I Hate Church Bullies

This is a guest post by Sam Riviera. He spends most of his time and energy caring for others in his community so that through his life and actions they might see Jesus. He has also written “14 Reasons I Never Returned to the Institutional Church.

If you would like to write a guest post for this blog, check out the guidelines here.

church bulliesWhen I was in first grade I told my mother that one of the boys in my class was picking on me. Much to my surprise, my mother taught me how to protect myself. She taught me how to hold one arm in front of me to ward off blows while holding a balled-up fist behind it ready to throw a good punch if someone decided to punch me first.

Only many years later did I learn that no one dared pick on my mother when she was a kid. After mother taught me how to protect myself, no one dared pick on me.

If only it were that easy to respond to church bullies! A few well-placed punches and all the church bullies would stop bullying us for fear of suddenly acquiring a flattened nose.

How do we identify a church bully? Why do they bully? How can we best respond to them? (Even though they might deserve a flattened nose, I don’t advocate that response.)

How Do We Identify A Church Bully?

Church bullies usually give themselves away by what they say. Often, they might say things like this:

“A Christian would be at Wednesday night prayer service.” (I worked evenings.)

“A Christian would go to that Sunday school class.” (It was horrible. I’d have preferred going to the town dump to shoot rats.)

Then there was the fellow who literally tried to physically drag me to an alter to “get saved”. When I protested that I didn’t need to get saved a second time, he pointed out that I had missed church the past two Sundays, proving I wasn’t a Christian. (We were out of state, which he would have known if he had bothered to ask.)

“All Christians will vote for ________.”

“The Bible (or God) says _______” (Followed by the speaker’s opinions. My friend Kathy Escobar calls this the “Bible card” and the “God card”.)

“The Lord told me to tell you_____” (Clearly implying that God talks to them, but not to me.)

There are many additional “color of authority” situations, where the person, under the “color” of their position in the church (be it pastor, elder, staff member, Bible study teacher, the “I’ve been a Christian for X years” people, the “I’ve studied the Bible for X years and know what it says” people, or whatever), attempts to impose their opinions and wishes on those over whom they somehow attempt to assume “authority” and control.


Why Do They Bully?

Church bullies behave as they do for a variety of reasons. I’ll mention a few reasons I’ve seen and in the comments section perhaps you can mention reasons you’ve seen.

First, church bullies are often people who love to be in charge. They like controlling people. They imagine themselves to be great leaders who are in a unique position to tell others how to live and what to do.

Second, church bullies almost always like feeling important and knowledgeable, be it about how the church should be run, what God and the Bible say, and how other people should think, live and vote.

Third, many church bullies are very insecure. Bullying other people seems to “prove” to them that they really are smart, buddies with God, and very knowledgeable about how most things should be done and how life should be lived.

In this third category I include those whose personal lives are out of control. In real life, their marriage is in a shambles, they’re having an affair, addicted to pornography, stealing from their employer and so on. Of course they believe that their situation is a “one-of-a-kind” exception to the rules they try to apply to everyone else. If they can’t control their own lives, at least they can control the lives of others. (We often discover their underlying issues many years later.)

Fourth, occasionally we encounter church bullies who are actually mean, evil people, pretending to be otherwise because they’ve found a place (church) where they can get away with their need to bully other people.

All of these bullies, however, choose churches as places to ply their trade because they’ve discovered that many churches allow them to bully. Those churches seem to believe (often they’re convinced by those who bully), that they should tolerate the bullying because that is “the Christian thing to do,” “their Christian duty.”

Attach a Christian-sounding description to the bully’s behavior (admonishing, instruction, correction and so on), and a Christian title to the bully (pastor, teacher, elder, deacon, “our beloved brother in Christ” or whatever) and suddenly they can almost do no wrong.

How Can We Respond to a Church Bully?

The method that most often works in my experience: Ignore church bullies. Most of them will eventually give up trying to bully us and move on to those who allow themselves to be bullied.

Bully PosterIf the bully will not give up, confront them. Clearly tell them that their behavior (describe it briefly) is unacceptable and we will not tolerate that behavior. Explain what we will do if they do not stop the behavior immediately. That might include talking to the pastor or other leadership. If the pastor or other leadership is the bully, it may include talking to their peers in leadership.

Confronting church bullies can be terrifying for some of us. If the bully has done his job well, those being bullied will have been taught that confronting the bully is akin to punching God in the nose: God’s going to get really mad if you punch him, and if you confront a church bully.

There are situations where the bully has solidified his support among those he bullies. He has convinced them that he is always right. Anyone who opposes him is opposing God and the Bible (a sure mark of a church bully). In those situations, the best plan of action may be to leave the group.

I have heard the advice that one should always tell the church their reasons for leaving. In many situations that is good advice. However, in those cases where we have seen the church bully (bullies) continue to bully from afar those who have left (spreading false rumors about them and why they left), we would be wise to give no explanation. Even if we give no explanation, we should not be surprised if the bully invents an explanation and gives the church that explanation.

Really, I don’t hate the person who is a bully. I hate their behavior, not only when it is directed at me, but also and especially when it is directed at others. Similarly, I hate the behavior of those, including churches, who allow the bully to ply his trade. Shame on bullies and their supporters for driving people away from churches and away from the Kingdom!

This is not a comprehensive list. In the comments please tell us about successful ways in which you have dealt with a church bully.

We’ve barely scratched the surface of this topic. This post is not the last word, but hopefully will begin a conversation. Where, when, or how have you seen church bullies in your life, and what did you do about them, if anything? 

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    • Mark says

      I had to deal with a small group leader who was a bully. Interestingly, he was scrawnier and shorter than me but he seemed so charismatic and biblically knowledgeable. He craved the spotlight and loved sharing his ideas to a crowd like having his congregation within a congregation. He kept criticizing and attacking me for my church attendance and how I didn’t attend small group. He led it too. Finally, I told him to his face that I want out of his small group and what a poor leader he was. Felt good!

  1. Amy says

    I left a church because the pastor was a bully and had taught the rest of the leadership to bully as well. But my dad & grandmother are church bullies; you don’t attend the same style of worship service, study the same Bible translation, and believe to the letter exactly what they believe then they feel the need to “correct” and “instruct”. I have tried to talk openly with them, it felt more like beating my head on a brick wall. Now I just ignore it or change the subject because I have learned it is not worth the headache to argue.

    • Sam says

      Most bullies have figured out the best places to ply their trade and who will allow them to get away with it. Churches are often a good place to bully because “good” Christians are supposed to be open to being “taught” and “corrected”, which to a bully means they have the right to make others think and do as the bully directs. Sound familiar?

    • SLD says

      Recently I was bullied in a church. There was a woman who had an overly flirtatious husband. Ironically she gave services on marriage. Anyway, she started nit picking me. If I smiled at people she would imply that I was flirty, when I was really just being nice. She would imply that I dress in a provocative way to get attention. My style is feminine and colorful, but conservative. Anyway, she got together with a group of so called believers and slandered me. She painted an image of me that is the complete opposite of who I am. The assistant pastor, who is related to this lady through marriage hit on me one night after work. I told him that I think it is wrong for him to approach me when he is married with children. He then started slamming me behind my back.

      • Sam Riviera says

        Do you still attend that church? If you do, have you made an appointment with the pastor to discuss these situations? If the pastor is not available, is there a board of elders or something similar? Talking to those people may or may not resolve the situation. If it does not, for your own sake you need to find another church.

  2. ses1978 says

    I have been and am being bullied by church leadership just because I have autism. It is a PCA that claims to believe in church discipline but refuses to do church discipline with me? Which must mean they are wrong to treat me in such manner because if I haven’t done anything to bring about church discipline, yet they treat me like I’ve been brought all the way through the process, then they are wrong. Actually they are wrong because the missions pastor acknowledged that they are but when I asked for outside help they retaliated against him and threatened to fire him just for being my friend and now he threw me under the bus and threw our friendship away too. Of course, I got smart. I’m getting an attorney to fight them now. They were wrong and there are contracts involved. They breached the contracts.

    • Sam says

      I don’t know much about PCA, which I assume is Presbyterian Church of America, but is it possible to appeal to the presbytery or general assembly?

      If this cannot be resolved at either the local level or a higher level within the denomination, you may be happiest if you leave the group and find another group that does not engage in this kind of behavior. What is your goal? – To make them stop bullying you and accept you or to punish them for their behavior?

      • ses1978 says

        I have tried appealing at both higher levels, but every time I appeal, they retaliate.

        What I want is twofold:

        I want to do II Corinthians 13:11 with both the “friend” and the church. Not so much for me but for those who come after me.

        • says

          I am not sure what the situation might be, but at some point, it might simply be time to shrug your shoulders and move on. Some arguments and debates are just not worth the stress and sleepless nights.

          • ses1978 says

            That sounds so simple but then there are non church relationships they have destroyed by spreading lies about me.

        • Sam says

          It’s difficult to advise from afar, not knowing the complete situation. Is it possible to seek counsel from a wise, experienced Jesus follower, perhaps a pastor or counselor who has no connections with your church or denomination?

