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.
When 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.
If 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?
Tom Clark on Facebook says
Haha. You are funny Jeremy. Yes I’ve seen church bullies.
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!
I think you just described my ex-husband. I am not being snarky, I am serious. He single-handedly caused several people to leave not only our small group, but our church. I can’t blame them for leaving, nor you. Most bullies have deep-seated control issues, such as my ex. He was a malignant, sociopathic narcissist. It took me 7 years to figure it out, and to muster the courage to leave him. Church bullies are real. And they are usually bullies in other aspects of life as well. Often they are also abusers..substance abusers, wife abusers, child abusers, etc. I met him in church…I was young and impressionable. I am now older and wiser, and married for over a decade to a respectful, wonderful man who is a TRUE Christian. You did the right thing in leaving that group.
Thanks for writing this. You have no idea how many lives can be blessed by your article.
I was told by a former small group leader in a group setting that its good that I know these principles (about grace). She suggest that I apply it so that other girls can benefit from it. I told her i ask her why does it need to be done in a group setting because I felt humiliated. She said “Dear I’m just reiterating the WORD. If you’re offended by it there’s nothing I can do about it.”
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.
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?
Abigail G says
it is what happened here
Aaron Deloreto says
I have a!group of hyper religious fremesons that feel they are given a right to discern. I also have mental disabilities which they laugh and hold in disregard. Also one of them is a federal employee so I got not one stimulus check my I’d is being hijacked by a foreigner who is a narcotics trafficker and is friends with the CORRUPTED FEDERAL EMPLOYEE. WHAT DO I DO?
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.
you should have sued !
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.
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?
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.
Jeremy Myers 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.
That sounds so simple but then there are non church relationships they have destroyed by spreading lies about me.
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?
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.
Jeremy Myers 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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
Jeremy Myers 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.
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.
The same situation happened with me, I really could not believe what was happening though because I really felt like these were my brothers and sisters in Christ and I would have done anything for them. I was devastated and now have a very suspicious attitude towards people in general. I’m not the same as when it happened and my reputation took a big hit and it still hurts every now and then.
Sam Riviera says
Same, I’m sorry to hear this happened to you. Hopefully, you have separated yourself from that situation and the people involved. Have you considered the possibility that the people involved were really something other that “brothers and sisters in Christ”? Just because some people attend church does not necessarily make them “brothers and sisters in Christ.” Find some people who look and act like Jesus and hang with them. You may find them in church or in some unlikely places, loving others as Jesus loves us. We have found some of those folks in the most unlikely places.
I have had the same problem and now been ex communicated. I am now seeing a counsellor and changed churches. I tried resolving it but it hasn’t been dealt with. I responded with anger which I know wasn’t the right thing. There is a lot of gossip there
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.
I’m so sorry to hear that. If that doesn’t work, can you talk to their parents?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Linda Bijeaux says
Hi Demetrius, I’d like to comment on the statement that you and your wife
are “introverts”. God made all of us unique and we will not all respond to things
in the same way. You say you and your wife are different than the other folks
in the worship service. If you are worshiping God from your heart and you
love Him your worship is pleasing to God and you don’t have to be like
everyone else. This is coming from someone who is demonstrative in
worship. I’m like that because God made me that way. However, I would never
look down on someone else because their style of worship is not like mine.
God is the judge and if He is pleased that is all that matters. Believe me, if you
are demonstrative in certain churches, you would be persecuted anyway. No
matter what you do someone will disapprove. That’s why we can’t be
overly concerned about what others think. The only opinion worthy of
consideration is God’s. You are right, it’s all about relationship. Many in the
church are so concerned about how things “look”. I heard a guest speaker
say one time the church is more about “looking good” than “being good”
nowadays. Even though I’m extroverted in praise and worship, I’m actually
more introverted in my daily life. God loves variety. Sometimes it’s
according to the destiny He has planned for us….our personalities will play
a part in that somehow. God made each of us with our own personalities
that will not be like everyone else, and shouldn’t be like everyone else.
I say if someone is watching you during the praise and worship service to
see how you react, maybe it’s THEM with the arrogance and pride problem.
Maybe you could ask them why they are watching you instead of focusing
only on the Lord who is worthy of praise!? Of course, don’t get into any
arguments on this, but say it politely and walk away. Then pray for them.
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.
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.
Jeremy Myers 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.
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.
You can count on it! Thank you.
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.
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.
Antoinette Blanche Hellyer says
I had a Dream , after my Pastor died, that there was a new pastor wearing a Jesters Hat, and knocking the Elders off stage ,with His Belly, the Elders were fixed to the wood panel in the stage only their eyes could mov when I woke I thought its only a dream. Big mistake! We had a get together to welcome the new pastor. I recognised his face from my dream, but I had said amen, when the Elders told us to support the new pastor, so I offered a room for him and his wife, they hugged me but he painted over the Huge mural of noahs Ark I painted and banned our last pastor’s fave song Magesty, stopped me being Door keeper, my little son wouldn’t talk to hi I told him to respect him and say sorry, I regret that next time we went to church, my son skipped to the front of church to dance with the other children the pastor dragged my son down the isle what are you doing I asked I’m giving him some discipline! He said no I said I don’t know you, the Elders had left the Church last time I was on the door, and he did knock them off stage as a joke saying get out of my church, and told people to leave, most people left. I cryed so much and supported him begging to pray about this see my wife see my Husband, next week next week , I was dragged his finger digging under my armpit like my son was. I regret not leaving at first abuse we should support leaders but not if they are abusers.
Jeremy Myers 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.
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.
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 🙂
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?
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.
Jeremy Myers 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.
Pastor John says
Jeremy, if a church does not want to take sin seriously, they can also push it off into someone else’s domain.
Or another churches domain.
That I see as a bigger sin than an individuals sin.
That is done collectively and it is the “I am not my brother’s keeper approach” to dealing with sin.
So I wouldnt say that some churches make a bigger deal about sin than God, that is the classic approach to making the sin less. Because then they dont have to deal with it.
Love in Christ,
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.
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.
Jeremy Myers 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.
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.
Jeremy Myers says
There are absolutely bully theologies. I love the way you phrased that. Calvinism is definitely one of those.
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
Sorry am using my phone…I was saying, even in some whole cultures bullying is all they know.
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.
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.
Jeremy Myers says
Yep, all sorts of bullying everywhere. How do you think we as Christians should respond when bullied like this?
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.
Jeremy Myers 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.
I agree with Jeremy, Tim. Sometimes we need to remove ourselves from an abusive relationship and avoid the person as best we can.
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.
Lillie White says
Thank you and wow!!!
I have been a Christian for over thirty years and all I have ever experienced in religious settings are bullies. I was neglected and rejected as a child growing up and somehow this all I know. I was groomed to focus on the negative side of my life, which lead me into deep do’do. I did not see myself as God saw me and worst I thought that God was speaking to everyone else but me that’s just how low my self-esteem had gotten. I did not know how to speak up for myself back then because it was the older folks who was trying to tear me down and build their own kids up over me. I was looked over a lot because my parents was not around to define. I’m much older now and fully understand that bullies are everywhere and they will either make or break you but we who are targeted by pimps and wicked house mothers must keep ourselves deep in the blood of Jesus and put on the whole armor of God for this battle is not our but it’s the Lord. We might not have the power to make the bullying stop but I no that prayer work for me it’s keep my focus on God and his love for me. I hope that my past misery of being a victim will help somebody live in right now victory.♡
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.
Jeremy Myers 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.
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.
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.
Jeremy Myers 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.
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.
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!
Jeremy Myers says
Thanks, Professor. You are right on with what you say. People often are mean and nasty, but justify it because they are only “speaking the truth.”
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.
Jeremy Myers says
I am glad. Know, of course, that Jesus is NOT AT ALL like these church bullies. Remember the “church” bullies tried to bully Him as well.
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.
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.
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.
Jeremy Myers 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Down South says
To Louise:….You are being bullied in that church. Maybe I
overlooked it in your comment, but have you spoken directly
to the church leaders, since it seems most of the problems
come from the choir loft and worship team, along with leaders
wives and intercessors. First of all, nothing you described sounds
like love to me. NOTHING! Do you think God is pleased with the
gossip and slander taking place in that church? Since when do we
need to be appointed to prayer when God has called all of His
children to comfort others and make intercession for other people.
NO ONE can tell you not to pray for a friend or hold her hand or
put an arm around her. NO ONE can tell you you can’t pray for
someone that needs prayer. It sounds like these “pray-ers” love
the attention and the title in the church. They are insecure and
feel threatened by you. I know you may not believe that but why
is your presense there so annoying to them? They probably see
something in you, like a true love for the Lord that they may not
have. I am a white woman that attended a church with mostly
white couples, but I would have loved having you and your husband
in my church. I left there because of the hypocrisy I was seeing
and the lies being told constantly. “These people worship me with
their mouths but their hearts are far from me” saith the Lord.
This is not to judge them, only God knows their hearts. But the word
also says we will know them by their fruit. I would suggest you
and your husband pray about whether or not to stay there. I know
there is no perfect church, leader or body of believers. But this is
ridiculous. For them to shame you because you are different or not
their race or in a “mixed marriage”, or because you dress in a
vibrant (but modest) way is wrong. Just know that God loves you and
your hubby and will lead you to the right church, if He does move you
away from there after all. One word of caution however….if you do
approach the leadership with your concerns they may or may not
take it the right way. Be prepared either way…..if they come against
you or blame you, you will know it’s probably time to move on.
