fears that will literally keep a person in bondage to their particular brand of religious system for life, or keep a person from looking at anything else for fear of being deceived.
These formative years provide an abundant opportunity as well for the “church leaders” to implant concepts which will actually keep the person from ever seeing the truth, even though the truth may be right before their eyes! If a particular doctrine or practice is continually being implanted into one’s mind time after time, using vivid graphic illustrations, a handful of Scriptures, add a little fear, and of course, throw in some “awesome respect for church authorities” and then, when that person reads plain Bible texts which tells them something different, they will not be able to clearly see what is directly in front of them. They will see the text through the filters that were put on their mind. They will not see the text as it really is.
It’s absolutely amazing how many times a Scripture is read in church that completely contradicts one of their main teachings and no one ever comments about the contradiction.
There was a time at the beginning perhaps when they asked those hard questions, but when they were rebuked or ridiculed and shamed for asking questions that caused division, they learned not to question anymore. They learned to go along with the crowd.
The scales over the eyes have become so thick that everything, including the concept of God Himself, becomes gross darkness. But they do not know it is darkness on account of the fact that they have been seeing that way for quite some time now. The “leaders” have locked them in to their own little system. To stray into a different area of thought is almost unthinkable for many of them.
Yea, rather the “leaders” view it as tantamount to heresy!
I say without intending offense that such exclusiveness differs little from the two extreme examples mentioned above or any other authoritarian groups.
Victims of such brainwashing have lost their personal autonomy and in some cases are reduced to almost a zombie-like state! A person who goes to their church Sunday after Sunday, and hears basically the same underlying message repeatedly for a lifetime, has little hope of ever understanding TRUTH as it is revealed in all of the Scriptures.
But these people will refuse to learn anything different from what they have been indoctrinated in. Why is that? The reasons are simple but very important to be aware of and understand — BRAINWASHING and FEAR.
1) any method of controlled systematic indoctrination, especially one based on repetition or confusion; 2) inducing a person to modify their beliefs, attitudes, or behavior by conditioning through various forms of pressure; 3) the ability to apply procedures or methods so as to effect a radical change in the ideas and beliefs of a person.
Because brainwashing is such an invasive form of influence, it requires the complete isolation and dependency of the subject, which is why you mostly hear of brainwashing occurring either in a religious system of some kind or at prison camps.
The agent (the brainwasher) must have complete control over the target. (the brainwashee) Sound familiar? Everything pertaining to the targets life depends on the will of the agent. (your spiritual overseer) Every step the agent takes will result in advancing his own self-centered agenda.
In the brainwashing process, the agent will systematically break down the target’s identity to the point that it doesn’t work anymore.
These brainwashers will hone in on a person’s weaknesses by first making their target comfortable, then get personal and confidential information to exploit the person later. Many “church leaders” for example will project themselves with false humility; posing as spiritual men. They take the place of the person’s physical father and successfully use this emotional leverage for the deep seated need for approval in order to motivate and control them.
The goal is to make the adult followers as much like their own children as possible. When people accept this, then they accept human authority in their lives to the point where they are hopelessly dependent on the authority, as children are with their parents. One technique the “church leader” will use to obtain this type of parental control is to keep them off balance to foster dependency, making it hard for them to make their own decisions.
When this kind of cunning craftiness is plotted to deceive the followers into functioning like children, they become much more manageable, being easily influenced by false doctrines and other tricks of deception.
From here on in, the targets (a.k.a: “church members”) willingly give up their minds and their souls at the institutional church doors; allowing themselves to be induced with the godless spiritual narcotic of “duly authorized rule” slowly and deliberately being administered by their “church overseers and pastors.” Having now been deprived and numbed to any sense of right or wrong, they mindlessly, and without any shame or twinge of conscience, follow and obey everything they are told to do within those institutional walls.
Even if it means destroying your own family “for the higher good,” the higher good of course being in conformance to the wishes of your spiritual overseer and his local church.
This is what happens when we follow the ways and the teachings of men. How many times in the Scriptures have we been warned over, and over, and over again concerning man’s ways and traditions; taking heed to what we hear; testing and proving the spirits, etc. But unfortunately, it is very rare today to see a “Berean”.
Remember that religious brainwashing can be extraordinarily powerful and dangerous to anyone, but especially to those who do not have the ability to withstand the religious pressure. With this kind of pressure and these kinds of fear tactics, is it any wonder that some Christians don’t think for themselves?