          Even if you believe someone is spreading lies about you, would it not be in your best interest to remove yourself from their focus by removing yourself from their presence?

          • ses1978 says

            They spread lies to people not even affiliated with their church.

            Short of moving across the country, the repercussions of their actions are always there.

          • says

            This sounds extremely painful and hurtful. I wish I had better counsel. It really doesn’t sound like there is much you can do. How long has this been going on?

          • ses1978 says

            The bullying and retaliation since 2011; the lies about me since 2012; this most recent situation happened after one incident in four weeks time. After talking with one pastor in Colorado, he said that their leadership is corrupt and that I haven’t gotten the justice I deserve from them.

          • Sam says

            Is it possible for you to move far away and tell no one where you currently live where you will be going? Other than moving, you seem to have exhausted your options, and even if Jeremy or I were local I’m not sure we could resolve your situation. Remember: Bullies are bullies even if you did meet them at church. Gossip is especially difficult to make go away.

      • hardlesson says

        I have been in church most of my life and watched cliques in church and the heirachy of queen bees and the like. For 2 years I was isolated and bullied by a payer group. The problem is who is going to believe you. You are out numbered. Not only that the bully has leadership and influence. I am not a weak person pretty outspoken, they used that against me. When I tired to confront what was going on they claimed I misunderstood. I lost my church family and my reputation. I was so wounded. I felt like I was almost slipping into depression. At times I thought I was crazy. Why because I confronted the bully and fought back. In the end I went to a counsellor. I left the group and moved, cut my losses. It was a very hefty price to pay. I really don’t see how you can handle a bully right. I got my but kicked!

        • Sam says

          Church abuse can be so painful! I’m sorry for what happened to you.

          I’m not an expert, but I have observed that bullies usually know how to pick their victims. They also like to find an environment where they will not be challenged when they victimize others. Some churches allow them to ply their trade, unwilling to acknowledge what is really happening.

          People who have no support system around them make the best targets. Church bullies often like to present themselves as hyper religious, knowledgeable in Scripture and theology, which they use against other people. Their motivation for being bullies may be uncertain, but I have noticed that they seem to think it proves to them and others how powerful and spiritual they are.

          If you can not succeed in standing up to them and no one will support you, you need to remove yourself from that situation immediately. Unfortunately they will most likely find another victim as soon as possible.

        • says

          Sad to say, but if the bully has power (as they usually do), there is not much that the person can do. Usually church bullies use “God” to back up their decisions and actions, so when you challenge the bully, you are accused of challenging God. It can get very messy and destructive. I think that you probably did about the only thing you can do… which is to leave the abusive situation.

        • Louise says

          I hope that you are now doing well and healing from the bulling. I am glad that you sought out the help of a counsellor. I am sorry for the pain that you had to go through. You words help me to feel that I am not alone in the struggle against bullies. Seeking out a counsellor is a positive step. I’m taking a positive step by also seeking out a counsellor.

          May God be with you as you continue to heal.

  3. Ashley MomofFive says

    My son is being bullied at our church. He’s 9 and it’s appalling. He has plenty of friends at school, none at church. How pathetic for him to be bullied in a place where he is suppose to learn of God. I confronted the “bullies” today. Let them know exactly how I felt about the way they were treating another child at church. We’ll see how it goes from now in. The boys looked like they were taking me dang seriously.

    • Aximili says

      Bad idea. I know from my own experience, having your parents talk to your bullies will only make it worse, often a lot worse. Talking to the bullies parents might not do much better, because most of the time kids who are bullies have parents who are either bullies themselves, or just don’t care that much about their kid.
      The only thing that reliably works is teaching your son to stand up for himself. If it’s verbal abuse, he needs to smack them with witty comebacks. If it’s physical abuse, he needs to beat one of them up, badly. Something like a broken nose will usually do the trick.
      This may seem harsh, but there’s just no other way around this. You could leave the church, but that wouldn’t take care of the bigger issue, that your son doesn’t know how to stand up for himself.

      • Sam says

        Sadly, I’ve also noticed that even at church most bullies learned their craft, as they say, “at their mothers knee”, meaning that they watched their parents bully others.

        My mom taught me to stand up for myself and I was not bullied. My mom was bullied as a kid, but learned to defend herself physically. Not even the boys dared pick on her or her brothers because they were afraid of mother. In reality she only pounded two boys when they punched one of her brothers. (There was lots of crying and some blood – theirs, not mother’s.) She immediately had a reputation and no one ever messed with her or her brothers again.

        Hopefully this can be resolved peacefully. Maybe defending yourself physically works if you’re a child, but I wouldn’t try punching out the church bullies to adults. You’d probably end up in jail.

    • Jill says

      I can certainly relate to many of the situations on this page. I am a Christian of many years, a widow, and 70 years old. I live alone.

      These brutal individuals have definitely got some big problems that need to be worked out in their lives. What makes it so bad in my case is that my pastor and sometimes others in charge defend the bullies.

      It doesn’t matter what the problem or the argument, I am to blame or accused of lying regardless of what I say, I was accused of hurting the pastor’s wife who is 30 years younger than I am. She phoned my house and started shouting at me. I told her that I didn’t want to argue with her.

      These individuals are definitely insecure. I can’t believe that the people I looked up to would treat a fellow Christian this way. Sadly my church shopping begins again this week, but I may just nestle down to a TV church instead.

      • Demetrius says

        Hi Jill, please don’t settle on a church TV program. Don’t let the enemy convince that there isn’t a place for you in a true church environment. I to am familiar with “church bullies”. It takes you through many different emotions….anger, sadness, confusion, etc. My wife and I are introverts, meaning we generally stay to ourselves a lot. We also praise God differently from most of our members at our church. This claims to acceptable because we are not “developed” Christians. However, there is an attack each time we don’t jump and shout or run laps around the congregation. We’re viewed as “bougy” people. I’m a deacon at this church and I’m praying for acceptance here. I know I’m not perfect but these members are certain that my introvert ways are arrogance and pride. If it continues we will find a better place to worship and serve God. After all, It’s about relationship with Him more than religion.

  4. Loved by God says

    I’ve struggled for close to 20 years with being bullied in the (christian) church. And both situations are with pastors that seem to enjoy doing it in such a way that it is not overly obvious to others, only to me. Let me make it clear, I was not bullied or abused by my dad or by my
    sweet husband of 30 plus years, so this is not a matter of me imagining this because of anything
    I’ve suffered in the past. I stayed in the first church for 18 years, and for the last 16 of those years I was repeately berated and publicly pointed out by this
    Assemblies of God pastor. Even though he did it publicly, the people there are so enamored by his personality, that they don’t believe him capable of this, unless of course it happened to them. (There were a couple of people I knew about) They have the attitude that if he said it , it must be true, so that caused them to look down on me and judge me when they don’t even know me. I was not guilty of these charges, yet there is almost no way to defend yourself if someone says something untrue about you. If you say nothing, they think you are guilty. If you say something, they say you are overly defensive. I know I am not perfect, but neither is anyone else in the church. Including the pastor. First of all, any christian leader that can bully someone in their congregation is mean and underhanded. I was not a troublemaker in any way. I met with the pastor a couple of times to see if I had done something to offend him. He said no and that things were well between us. Yet two weeks later he publicly blasted me again. That was the final straw. After prayer, the Lord told me to “wipe the dust off my feet” and get out of there. God was trying to protect me, yet I heard later that remarks were made that I was backslidden and away from God. People of God have a way of trying to fit everything into a “perfect little box”, when the real story may be different from what they believe to have happened. After many months, I found another church that looked promising. I thought a new start would be good and I volunteered to work around the church free of charge. I am not looking for titles, or promotions, or a name in the church. I just wanted to serve and help people. I love people and had started making a couple of friends and was so excited to be in the house of God. Only two months later, the pastor pointed me out of the entire congregation and accused me publicly, as I sat there dumbfounded and shocked. I could not believe it was happening again.
    Now something tells me the first pastor or someone else from the first church got to him and said something. I am being sabataged. God has spoken to me that He sees what is going on and He has a plan to rescue me from this. Meanwhile, I am in a very small church that meets only twice a month. It is not enough, I’d rather meet every week, but for now this is where I am. Sorry this is so long, but I can’t carry this alone and I need others to be praying for me, please. I now understand that some, (not all), pastors and leaders look for some in the congregation that will be easy prey for their insecurities. I must have that “look”. However, a REAL shepherd would look for the hurting, the lonely, or the “different”, and would do all they could to make them feel even MORE welcome. Unfortunately, some of us end up on their chopping blocks. We have too much respect for those in authority, especially spiritual authority, to speak up, and somehow they know it. Another note: Since this started happening I have met people that have suffered this same type of treatment; they have always brought up the subject without even knowing my situation. I beleive God will use me to help people that have gone through this kind of treatment and let them know that even though Gods people have rejected them, He never will.

