Spiritual Abuse cloaked as Pastoral Love

Recently, Dr. Jim Standridge, Pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church of Skiatook, OK preached a sermon that is going viral on the web. In the sermon, Dr. Standridge publically chastises two male members of his congregation: one for falling asleep while he was preaching, and the other for not being a faithful attendant. While chiding both young men, he attempts to cloak his belligerent rant by saying that he loves them. He even went so far as telling one young man that he wasn’t even worth 15 cents! It is apparent during the sermon, that few if any of his members condemned the pastor for such an outburst of contention.
Here is the clip of the abuse: http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/videos-for-pastors/168559-pastor-s-angry-tirade-caught-on-tape.html
You can listen to the entire sermon here: http://www.ibcskiatook.com/index.php?option=com_preachit&id=585:may-19th-2013-morning-service&view=video&Itemid=232

Since I’ve been in ministry, I’ve been in services where the pastor/preacher has used the opportunity to share the gospel as a means of expressing their personal vendettas against members or others who may not be on board with the pastor’s personal agenda. Now scripture does appear to indicate that public rebuke is necessary at times. Jesus alludes to this in Luke 17:3-4. Paul addresses it in both his letters to the Corinthian churches. Paul further publically rebukes Peter in Galatians 2:11-14. There are several other places where this is eluded to however Pastor Standridge does not appear to consider this as he calls out members throughout his sermon even at one point telling a wife that she’s not as wise as her husband.
While some may applaud Pastor Standridge’s actions as that of a pastor addressing an issue as it was happening, I see it as an incident of spiritual abuse. Like so many other Christians, I’ve experienced pastoral spiritual abuse under the guise of pastoral love. The pastors would admonish their parishioners to tithe or be thrown out the church, to only dress a certain way, or to never attend another church lest they lose their salvation. I am sure that there are many other harsher examples (particular those individuals who are members of cults or cult-like churches the leadership dictates just about every action of their members.
As a pastor, I make it a point to address conflict in a manner that is firm and direct but does not create abuse on my part or hurt on my member’s part. Pastoring (particularly in the black church) can be a challenging occupation. A good pastor addresses issues from the pulpit in a way that is edifying and not divisive. The moment of preaching is not the place to air out the preacher’s personal anger towards an individual (even if it is righteous anger if there is such a thing). The preaching moment is to be an empowering one that even when addressing conflict in the ministry can be done so that it builds the ministry instead of tearing it down.
Personally, I would never do what Pastor Standridge does to the young men in the video. If I were the parents or relatives of those young men, I would certainly address the pastor for being rude (if it had been a black church, there would have been some walking out or much worse). The pastor should have the heart and speech of a shepherd as reflected in Jeremiah 3:15. Several New Testament scriptures admonish pastors to have a heart for the people and not be lords over them (Titus 1:7, I Tim 4:12, and I Peter 5:3 just to name a few). It is one thing for a pastor to rebuke the members in love in hopes of enabling them to be better stewards, more connected with God, and more empowered to share the gospel of Christ and another thing for the pastor to rebuke members in anger because they simply are not serving up to the pastor’s desires or expectations.
We’ve got to get it right. The church is driving the very people she was called to draw away because of the foolishness of some of her leaders and pastors. We are to love enough to not condemn but to correct and reprove with the heart of Christ at the center. If we do anything less as pastors, we are simply acting barbarically against the people who God loves unconditionally.

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Dr. Lorenzo T Neal

Advocate, Author, Coach, Counselor, Educator, and Servant of God

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