The best thing to do regarding your professing Christian relatives and friends is to realize that, while they are well-meaning in their beliefs, they have been brainwashed. Brainwashed people cannot see the Truth that is right before their eyes and they will deny facts that do not agree with their beliefs. Brainwashing causes a disconnect in the mind of the Christian believer between demonstrable reality and religious fantasy. Reality is filtered out in favor of the religious dogma/fantasy.
Enter: Elizabeth Smart
Remember the abduction and brainwashing of Elizabeth Smart back in 2002? The scary similarities are astounding.
Just to briefly recap: “Under orders from God,” two religious abductors, a husband and wife team, took (kidnapped) Elizabeth from her bedroom and held her captive for nine months before she was finally rescued.
The effect of these religious abductors cannot be ignored. Normally, when you try to ensnare someone to a belief system, it requires a dense network of fellow believers to indoctrinate you on their values and rituals, as well as exert social pressure. In Elizabeth Smart’s case, there were only two people, a man and his wife. Yet the forcefulness of their beliefs and tactics was enough to sway this young girl, just mature enough to comprehend spiritual ideas but not experienced enough to judge them skeptically.
For quite a number of months, the trio traveled around the western United States and at no time did Elizabeth attempt to escape, even when wandering through a grocery store by herself, the brainwashing had so well taken effect. Someone has said that “under stress, a person can go into survival mode…..you suddenly start to identify with your captors. Its called traumatic bonding, and people actually come to see their abductors as their saviors.” Elizabeth Smart’s failure to take advantage of opportunities to escape or call for help are all symptomatic of someone who has been brainwashed.
She was once photographed three months after her abduction at a party where she could easily have raised alarms, but instead showed no signs of needing help. One witness who supposedly saw Elizabeth Smart at the party with her captors said she “stood silently behind her captor submissively, robed in what some have called a berka.Asked why the women wore these garments and were veiled, the captor reportedly said, “To protect them from the sins of the world.”
Another witness stated that she seemed like she was part of the family.
One Salt Lake City resident told reporters he provided shelter for Mitchell, his wife, and Elizabeth for several days and that the girl never expressed fear, tried to escape, call police or sought his help.
One day, when police finally noticed the trio on a street corner, they pulled Elizabeth aside by herself. When initially questioned by police, Elizabeth Smart identified herself as “Augustine” and seemingly attempted to frustrate the efforts of officers to help her.
According to a report from Newsweek, Elizabeth told police, “I know you think I’m that Elizabeth Smart girl who ran away, but I’m not.” The report goes on to say that “even as the police took her in a car, she denied her identity.” According to another report from Time, “Three times she told them her name was Augustine and she insisted to them that she was traveling with her parents.”
When the police insisted that she was Elizabeth Smart, she replied with a non-committal phrase: “Thou sayest.”
After finally admitting her identity, Elizabeth repeatedly asked police what would happen to her companions, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ilene Barzee. Police said she showed concern only for their welfare, not her own.
How did Mitchell, a self-proclaimed “prophet” and supposed messenger called by God, change this Salt Lake City teenager into his willing follower? How did he hold Elizabeth within a “world” of his own creation?
One method he employed was to control her environment, and through brainwashing, Mitchell controlled Elizabeth’s completely! He also sought to isolate her from her familiar support system of family and friends. After gaining this environmental control, Mitchell then effectively could filter all information flowing to Elizabeth.
She became dependent upon him to interpret everything, from where she can go and what she can do, to Bible passages and their meanings and even to the meaning of life. He created for her a new language, giving her a new name and identity, inculcating her into his religious belief system. The young girl had no outside frame of reference or accurate feedback from others to oppose the growing influence of this “messenger from God.”
Step-by-step this control led to the undue influence witnessed by those interviewed. Elizabeth gradually seemed to assume a cult identity, which included the new name “Augustine.” She became robotic; believing and doing whatever the messenger from God said.
Once Mitchell had Elizabeth, he immediately began to drive home his belief system, laid out in a dense 27-page manifesto in which he declared himself “God’s man.” He knew the right words to say because he was a Mormon and she was Mormon. This connection between them, a shared knowledge of religious doctrine and reference points, allowed the hold over her to become that much stronger.
Paul Martin, a mental-health counselor, said:
“For every Elizabeth Smart out there, I can tell you there are probably hundreds of thousands a year that don’t go reported. There are many that join groups like that, maybe not as bizarre but equally destructive……. These are serial killers of the soul. It’s a national tragedy.”
Geraldine Stahly, a psychology professor at California State University at San Bernardino said:
“People who spend long stretches of time with their captors often begin identifying with them. This is called the Stockholm Syndrome. She said: If they are entangled in a group for a considerable length of time, they actually begin to have distortion in their thinking; to take the side of their abductors and see all outsiders as a threat.”