    • Sam says

      Even though I don’t know you or any of the people in these churches, I
      say “I am sorry” that you have been treated this way by anyone in the
      church. People who bully you have no spiritual authority over you. If talking to
      them doesn’t work, you need to remove yourself from their presence.

      though many pastors are not this way, it can and does happen. Church
      abuse is not uncommon. You might want to check out Kathy Escobar (Google her name) and her “Walking Wounded” seminars. You don’t have to travel to Colorado to participate.

      We will join in praying with you that the bullying stops and that you find a good alternative to your current situation.

    • says

      I agree with Sam, and want to say that I am sorry this happened to you. It should not have happened.

      You are absolutely right about what a real shepherd would do. I think that God will use this experience in your life to help others who have gone through similar pain. Don’t get bitter about what happened, but seek to come along side others in similar situations.

    • Jill says

      Your situation sounds identical to mine. I can indeed empathize with how you feel.! I can’t believe it! In my case I might add that I suspect my pastor is insecure. There was a break within the church about a year ago, just before I started attending and I feel sometimes that he has chosen me, an easy prey to vent the anger he has for the others on. God Bless. I will be praying for you and others who are walking in our shoes. Please reciprocate. Thank you.

  5. Chaver says

    Hello Everyone,

    About a year ago I moved to Nevada and encountered my first church bully, which was the Pastor. It was at a place called The Potter’s House Christian Fellowship Church. Initially, the “Pastor” appeared nice. He offered to give me car rides to services. He bought me dinner. He told me that God had sent me to them.

    I let him have my phone number specifically to let me know the date and time of an upcoming church event. From that point on I began to be text messaged before each service about whether or not I would be attending. If my answer wasn’t a definite “yes” he would want to know why. Any personal or family responsibilities I may have had that day didn’t matter to the “Pastor”. I was told “You need to be here” in a rude condescending tone.

    He would also tell me strange baseless things were wrong with me if I couldn’t attend every service, such as my life is based on feelings not truth
    or that I think everyone is against me and he could help me. When I finally told him he’s being pushy and the things he says about me aren’t true, he seemed to have a psychotic break and began calling me repeatedly, several times in just minutes (as my phone records show). He called me names. Everything I told him in confidence as a Pastor, such as my family problems or difficulty finding a job was suddenly being used to insult me through text messages.

    Since this “Pastor” had no real training to a be a Pastor and his “church” was only a space he rented and called a church, he had no one to answer to. I stopped attending and emailed other Potter’s Houses in the state about what happened, expecting some sort of outrage at what this “Pastor” had done. I got only one response from a Pastor that wanted me to email him the text messages. I never heard anything else from him after I did. Through the internet, I’ve come to find that others have experienced cult-like or abusive practices at “Christian Fellowship Ministries” or Potter’s House churches associated with Wayman Mitchell.

    I made a short youtube video describing this experience, which also includes photos of the text messages at-


    It’s my hope that people would see the video and beware of this particular church or that the “Pastor” knowing that people know what he’s really like would change his behavior. He hasn’t changed. He continues to send me hateful or manipulative messages using different names. In one message he actually forgot to change his name on the email, so while it says it’s from him, he claims to be someone else. Pretending to be this other person, he calls me a liar, twists the truth and scripture and implies that because I told people about his behavior I’m not being forgiving. Forgiveness does not mean going along with a spiritual abuser’s agenda.

    • Sam says

      You will be better off finding another church and ignoring this fellow. If this is the way he treats people, he will probably not last long as a pastor. There are hundreds of thousands of churches and pastors, and you can surely do better.

    • says

      I agree with Sam. Leave this guy behind. Go find another fellowship, or start gathering with some friends and neighbors. Of course, whatever you do, remember what you have learned here, and make sure that if you are ever put in a position of spiritual leadership yourself, that you never manipulate others or use guilt to get them to do what you think they should.

  6. colinjordan says

    Thanks for setting out this topic, I know how difficult it can be to pin down. In my case I was caught ‘sinning’ and thereafter treated with derision. No actual words were exchanged, as it happens, but the changes in behaviour towards me were obvious and permanent until I left. This wasn’t the only reason for leaving my former church however, but I won’t bore you with all that. Anyway, trying to communicate this, and the other issues, to my then pastor was also fraught with problems as he seemed too preoccupied with how my leaving was making him feel than with the years of rejection I described which led to me leaving, I say leaving but I only moved to a church up the road (I had been in the first church for over 20 years but couldn’t bear it any longer, which was a sad outcome). Now attending an Anglican church and re focusing on the purposes of attending church with my wife and children.

    • Puddleduck says

      Great topic. I am feeling that I must leave yet another church for the same old reasons. I am female and I don’t ‘put my head down and keep my mouth shut’ yet I do not raise issues or initiate discussions or write letters or badger the minister. In fact, I have been ‘accused’ of being an intovert :) and this seems to be the basis for the discontent and disappointment expressed to me. Strange that when I am asked for an opinion, I quietly give an honest response and it is not always what they want to hear apparently. Thus, the bullying takes the place of shunning and suggestions that I read books about how introverts can become more like the agreeable voices of consent around me. The pastor can barely serve me communion without making a speech to me. How underhanded can you be? Rejecting someone at the communion table. I don’t know what the answer is but I do not think I will ever enter a church again without wearing sunglasses and giving a false name :)

      • Sam says

        Might a church that believes in and practices diversity in religious opinion, as well as “Biblical equality” of men and women work better for you?

    • Sam says

      It seems that often the best recourse for those who are bullied is to leave the group. Isn’t it sad that there is usually no other way to effectively deal with the bullying? From time to time I hear someone lamenting that churches just are not willing to confront anyone’s sin anymore. I find that is usually not true. They’re willing to confront certain issues, but not others, such as the leadership bullying certain people.

      My wife and I saw this same dynamic play out a number of years ago in several social clubs we were part of. The thinking seemed to be “good riddance” when a bullied person left, because there will always be someone to take their place. Eventually, there were no people to take their place, and the groups were in danger of extinction. Remarkably, most of the bullies left, probably because they had no one left to bully. The handful that stayed stopped their bullying ways. Actually, they were/are not well accepted by the rest of the group. In a sense, the “tables were turned” on them.

    • says

      Great discussion here, everyone. I sometimes feel that churches make sin a much bigger deal than God does. Sure, God takes sin seriously… that is why He sent His Son… BUT He sent His Son! That means the sin issue is done away with for God. This isn’t freedom to sin, but freedom NOT to sin.

      Anyway, it is too bad when churches kick people out because they committed some sin. When we are ensnared by sin, it is then that we need good Christian community most.

  7. says

    Great article. Right now, I often go to a church where I think I am friends with a woman who may be a bit of a bully. It’s not to the point where she comes out and say something like, “a Christian should be at Wednesday night service,” or any of the other examples you mentioned. However, it seems to me that she tends to talk about people she’s not so fond of behind their backs. For example, I told her about this lady that constantly hugs me whenever she sees me. She then said something along the lines of, “You mean the crazy one?” Then, there was another time when another church friend of mine was talking to this guy who’s kind of shy. She then said something like, “there’s a rumor about why this guy constantly talks to girls.” Of course the lady said she didn’t appreciate that rumor. Lord knows what she says to some of her closest church friends about me when I’m not around. I hate to fathom. I never confronted her on this because I’m afraid of what she might say to me. It might also tear a wedge in our “friendship” if I go about it the wrong way. I know that what she and maybe a few others are doing isn’t right. I’ve only been there for nearly two years now. I seriously don’t know how to break this to her.

    Of course, I realized that I’ve been a little too trusting with people. So, if she does talk about me behind my back, then it’s partially my fault. Now I’m learning to be more discreet about my life with others. That way the most people like her would say was that I’m quiet.

    • Sam says

      Might she be a bit of a bully and a lot more of a gossip? Is it possible she’s starved for attention, and her comments get attention? I know a few gossips. They seem to be masters at taking a normal conversation and slipping in “information” about someone, which is really gossip. I try to change the subject and if that doesn’t work I walk away.

    • says

      I agree with Sam. It sounds like she may be a bit of a gossip also. Be careful about what you tell her. It is likely whatever you tell her in confidence will not stay between the two of you.

  8. Buster says

    I think there are “bully theologies” (think Calvinism) that create individual bullies by default. It’s a subtle form of intellectual bullyism that essentially states since you can’t explain everything as good as their theology can, you’re wrong. Backed by church history and significant commentary, it can make Christians who disagree question the validity of their faith and understanding of the Bible. Especially if one finds themselves entirely on the opposite end of the spectrum on certain points.

    • lisa says

      You are right about the intellectual bullying of Calvinism. I have seen quite a lot of it. Also there are still remnants of the shepherding movement, which is nothing nut bullying, control and abuse. I just had to dump a friend because she just could not stop bible bullying me. After some separation from her I realized that she still has that shepherding mentality from her past and is still trying to create it in her life — with herself as the cult leader now. Bullying (power over rather than equality or win-win) is all some people snd even

      • Sam says

        That is an interesting idea “Bible bullying”. Yes, I have known some of those people. The Bible is the club they use to beat the rest of us over the head with what they think it says, with what they think the Bible says we must think and do. Funny thing is, those same people rarely follow their own advice or the things Jesus clearly and plainly says, such as loving others.