At least you will have tried. I pray the Lord will give you clear word
on what you need to do. And remember, if He does move you, don’t
think it has to be to another church in the same denomination you
are in now. It may be to another denomination…as long as it’s a
bible believing, God honoring, spirit filled church that knows that
Jesus is the ONLY WAY to salvation. God bless you!
Jeremy Myers 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.
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.”
Jeremy Myers 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.
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.
Thank you for taking the time to leave me a message. I wanted to share a Psalm with you.
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!
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!!
Thanks for the Psalm 59. Great comfort for those of us out here who have experienced the Bulling in churches. What a shame this is happening in the place one goes to seek comfort from this strange world we live in. Where else can a Christian go from all this other than the security of their Godly home.
I can not believe this problem is occurring in so many churches around the country, it is totally amazing, and sad.
So grateful you can go online for inspiration and not feel alone experiencing this problem, gaining strength from others and how they are coping with this personaly. Just feel this needs to be address being so widely active in churches we attend. Having this site is great to air our issues with the bulling problem.
What is occurring in my mind is a need to bring this to the forefront of addressing this in Bible Studies, and in homes studies and churches. This should be a topic in sermons from time to time. This in hope of bringing an awareness of the problems in the Church’s back yard and a urgency to address it, with plans to follow through.
This bulling needs to stop, how, I do not know but it is causing decent Christians to wander to and fro in hope of finding a church where God is leading them to serve.
All I can say is God Have Mercy on churches, and their members, and staff who let these Bullies rome free tearing down Godly serving member within our communities of whom desperately need the care of a giving church. What a shame!!!!!
Thanks you for letting me vent and share,
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
LINDY Poland 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?
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.
Jeremy Myers 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.
I agree with Jeremy. Find another church, preferably one where no one knows you or your ex-wife.
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!
Jeremy Myers 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.
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.
Jeremy Myers 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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…..??
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thank you for raising this topic. I was surfing the net re bullying in church as I have been reminded of what happened at a church we joined for four years in 1988. It failed and closed some years ago but when we joined it was just launched and quite exciting. Unfortunately, the youth group was run by a couple who were well organised and enthusiastic until anyone didn’t agree with them when they would push out that person from the church by being unkind and cold shouldering them. I read a definition of bullying as ignoring, ridiculing and hostility. Sometimes the incidents might seem petty but taken alongside an attitude of criticism and in a church, it is very painful because that is somewhere that you do not expect to encounter difficulties. It is important to remember that your faith is in Jesus and not to reject Him along with His followers’ or rather non followers’ behaviour.
I have experienced myself or know of a close friend having had a lot of bad experiences:
I was told to claim my healing by others when I was in a lot of pain which the doctor wrongly thought was psychological. My understanding is that you can request healing but may get endurance instead.
My dear friend who died in less than 18 months from aggressive breast cancer was told by the vicar to apologise to the church committee about a minor matter or ‘consider her future as a member’ (I helped her prepare her reply and told her that she couldn’t say what she wanted to say, she was insistent but I was emphatic ‘it’s not the content ….it’s all one sentence and you can’t say it as you have to breathe !’ )
Another friend in the depths of depression after his wife wanted a divorce had a highly critical letter from his ‘Christian’ brother in law accusing him of being lazy.
The problem is that church ‘ is a hospital for sinners not a museum for saints’ but I admit that I am struggling a bit at present. We left the church where everything revolved around the youth group three weeks before Christmas when I was eight months pregnant. The pregnancy was overshadowed by all the upset at church with the pastor leaving and the church splitting, and although we did go back for a short while when they had a new pastor, we moved to a more established church afterwards. Why am I so bothered now when it happened a lifetime ago before we had our disabled child and life changed completely?
The husband is on trial for historic child abuse and I am looking back and wondering if we should have realised that there was more than just emotional manipulation going on.
Sam Riviera says
Mary, I have had several friends who are detectives who investigate murders. As you probably know, many murders are committed by family members, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives or ex-spouses or ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends. I asked the detectives why people who supposedly love or loved each other kill each other. In a nutshell, they said that these usually involve troubled relationships. Once there was love, but something(s) happened. Someone who had opened themselves up to another person felt used, betrayed, even abused. For many people this is so much worse than being treated rudely by a clerk or being cut off in traffic. Being betrayed or even bullied by someone to whom you had opened yourself seems like the ultimate betrayal to some, and is more than some people can take.
When I think about church bullies, I wonder if something similar is going on. The person(s) being bullied feel(s) betrayed, used, or even abused. This is tough to take. While people who are bullied at church rarely murder the bullies, they still feel they have been wounded. The scars often disappear slowly.
Yes, there are church bullies. No, it is not fair and does not look anything like Jesus when they must have their way, and if they don’t they bully and try to run their victims away from their churches and church friends. A wise pastor who knows his/her people will not allow the bullies to run free. The damage they cause may damage the victims and the church for an unforseeable, undetermined amount of time. Of course, if it is the pastor who is the bully, as sometimes happens, ouch! That church needs a wise and experienced governing body who can successfully deal with the problem.
Does anyone think this concept of a “church bully” is similar to how the pharrissees and sadducees acted in the times of Jesus? My impression of these religious leaders was that they used tradition and their external “holy appearance” as a means of authority to simply govern people’s lives and not truly lead them to God. I have experience with a “church bully” GROUP… and I have since left that group… but my question is: being corrected and not being prideful IS a biblical concept, but how do we discern when such correction is necessary? And further, even if we don’t like the correction recommended to us- should we just ignore it? When should we follow advice, and when are people just exerting power over you?
Sam Riviera says
Tough questions. Bullies don’t like to be corrected. They often have allies, and those who might try to correct them often find that the “correction” does not work. If you are the one being bullied, are the bullies trying to “correct” you? We’ve seen that, as in “You’re finding fault with (the pastor’s sermon, how the church spends its money, what our group says, etc.), so you’re a reprobate and need to repent (loosely translate as “do what we say”) or get out. In that case, unless you’re willing to stand up to them, or can successfully ignore them, it’s time to move on.
We may be the ones in the wrong. We might consider getting the opinions of a few godly people who are not part of the issue who can stand back and see things from a fresh perspective.
If you cannot successfully stop the bullying, don’t feed them. Don’t support them with your presence or money. Eventually they’ll run out of people to bully and money to support their enterprise (at which time many of them attempt to find another church or group where they can ply their bullying tactics once again).
I had to leave church altogether due to bullying from those in the congregation. I am an adult with Autism (Aspergers) and a congenital facial difference. My looks and social skills aren’t “perfect” according to them. The final straw was when I was condoned by them for being an advocate for other families who have a child with a facial difference.
I’ve seen some church bullies. I pretty much just tell them upfront that I don’t care about their opinion. Don’t need to flatten their nose but no need to beat around the bush. Its also nice to point out the logical fallacies they use.
When I was a devout Christian(not here to bash Christians, have lots of friends who are Christian, more power to them), I ran into this over and over again. Not every church mind you, but enough to make me look at the Bible and eventually understand that I never believed, I was scared into believing as a child so I denounced my faith and went to Buddhism. Then I found this in Buddhist circles, so I left. By the way, I went to many churches all over the world when I was in the Navy. Same with Buddhist groups. Found this all over the place in Alcoholics Anonymous, leaving AA as well while staying sober. Even found this at a Unitarian Church. My point is, I am unwilling to put up with this on my time. The simple solution is to never have a religion, not talking about what someone believes whether they be Theist or Atheist. Can find Atheist bullies also so that is not the solution. I mildly have Aspergers so I was automatically a target for their obnoxious behavior. I simply choose to never have a religion, simple solution to a complex problem. The price of admission for religion(inevitably dealing with some busy body pushy know-it-all who is a narcissist), that price I am unwilling to pay. Better off sleeping in on Sundays, not giving them any money, should donate that money to REAL charities that actually help people, pay off debts, buy more playstation games I want, save up for retirement, play piano more, etc. Wash my hands of all of it, Atheism, Christianity, Religion, etc etc. Don’t need a label, already have one given to me at birth:) If other people want to pay the price of admission, more power to them. I have had enough, fed up, never again, got better things to do.
My daughter has been bullied for going on two years now in her church youth group. It’s not mean words or physical attacks, but complete exclusion. She feels so unloved and figures that no one will ever be her friend. We spoke to the “ring leader” and her mother and it’s only gotten worse. We have talked to her small group leader and it doesn’t seem to be a big deal. We finally spoke to the youth pastors wife and she seems to be concerned, but still things just get worse. We have decided to leave which is very difficult since we have been members for several years. My question is … Should we meet with all the girls to explain why we are leaving? Or should we just go! Obviously leadership already knows.
Jeremy Myers says
That is a tough question. I imagine it would be best to just go. If you think you might want to speak to the girls, maybe ask the youth pastor first.
Is it possible for us to stay but just find her a different youth group? Our other daughter loves it there and so do we… Or do we need to leave as a family? I don’t necessarily want the easiest option. I want the option that most glorifies God!
Sam Riviera says
Brig, it sounds like you need to help your daughter find a youth group in another church where she will not be bullied. However, after you have found that church and decided to go there, you can choose to ask to meet with the church board at the church you are leaving and tell them why you are leaving. Having been part of church leadership for many years (in the past), we have seen these things get buried when reported to an individual or members of church staff.