Coming Home To Roost
Have you been or are you, like Elizabeth, in a situation where some church authority figure threatened your life or family, and then, like Elizabeth, had managed to placate this overwhelming authority figure into NOT harming you, thus forming a close emotional bond?
Like Elizabeth, have you been or are you “in awe” of this “duly authorized being from God?”
Like Elizabeth, have you been or has your real identity been stripped away layer by layer and replaced with an artificial construct imposed from without, thus transforming you into a “dumb sheep?”
And like Elizabeth, did you or do you feel “warmth for your awesome spiritual overseer” which removes any desire to escape from your captivity?
Reading about the brainwashing of this poor young girl, with point after point of similarity jumping out, you begin to understand better why so many members of local institutional churches are so blinded and in bondage to their religious systems. They have been brainwashed, and when confronted with solid Biblical evidence and facts that goes against their religious babble, it just washes off them as water off a duck’s back.
Remember. Elizabeth continued to deny to the police that she was Elizabeth, even when facing a photo of herself on a wanted poster!
That is the power of religious brainwashing.
If she could look straight into a photograph of herself and not see that it was her in the photo, how much more could a Baptist or Presbyterian or Catholic look into more obscure facts and not see them as well! In a five minute discussion between a real Christian and a typical local institutional church member, what chance does solid Scriptural evidence have going up against years and years of intense daily brainwashing?
Once again, 1 Corinthians 2:14 speaks volumes:
Now the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged.
However blinded they are to their own brainwashing, many people have no problem seeing and pointing out others who are thus inflicted. A Seventh Day Adventist for example can easily see the brainwashing that has taken hold of a Baptist, and vice versa. A Reformed individual can easily see the brainwashing that has taken hold of an Armenian or a Roman Catholic, and vice versa. But neither can see it in himself.
Gather together into a room one hundred church members from one hundred different denominations, and each one can see in the 99 others the brainwashing; but they can’t see it in themselves. They all marvel at how blinded the 99 others are to admitting new facts even in the face of mountains of scriptural evidence, yet think themselves not brainwashed, but rather “steadfast and true” when themselves, faced with such scriptural evidence against their own peculiar beliefs, ignore it and continue believing whatever tripe they specialize in. They not only ignore it, they actually feel they deserve some kind of medal for having been brain-dead and stubborn enough not to be affected by the clear teaching of Scripture.
In their church view, being closed minded and thick-headed is a virtue, not a vice. “Look at me, ma! I spent an hour with a Presbyterian and learned nothing! Praise God!”
The problem with many Christians in our day is their attitude toward the Bible. They will read their Bible, not expecting to be taught of God from it, but will get their teaching from their pastors, preachers, and commentaries, and then go to the Bible only expecting to find proof for what they have already been taught! (The sad part is that many of these religious cult leaders will actually put their stamp of approval on such passivity).
The problem begins when one comes across a passage of scripture which would seem to contradict what they have been taught. How many of us at times such as these reach for our commentaries or run back to our “pastors” or “elders” and ask them to explain the verse to us rather than calling out to God for help and wisdom. What do you think your “pastor” will tell you?
You already know what answer they will give. That’s why you run to them!
This is NOT how it should be. Each Christian has a command from God to “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15.
Every Christian needs to ask themselves if they know for sure why they believe what they profess to believe, and to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” 1 Peter 3:15
The fact that so many in our day accept a teaching or practice just because it comes from my church or “my pastor” is very troubling in light of the apostle Paul’s words:
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. Acts 20:29-31
The Spirit says clearly that some people will abandon the faith in later times; giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons. 1 timothy 4:1
The apostle Peter warns of the same:
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” 2 Peter 2:1-2
How many times has the Lord Himself warned over and again of false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing.
They all knew that apostasy would creep into the church very shortly after their departure. Even a rudimentary study of church history will show that this is exactly what took place. Christianity absorbed more and more from its surrounding cultures and religions until the pure stream of Truth was thoroughly polluted.
What is most troubling about this is the average Christian’s reluctance and ambivalence in asking questions about the issues of some of their teachings and practices. This satanic brainwashing and buffoonery has deceived, and IS deceiving millions of unknowing, often unthinking people into actually believing that:
– Obeying your Pastor is the same as obeying God!
– That “going to Church” is the highest form of worship and is commanded by God!
– That all of your spiritual leaders are clothed with divine authority!