  9. Mel says

    There is also a type of organized bullying called gangstaking in which the police and firemen and many other are in on the bullying. Also clerks in city hall and social services, even landlords, neighbors, etc and doctors and nurses all do it. They seem to single out certain people to bully. They do it to whole families, all through many generations.

  10. Tim says

    I have a particularly nasty case going on at the moment. There’s this person who is younger than me, but he has a monster ego. He is a possible church psychopath. Anyway what happened was this. I became good friends with him it seemed. In actual fact he was hovering me up with flattery and false trust. Then things got nasty. He would abuse me and do some really cruel and horrible things to me. At the same time he was telling everyone else that he had just become a Christian. But he never told me. So on the outside he was this really godly person. He got baptised, and has started organising lots of prayer meetings and praise sessions and so on. But on the real side, he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, truly coldblooded and merciless. Extremely selfish. Several things happened. I nearly lost my life. I was nearly destroyed spiritually. Now I have broken off with him I have lost some friends, who seem to have turned on me, and I have come under massive attack. I stay at the same church currently though, as I can’t really go anywhere else. Thankfully it is fairly large, and I have a small number of very good solid, faithful friends there now. But I want to get out before the person gets into leadership. I was vulnerable to this sort of person, because I was lonely and isolated already due to mental illness, bad experiences when I was young, and so on.

    • says

      Tim, I am so sorry these things were happening to you. It sounds like your experience was quite painful, but I think you did the right thing. It is never healthy to stay around abusive people, especially those who are spiritually abusive.

    • Sam says

      I agree with Jeremy, Tim. Sometimes we need to remove ourselves from an abusive relationship and avoid the person as best we can.

  11. Katie says

    You know, I have been ‘bullied’ multiple times myself, both in a large church and in a small house church. I guess my response might be different than some of those I have read in the earlier replies, but we all have our own unique situations we deal with, in the best way we know how.
    In each scenario, when I have been bullied, I tried hard to pull in my emotions and let Christ be my defender. I’m sorry now that I don’t remember where it is found in the bible, but during these times where I had experienced the most hardship with relationships and bullying, a particular scripture kept coming up in my heart about letting Christ be my defender. That somehow, if I tried to defend myself, it would only get worse.
    With my first issue, my husband and I had close friends who were having marriage problems. The husband came to me saying that as his wife’s best friend, could I please talk to her. So trying to be supportive, I did. She got so furious and blamed me for being too close with her husband and prying into her marriage. She then spread throughout the women in the church that I had an affair with her husband. Her husband didn’t speak a word to defend me or the situation because he was afraid of losing his wife. Taking the stand that Christ was my defender, did actually, over time, cause me to still continue to have relationships with others in the church. (It was still awkward for me, though)
    The second instance was bullying that come from our pastors. I am still in shock that pastors would do this to someone. We eventually left that particular church group, not entirely because of the pastors or the problems, but also because our general beliefs and desires for how the ‘church’ meets, began to change.
    The third instance was in a home church, where a very unstable woman acted outrageously towards my husband on a regular basis, and made up her mind that my husband was just about as bad as the devil himself. This particular woman has had a steady track record of breaking relationships with people and even close family. We left this home church and again took the stand, Christ will defend us. We will not sit there and try to tell everyone that it is all this woman’s fault or put blame on someone. We will just quietly bow out. When we left initially, all members of the group wrote us off. However, one year later, one of the families we were particularly close with called us and apologized for defending the wrong family, and proceeded to tell us that after we left that woman continued spiraling out of control and the families all went their separate ways. I believe in this case, letting Christ be our defenders allowed for that open door for this kind family call us and talk through things and begin a new relationship.
    So that has been our motto lately. Letting Christ defend us.
    There will be many cases where you must walk away, or speak up. Each case is so unique and different. For me personally though, I have found that quiet little mouse attitude works best. “A soft answer turns away wrath”
    Those are just my experiences. The church bullying REALLY makes me angry.

  12. Sam says

    It’s really sad when the group allows bullies to bully, especially when the bullies are pastors and other leaders. Not only are their victims damaged, but the group. is also damaged. In my opinion, making the church the center of one’s social life, and the source of most of one’s friends is a mistake. When bullies know this about us, they know we’ll put up with their bullying because we don’t want to lose our social group and friends. When they try to throw in the idea that we might also lose our religion and they think they’ve got us trapped.

    I hate bullies, but they also don’t like me because I either stand up to them or remove myself from their power. Bullies really hate it when their bullying doesn’t work.

    • says

      Yes, bullies don’t like it when they cannot bully. When you stand up to them, they either slink off to find someone they can bully, or they become violent and vindictive.

  13. Lola says

    I am so glad I found this discussion. I was researching “what the bible says about bullying” for my age 4-9 Sunday school class, and the “church bullies” phrase really grabbed my attention. As I was reading the things that Sam, Katie, and others had said, I was amazed at the parallels within my own church.
    My situation is that our youth leader is a bit of a “meanie” and a lot of a “gossip.” The unfortunate truth is that her father is also the pastor. She is also a family member, which complicates things exponentially. There have been several situations where people have been hurt, lied to, gossiped about, and even left the church over her nonsense. She is in a “position of power” and this furthers her agenda. Sometimes I think that I would love to leave that church, but the reason would only be because of her. Removing myself from the church won’t remove her from my life. Our children are in the same grade at school. Yikes!
    The best tactic that has worked in my situation, is to call her out on her lies and make her explain herself. Ask who is this “they” she is referring to. Say, “I have never seen that. What are you talking about?” Or, “you need to stop right there before you say something you will regret.”
    One comment above said (paraphrasing) they were shocked that a pastor, or someone in church, would be a bully. One realization I have recently come to is that these people exist EVERYWHERE. Just because you are in church doesn’t mean that all the people are what you hope them to be. Sin does not disappear in church! Being a pastor, youth leader, etc. is that person’s only platform of exercising any power over others, and some unfortunately abuse it. It is especially disgusting when pastors do this to people, after someone may to come to them in confidence with their problems.
    I also stopped thinking that people are out to get “me.” Reading these posts and hearing others’ stories help me remember that I am not the center of the universe. It is impossible to get away from this individual in my life, so I am determined to face this giant the only way I have found that is effective. I tell her nothing, I am not on social media, I stand up for my children when she verbally assaults them, I ask her to explain herself after each questionable statement she makes, and most importantly – I seek no revenge. Boy, do I want to! But my children watch how I handle this constant situation. That is my motivation for doing it right. It does wear and tear on me, but if this is my greatest trial in life, then it is a blessing.
    For my children to see that this behavior also occurs in the church is a good life lesson. How we react to it is what builds our character. Remember when Jesus was slapped on the cheek during his arrest, he didn’t crumple to the ground. He said “tell me what I’ve done.” Sometimes it is so easy to play the victim in our lives and let these bullies continue their behavior. We should not allow it. Allowing it is despicable. I grew up in a household where my mom would downplay every negative thing that happened to me, making me feel unimportant with unimportant problems. I never want that for my children. So it goes against my nature to stand up for myself. But I will stand up for them, because who else will?
    Being and finding helping witnesses are important – these are people in a child’s (or adult’s) life that encourage them and let them know that they are worthy and do not deserve abuse. Even as an adult, feeling like someone has “got your back” can give you the wherewithal to feel competent in a bully’s presence. We should all strive to be helping witnesses.
    Sorry that this is a book! Thanks to all the people who posted their stories – they are so helpful. My heart goes out to those who have been hurt, and I will pray for everyone on here.

    • Sam says

      Excellent comment, Lola! You are handling a bad situation well. Yes, I’m sure your children are watching and are learning how to handle the bullies they will have in their lives sooner or later. As you point out, church isn’t the only place we find bullies.

      I often wonder if churches attract bullies or if people who get into a position of power in churches find it’s easy to use their position to lord it over others and even bully them. The doctrines of some churches give some people way too much power and influence. Those people take advantage of the doctrine and let everyone else know that they’ve got the church, the church’s doctrine, and by implication the Bible and God himself backing up their bad, bullying behavior. Of course, that’s all nonsense, but some of those in positions of power will do their best to try to convince us otherwise.

      “Being a pastor, youth leader, etc. is that person’s only platform of exercising any power over others, and some unfortunately abuse it.” You hit the nail on the head there. I once worked with a woman who really didn’t need the money, but loved bullying those who worked for her. Her husband ignored her. Her adult daughters despised her. Her neighbors ignored her. But at work she couldn’t be ignored. She had power and loved to tell people about the people whom she had fired for crossing her. Thank goodness she stayed away from churches.

    • says

      Thank you for sharing your situation as well. I am sorry about the pain your are experiencing in your church setting. It sounds very troubling and painful, but it also sounds like not much is going to change with the current leadership. Know that if you stand up, you will probably end up getting cast out of the church. That is what bullies do to protect their position and power.

