Controlling personalities in the church

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Dory of Wittenberg Gate has an excellent post up about manipulative people and the harm they can do in a church, particularly when they are in leadership:

Even more problematic, though, is when the controlling personality in the church is a member of the pastoral staff or the lay leadership. The lay couple I described above had no authority in the church, though they apparently thought they did. Most people in the congregation were able to simply ignore them when they became obnoxious. But a pastor or church officer does have real authority, and where there is real authority, there is the possibility of abuse or misuse of that power. There is also the opportunity to shape the culture and group dynamic that prevails in that congregation.

I think it is important to note that a manipulative leader can create a cult-like dynamic in a church that is not cultish or heretical in its doctrine, but rather well within the range of what would be considered the historic Christian faith. There may be an unbalanced emphasis on certain doctrines, such as an attitude that emphasizes works at the expense of grace, or an emphasis on such things as submitting to authority and giving financially to the church in a sacrificial way.

On the next post on this topic, I will write about the warning signs that we can look for when looking for a new church, or evaluating one we have already joined. In this post, though, I want to discuss the common characteristics of a controlling personality.

Dory provides a long list of characteristics, with a description and example of each, and there is a good discussion going on in the comments.

The second post in the series -- warning signs to watch for when considering joining a church -- is here.


Dan Paden said:

Those were a couple of excellent posts. Believe it or not, that was the first time I've been to Wittenberg Gate. An overall excellent blog, the introduction to which I appreciate.

W. said:

Interesting post, Michael. I submit that these warning signs can be also useful for individuals wishing to join a club, employer, etc.

Then there's another solution -- one that I wouldn't recommend to just anyone -- which is to not go to church. I'm a individual with a big nonconformist streak. My faith in God is a highly personal one of which I find little solace or encouragement in churches. My faith is strengthened by solitude, prayer and self-reflection, not the company of others. It fits with my personality and rewards me. I do not feel closer to God in the company of others. In fact, the type of spontaneous regimentation I see in churches, political rallies and even concerts scare the hell out of me. I get a lot more fulfillment listening to a Blind Boys of Alabama CD, Buddy Miller's "Universal United House of Prayer" or Bobby Pinson's new song "One More Believer" than a church service.

As I said, I wouldn't recommend this approach to everyone. Your mileage may vary.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 29, 2005 10:28 PM.

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