– And that when it comes to a marital issue, a wife is to listen to and follow her Pastor’s counsel, rather than her own husband!
Indeed, the wolves have been placed in charge of the hen house, and are doing their best to keep the hens ignorant of the slaughter of Truth that is going on.
Once we have been programmed with a belief, be it true or false, we will act as if it is true! We then instinctively seek to collect facts to support that belief no matter how false it might be!
This is brainwashing in action; the same kind of brainwashing that inflicted Elizabeth Smart.
Brainwashing feeds off of human pride and a lust for control. Those in “positions of church leadership” have literally commandeered what God gave through His Son, a simple, direct, unencumbered relationship with Him, and have fashioned unto themselves their idol, their golden calf, their own little kingdoms in which they can rule, control, and exercise dominion, unfettered!
But even as Isaiah cried, “Lord, who has believed our report?” (Isaiah 53:1; Romans 10:16), even so, who has believed us? Yes, who?
It is almost frightening to see how few professing Christians truly believe and understand what’s going on, and how fewer yet will believe and obey the Scriptures! The brainwashing has taken full control.
Christ’s sheep have been brainwashed, corralled, and then mistreated by thieves and robbers for many, many centuries. The feelings, the thoughts, and the questionings of the average “Christian church member” today have been squelched by their authoritarian, law-mongering overseers.
Whenever the mind of a Christian is stirred and begins to see the false teachings and practices that are occurring in his church, silence and fear begin to take over and envelope him. He knows that if he speaks up, his life and the life of his family would be endangered by the very institution that claims to “care for them.” This is brainwashing at its best.
The words “disaffection“ and “heretic“ will keep him silent, for all of the members know of the result.
Many of these Christians will continue to just settle into their pews week after week, not even knowing what’s really going on. Calm, quiet, and with their hollow, far-away look in their eyes, there they stay; totally brainwashed into believing that this is what’s best for them; slothfully satisfied in their captivity, being captivated by their captors! Even the thought of having to “hunt for their own food” sounds too much like work. Many wouldn’t even know where to begin. But why leave? The “captors” have convinced them that THEIR CAPTIVITY IS THEIR FREEDOM!
This doping of the mind; this brainwashing is perhaps the most heartbreaking of all. Many just assemble upon the command of their “church leader” without having the slightest clue of what Christ and His Ecclesia is all about.
What a sad and pathetic state of affairs is today’s local institutional churches. Indeed, as Paul Martin said earlier, the Elizabeth Smart’s are being multiplied today many times over. These people are serial killers of the soul.
When brainwashing gets to the place where “church leaders” will literally turn wives against husbands and brethren against brethren, then it is time to speak loudly and clearly. When brainwashed believers are taught to actually hate another believer simply because they dared to challenge the pastor, or dared to expose a long standing cherished tradition, the cult and its leaders must be exposed.
When a church tyrant uses his anti-scriptural “office” and “ministerial dignity” to get control of an individual’s mind and conscience, personal revolt is nearly impossible.
The poor sheep become scared of everything and everybody especially when they are cut off from asking or sharing the questions and difficulties in their heart.
Like it or not, this is the description of the brainwashing that is occurring in many churches today encompassing a wide spectrum of denominations.
It is a man-made, man-sustained system of indoctrination that is fueled by pride, greed, lust, power, money, and control; an indoctrination which has gone far, far “beyond the things which are written.”
Many have been deeply scarred through these diabolical practices and misapplications of men. The brainwashers that occupy these pulpits are smart and clever, and they understand human nature. They know how to deceive and they know how to destroy. There are no words too strong to demonstrate this horrible deception used by this self-serving, hierarchical team of spiritual monsters!
Many need to heed the admonitions of Paul and James: “Neither give place to the Devil” Ephesians 4:27
“Be not deceived my beloved brethren.” James 1:16
Until the people’s eyes are opened and they finally come to realize and act upon the fact that there is a pompous, manipulative, and deceitful ruling class of “church leaders” who will stop at nothing to advance their destructive agendas, they will be doomed to a lifetime of bondage and darkness.
But it will only be done by and through the aid of the Spirit of God Himself. Then and only then will you be convinced to STUDY and be READY to change. Then and only then will you have the mind to comprehend and the courage and bravery to stand up and say ENOUGH!
Without God’s Spirit; without the One of whom it is written, “He shall guide you into Truth,” all the time in the world will not bring one to the knowledge of the Truth.
May you find the faith and courage to do what God would have you to do, because doing it will bring you the peace, joy, and freedom that Jesus died to provide.