  14. Professor Marcia McNair says

    I found this article very helpful. I got bullied at my church today, and your article gave me some answers. The worst thing about being bullied at church is that it is often done under the guise of being nice, so it is difficult to address. You gave great advice here, and I’m going to follow it.

    • Sam says

      Church should be the last place we should expect to be bullied, but sadly it happens. I often wonder if bullies find that many churches allow them free reign to ply their trade. If ignoring them does not work, kindly but firmly standing up to the bullies usually often does. Don’t be surprised if the bully pretends that they are not a bully and that you are imagining things.

      • Professor Marcia McNair says

        I really needed to hear this–especially the last line! Now I know I am not overreacting!

      • Professor Marcia McNair says

        Thanks so much for your support. It’s helping me to get over the whole experience. I don’t want to give details, but it was pretty frightening. You helped to lighten the load of that negative energy.

  15. Eric says

    I do have a couple instances…

    As an Asian American church in an Asian church, the stakes are higher as a result of expectations. These types of churches are filled with alpha males and females. Most who grew up with a golden spoon and impeccable academics think they have mastered the world.

    Instance one:
    I was a bible study leader and we had to attend saturday morning prayer, which consists of some praise, mini sermon, and independent prayer time. I do have my moments where I have a short attention span and pray whatever objectives I have in my mind. I was the first to come out, and the head pastor expresses his disappointment in how short my time was. This would roll over to a bible study (i participated as a student) as the group would taunt me for me poor financial decisions, and the pastor would agree with the group.

    Instance two:
    I participated in praise band as a bass player. This was after the musical prodigy of the church left the church for a few years. I was criticized for not measuring up to the standards this individual set. I was even told by the pastor to get bass lessons at my own expense. I knew enough to get by, but I took it anyway. The guy who taught me even told me I knew enough. Eventually the biggest blow was the youth group bass player replaced me. He wasn’t that much better, just had a bigger ego.

    I’m not sure if these two instances were clearly explained, but helping out at church ministries is just an enormous talent show. Most pastors will only take the side of the superstars at church. I am an individual who does struggle in life from time to time. At my best, I can blend in with church… at my worst, i turn into the black sheep who everyone avoids.

    • says

      Wow. I am sorry those things happened to you. They are good examples of church bullies. These things should not happen, but sadly, they happen far too often in church. Just remember, Jesus is nothing like this!

    • Sam says

      Eric, Yes, I’d call these examples bullying, bullying meant to control you. If you submit, then you will also submit to whatever they want you to do, all in the name of church, God and religion. Have you considered checking out other churches? Not all behave like this.

      • Eric says

        Over the past few years, I have moved to various parts of the US because of career and/or ambition. Thus I have attended many churches. I know there is no perfect church, but for some reason I cannot get the right mix. There is an inverse relationship between quality of preacher and quality of fellowship in a church. Churches with the most inspirational pastors have the weakest fellowship (AKA Sunday Morning Christians). Those with the best fellowship (best buds factory) have the weakest speakers. Maybe I shall find a church that is the jack of all trades.

  16. Louise says

    I’m an African-American woman. Years ago, I was initially excited to find a beautiful neighborhood church and excitedly began attending services there. That was over 10 years ago, that I began going to my German-American husband’s Lutheran church. As a mixed-race couple it has become clear that there are ‘mixed’ feeling about our presence in church. The current pastor and church members say “All are Welcome!’ but behave in an unwelcome manner. And now, I’m just plain worn out from dealing with years of bullying.

    Perhaps I’m too sensitive or expect too much of people? I often return from church feeling bruised and bullied!

    Is this bullying?

    I extend my hand to congratulate a church member who sang a solo and she gasps and refuses to touch my hand.

    On several Sunday mornings, she refuses to smile or give eye contact and often converses with other church members while glancing over at me, turning down her mouth, or looking me up and down in a disapproving manner. I’ve overheard her saying, “Did you see her up at the alter taking communion with her butt hanging out?”

    I was wearing a knee-length Jones New York signature dress in a bright blue and green peacock pattern. A festive, but tasteful, dress that I splurged on for special occasions! She acted as if I had just marched up to the alter in a “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” !

    Many of the women in the church are so repressed. Even during Easter very few of them wear a festive hat or even bright colors! One of the few women who ‘dresses up’ is in leadership and she gets away with it because she is an assistant minister and now also a designated prayer.

    That’s right, there are two women stationed to the right and left of the minister, who have been designated official prayers. These two woman saw me talking with another church member after church. I went up to hold my friend’s hands because she looked a bit sad. We began talking, facing each other while still holding hands.

    The two ‘official prayers’ later approached my friend and seemed to be asking her if she had been praying with me, an unauthorized prayer! I got upset but did not walk up and confront them!

    Was I letting them bully me? And worse, was I being a coward and letting them bully my friend too? I think so! I am ashamed! I am letting the bullies control the church and steal my joy.

    Other bullying behaviors – I could go on and on, but here are a few more instances:

    My husband and I bring barbequed chicken to a church barbeque. They refuse to let us cook the chicken and complain that we’re trying to take over the grill.

    At another barbeque, we invite a friend, they refuse to put on a fresh burger for him. So, I have to get one of the cold burgers, go inside to the microwave and warm it up. At the same barbeque, the pastor says “People should arrive on time!” complaining that both me and my friend arrived after the official start time of the barbeque.

    Tiresome. Rude. But is it Bullying?

    I enjoy going to the local neighborhood pub with my husband. A church member says “It’s cheaper to get cable TV instead of going out all the time.” Another church member says “Well I don’t have money to be having beer!”
    Is this bullying?

    I go to a church woman’s prayer group. I ask for prayers for my family. One woman complains that I’m always talking about ‘those people!’ Meaning that being asked to pray for my disabled sister and my struggling family annoys her.

    You know what annoys me? Being constantly rejected at church no matter what I say or do! I’m tired and the church bullies are running the ‘school yard.’ Should I just leave the church. I know I need to grow a backbone and teach them a thing or two! But you know what? I’ve become voiceless and, to tell you the truth, I’m afraid to say or do anything.

    • Lisa says

      I don’t know if it’s bullying or not, but it’s certainly NOT love! I would suggest you leave the church and seek a more loving fellowship of believers. I doubt they are open to being “taught” the proper way to treat people. They are self-deceived about their own righteousness. They are not representing Jesus to you or your friends.

      • Louise says

        Thank you for your encouraging words. I still attend the church I described, since it is my husband’s church. But, I do need to seek out at least a prayer group with more positive supportive believers.

        Thanks again for your kind words.

    • says


      I am so sorry all these things are happening to you. This is not the way it should be, and not what God wants for you or for His church.

      This is definitely bullying. In fact, it goes way beyond bullying. It is spiritual abuse. As a child of God, it is your right and your privilege — indeed, your responsibility! — to pray with and pray for anybody at any time for any reason.

      Also, you have absolutely no reason to be ashamed for letting them bully you. They were in the wrong, you were not. But in abusive situations, the people who do the wrong thing (the bully) are also the ones who make the others feel guilty. That is what is happening to you.

      Please, take a step forward in your walk with God by leaving this church. You don’t need to tell them why or ask their permission. They will only put a bigger guilt-trip on you and will call into question your commitment to God and to His church. But this also is a bullying tactic.

      So just leave. Go find a community of believers that will celebrate your voice, and your desire to serve others, and your willingness to pray with and pray for others.

      • Louise says

        Thank you for your encouragement. I appreciate your words
        “find a community of believers that will celebrate your voice, and your desire to serve others, and your willingness to pray with and pray for others.”

        • says

          Let me know if you find one! It is okay as well to just be alone with God for a while. It is better to stay at home and bask in the Father’s love than to join with a group of power-hungry, controlling Christians.

    • Sam says

      Yes, the bullies are trying to control the church. Bullies love to be in control, whether it be at church, the social club or wherever they are. If they can’t control other people, THEY get mad and move on. They’re only happy when they are in charge. Church is one of the favorite places to find victims, who assume they should tolerate such bad behavior because it’s church, or something like that.

      I call this religion run amuck. Obviously you don’t want to be treated this way. Find another community of believers where people treat you with love. If you can’t find it in a “church”, you may find it in the neighborhood, at work or some other place.

      • Louise says

        Thank you for taking the time to leave me a message. I wanted to share a Psalm with you.
        Psalm 59

        1 Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
        be my fortress against those who are attacking me.

        3 See how they lie in wait for me!
        Fierce men conspire against me
        for no offense or sin of mine, LORD.
        4 I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
        Arise to help me; look on my plight!

        • Lin says

          Thank you for this scripture which surely relates
          to the topic of being bullied in the church.
          I noticed the honesty in which David
          approached the Lord. Not all of the Psalms were
          written by him but most were. And all inspired by
          God. David never pretended with God
          but was boldly transparent with Him. And the
          Lord called Him “a man after my own heart!!”
          Let any persecution you are having in church
          draw you closer to the one who will NEVER leave
          you or forsake you. It’s sad that this type of
          thing even occurs in the church but it does. Only
          those it has never happened to would doubt
          it. But once it happens to you, you have no trouble
          believing it. But God is greater than that and
          He is always good!!