Some people recommend putting it in writing and giving a copy to the pastor (and in this case the youth pastor) and to the board members/ elders or whatever the governing body is called. Once again, however, this may never see the light of day. On the other hand, if you are informed by someone that they were told you left the church for an entirely different reason, you can show them a copy of what you personally handed to these folks and explain that is what you gave them and that is everything you told them.
The easiest option is to find another church and just leave your current one. Then they can pretend they are not the problem.
I am so glad that I came across this today . There is nothing else on the internet about this and what you have written is SO TRUE ! You have made me feel so much better .
Sam Riviera says
I never realized there is nothing else on the internet about this. It is a common problem. Every institutional church we attended had at least one bully. Not everyone was aware that there were bullies, especially people whose involvement consisted of arriving just before Sunday morning service began and departing shortly after it ended, then repeat that process the following Sunday.
Sometimes the bullies are church staff and leadership. Sometimes they are the victims of the bullies. Sometimes the bullies come from both the leadership and the congregants. In my opinion, the bullies who use their interpretation of theology and Bible verses to bash others over their (figurative) heads are among the most difficult. They really get upset when they run up against anyone who knows theology and Bible as well or better than they do and who also disagrees with them.
Hi Sam , actually after “browsing ” a bit more , I have now found a lot more about this !
Ariel Butterfly of God says
Okay I’m be honest, I’m a christian and yes been bullied by other Christians, they would call me names and gossip bad about me, but when your young you are still immature and insecured. Unto that day God has to reach into the mind and help you grow up. They are not really fully grown adults yet, and do they know that it’s unkind and unfair to gossip. But people in earth are not perfect, so yes they get jealous, and they bully. The thing is the older the get is the more they start to develop and change into knowing what a “real” christian is. When you are young and you pick on others and you go to church, that don’t mean your a christian. Because Christian is known to be a respectful, helpful, person of God. It takes years for your brain to develop and you to age full to your age. Real Christian would be people who understand and are growing up. Childrens I don’t think can be until they are mature enough to behave.
Stephanie T says
I’m a minister’s wife. I can tell all sorts of horror stories about “The Church Ladies.” Every church we’ve served has had at least one – usually more. One had a lady who was supposed to assist brides with wedding arrangements – but she interpreted her role as a wedding PLANNER. She upset a lot of brides, demanding that they make changes to their decor or ceremony whenevere she personally disapproved or didn’t like them. She kept brides from reporting their concerns to my husband by claiming she had full authority, all concerns were to be addressed by her because the pastor didn’t want to be bothered by them, the pastor’s wife isn’t on the wedding committe, etc. She got away with this for three years, until she demanded that a bride kick a girlfriend of a different race out of her wedding party and her enraged father demanded a meeting with the board of deacons.
Church Ladies who think a pastor’s wife isn’t godly unless she wears rags, no makeup and styles her hair like a librarian’s. (I have a separate career from my husband, and can afford to wear designer clothing.) A pastor’s wife isn’t “supposed” to have her own career, and should quit her job so she can focus on (unpaid) committee work. My daughter’s Sweet Sixteen was “inappropriate” for a pastor’s daughter (we hired a DJ and had a dinner and dance for her friends, and dancing isn’t against our faith). My kids shouldn’t have been allowed to go to prom. My daughter should be forced to drop her friend who got pregnant in high school. My son dated a girl from another denomination. Our parsonage was entered by church members while we were on vacation, who riffled through our closets, kitchen cabinets and moved things in the house around. …..
I should write a book.
Sam Riviera says
You probably could write a book. Sometimes the congregants bully the pastors and sometimes the pastors bully the congregants. We have heard many stories of each type. Many, many of us have left and are leaving institutional religion. We never wanted to be part of something that attracts bullies of all stripes. We wanted to follow Jesus, not be told who could and could not attend our daughter’s wedding and what decorations we could and could not use.
If you and your husband are not being bullied now, be thankful. If you are being bullied, do you have other options?
Jeremy Myers says
I agree with Sam. You should write a book. Don’t name names or anything, but tell stories so that people in the pews can be alerted to the spiritual abuse that happens in some churches, and so that spiritual abusers can be put on notice that we aren’t going to take it any more.
Sad DIL says
You could teach my Mother in law, who also is a Pastors wife, a few things. She’s opposite of you. She slanders all other women, and even slanders her Pastor husband, painting him as a sinner and a fool. She publicly declares that he is to blame for the church not growing, and that she wished she’d married a rich man. Her words always make me cringe. She dresses very well, and can be very sweet. But she’s just as cruel as she is sweet. She doesn’t let anyone else make decisions in the church about the decor or placement. Church meetings are scoff sessions for her to derail others’ reasonable suggestions., hijacking everything to be her way. She uses her outspoken emotions and backhanded comments to bend others into submission. She interfered with my wedding, and then guilt tripped me constantly with made up accusations throughout my marriage. She slanders anyone who has paid for large projects in the church as just throwing their weight around and showing off, (she does the same, then demands the church pay her back, whereas the others were truly charitable). I think she’s Satans daughter.. Sounds an awful like an accuser of the body of Christ, and divisive person.. She told me her husband is a sinner because he didn’t plan for retirement, (which she knew for decades, and blew every inheritance she’s received from her parents estate on herself or her kids, and keeps her finances separate from her husband). I’m now trying to plan on paying for their retirement, and say goodbye to my own.. I think that’s spiritual abuse to tell your children it’s honoring your parents to pay for their irresponsibility. She’s fiscally irresponsible, and blames her Pastor husband for the shortfall in their retirement? That’s truly insane.. In fact, she does this to everyone who volunteers or serves in the church. Blames them for anything that goes wrong, even if she planned it, and ok’ed it, benefitted from it – Everyone is a scapegoat. Nothing is her fault. This Pastors wife also used to dig her finger nails into her children’s arms to keep them quiet during church. That wasn’t her fault either. The congregations expectations of perfect children made her do it.. That’s a lie she tells herself. I used to feel really sorry for her. She always paints herself as the victim.. When she suggested I raise my children like she raised hers, saying they didn’t seem to know what good was; I knew she pinched and beat her kids for her own expectations, not the church member’s. I’ve caught her in many lies.. My husband said he told his Mom he was afraid of her as a child, and her response was, Good! That’s the saddest part.. She sees youth groups and children in the church as just a babysitting job that she’ll get stuck with. I’ve never seen her get stuck doing anything she didn’t create for herself, then moan about it the whole time, and wants an award and public kudos for her work. She complains about even her grandchildren! And has disowned a couple granddaughters for living with boyfriends (which her own favorite daughters did many times without being disowned). She has claimed to of fractured rib bones by falling on church property while doing a self appointed tasks (alone), then gets a bunch of sympathy, all while blaming someone for her injury because no one helped her do what she wasn’t authorized to do. Then her ribs heal quicker than mine did when I fractured both sides of my ribs. Hmm.. Master manipulator, liar? I don’t know, God knows.. Another time She told me she just fell on her kitchen floor for no reason. Dr found nothing wrong. Always happened the day before church.. Hmm.. Then she was seeing spots, Dr found nothing wrong. Again, always the day before church so she gets to miss, and have the whole congregation worry and pray for her. This from a woman who turns away anyone in need in the community, and blames the sick for their own sickness.. I can’t tell if she’s at the 7th level of lying (where you believe your own lies). My husband told me horror stories, and how his Pastor Dad just sat back and watched them get hit and yelled at, then come hit them again when my MIL instructed him to. My husband said he never knew what he did wrong, he just knew, keep Mom happy.. But of all the people my husband was most angry at was his Father, for always staying silent. It’s downright odd to see a man go from being afraid of his wife and watching his children demoralized, to taking a stand at the pulpit teaching people good from bad.. It’s seems like she even writes his sermons. She corrects him during service publicly, and whispers to gossip pals during service.. That too made me cringe. Then she bad mouths her gossip pals after they leave.. What a tangled web she weaves.. I’m praying for her, and ask others to do the same. My family had to run from that church, despite the family relation. All who do the will of God are my Mother, Brothers, and Sisters. Should I write a book too? LOL
Sam Riviera says
You say “my family had to run from that church.” By that do you mean you and your husband and children? If not, you probably do need to find another church. Have you considered family counseling with a good family counselor for you and your husband to help you deal with what you tell here? Perhaps you can’t change your MIL, but you and your husband may be able to learn how to better deal with your relationship with her – how it has affected you in the past and how to better deal with the situation in the future. Sometimes we need the help of others to step back and get some perspective on what we really need to do in the situation going forward.
Sad DIL says
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Yes, my husband, myself, and my children had to leave my FIL’s church. My husband is afraid of all counseling. He thinks he will be blamed. He’s trying to take control now, and learn how to be loyal to me, and not just his parents. His Mom is emotionally manipulative, so he’s learning how to recognize that. He is now being a Father and a Husband, not just a Son anymore. He seemed to revert to a child around his parents/siblings. Because of that, I am highly reluctant to be in their company anymore.
I hope self protection from emotional harm isn’t a sin, or evidence of unforgiveness.
My husband only once confronted his Mom about a concern. My MIL was showing blatant preferential treatment toward our son, and showing disdain, and unequal treatment for our daughter.
