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Pastoral Bullies

April 17, 2013 | by: Sam Storms| 18 Comments



Apr 18, 2013

Thanks for the excellent article. As a pastor, I am now more aware of what to guard my heart against.


Apr 18, 2013

This guy restored my hope that there can be legitimate servant-leaders out there.

Best Quote:

Yet in most churches today an unthinking acceptance has been given to the idea that the pastor is the final voice of authority in both doctrine and practice, and that he is the executive officer of the church with respect to administration. But surely, if a pope over the whole church is bad, a pope in every church is no better!

I recently left the First Church of Diotrephes.

My Diotrephes hid it so well. Then when you talk to people, you finally figure out that his "good sermons" are just white washed tombs, because he'll knock anyone over to build his earthly kingdom.

Sad. Sad.

I also recommend the book "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse", or what I now affectionately call "The Diotrephes Survival Guide". Get a used copy on Amazon for <$5. A must read. ISBN-10: 1556611609

I ticked my Diotrephes off (before finally leaving for good) by sending him (via Amazon) 13 copies. I was trying to send one copy of the book for each person he's thrown out of HIS church, but I ran out of money. :O

Mike Loehrer

Apr 18, 2013

Thanks, Sam. For further reading on this subject see Egoless Elders at


Apr 17, 2013

I don't think the greatest value is in thinking about people who could be type cast in this role of pastor bully y fitting each description, the value is for leaders in the church to consider each one and ask God to reveal which of them they are prone to so they can repent.

Liberty for Captives

Apr 17, 2013

This is the best treatment I have seen of what it means for a pastor to "domineer." If only I had read something like this years ago.

I was a member of a New England Bible cult for 25 years. Our pastor practiced each of these domineering tendencies, but somehow he always made it seem biblical. We were told that he was God's man, that he knew Greek and Hebrew and so he could interpret God's Word better, that God spoke to him in special ways. Eventually, we obeyed him as if he was God, and scripture seemed to support it (Heb 13:17).

I attended a conservative seminary in the South and my former church blew apart when our pastor basically drove himself insane with his own legalism and perfectionism. Now I write a blog which confronts spiritual abuse with grace and truth. Spiritual abuse can be so subtle.

This post is so clear, so refreshing to me. I will re-post it on my blog. I know it will benefit hundreds of others who have been scarred by abusive leadership and who may not normally read a pastor's blog.

Thank you for writing such a valuable post and for demonstrating true shepherding.


Apr 17, 2013

I do take note that Peter's comments are addressed to elders not to elders/pastors. The oversight of the flock is given to a group of elders who are to do shepherding work not to a single male who occupies an office called "the Pastor." The word "pastors" occurs only once in the NT. Modern day Christians have taken the Biblical word and filled it with a massive, complex, unbiblical meaning that the NT knows nothing about. The "Pastor (modern concept)" is conspicuous by his total absence from the NT. He is actually an obstacle to the every-member functioning of the body in the meeting of the church. If the modern, unbiblical concept of Pastor were discarded all of the above abuses listed in Sam's article would instantly evaporate. However, I do take note that the elders, who should be the spiritually mature men in the church who practice leadership by example and not by dominance, are not yet entirely without sin.

Nanci Craig

Apr 17, 2013

Lord, our humanity how do you put up with us? Our righteousness is as filthy rags...this article makes me so thankful for the Mercy of God - we must pray for our pastors and leaders it is our solemn charge as priests before the Lord

HC Wap

Apr 17, 2013

Good article Sam! But could you also address the converse of this, meaning what about when the congregation, or a significant part of it, is the bully towards the leadership?


Apr 17, 2013

Been there, suffered that. And that applies to church leaders as well: deacons, elders, etc.

Peter Johnson

Apr 17, 2013

Thank you Sam for a comprehensive review of the modes pastoral domineering. You have mentioned something of the conformity of the flock to such actions, but I am hoping you could explore in depth the counterpoints and outcomes for those who resist, even patiently, these bully-pastors. The problem, of course, is that many of our Pastor-Teachers are not going to be so inclined to teach on the dangers of having bullies as pastors, especially those that live by the practice. The flock ends up suffering mightily under the hands of such people - and don't know a 'way out'. Hope that makes sense.


Apr 17, 2013

Thank you for this article. I both breathed a sigh of relief at the blatant and bold truth of this and shuddered at the sadness of this...

Kansas Bob

Apr 17, 2013

I have seen "the prophetic" and the idea of special "prophets" used in similar ways.

Richard J. Woerner

Apr 17, 2013

The hate that spreads from the Westboro Baptist church comes from the heart and core values of its founder and current leaders. These individuals hate feed the hate already present in people's lives and somehow made it seem Biblical to hate the sinner because of the sin. No where in their literature are the words FORGIVENESS. They intend on picketing at the funerals of those killed in the Boston bombings claiming that "God sent the bombs," and that this is the judgment on a state that is the first legal "fag" state. (I apologize for the ignorant words.) What makes these leaders more dangerous than David Koresh and Jim Jones is that it fuels hate instead of forgiveness. It is true, God will judge nations for their disobedience and sin, but isn't unforgiveness a sin? Jesus Christ was brutality beaten and murdered, but before He died He proclaimed, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." I hate the sin of our nation, I hate the fact that we, as a nation, have allowed same-sex marriage. But that does not mean I should hate the sinner, indeed, we should pray for their salvation. Nevertheless, the despicable acts of this church are a blemish on our nation as well as the sin our nation condones. Is this a judgment from the throne room of heaven, is this a reminder to all of us that sin IS going to be judged? But may I ask, why are we so concerned about the judgment of God when we should be focused on the Great Commission, isn't that the call of the church?

Joel James Hipolito

Apr 17, 2013

Thanks for posting this blog..I know a pastor who is like this and now I can share this to my church mates.


Apr 17, 2013

Unfortunately some of this is happening right now in our church where our senior pastor has just retired. The purge has begun.


Apr 17, 2013

I have been waiting almost the years for some one to share about this God is so good to me!
I had a Pastor do some real damage and I believed her lies! No more and I forgive her!

Joshua E Ciresoli

Apr 17, 2013

Great study on this issue, Sam. Brother John Piper shared this and I decided to look it over. I find a lot of these things can be found in almost every "evangelical church" here in Beaufort, SC and it saddens me for the sake of the people. I will be praying for you and for those here who are coerced using fragments of scripture to say that examining the teachings of a pastor through scripture is wrong/outside of biblical faith.

Chris Thomas

Apr 17, 2013

I've seen this. I've been this. Lord have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord, raise up faithful shepherds to guard your flock, especially from those who are clothed in sheep's wool.

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