      • Louise says

        Thank you. I appreciate that you encourage me to seek out a loving community of believers. I also know that I can turn to the Psalms for strength and even pray for God to send people, like the community here, into my life. People who speak the truth and unflinchingly address issues and speak in wisdom and strength.

  17. eric says

    Is there any passage in the bible that states one can stand up to bullies? I know there are numerous times where the vengeance and retaliation is condemned.

    Playing devil’s advocate, does God want us to be strong victims because our belief in him makes us stronger?

    • Sam says

      Hi Eric! I’m not aware of any texts that deal specifically with church bullies. However, since Jesus is our example, I think it is abundantly clear that Jesus stood up to the religious bullies he faced, sometimes on his own behalf and often on behalf of others. He stood up to the bullies, but did not retaliate.

      If we allow people to bully us, they usually take that as a sign they can get away with bullying not only us but also others. We may think we can tolerate their bullying, but there are those who cannot tolerate it.

      I’ve known more than one bully in my life. Not all of them were church bullies, but some were. Church bullies seem to think they have an edge and portray themselves as having God, the Bible and the church behind them.

      In my opinion, we need not be a victim in most instances. We can usually respond with love, kindness and yet be firm and direct and not allow anyone to make us their victim. If we’re unable to do that, then it is time for us to do our best to remove ourselves from the situation as quickly as possible. That can be difficult if the bully is our boss at work and we can’t find another job.

    • J says

      Here are a few scriptures I taught my 9 year old who is being bullied:
      Hate evil, love good; maintain justice. Amos 5:15
      Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Isaiah 1:17
      PSALM 94:16 Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?

  18. Lu says

    Thank you for this. I was in turmoil. Down deep, I knew what was being done and said to me was wrong, I could see it hurt others who rarely (if ever) came back also. I didn’t realize why they didn’t return until recently, but have had suspicions.

    Isn’t it sad that the one place we all should be able to go to in order to praise the Lord, comfort and help others, and receive healing and encouragement ourselves, is often the one place that causes so much pain and chaos? Paul taught on that, I can’t remember the verses, but I know that none of this devouring and bullying is from God.

    Thank you J for those verses, and Psalm 58 was it? Made me cry, but I needed those.

    This is all too much for me to write about right now, my child and I are in a ton of pain and just need ‘quiet time’ I think with the Lord. I do not think we will go back to our church.. please pray there won’t be a bad blow up with us not going. I’ve been praying for those here. Tears my heart out reading all the stories.

    We all need to love each other. As Christ loves His church. Very sad some churches have never heard that sermon.

    I’ll keep praying for you all. Jesus knows all our hurts. I have a feeling He nudged me here knowing how much I needed to find this. I felt so isolated and alone. Seems we all found the same safe haven in the storm.

    Thank you. God bless you all.

  19. Sam says

    Lu, yes, it is sad that so many find pain rather than comfort in places that call themselves churches.

    Not knowing the group you have been part of, it is impossible to know if they will continue to bully you or will ignore you when they know you have left. If they attempt the former you would be wise to not read their e-mails or other forms of communication, and stop talking to them in person or on the phone.

    There is life after being bullied and there are churches that are kind, loving and comforting. We will pray with you that you will find such a group.

    Based on the responses to this post both here and elsewhere, we have an idea that could help many who have responded. If the details can be worked out, I will post another reply to your comment, so check back periodically over the next few months.

  20. Lu says

    Thank you Sam. I’ll check back in.

    I read all of this to my 13 year old daughter today. She’s Aspergers and bipolar with psychosis, depression and other problems. She doesn’t mesh with people as well as hoped.

    I can get kicked around, cry and get over it. But when they hurt my girl.. that takes serious prayer and determination to forgive.

    I’m physically disabled and in my 50’s. We both get raked over the coals because we can’t compete at the levels or abilities that are expected of us by the able bodied. I have PTSD from my girl’s father’s violent abuse. As much as I try to be unobtrusive, low-key, NOT wanting to attract (negative) attention, I do, as does my child.

    Kicking-dog fashion, I’ve learned that the handicapped and disabled don’t always fit in with modern churchianity. Doesn’t matter if they’re old-school church, or this new type church stuff everywhere; hatefulness and spite doesn’t develop a better character just because it’s present at church – it grows bigger hooves and horns and digs in.

    I don’t feel comfortable giving the name of the church online or the town, but it is baptist, which variety I don’t know. It’s a chrstn flwshp church, but I’m unsure if connected to the former reference to churches with that name.

    Church members, like us, who have health issues that interrupt their attendance, or folks who have family emergencies or employment that falls during service times usually get some form of attack from the pulpit for not being there.

    One deacon while “preaching”, named a man by name and ripped him to shreds for not being there, for battling depression. I have that battle as well. You can be on the right path with God and have something happen to trigger things like depression or anxiety attacks or PTSD flares.

    There was no mercy from the pulpit. The man being ripped up from the pulpit has diabetes, ulcers in his leg that isn’t healing well. He was out of work from health issues for a long while.

    My girl and I missed 3 weeks of church services from flu last winter. I had no way to get to the store for food, no car, too sick.

    This man, on his own and not representing church benevolences, with his own resources took boxes of food, oranges, etc to people from our church, members or not, who were home or bed-bound sick with flu.

    This man brought all of us food at his own risk. When he too got the flu, he was repeatedly ripped to pieces for not being at church. I’d get depressed too. He was a God-sent hero to us. We were out of food until until he came by.. twice! We rarely see him anymore at church.

    During the summer vacation months, I knew the Lord was showing me a need in the church; kids from our community who were coming by bus, and not all of them had enough to eat. School’s out then, several weren’t getting breakfasts and lunches the schools provide during summer vacation.

    So, I asked church permission first, but I obeyed the Lord and made these kids hot sausage biscuit breakfasts with tots and waffles when I could afford them. Nothing handmade; frozen biscuits, frozen sausage patties, frozen all of it. I felt wonderful helping these kids – they gave me lots of hugs and thank you’d! To God be the glory! All I did was obey.

    However, I also have degenerative bone disease. I had to stop making the breakfasts because my feet grew the biggest bone spurs the ER doc & nurse said they’d ever seen. Here I thought I’d fractured or broke my feet. I succumbed to this pain once school started. I don’t know, maybe the Lord gave me just what I needed to get them all fed through the summer.

    But being hung up on voting every action, a meeting was called after church by the pastor with all the ladies, (what? men can’t bake frozen foods for a few kids? really?), to decide if they’re going to continue feeding the kids on Sunday mornings or not. And if so, what will be made for them. Now it’s not a mega church, it’s only about 12 to 20 kids, depending on attendance.

    First thing was the explosion of “that’s too much to put upon anyone to do!” said in anger by a physically fit 30-something.

    Somehow, despite me telling them every single week I didn’t hand make the biscuits, I plunked frozen biscuits in pans and baked.. they were all panicking over having to make biscuits from scratch. The chaos went back and forth rather immaturely.

    Finally, the late 20-something newly-born again mother of 4 who was sitting across from me joyfully offered to take up the baton and make the breakfasts for the kids. She was so happy to do this! As I had been.

    They pointedly ignored her. Overruled. These snipy ladies ruled to bring whatever snack foods. They did it angry, hatefully and didn’t actually allow a vote. Felt more like mob rule.

    That dear one who offered to do this as made to feel like a nonperson. They crushed her with snipping comments, me too. That lady and her kids have not often come back.

    And these people are *still* angry at me for needing to give up feeding them. You read that right; the pastor was supposed to give the kids 30 minutes for breakfast before Sunday school. He made a point of rushing the kids telling them they had 10 minutes or less to eat, then shoo them off to classes long before their teachers were there. One of the Sunday school teachers was aghast and asked.me why he had been doing that to the kids week after week.

    I just told her I didn’t know. It didn’t take much observation to see how the adult class *now* got to chow down. She saw it, it didn’t come from my mouth, I let her see it for herself.

    I’m still getting ripped. So at many others, pastor and deacon using past or absent members as “AIDS” to make his sermon points. But all it is is ripping people to pieces from the pulpit when they’re not there to defend themselves.

    I feel shell-shocked and soul-sick. That’s it, at least the biggest part of it. There’s more, but that’s enough for now. It kills me even talking about it. It’s nauseating.

    They don’t call or text me. I’m not “their kind” evidently. Good, I hate cliques anyway. I was there for God, not the clique dujour.

    We won’t go back, I’ve had a belly full. I’ll pray for them and forgive, but its best to love a lion from a distance.

  21. says

    I have been pulled up by just a church member re Sunday attendance. Missing several meetings – they know I have breast cancer. What is that scripture ‘make sure your own house is in order’. Why judge/bully me?