She wouldn’t allow my daughter to sleep in her bed, only my son. Even if my daughter went alone, she always got a foam mat on the floor of my FIL’s bedroom. We thought it was an unfair arrangement, with no rational justification. My MIL got very defensive and denied all wrong. Then she had my FIL call my husband, yelling at him to respect his Mother, and demanded my husband apologize to her. They discounted and dismissed our parental concerns in the blink of an eye. My husband now has had bad dreams that his Father molested our daughter.. He woke up Crying.. He said he beat up his Father in the dream as well.. I’m so sorry for my husband and children.. I told him not to take it seriously, as dreams can seem alarmingly real sometimes.. But he even had me worried about the prospect of molestation at that point. I started wondering why my in laws got so defensive.. I never considered it before because I always believed my FIL and MIL to be highly moral, despite my MIL’s attitude. I never thought them capable.. I always try to think the best of people.. But oddly as well, my daughter acted agitated and disobedient after sleepovers with her grandparents. Then they began saying my children could only come one at a time because they were naughty together. Sadly, they said more criticism of my children than anyone. Everyone else told me how nice and thoughtful my kids are. Never my in laws though.. I don’t see how we can work with, or trust Parents like this. I just pray God will find a way for peace, even if it means not sharing their company anymore. It will be a miracle if they change. I forgive them, but I’m not over it all yet. I’m just trying to heal, and let my family heal.. My in laws are proud folks.. I wish they cared about other people’s feelings.. But we can’t change anyone but ourselves..
Ann Greenberg says
Please, please, please report your in-laws to the police. I used to volunteer with a local police department as a crisis volunteer and worked a couple cases of child abuse. As soon as I read “She wouldn’t allow my daughter to sleep in her bed, only my son.”, all my bells and whistles went off. That is one big warning that something inappropriate is going on. “But oddly as well, my daughter acted agitated and disobedient after sleepovers with her grandparents. Then they began saying my children could only come one at a time because they were naughty together.” Again, these are BIG signs that something wrong is going on over there. And chances are very good that other children have been abused by these two, especially if they are in church leadership positions. I cannot stress this enough, PLEASE CALL THE POLICE!!!
And not involving these people in your life is NOT a sin. Your first God-given responsibility is to protect your children!
Then there is the issue with your husband. Continue to encourage him to find therapy. Because he starts with one person does not mean he has to stick with that person. He needs to find someone he is comfortable with. No reputable therapist will blame him for anything. Also, remind him that he will be a much better father if he deals with his family-of-origin issues.
I am a survivor of massive childhood sexual abuse, which started as incest. There are so many warning signs in your posting. Finding a Christian therapist (not connected to a particular church) literally saved my life. I got divorced from my husband who didn’t believe me; I have lost contact with my father’s extended family because they don’t believe me; I have lost contact with my adult children because they adopted their father’s emotionally abusive behavior towards me. But no matter how much I’ve lost, I have my blessed God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit in my life. They are all the family I need.
I don’t know if there is any way we could connect with each other via e-mail. Please keep posting on this site; I truly care about what happens with your family. I pray that God will comfort and support your family through this difficult time. Hugs.
Ann Greenberg says
RUN! RUN! RUN! from your in-laws. She abused her children; she has abused your children; and chances are she has abused other children. You do not owe her any assistance for their retirement. She is manipulating you. I encourage you to pray for God’s strength to be able to say NO to her. I’m guessing you can’t afford to move homes, but I would definitely change your phone numbers and not give it to her or anyone associated with their church. If she starts harassing you at home or at your work places, call the police and ask for an order of protection (I think it’s called something different when it’s your relatives rather than a spouse.) I would also make sure that your kids’ school be notified that your in-laws are not authorized to pick up your children. Teach your children to see them as “stranger danger” and to run and scream if they approach them. On the surface, this doesn’t seem very Christian. Protecting your family and yourself is the highest thing you can offer to God. He wants you to live in Him, and sometimes that means leaving our parents.
Sad DIL says
Thank you for your advice. It is a scary time right now. I have been concerned that the in laws are not good for my children, me, or my husband to be around for quite some time… I’ll continue to pray for protection, and keep our distance. I still feel we owe them common courtesies like birthday and Christmas cards, but then I question even that at this point. I don’t know how to honor parents such as these… Or what they’re biblically entitled to.
Ann Greenberg says
I am so glad to have found this website! I have been the target of a church bully. She is the president of our women’s group and has a hired position as Family Life Director. Among other things, I was publicly humiliated by her at a women’s function, which was witnessed by others. I avoided her after that, but was faced with her bullying again because of a misunderstanding of how to register a child for church camp. I resigned from my position in the women’s group because I didn’t want to put myself in the position of being abused by her again. (I am an active volunteer in the church’s library, as the church archivist/historian and with a major mission fundraiser. I can usually avoid her in these situations.) I wrote a formal complaint letter to the Staff Parish Relations Committee. I received a letter from the chairperson and was told my complaint was unfounded and that I needed to stay out of her way and let her do her job. I have spoken a couple of times with the assistant pastor and shared my concerns. After the letter, I was especially concerned about my reputation. However, many of the women in the women’s group have expressed their support and care for me, and many church members have expressed gratitude for the job I’m doing as historian. Plus, I have prayed before, asking God whether I should leave the church and the answer has always been “Stay”. (This was before the bullying started.) I know God has a ministry for me in this church, working with the poor and homeless in our neighborhood. Luckily I can avoid the bully in most of this. I just want to say that it is such a relief to know that I am not the only one facing this issue. God bless you for addressing this issue and having a forum where people can share their stories.
Sam Riviera says
You appear to have the situation well in hand for now. Bullies can be found in many places – In our workplaces, in our families, among our neighbors, in our organizations and even in our churches. Bullies intentionally and sometimes inadvertently seek out situations where they can bully and get away with it. They hate being challenged, and usually react strongly to any challenge of their power, authority, superior knowledge (in their opinion) and position. If they perceive someone to be a potential challenge, even if that person has done or said nothing to them or about them, they may even strike preemptively so that their perceived opponent will clearly get the message not to challenge them.
Churches often provide an ideal environment for bullies. The church folk often feel it somehow unchristian to stand up to bullies. Unfortunately they allow the bully to steamroll anyone who disagrees with them, especially in matters of theology, Bible and politics. Even expressing an opinion on the menu for the upcoming ladies luncheon, an opinion that differs from Madam Chairwoman’s, may result in disaster for the one who expressed their opinion. Apparently your bully has the chairperson of you Staff Parish Relations Committee firmly under her thumb. Then again maybe that person is giving you some practical advice with “stay out of her way.”
Linda Akers says
You want bullying, google the crusades or the inquisition or witch trials. The “church” has nothing to do with God. Google church fathers. They came up with all the doctrines of the church. It is a building made with man’s hands. God does not dwell there. We are the temple of the living God. Jesus told us at least three times in the book of John that He was sending the Holy Spirit to teach us in truth. Hirelings are thieves and robbers. They come to kill steal and destroy. We belong to God. I wouldn’t set foot in a “church” and allow them to defile God’s temple, which I am and so are you. It is GOD’S temple.
Sam Riviera says
Yes, we are the temple of God, not a building. Join those of us who follow Jesus outside the building, taking the love of Jesus to our communities. We need not mimic any of those who have done despicable things in the name of “church.” Their had their motives. May ours be to love Jesus, ourselves and our neighbors (which I understand to mean other people), and follow the words of Jesus rather than the words or examples of men.
Linda Akers says
We must understand that for someone to know the love of Jesus, it takes a complete transformation. Old things pass away and all things become new. We do not have the power to transform anyone. We can only conform them to the religion that still holds us in its grip. When we understand that, we will truly enter into the Sabbath rest. “Be still, and know that I am God.” We are not God. There is a wonderful peace, which passes all understanding, when we know that.
Regina Houser says
Amazing Grace is what it is! If anyone had reasons to leave church it would have been me. I’m where I’m supposed to be.. people have been Ugly, nit picky, and rude, over the dumbest things. I just don’t get it. It is evident they really aren’t saved. I want to throat punch them, or say, Really. Each day I’m concerned about my daughter dead in the ditch somewhere over her drug abuse, my Dad, my Kids salvation. And so the other so called Christian want to elaborate on the piece of Candy I gave her nephew in SS. And the lady wants her robe number back 10 min before cantata that I’ve had for 6 years. I could go on and on. But doing what God wants me to do has been far more rewarding. My Husband and I was teaching an adult SS Class, a new couple came and he wanted to teach. He was very good. So the class voted whom to keep as the teachers. The day of the voting we had new people that showed up that Sunday and never came back. So Glenn was voted by like 2 votes taught for one year and left. So now we have an empty Room. Because his wife was a trouble maker. I hated that happen, but it sure makes you never want to get involved, cause you get shot down. But we are still there. Love my pastor, true Godly Man. I just don’t want to miss Heaven, cause I can’t stand so called Church people.
Ronald Callender says
Praise God that you stayed. However, what you described sound like the world, including doing things the world’s way. That environment isn’t good for anyone.
When we see things not as we read in the word of God, we are to approach leadership, and show them Matthew 18:15-17 or whatever Scripture we know is appropriate.
Has membership increased or decreased during this time?
Wherever the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.
People come and go. I will go further to say I have seen people who start Strife get really sick and sometimes Death even comes to them, which I hate but we all know there are concequences for what we do. We absolutely have an Amazing pastor. Highly Educated man, and does not compromise the word of God. I do not want to be a church hopper, that’s sometimes an excuse “things aren’t going my way”. What really matters is his will and his ways.
