Spiritual Abuse and Church Bullies: A Helpful Resource

Here’s an excellent book that directly confronts the problem of spiritual abuse in the church: Bully Pulpit: Confronting the Problem of Spiritual Abuse in the Church by Michael Kruger. Sadly, there are plenty of stories about how pastors manipulate, gaslight, deceive, and harm people in the church. Sometimes a pastor believes his vision is God’s work, and he steamrolls over anyone who gets in his way. Other times pastors are sexist and demeaning to women, telling them to basically shut up and submit. Bully pastors are often two-faced. At times they seem nice. At other times they display fits of anger, pride, and cruelty. Michael Kruger has looked into these very issues and documented them in Bully Pulpit. It’s a well-researched resource that is not only easy to read, but full of insight, wisdom, help.

Here’s the layout of the book: First, Kruger discusses the actual problem of bully pastors. Second, he defines and explains spiritual abuse. Then, he contrasts the mindset of bully pastors with the biblical qualifications for elder/pastor. The fourth chapter explains why churches fail to stop bully pastors. The next two chapters are about the tactics of bully pastors and the devastating effect of their spiritual abuse. The last chapter is one where Kruger gives some help in forming a church culture that resists spiritual abuse. Kruger’s basic goal in the book is to help Christians identify and stop spiritual abusers.

Here are some quotes that I appreciated:

“…Abuse survivors routinely testify that the most devastating part of their experience is the way the abusive pastor used Scripture against them. Passages from the Bible are used to attack, demean, and control them…” (p. 27).

“The rich irony here is that the pastor who is unable to take criticism is often highly critical of everyone else” (p. 32).

“Bully pastors don’t bully everyone… they almost always bully down. Thus, often the pastor has treated the people evaluating him – his peers – remarkably well” (p. 66).

“If a pastor is accused of abusive behavior, be wary if procedural issues become the biggest concern of all those involved” (p. 84).

Bully Pulpit is one of those books that Christians should read, churches should carry in their libraries, elder boards should study together, and should be on required reading lists for seminary students. It really is an excellent resource on a tough and sad topic: spiritual abuse in the church. Spiritual abuse can happen in various places: churches where there is a celebrity pastor culture, churches where patriarchy in strongly emphasized, churches that desperately want numerical growth, and other types of churches in various denominations. This book, Bully Pulpit, is a good resource to help fight this terrible evil in the church.

You can pre-order it at WTS books here, on Amazon here, or find it on Logos Bible Software here.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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