  22. Tim says

    Wow… If I were an articulate writer, I could nearly have wrote this article based on my story. My ex-wife who is a queen bee at the church decided to divorce me. Of course the church hierarchy blamed me behind closed doors in hushed meetings. Then they put me under church discipline for not bending over backwards to whatever she wanted.

    When my ex-wife complained to the Pastor or others about not getting her way. (During a pending divorce no less) He would make up a rule, judge me guilty of breaking it, then demand I repent of breaking the rule. And “repentance” was giving my soon to be ex her way.

    The group cited me not taking communion as a “sign” that Satan had me but they were the ones systematically blocking me from taking communion. Pretty much using communion as leverage to try and help my soon to be ex-wife get her way.

    Another “sign” of unrepentance was putting my children into a summer camp on my parenting days rather than handing them over to my ex-wife to watch them. My reasoning for the decision didn’t matter. They judged the decision as “evil” because it wasn’t her way therefore only changing the decision would please them.

    So hopefully you can see in my case how the bully operates. The mind control pattern was this.

    In any disagreement between my way and her way. My way was judged “evil” or “wrong” simply because it wasn’t her way. Then the church hierarchy under the direction of the bully Pastor harassed me and withheld communion to try changing my decision to the supposed “right” way which was nothing more than her way. Even the honorable divorce judge rebuked the bully Pastor for being so manipulative with his church authority. This bully Pastor also targets and does this garbage to other members in the congregation to enforce his personal opinions. Mostly in private meetings under the guise of support or help. They are all affiliated with the WELS Lutherans. I was even threatened with “consequences” by one of his buddy Pastors at a sister WELS church if I even talk about any of it.

    • says

      Oh my. What a sad situation. I think that the power of religion corrupts those who weld the power, which is why they often use it to abuse, manipulate, and control others.

      Divorces are always messy, and I am sorry that yours is made worse by the involvement of the church. My recommendation is: “Forgive, forgive, forgive!” Oh, and probably don’t go back to that church.

  23. Channie says

    There are four women who are in a really mean clique at my church and one of them is the pastor’s wife! She was told by another woman in church that my mom “smiles in men faces,” and worst part of it all is that she actually believes it! She blew up at my mom for calling the pastor late at night, but mom was in serious need of prayer and that’s it! Then, after church one Sunday, when the whole church went to the fellowship hall for lunch, she started yelling at my mom! I witnessed it along with one of the pastor’s granddaughter who is 10 years old.The PW (pastor’s wife) use to not act this way at all until she started hanging around the woman who doesn’t like my mom and possibly started that rumor. It’s SO hard trying to see my mom remain strong when the PW, the woman who despises my mom, and two of the pastor’s daughters are after her. Recently, I called them all out on something they did to my mom which had my sobbing my eyes out because it was that hurtful! :( I went to the pastor who then talked to that one particular woman. That woman flipped out, claiming nothing was directed toward my mom when clearly it was! Last Sunday, she instructed her 12-year- old daughter never to speak to me again and in addition, one of the pastor’s daughters instructed her two daughters (10 & 13 years old) not to talk to me! I’m 18 years old and have close with the 10 & 13 year old so it was hard for me to hear that. However, I have told my pastor what has happened but it’s hard since the situation is between both of our families. I just wish everyone would get along, especially at church! I have never cried so much in my life!

    • says

      There is so much pain and hurt in church. My wife was a PW for a while, and they face a lot of pressure. But there is no excuse to treat people this way.

      You might want to consider not staying in an abusive situation, and seek to follow Jesus in some other format or venue.

  24. Channie says

    I, along with my mom, have seriously considered leaving and never going back. However, due to other people we care about that attend a different church within our organization and due to previous engagements we will not be leaving any time soon. Our specific church is a hour and a half away from the nearest church within the organization which is very unfortunate. I’m so torn because I don’t want to leave the people I care about at the other churches, but yet I feel lonely, worthless, and completely broken at the current church I’m at because of the drama. I just don’t know what to do. I feel like the pastor has a lot on him too since his family is involved, and I don’t really know if I can go to him even though he says I can.

    • says

      Yes, this is part of the difficulty with the way church is done today. You love the people, but dislike the drama. On the one hand, of course, all human relationships have some sort of drama, but it often seems that it get magnified in church because people try to defend their positions with pious spirituality. You know…. “Well, I’m right and your’re wrong because I have these verses to back me up, and God told me I was right.” That sort of thing usually gets left out of the mix in most other forms of human drama.

      Anyway, I do know that church is not supposed to be something that makes you feel lonely, worthless, and broken. Would it be possible to hang out during the week (just for fun) with the people from the church that you are close to?

  25. Sam says

    Check back on Jeremy’s blog after the first of the new year. We hope to have a forum set up within a couple of months where people who have been bullied can tell their stories, and a forum “facilitator” who will facilitate the ensuing discussions. Of course anyone who has been bullied and found ways to deal with the bullying can also comment.

  26. Amanda says

    The past three and a half years have brought such sorrow to my heart for similar bullying sited here by others. I had never experienced nor considered it so much as having borne the pain and sorrow associated with a particular bully in my congregation. After several disparaging comments and unkind words to me personally, and unwelcoming words regarding me and my family as new to the area, we had purchased a home or otherwise would’ve not renewed our lease. As time progressed it began on our 4 year old son, and has continued on he and now our daughter. He is resilient and seemed to notice the ostracizing but let it roll off. As his mother, watching the children’s leaders treat my family this way was disheartening– even heartbreaking. But in a effort to forgive and recognize an opportunity to gain strength and rely on Christ, we prayed and studied scripture and continued to attend church without confronting it or addressing behaviors. Maybe this was out of fear? Maybe out of mercy? Maybe out of a desire to forgive and not allow them the satisfaction that they were getting us down. Finally I spoke with one party on her behavior- because she posed as a friend and ally in between her lashing out at my son and ignoring me. My husband was reassigned out of state for a number of months and we opted to join him- taking a break was just what we needed. We returned and for a short time it seemed normal, but then strange things began to occur again behind thr scenes with one controlling narcissist woman whose family is friends with the pastor (so if she doesn’t like you or feels threatened by you in any way plants bugs in his ear to affect leadership choices and assignments and negative treatment/assumptions about anyone she pleases). This, I learned, happened with other women in the congregation in addition to myself. (Some had been going through it for 16+ years!) People have moved out in DROVES and several people come by just once never to return- or have numerous excuses (job change, transfer, family needs? etc) why they get out of a lease or sell and move away. No one addresses the wolf among the sheep!! That is exactly who these people are! Wolves in sheep’s clothing are harder to detect- and why would the disguise themselves? If they were outright without guile they themselves would lose their ability to abuse, harm, and destroy the flock! They single people out, gossip, slander, leverage position and popularity votes to gain position and prestige– because the mustn’t know The Shepherd, and know His love. Therefore, they cannot further His work or His kingdom. Because as He stated: ‘ although they do alms in my name, they know me not.’ How anyone could be motivated to live devoid of love- and the true love of Christ, and to go through the motions of at the follower of Him, is beyond me. But bears not the fruits of the spirit which Galacians states are: love, peace, joy, patience, kindness…I am happy to say today was my last sabbath in this setting! We are free to choose–and what profiteth a man if he chooses ‘captivity and death’? For me, the conflict is over. Because in Him, I will trust. I took a stand to my oppressor and she knows I know the truth. But it is for her to decide what she will do with it.

    • Sam says

      Amanda, It is sad, is it not, that such things happen in churches? In your case, even though this is obviously difficult for you, I would be especially concerned about your children. Would it not be better to remove them from that environment? If their church experiences include liberal doses of being bullied, should we not suppose they may decide to have nothing to do with any church and perhaps even God once they are old enough to decide for themselves?

      Are there other churches where you and your family can attend, even if they are not the same denomination as the one where you currently attend? Have you checked out those churches?

      • Amanda says

        We strongly considered trying another church of another denomination or trying another location. We have discussed moving away very seriously and we are actually looking for work elsewhere largely due to these negative experiences. It’s heartbreaking and disappointing because we had so many dreams here in this home and community and they’ve been pretty dashed. To go somewhere where the doctrines don’t align with our beliefs feels uncomfortable, and yet the behaviors of this person (and a few who she has influence over through deceit and social power) are so contrary to the beliefs as well. It seems to create a hostile environment and we feel defensive of ourselves and others who may lack strength to recognize and/or combat the bullying. When our security to safely worship and fellowship is constantly threatened, it’s injurous not only directly, but indirectly because it makes handling other burdens and trials heavier. The place you go for the healing balm is instead a sort of spiritual or emotional war zone.

        • Sam says

          You must live in a small town if you are considering changing where you live and where you work to get away from this church. That is really tough. I grew up in a small town. It’s usually a great place to rear children, but not if they are being bullied. I will pray that God will help you and your family find a good resolution to this mess.