Ann Greenberg says
Unfortunately our Sunday School program, both adult and children, is on life support. I did experience a blessing this past week. In our Church Council meeting, she behaved very rudely towards me. Afterwards the senior pastor said that both he and the associate pastor saw what had happened and that her behavior was totally unacceptable. I’m not sure what will come of this. I do know that the blessing for me was that I finally felt validated that someone in a leadership finally saw what had happened and told me so.
Ronald Callender says
Praise God! This should tell you that God is real. He can be trusted. You didn’t have to do a thing. May I encourage you to keep on trusting Him, so matter what. Your assignment is to please God by walking on the Spirit. If you do, you’ll get stronger and stronger spiritually. Then one day, God will exalt you for suffering for righteousness sake. In other words, God will cause you to rise above all those who didn’t walk in love with you. Pray for them that God changes their hearts.
Another testimony is around the corner for you. Blessings.
Sam Riviera says
Most churches have some of these “so called Church people.” Some are bullies, and some are just troubled folks who brought their troubles with them. Many of us find that these people can be some of the most difficult people for us to love. We think they should be supportive and showing the spirit of Jesus, but instead they are clearly showing that something is seriously lacking in their lives. They seem to have no love to share, but instead need to be on the receiving end. Sometimes giving them that love works. Sometimes they don’t know how to receive it, and we personally find it necessary to move along to others who are capable of receiving the love we have to give them.
I love church bullies because Jesus told us to love our enemies. There is no better place to learn how to do this than at church.
I agree. I also know I can overcome a church Bully, but on the other hand. It is hard for me to invite friends to church. Because I have been fearful of them getting offended. Which does happen. For instance our loving Greeter which is in her 50’s delightfully went up to a young couple and said to the young girl, Oh when is your baby due. They never came back. She wasn’t pregnant.
Right. That’s not being a bully. That’s being socially clueless. The church might consider finding our where her gifts really lie and steer her that way.
I thought I was alone or what my mom and I are going through only happens in 3rd world countries. In my country, 99.9% of the churches are dominated by 1 race who also controls the economy of the country, we happen to be part of the minority that is largely poverty stricken.
Believe me, the privileged race who dominate churches will not let us forget where we come from or allow us to escape the vicious cycle of poverty that imprisons us. I once worked for a lady who ran a charitable organisation on behalf of a Baptist Church (madam moneybags but refused to tithe), the following are excerpts that I had to live with for 6 years to earn a living :
a. If you are a good Christian, GOD will bless you with health and wealth. Look at me, I can afford to carry a Louis Vuitton bag, drive a mercedes and live in a big house. Look at you, you have nothing.
b. She would tell her cohorts, just buy a chicken and donate to a poor family, GOD will bless you with money the next day. Yes she re-wrote the bible. There’s no heaven or hell, only the here and now. Demons blah blah dont exist anymore. No such thing as Satan.
c. Under her so-called Charity for Single Mothers (run like a military camp), she would verbally abuse and occasionally physically abuse these women who were destitute. She would bribe a few of them and get them to spy on each other with full report to her. Anyone who defied her would pay a very heavy price.
d. The Pastor of the Church reported to her and not her to him. SHE told him what to do. He literally shook when he was around her. His wife had to report to her. Any church member that challenged or went up against her was asked to leave.
e. She held a top level position in a private Company, she would pad her expense claims – instead of working, her time was spent soliciting for her charity, shopping and having tea with her friends.. She would bully me and others who reported to her in the office to make donations to her charity on a regular basis. Bad things would happen to us if we did not comply. GOD will punish us if we dont do as what she says.
f. She threatened and used mob bullying to destroy those around her….I was just one of her many victims. It took me 2 years to recover from the emotional trauma she caused. Till today I suffer from anxiety attacks and My mother was also affected, she had to be admitted in intensive care. YET this woman walks around still doing her evil and practicing her corrupt ways. More prosperous than ever.
Trust me our churches are littered with such ‘WOMEN’ who claim to play a Godly role and end up usurping the Pastor’s position.
The 2nd part of my story
Since leaving ‘Jezebel’s’ employ or rather unceremoniously sacked on trumped up charges; mom and I avoided going to church. Our friends who are in the same minority group faced similar situations.
a. The Independent Church – run by a whole family and controlled by the mother of the pastor. The pastor and his wife, pastor’s sister who is divorced with 2 sons all carried major positions in the church. Her 2 sons, the terrible twosome although aged 8 and 10 would gossip, hurt and slander other children in the sunday school. The pastor’s mother is rumoured to visit witch doctors on the side whilst her son preached Jesus in the pulpit. Suffice to say this Church was a nightmare, everything had to be approved by the Pastor’s mother. Woe to anyone who dared to challenge her, you would be ostracised, shunned and expelled from the church. She was even known to make prank calls to threaten her hapless ex-members – personal story from one member. Now lives in an expensive condominium paid by the Church board. NO JUSTICE.
b. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts – I’ve been unemployed for the past 4 years due to my race and age. An acquaintance not a friend persuaded mom and I to meet with this friend of his, from a mega church in my country. Supposedly she wants to help me get a ‘job’. I should have known better…1st meeting with her…she tells me do you know “I’m quite an important person”. I kept quiet. She gave me a list of companies asking me to send my resume. I informed her that I had already contacted them earlier and nothing had come out of it. She claimed to have the inside track, I said ok and re-sent my resume to them. As usual nothing materialised, not even a rejection letter.
c. This was in December 2016….I guess she was getting antsy after all her reputation was at stake. She kept hammering at me, asking me to do this and do that. I explained to her logically and politely why nothing was working out. In all this time I had not badgered her about getting a job as I know she was supposed to be ‘helping’ me. Oh before I forget, she had insisted on bringing her 2 ‘friends’ to my home. This was done against my will as I had told her, mom was disabled and did not like strangers. It made her feel uncomfortable, she’s blind and wheelchair bound and prefers the company of those she knows.
d. To avoid a scene, I consented and she came with her 2 friends from the mega-church – both well to do. She and her friends sat down to eat at my dining table (food was provided by them). Mom and I were totally left out of the conversation, mom coz she was in a wheelchair and the table was too high. Me being the minority race, I guess I was too stupid for them. Till today I still wonder what was the purpose of their visit…..a venue to sit and eat and fellowship amongst themselves.
e. Come 2nd week of January 2017; no job was around the corner from Ms quite important. I didnt really expect anything actually. However I contacted her to ask if she wanted to buy a small antique that I had. YES, I have no money and am selling whatever I have to make ends meet. She wasnt interested in the antique but sent me the following message “I have spoken to a kindergarten owner and she says its quite easy to get jobs”.
f. I am already at wit’s end and I guess I lost it. However I am not in the habit of being rude so I wrote a polite message saying she should understand that me being part of the minority; we are always being turned away or discriminated against. Every job posting clearly states what race is required. I even showed her proof. My mistake. People like her dont want to acknowledge the truth about racism or class segregation; they would rather pin the blame on us. She definitely felt like I was challenging her. BIG MISTAKE.
g. She prepared her song and dance routine (tears, drama the works) for the acquaintance of ours. We were ungrateful, stupid, beast mentality. When we called the so called Christian acquaintance (holy spirit filled) he let loose his poison on us. Told us we should be grateful even if one of his people offered pennies to us….he basically told me that if I get job that cant cover my transport, rent, food, I should walk to work however far it is. Because pennies is what people of my race deserve and we shouldnt expect better. My only regret is to see my mother in tears….73 years of age, blind and destitute to be humiliated in such a way. WHERE IS THE JUSTICE?
GOD says he takes vengeance for what is done to the widows and the orphans……I have yet to see his VENGEANCE. I’m sorry I sound bitter but this is the tip of the ice-berg. Churches in my country are hypocritical. From what I see, its SATAN that lives there not Jesus Christ.
Ann Greenberg says
I am so sorry you are going through this. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be so discriminated against. The other thing that hurts and angers me is when members of churches behave so un-Christian that it turns God’s children away from Him. I know of so many people that this has happened to – it just makes me ill. Please know that I am in prayer for you and your mom. Let the Holy Spirit comfort you in such a difficult place. Hugs.
Rebecca p says
Thank you sis in Christ….but its very hard to believe in any Christian anymore.
Sam Riviera says
Obviously you never found Jesus by attending church. Find his people (go the kinds of places Jesus went and get to know the kind of people he knew) and you’ll find him.
Church hurt is the worst, plus I ask are people really Christians at heart or just doing role playing. And most are the worst at tipping a waitress, leaving another bad example for those that are lost without Christ. Then the word of God and his promises stand above all our hurts, and we know when we have no other friends or family to turn too, God tell us to draw nigh to him, and he will draw nigh to us. He is our strength, and refuge. He is our strong tower and the righteous runs to it. Stay strong my friend and keep your eyes on him.
Sam Riviera says
Yes, Gina, for many people church is like a family, or at least people want it to be like a family, but so many never find that by attending church. Maybe Jesus is encouraging us to find our “family” elsewhere.
I am so grateful to you for speaking about this issue on-line. I thought I was the only one that this ever happened to, and I began to wonder if I was loosing my mind. I have attended, and loved church, since my parents put me in the crib in the nursery room. Over the years, (I am now in my mid- 60’s) I have had to leave 4 different churches because of issues of “bullying”…usually from those who were in positions of of great “power” Lay-leaders, Bishops, administrators, choir-“Masters”, and even pastors and now my own Priest. Even as I am writing this, it sounds unbelievable and un-real to me. I have been taught to respect Authority.,and believe in the bibical laws that urge us to do so. I share my talents generously to my church, and have never requested any payment for them, I pledge as much as my limited finances will allow, and spend much time at my church, instituting new worship programs (as my priest requested), and yet I am constantly criticized for the smallest “infraction” by this same person. The Whole tenor of the church has become blatantly political in the last several months, and even with the results of the november election, the political harassment has not stopped. Every sermon is a political rant.”based ‘on Scripture, and you are made to feel that if you don’t clap and say “Amen”(which is not typical at all of our denomination)..then you are not a true christian or a true child of G-d. 3Months ago, a person was hired (secretly) without the consent or vote of the vestry (they were presented with a “FAit-acompli” at the end of the meeting), and is being paid to do one of the jobs that I have been doing very well for years. I am expected to continue to do all my requirements as always, but I am so hurt, that I haven’t been able to sleep or even eat much since then. I wanted to leave, but a few friends begged me (again in secret) not to go, and reminded me that the important thing was who we were coming to worship. I agree, and concentrate on my love for him, and them, but the hurt is still there, and the anger. Thank you for listening to me. It is sad, when you cannot trust your own priest.
Sam Riviera says
Frankie, Sadly many churches have become organizations that are concerned with administration, who’s in charge, politics, money and lots of other things, but a fellowship of believers who have Jesus as their center often isn’t “the” thing or even “one of those things.” Some of us find genuine Christian relationships elsewhere.
Some find Jesus and Christians in church. Some do not. Read the New Testament. Where did Jesus go? What did he do? With whom did he speak? Go similar places and meet and build relationships with the kinds of people Jesus met and built relationships with and you will find other Jesus followers and probably Jesus himself in their midst. Church people don’t believe this.
Absolutely. I’ve attended Catholic (where I grew up), Baptist, and Lutheran churches, none of which satisfied my need to commune with God. I’ve found good people and bad people, however, churches are temporary institutions (businesses) run by humans. My relationship with God is in the eternal.
Judy Smith says
I, like you, Frankie have been bullied pretty badly. She was a woman who outrightly condemned my very loud as church was exiting, played sitting in my place next to my husband, said she was jealous of us having it all. I don’t know why but her family was more financially well off than us. She had started out as a very close friend. Said “Don’t be scared but church will talk about money next sunday” Ha, my husband was head of the finance committee. She called at my house to yell at me repeatedly because I didn’t go to church with my husband (I went to a different church to feel the Holy Spirit and healing). You’re right, it happened and still hurts. In fact, I feel changed and begun to get bad panic attacks when I even thought about going back to that church starting on Saturday afternoons. I couldn’t handle it and began to have IBS attacks which got worse and had to have surgery and also go on anti-anxiety meds. Finally, lately, I have a clear mind and have taken up a serious hobby rooted in my Christian faith. I feel much happier but will always feel gunshy about making a “best friend” anymore. I feel free. The pastor there did nothing when my husband and I told him. She had no boundaries whatsoever. Many times I told her to bug off, ignored her, distanced myself and wondered was this bordering on criminal. Thank you for my say.
I am so sad to see how widespread bullying is in churches, and my heart goes out to those who have been so cruelly bullied. This is not how Christians should act, and if you stand up to it, you are NOT sinning. The bullies are. Don’t let them flip the script on you.
We recently left a church where leaders shunned anyone who questioned any “changes”, even when they were blatently unbiblical. After a long search, we found a new church. I saw they had a music program and since I play an instrument, I asked about it and was immediately and enthusiastically invited to join. Unfortunately, this ticked off the person who played the same instrument. She was immediately rude and told me that I was not playing correctly and made snide remarks about my playing. It was weird because she was obviously more skilled than I, although my playing was certainly adequate. After that, I tried once more, and arranged to play for another service with the organist, who was her brother. He assured me it would not be a problem for her if I played. I carefully prepared and practiced the music. That night, lo and behold, she showed up to play! With HER music. It was an ambush. She even told me when she left that she was planning to play every time. I played with her that night, but will never play there again. In fact, right now, I am trying to decide if I even want to go to church there in the morning. Such is the destructive power of bullies.
Sam Riviera says
Ellen – Church music. I also play an instrument but never, ever in church. It takes some of us a long time to figure out that almost every church already has more than enough musicians who jealously guard their positions. I remember talking to a fellow a few years ago who played in his church’s orchestra. He told me he wasn’t religious, but had few opportunities to play in public, so his musician friends suggested he find a church with an orchestra that needed someone to play the instrument he played and volunteer there.
He said his friend told him “Most of us play in churches, but hardly any of us believe in God.” That might explain a lot to you and me and many others. We either give up trying to play music at church, or maybe you can scout around until you find a smaller church that really needs your skills and does not already have someone who plays the same instrument you play.
I have experienced almost exactly the same. I thought there was something really wrong with me, but researched the traits of a bully and discovered this individual had them all and insists on being in control of all aspects of the church, it’s alarming, but even more so as the rest of the church are too frightened to object. I have left the church but have become more reliant on Jesus
Sam Riviera says
Leaving the church was probably best for you. Sadly, the bullied often leave while the bullies remain. My wife and have have a retired pastor friend who early on in his pastoral career, with the help of several new, young couples challenged the bullies in the church. The bullies had been running the church board for many years. The new couples agreed to run for board positions. The bullies as a group decided to not run, so the newbies would be elected and presumably fail miserably. The newbies were elected and the church took off after many years of barely surviving. Within a few years that church became, and to this day remains, the largest in the community. With one or two exceptions, the bullies departed. This is the only case we know of where the bullies departed while the bullied remained.
Thanks for this, Sam. Christian college alumna here.
What do you do when the pastor is the bully? I won’t go into details, but that was my experience, and it soured me on Christianity for good. In my case, leaving was the only option I ever considered. I looked for a reason to stay, to give this pastor and his wife another chance to show that they were the kind, loving people they and their relatives insisted they were. But instead, they kept proving to me by their words and actions that I was right to leave. I had been verbally and mentally abused by church leaders before (and came close to suicide several times), so my experiences with this pastor were the last straw. That was almost 22 years ago, and I haven’t been to church since. That was the best thing for me, but it’s not for everyone. I want to be kind, compassionate, and authentic—all things I couldn’t be during my time in church. Expressing doubt or vulnerability was akin to asking my “church family” to put a knife into my heart. For me, my perception of God was inextricably connected to my experiences with my dad, youth leaders, and pastors. That means that it’s very hard for me to see God as loving, kind, or gentle. I see him only as stern and ready to pounce.
After a while, though, I get tired of the comments from those who don’t understand how I could “turn my back on God” and “be so hard on Christians just because we’re not perfect.” But really, I don’t think any of us who have left church and Christianity have done so because we expected perfection from Christians. I left church because what I saw was counter to the Bible my critics say they believe: Love your neighbor. Restore your fallen brother in a spirit of meekness. What a man sows, he reaps. Treat others the way you want to be treated. You’ll be judged the same way you judge others. Examine scripture to see whether what the pastor is saying is true and right.
Sam Riviera says
Natasha, some years ago, when we lived in another city, we visited the church our friend and his family attended. It was plainly obvious to us that the pastor was a huge bully. I won’t go into the details, but we could not understand how anyone would tolerate such a public display of bullying. Afterwards we talked with our friend about this, and he said the pastor was even more of a bully when not on the platform, as we noted in what he said to us when we left church. Why would our friend and his family attend such a church? The reasons were complicated, but they did manage to find another church.
What do you do when the pastor is a bully? As in most situations where your paycheck or life do not depend on accepting the bullying, confront the bully privately. If that doesn’t work, disassociate with them. In the case of church, that means leave. Try to find another church if possible, but leave. Hopefully all of your friends are not part of the bully’s church. It is wise to be part of a variety of organizations and have friends in each. You need not stay in any group if you are being bullied. You have other friends.
Not all churches have bullies for pastors. Sadly, however, some do, and some allow people in the church to bully each other. This phenomenon is not limited to churches.
My daughter and i were looking for a Church close to our home. My daughter wanted to google for one and found a church just a mile away from our home. A lesson to be learned here saints of God, we decided to visit the church on movie night. Yes the church has a MOVIE nite.
We felt the informal setting would be more conducive for 1st time visit. They were very welcoming but my daughter was ‘interrogated’ by the pastor’s wife – what kind of house do we stay in ? Is it your own property ? what job is she holding ? What is the name of the company she works in ? Basically they were assessing our WORTH in terms of money.
Name of the church – Lighthouse a branch of The Potter’s House. We should have stopped going but my daughter insisted that we should just try out and not judge on the 1st visit. Big mistake.
Every Sunday sermon and I mean every sunday sermon concentrated on HOW WE SHOULD BE GIVING MORE MONEY to the Church. The Pastor even went as far as to complain how He should not have to work for his living.
Suffice to say there were other things that were strange which finally prompted us to stop going altogether.
Yeah. Get lost Widow. Take your two mites elsewhere.
This church has bigger fish to fry. With Wealthy Pharisees and Other Professionals Who Count!
As a single childless woman in her 40’s I really dislike attending church. I don’t belong there. I’m a loose toenail on the Body of Christ everyone secretly wants to clip off.