  27. Amanda says

    Yes, it is a small town of 10k. As I’ve prayed and sought answers, I felt very overwhelmed about the treatment we were receiving, but I received the answer to seek out others who needed my service and love. As I’ve been doing this I have felt tremendous peace and perspective about the person/people who are hurting us. I’ve received answers to my prayers, including gaining a couple true friends who I’ve been able to help and be myself around with whom I’ll keep in touch. Through loving and serving others I’ve found that I’ve lost myself in it and found true friendship, which is even sweeter in contrast. I feel grateful.

    Also, we had a job offer come up out of state near family and prayed about it for our family and got a peaceful and joyful answer ‘yes’. I will never forget these learning experiences, and I look forward to ‘being the change…I want to see in the world’. Each person (there are 3 main people and others who believe or responded to their influence) who have been difficult have miraculously been kind to me during this past week, almost as a sign to me of closure, and transitioning me to leave in peace. I hope this is helpful to someone going through this themselves. God has blessed us in a very short time with solutions that are right for our family.

    • Sam says

      Amanda, I am so glad for you and your family. “Through loving and serving others I’ve found that I’ve lost myself in it and found true friendship, which is even sweeter in contrast.” I think you’ve found the secret of the Kingdom of God on earth, showing the love of Jesus to others. How fantastic that you will be near family when you move to your new home.

      I would suggest that you not mention the bullying that happened at your old church when you’ve found a new church until you’ve been there for a few years, and then only to someone whom you really trust. Several pastors have told me that many pastors who hear that someone who was bullied in their last church assume that the person(s) may have been part of the problem. That is very unfair. You should not be judged by anything that happened at your previous church.

  28. Pastor's Wife says

    I am so glad I found this website. My husband is the head pastor of a medium sized Presbyterian church- ; he is an incredible preacher and runs the church fairly and competently. He recently had to file a written warning about one of his staff members who is a tremendous bully ( that was much of the jist of the warning, that was preceded by many verbal warnings). Without going into too much detail, a well moneyed couple has taken up his cause, accusing my husband of things he never said or did, and has made my husband’s life miserable. Among coming to several committee meetings and session meetings ( and meeting with the regional governing body) to belittle my husband and his staff, they have hired a lawyer to write a document stating my husband will not discipline his staff members anymore. That document was recently given to session who of course voted not to sign it. Now the husband of this couple wants to know about my husbands terms of call, right in time for the congregation to vote on them this Sunday. The staff member in question has been nothing but disrespectful and has even been a no show at meetings, In addition, he wants to be a pastor, and expects endorsement for this church.

    What is most upsetting about this is how juvenile these people in question act. They literally point fingers, pout, and make up damaging information. They are class act bullies and have been able to get a small faction on their side. I have never seen adults act like this.

    I see that many times on this page you advise people to leave. We do not want to. We love it here; I have a great job and our kids are very happy, despite the fact that we do not let them go to Sunday School anymore. Other families have left too because of the bullying. Also, I know my husband needs to see this to the end, and through the rebuilding that will come afterwards God willing. I just don’t know how this will end. We have given in to this couple before and they always ask for more. We had to get our own legal counsel.

    Do you have any advice as to how I can support my husband.? I have enlisted members of the church that are supporters, but many of them are afraid of this couple. I would love to see them go, but why would they when they hold all they power?? Or, at least it seems that way.

    Please advise.

    • Sam says

      Wow! Obviously you and your husband have a heart for pastoring and love your people. I am so sorry this is happening to you and your family. When one hears stories like this it is amazing that anyone would want to be a pastor.

      I have been a friend of pastors for many years. Two of those pastors experienced similar situations, except their bullies were not other staff members, but powerful people in the church who contributed a significant portion of the income of the church.

      In the first instance, the pastor stood up to the bullies and their allies. They too had legal counsel. After a period of months the bullies and their group departed. So did their contributions. Approximately a year later the denomination moved the pastor to another church (where he has continued to thrive), because the first church could no longer pay his full salary. The denomination would not send a pastor to the first church because of the money issue. The church found a fill-in pastor, but people and money slowly departed and the church folded. The bullies rejoiced because they destroyed the church.

      In the second instance, the pastor also stood up to the bullies, but they succeeded in lining up enough allies that he was voted out. He and his family went through some difficult times financially and emotionally until he too secured another pastorate in another church in another town. He too has continued to thrive in that church.

      Both of those pastors were/are personal friends and I heard most of the details. Their take-away was that if they ever had to again face a similar situation they would once again stand up to the bullies and hope that the bullies would depart, but on the quiet would be working on their exit strategy in case they themselves would need to leave. Many pastors who are ready to move on, even in the absence of church bullies, quietly inquire to find out what else is available.

      I would suggest that you have an exit plan in place, and hope and pray that you never have to use it. If you would like to communicate further by e-mail and share more details, give Jeremy permission to give me your e-mail address (you can do that in responding to this comment), and I’ll contact you. In the meantime my wife and I will join you in prayer that this can be peacefully resolved.

  29. Pastor's Wife says

    Thank you so much! Please respond to me personally should you choose to want more details, and thank you for your prayers. I appreciate your stories, despite the fact that the outcomes make me a little nervous. I am building a support system around my husband as we speak. But, I’ll take your advice. Thank you so much! God Bless.

  30. Sue Dot says

    I left one church because of a domineering female. She had been in the Royal Navy as a L Commander and I was considered her underling. There came a time when I refused point blank to bow and scrape any more and found another church. What a complete contrast it is, plus it has a charity/thrift shop which I frequent and donate to. For the record, my previous church has recently closed; it does make you wonder…..??

    • Sam says

      Yes, it does make you wonder. Some churches in the past and fewer in the present have enough people and money that they have been able to allow certain people who give lots of money or have lots of control/power to bully whomever they choose. However…..As people and money are departing, some churches are going to have to have some tough decisions to make. Do they allow the bullies to continue bullying people and running them off, or does the church have the intestinal fortitude to deal with the bullies?

      My wife and I have been involved in a non-church social activity for many years. We remember one group that had over a dozen prominent bullies. They didn’t bully us, but we observed what was happening and stopped participating in the group. Within a year over half of the group had left. Soon only a quarter of the group remained. One person was bankrolling the group (facility rental and other expenses). She continued paying the bills for a couple of years, then stopped and the group folded. We’ve seen churches that have gone down a similar path.

      In my opinion, church bullies kill churches. Then they move along to another church or whatever they can find and ply their trade there. Many have moved to the internet, especially to political and religious blogs. Sadly, almost everyone I know who read such blogs in the past has told me “I’m so done with that. I can not take anymore of the terrible things people say, the bullying, the tearing-each-other-apart-kind-of-stuff” (that is a compilation of what I’ve been told).

      Do we allow the bullies to continue to bully? I think not, but some groups would rather fold than stand up to a bully/bullies.

  31. Sue Dot says

    Thanks for your reply Sam. This person has a lot of influence and can afford to sue if crossed. I thought it better to get out before I said the wrong thing, plus it was making me ill being around her. I was told another lady had left her church because of one other person, so it seems to happen to a lot of us. Sadly it seems to be woman against woman, whereas men rub along with each other, shake hands and any conflict is soon diffused. Another factor is that the church was very small with an ageing congregation, which doesn’t help in that situation either. These days, most churches have an excess of females including women of the cloth which is not Biblical.

    • Sam says

      That is a very Christian thing to do, sue people in your church because they “crossed” you. You did the best thing in getting out of there. We pray that you find love and peace in your new church.

  32. Sue Dot says

    Hello again Sam. Granted, this lady does do a lot for the church such as donates sizeable amounts of money and bakes cakes. The trouble is, she doesn’t do it quietly and announces it to all and sundry. The older ladies used to bring their produce in quietly and meekly and how much sweeter theirs tasted. I don’t doubt one bit that was part of God’s blessing for their humble efforts. Thank you for your kindness and prayers and may each one of us on this website find a niche full of peace, love and gentleness within a church they are comfortable with.

  33. Sherlock Steve says

    I have been bullied by two deaf pastors in the baptist churches. The first deaf pastor grew so jealous with God that he wanted to do everything possible to prevent me from getting married to the girls I had dated and wanted to be married to. But this deaf pastor was a bully to many others in church as well. Finally, not long after my last engagement got broken up, we gathered together and called for an investigation though the hearing pastor. The investigation really found many problems with our deaf pastor. Instead of going to the police, the hearing pastor just merely fired the deaf pastor. To this day the deaf ministry is shattered and is only lead by a non-pastor leader.

    The second deaf pastor attacked me at a Deaf BIble Conference ministry. He decided to OUT me (because I was gay) in order to make himself look good and became the conference leader. After 8 years, the brave board members of the Deaf Bible conference finally forced this deaf pastor to STEP DOWN. They realized he was a bully, but they have forgotten that I am one of his many victims and that this Deaf Bible conference should apologize to me too and ask me to come back.

    So what happens next? I can never go back. I tried to. but I can still see SIGNS of BULLY stuff in baptist churches. I can never go back for the way that they have made me to be.. GAY. I live with this shame too.

  34. Jennifer says

    Within our church we are currently experiencing bullying by a church leader (Board Member, ex-officio). It’s sad, because it will destroy the church from the inside out.

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