All people do is mock my status as an “old maid” or say I don’t know anything because I never had children. Weird how well Evangelical churches have carefully preserved everything that was wrong with the 19th century. Like vices and stupidity are okay if they’re the old fashioned kind.
I can’t make major financial contributions due to poverty. People don’t want me volunteering either, because of my outsider status.
If there weren’t a scripture commanding regular meetings with fellow believers I would quit going. Jesus would be disappointed; no one else would.
Dear Rachel, that has to be about the worst sort of invalidation – like being single is a crime? Isn’t it enough that the vile mainstream mus-eech preaches nonstop the same. Yay you! And boo-hiss to them harpies.
In our church there were 2 sisters in a youth group who were rallying the other members not to talk a girl because she wore the same jacket as one of them. They attacked the girl online. My daughter spoke to the girl who was being bullied and she then was alienated. A ll the young people would be invited out by these 2 girls but my daughter and anyone else would be excluded and alone. They and their mother also began to tell lies about me. They were master flatterers and always praised up the Pastor every Sunday and he would believe nothing bad of them. Other young people were hurt by them and left the church. The pastor talks to them from the pulpit, joking with them and always spoke to them. He would ignore anyone who brought to his attention what the girls had done but always talks to them and praises them publicly. This has gone on for years. Thankfully my daughter left and went to another church but it has caused a great deal of hurt. Our daughter begged us not to do anything as the bullying would get worse if anyone tried to confront the girls. I wish we had dealt with it straight away and left the church if it wasn’t dealt with.
Dale L. Faulks says
I’d like to comment from the other side. I am a pastor, but please don’t think I’m commenting to defend bully pastors. That is the farthest thing from the truth. I’m commenting to get the attention of good pastors who are not bullying.
I must admit that I was shocked to read of what’s been going on in our churches. It is incredibly appalling. But as a pastor who’s trying to grow a tiny church into a larger church, this article, and most importantly the comments, are a blessing to me and my efforts. I pray that other churches see this, also. This helps me to be more sensitive to prospective members who have been hurt by the church before. Yes, if someone has been hurt by someone in the church, to them it’s the same as being hurt by THE church.
We have to utilize MUCH prayer in our evangelism or outreach efforts. By being prayed up, we tend to be more spiritually prepared when we come across people who have been hurt by the church. Because if we’re not prepared, we can find ourselves hurt and developing bitterness also. So we have to guard against it, because bitterness can slowly turn us into church bullies. That would be tragic.
Sam (and I promise I’m not being judgmental), I sense that you’ve been hurt by the church. I also sense there is some bitterness hanging around in your spirit because of it. But I also sense that you are a sincere Christian who is trying your best to walk in the will of God, but are trying to stay clear of anymore pain. Your bitterness causes you to identify, and sometimes take ownership, of other people’s pain from the church. As a result, you feel like all churches are bad, and you advice to others reflects that. While I shall be praying for you, I do recommend (yes, I know my recommendation is not solicited) that you spend some time praying for God to help you release the bitterness in your heart.
Finally, if any bully pastors or leaders are reading this, I implore you to really absorb how you are negatively impacting the kingdom of God. I know some of you are bullies as a result of being bullied by parishioners or other leaders. Sensitivity should be utilized when dealing with anyone in your church, especially in potentially touchy situations. As one commenter mentions, we could permanently affect (or effect, I apologize for not remembering which is correct) how they see God.
My heart has been impacted by these comments. And yes, I will be in much prayer that the impact remains positive in my roll as pastor to my people. May God bless all of you richly.
Sam Riviera says
Dale, I’ve not been bullied, so I’m not bitter. This post was written based on what I’ve seen happen in almost every church we’ve attended. Bullies know where to find their victims, and churches are often a rich hunting ground for them. Their victims are often at especially susceptible periods in their lives, and therefore unable to stand up to the bullies. Pastors are often the victims, rather than the bullies. The bullies have been in the church for many years, and make it their personal mission to control everyone including the pastor, and bullying is often their chief tool for controlling people. Most of the discussions I’ve had as a result of this post (which are not visible in the comments) have been with pastors and their spouses. I especially remember one who was the 20th pastor in 20 years. None of these folks were taught in seminary how to handle church bullies. Pastors are especially susceptible because their bullies make it clear to them that their job and paycheck are at risk should the pastor dare stand up to them. How spiritual is that? Ironically, the bullies often pretend to be super spiritual, more spiritual than everyone else, and of course they (claim they) know their Bible better and are closer to God.
Some years ago I knew a fellow who was a retired pastor, and worked part time helping sick churches recover. We discussed the kinds of problems he found in those churches and how he helped the church overcome those problems. While church bullies wasn’t quite the number one problem he encountered in these churches, it was a problem he encountered in almost every one of them. He said it was a problem that HAD to be dealt with. I found it interesting that he said in almost every case where it was successfully dealt with and the bully or bullies were confronted and made to understand that their bullying days had ended, the bullies moved on to other churches where they could ply their trade. Rarely were they forced to leave, but when their bullying was no longer tolerated they chose to leave.
Some people are hyper sensitive and decide that all sorts of things are bullying. I once worked with a woman who claimed she was bullied by her church. I knew another woman who went to the church and she said no one was bullying the other woman, who she said attended only part time, did not participate in most church activities and interpreted her lack of social connections to imaginary bullies. Woman #2 also mentioned that woman #1 told the church people she was bullied at work, which was not true. She made no effort to get to know others, did not get invited to away-from-the-office social events (of course she never invited anyone to anything)and therefore she felt “bullied.” Silly, huh? Real bullying however, especially in the church, is not silly.
Judy Smith says
People probably think I am th #1 woman because I started attending church part time. Only went when I able enough to go. However, I attended that church fulltime for at least seven years. We had youth pool parties. I had volunteered to help with kitchen cooking, bringing cooked food, crafts, fundraisers most to no avail. The pastor once said how we needed to serve the Lord by volunteering. The ladies in back of me rippled “well, I tried to volunteer but no one listened. They voiced my thoughts. I gave up even trying to volunteer; especially with having the church Bully chasing me. So maybe you don’t have the whole story on woman #1.
Are church bullies considered as those that use the pulpit or praying out loud to intimidate people… you have some leaders in the church that appears to be venting from the pulpit and then put God in it. I’ve heard leaders say things like “you married the wrong woman.” And never mentions a name but airs it out from the pulpit. I’ve also witnessed being beside a leader and they couldn’t look me in the face but I’ve noticed them grinding their teeth so hard that you can see it from their jaw while also turning their nose up. never done anything I am however a new member and I’ve experienced and saw things that was wicked. I also heard from the pulpit ” church people are wicked too.” These are only a few things I’ve heard. But the hate seems like it is there.. my husband is accepted with no problem but it seems that everything is different with me. Ive also heard from the pulpit something about a suga daddy. People see that my husband and I have a age difference but it’s not anything they have suspected… I know it wasn’t God speaking because my husband didn’t have much. It was when God joined us together that He started to bless us together.. and I have always been a working woman. I once thought that someone may have been looking at my husband for themselves or for someone else before we married. The sisters that wants to be married are always recognized in the church..
Sam Riviera says
Maria, Church bullies can be anyone. Sadly, that includes church leaders. We have known leaders who were bullies, and leaders who were being bullied. Bullies are often experts at finding people whom they can bully, be that the pastor, congregant, family member, co-worker, neighbor, club member or whomever. Most of us have seen bullies drive their victims away from them and from whatever group they are part of. This includes religious organizations of all sorts.
Marco Alfredo Mitrowke says
Currently looking for information on bullying in the King James bible and what it says about it. I also want to know if the word retard or retarded is ever found as well. Thanks ahead of time.
Dear Marco, King David was rather ignored by his father, Jesse and his (older) brothers. While they all went to an important function, David was intentionally left out. This is described in 1 Samuel 17. Reading David’s response to his punk-oldest brother, sounds like this wasn’t the first time David had been bullied. “What have I now done?” (1 Samuel 17:29a). Also, any scriptures mentioning “scorners” or “scoffers,” are referring to bullies. Wasn’t until a few days ago did i realize this: i looked up “scorner” in the dictionary – basically, a highly toxic … uh-hem, person. By the way, i believe a woman who used to go to church here in town was invalidated out of there by at least one (probably more – because harpies fly in packs) of the …uh-hem, church ladies. The woman had been mentally abused as a child – and she’s angry…well duh! Christians are supposed to help people process through, and learn to let go of the anger. Those “ladies” mocked her misery. i tried to say something, but they think i’m a basket case – i knew that even before i came to the realization that without Christ, i am eternal toast.
My wife is the church bully in my family. I travel a lot and work hard. Sometimes, I’d like a Sunday off.
My wife typically throws temper tantrums if I don’t go. Often, she’ll accuse me of being a bad father, which is totally false. Just today, I explained that I was exhausted from traveling and I’d like the day off and she responded by calling me a “joke”.
I usually go because it’s easier than facing her wrath. I’m getting very resentful.
Any ideas on how to handle a bully wife? And please don’t say, “You need to let her know that her behavior is unacceptable and that you will not tolerate it any longer.” Sorry, that doesn’t work with her. Unfortunately, that makes her worse.
My personal experience with church bullies came when I was 14 years old, at church camp.
One of the ushers, who happened to be one of my best friends dad’s had come with us on the camping trip. The previous evening before lights out, I had read in the Bible where God had asked Moses to remove his sandals because he was on holy ground.
The next day I really thought about it, and during evening service, I decided to take off my shoes before going into the service and being on “holy ground.”
He asked me where my shoes were and why I didn’t have them on. I explained to him that I was on holy ground and felt it would be disrespectful to wear my shoes, and I would put them on when leaving. He told me well, I, feel, like you need, to have shoes on in God’s house. I told him well it’s not YOUR house, and I’m going to respect God’s house by not wearing shoes inside.
Of course, he had to tell the youth minister, and when we got back home a few days later, my dad too. After I explained to both of them WHY, my father understood, but the youth minister took the side of the idiot, and told me he’s an adult and you should listen to your elders.
I told my youth minister, ok, listen to my elders at the expense of dishonoring God’s house?
Of course, no response.
I am a member of a small church I’ve attended and been active in for 20 years. I have served in elected leadership roles on our governing board. One of our current elected leaders, the chair of our governing body, has been verbally/emotionally abusive behavior toward me. This past Sunday, while talking with another member who is a close friend, about an extra computer I was given, I commented to my friend that “Maybe I could give it to the church.” This other person (“leader”) overheard and YELLED in a loud and harsh tone, “WE’LL NEVER HAVE A COMPUTER AT THE FELLOWSHIP!” This is a disrespectful, but sometimes effective, way to intimidate people (bully them) out of standing up for their own opinions, dominating others. I thought this was out of line. I was shocked and said nothing. She has openly put me down for no good reason, out of thin air, assuming she has sufficient facts about a situation. She is quick to judge and shut people down harshly when they express alternate opinions. I do not think yelling at or by church members, including and especially “leaders” who are supposed to be role models of wisdom and compassion, has any place in a church. I know this issue needs to be addressed, and I am at a loss of how to stop this toxic behavior other than approaching her privately and telling her to stop yelling at me. I’d welcome suggestions. Thank you.
Stepped on a Church-Sized Lego says
I was bullied and emotionally abused at my first church. This went on for years. The kids (and their PARENTS) that went after my twin sister, my mom and I are some of the nastiest people I have ever met. The pastor was just as bad, and they all sucked up to my dad so he never knew it was happening. He still has trouble believing us.
In high school I met my best friend, then a pastor’s kid, and we moved to her church. Her dad was NOT the lead pastor, and because he’s like family (I call him Other Father!). The lead pastor forced him and the rest of my best friend’s family out of the congregation for incredibly stupid reasons, and my family followed. This pastor had also told me that things I have been through can’t have happened because he didn’t believe the did.
When I went to college, I joined a my school’s Cru and became a worship leader. I thought I was finally safe, and I even started to open up to the idea of maybe going back to church. It didn’t take long for the resident wolfpack to gang up on me, belittle me, and gaslight me into oblivion when I tried to stand up for myself. I was forced into a church before I was ready to go back, and a lot of those people were just as toxic as the Cru kids were… and the Cru kids got WORSE around them. I was diagnosed with depression during this time and was labeled a “monster” because I stepped away to take care of myself. My sister defended me from nasty gossip tirelessly, even though she has GAD, a panic disorder, depression, and at the time, a concussion from a horseback riding accident. She’s one of the big reasons I survived. At this same time, one of my “friends” from this group turned into a full-blown stalker, and because our campus is so small (it’s one of the smallest in my state), I had no idea how to get away from her. We lived in the same dorm, and by the time my sister and I realized just how bad it was, we were about to graduate and leave anyway, so we just cut her out cold-turkey from our lives. I don’t talk to many of the people I knew in college because they were so nasty.
Because of all of this, I now, on top of everything else, suffer from PTSD. I currently can’t go inside of a church without wanting to puke. I can’t listen to a lot of modern worship music because it will trigger me. I start tensing up and having flashbacks–actual trauma flashbacks, not just memories. I am absolutely beaten to pieces. I’ve never lost my faith in Yeshua, and I declare right now that I never will, because He has saved me in more ways than one. He is powerful, He is the healer, and He is good. He got me out of all of those situations. But I don’t trust very many of His people. My current pastor has also been beaten to shambles by the church in the past and even suffered PTSD at one point in his life, so I actually do trust him. I knew him as a friend before I officially joined his little congregation, so that helps. But it is still so, so hard. I am so deeply wounded it’s not even funny.
I’m only 23. This abuse from church isn’t just a season for me: it’s legitimately the only thing I’ve ever known. Like I said, I’m slowly joining up with a new church with a mind-blowingly compassionate pastor, but I’m still terrified and emaciated and deeply, *deeply* wounded. I’m getting help from a Christian counselor, so I’m starting to heal, but healing from a lifetime of this is going to be hard. I might not ever fully heal. It might be my thorn in the side, to quote Paul. We’ll see what Yeshua does. I trust him to do what He needs with me.
Stephen Smith says
I’m so sorry for the abuse you have endured for all these years, but I must say that I admire you for holding fast to your testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our Father in Heaven has carried us through these trials and will always be with us. Remember Romans 8: 28, 31 – “28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 31 If God be for us, who can be against us?” and Deuteronomy 31: 6 – “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them [in this case, church bullies]: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”
Keep reading your Bible and keep the faith. God bless you always.
By the way, I’m 73 and still a works in progress.
Stephen Smith says
I appreciate your article about church bullying. It was very enlightening. Although there are many articles on the subject as it applies within a church, I can’t find anything on the internet that applies to churches that attack other churches. I am a member of a church that is considered by others to be a “cult.” We believe in God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and the Holy Ghost as the Comforter and witness of the Father and His Son. There is no end of what I call “polemicists in apologists clothing” who demonize my faith with half-truths and straw man arguments, etc. I don’t have a website to address this problem, but I try to dialog with these people when the opportunity presents itself and tell them what I believe, Biblically. I would appreciate any insight you have that I may not have thought of. Thank you.
C. Ann Greenberg says
This gets into a gray area. On the one hand, we are told not to judge others. At the same time, “Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; 12and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold.” Matthew 24:11-12. Additionally, “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Galatians 2:11-14.
I do not know to which church you belong. I have had lots of conversations with a wide variety of believers. I’ll challenge anyone who espouses a belief that is not Biblical nor Christian. I encourage everyone I speak with to be open-minded and curious, and at the same time don’t blindly accept everything you hear. Ultimately, I work hard at being non-judgmental because I don’t have all the answers AND I’m not our Ultimate Judge. I hope this helps.
This church bully (pastor) got at the pulpit and told everyone in church and on line that I had turned him into the HOA for continued violations with his basketball goal! Of course he didn’t use my real name but identified me as the only family that doesn’t live in the development full time out of 10 houses. He referred to me as a “Karen” a sexist derogatory term! I was mortified especially when I did not do it! He was lying! It has put my family in grave danger since now everyone in our development thinks it was me! Our neighborhood is in complete discord and We are now in the process of selling our dream home to get away from him! He continued to lie and use me as an example of a troublemaker and someone hard to love when his whole sermon was on “loving your neighbor” How is he allowed to get away with this type of bullying/cyber bullying?
There is a guy at church that has been harassing me for years. The pastor does not give a care and will not help me out. I also consider the pastor a bully because he is in love with the harasser’s smile and somehow that makes it okay. I have no respect left for this alcoholic pastor.
Church bullies are the reason I quit going to church three years ago. I haven’t went back. The way I see it, the devil goes to church too.
Mickey Burdette says
I am a 53yr old man that suffered a severe brain injury in car accident . I am Disabled with a mental impairment and have been verbally assualteed till I felt threatened physically. My abuser is part of the church security and carries a concealed weapon. How scary is that after Him jerking a 16in wrench from my hands I had forgot to return the day before caused from my impaiment which he knew about and was wielding it like a bat screaming in my face that I wasn’t any better than the next piece of trash, A duragetory remark he makes about my low-income nieghbors in the apartments across from my house. He also said I was no kind of man, mechanic or carpenter. I tried again to explian why I was a day late returning the wrench, and he said he didn’t want to hear about my problems anymore. He has since spread rumors that I can work and i am not disabled and just milking the system. I confronted the issue with his superior and he laughed in my face saying I should just let it go. I objected and as I was anouncing I was a person with disabilities several times as I was being escorted to my automobile and told not to return. Imagine that!
Mickey Burdette says
I have been bullied by churches and horrible by a family member and his church and it broke up the family, in several area’s and different level’s. Church is a choice, and I choose to never walk into a church again. I don’t need the abuse. I am a Christian and will enjoy my life and fellowship with people outside of organized churches, I have met the worst people there and will never even consider trying it again. Anyone that does, is just asking for trouble. This is normal now a days in all churches, wait around long enough and you will be bullied, slandered and who knows what else, these people have no limits, and most are plain evil.
Ronald Donett says
I was bullied into joining a Sunday bible study. The teacher was a self righteous, sanctimonious person who thought he knew it all. He would call me at home at night always trying to get me to be in activities in which I had no interest. I learned that he had interfered in his daughter’s marriage and that she was divorced as a result. He was also on a pulpit committee and was upset because the pastor was selected over his objection. I dropped out of the class and he came to my home uninvited trying to get me back in his class. I told him that I would no longer put up with his harassment and intimidation. This is a problem that I think happens a lot. The only way to handle it is to be assertive and if this doesn’t work leave and find another church to attend.