Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Eagles Nest Mentoring BootCamp Sept 13-15

Location: Rancho Cicada Retreat Center, Plymouth, CA
Eagles Nest Mentoring BootCamp is a three day prayer & fasting spiritual journey. This retreat location is nestled in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. The registration fees of $200 cover three days and two nights stay in a wood cabin or $100 to stay in a tent cabin.
We will break our fast on Saturday with a meal cooked by Mountain Mike. Wood cabins include a small deck, electricity & bed. Tents provided. Bring your own sleeping bag and toiletries.

Monday, April 23, 2012

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Great services at Spirit Led Worship Center, Rohnert Park, CA Packed house, Holy Ghost Move! Shout out to Farleys 4 job well done #spiritled

Sunday, April 15, 2012

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More information on #AsiaAfalme at www.spiritled.org

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Over 200 leaders and over 50,000 believers being influenced and mentored through #AsiaAflame this week. Thank you for your prayers & support

Saturday, April 14, 2012

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Great meeting in China with over 100 leaders from 18 cities present. Now in South Korea 4 a leadership seminar. Thank you 4 prayer covering!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

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Praise The Lord Everyone! I am Headed to Asia for Two Weeks to Minister and Train Pastors. I will Not Have Contact with Facebook in Asia. Please check out Healthy Habits Lifestyle Ministry at www.BishopArcovio.MyVi.Net/LoseWeight This Healthy Habits Lifestyle Ministry is Created to Further the Kingdom and Bless Your Health. If You have any Questions while I am gone, Please Contact my Assistant Freddie Hidalgo for Any Questions at Global_Impact_Arizona@Yahoo.com Blessings! Please cover our team in prayer these next 14 days.

Friday, April 6, 2012

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Asia Aflame April Newsletter #constantcontact http://conta.cc/I2QBNF

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Asia Aflame April Newsletter #constantcontact http://conta.cc/I2QBNF

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Register now Eagles Summit California http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=uj6im4dab&oeidk=a07e5hr8s4n291fa75b

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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Get your digital books for iPad or Kindle
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

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Anyone feel the burden to help us with our India Pastors Conference $10,000 budget to impact 500 pastors. Donate at http://bit.ly/GIYuw6

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Anyone feel the burden to help us with our India Pastors Conference $10,000 budget to impact 500 pastors. Donate at http://bit.ly/GIYuw6

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

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Register for Eagles Summit Conference Virginia May 31-June 2 #eaglessummit #constantcontact

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pastor J. H. Osborne On Sermon Preparation

Pastor J. H. Osborne On Sermon Preparation

These are some notes that I took from a session thatPastor J. H. Osborne participated in at a young ministers meeting among the ALJC organization. I listened to the MP3 and gathered these thoughts from his session. In addition to these notes are some other things that I pulled out from when I went to the Fall Classic that Pastor Jerry Dean hosts annually in October in Bossier. I will make a designation so you will know what came from that event. In 2003 and 2004, Brother Osborne addressed about 50 men that were invited.

He mentioned that the only motivation and instruction he had came from one of the parishioners who told him, “You better be good because we have got a mortgage to make!” I think sometime I am going to do a blog about some of the crazy things that parishioners say to pastors. He felt that pressure to produce which is not all bad. One thing Brother Harrell routinely tells me is that Sunday comes around pretty regular. There are times when I am sure that every pastor feels like that it always seems like Sunday is the next day unless you are like my friend Ben Weeks who always has his gun loaded and stays ahead five or six at a time!

He also mentioned that in the early days not very many pastors were willing to share any of their notes, techniques, and methods for preaching. Many of those men were sermon graveyards and everything they did went to the grave with them. If we could gain from all the wisdom from the grave, it would be a huge blessing to us. Much of their progress in life never made it beyond the grave because of the lack of opportunity to pass it on to younger men.

Henry Clay, when he was about to speak out against slavery, was told by his closest friends that he shouldn’t make such statements if he wanted to be the President. His remarks were not going to help his cause but when he heard them out he answered them and said that he would rather be right than to be the President. This is what it all comes down to in life! Right in doctrine, in ministry, and in life needs to be the motivation for every man who is involved in ministry.

1. Look At Things That May Not Make Sense

When reading the Bible, there are events that are recorded that sometimes in reading them there is a tendency to think that it does not make sense that this character got involved with this, did this particular thing, or did not give himself to a particular action.

Ahithophel, who was one of David’s closest counselors and because of his human nature to hold on to things, changed his allegiance to Absalom. Absalom was doing his best to revolt against his father and now one of David’s strongest supporters became somewhat of a traitor. His counsel was like an oracle of God but when it was not received by Absalom the way that he felt like it ought to be, he went home and hanged himself. Actions like this that do not make sense in the grand scheme of things can be very ripe areas for sermons.

If a pastor was to go home and hang himself every time someone did not take his advice, you may as well leave the rope up. It just does not make much sense what Ahithophel did. There had to be an underlying source of motivation for his suicide. This is where the sermon production can grow. Find out what it was that caused him to do such a thing. Backtracking in his life, you will discover that he was Bathsheba’s grandfather and he apparently never could let go of what David did to her and killed her husband. When he finally figured out a way to retaliate against David, the plan did not work.

The sermon is worked out in this manner: Revenge eats away like a canker and it will destroy you. David had gotten over it, Bathsheba had gotten over it, God has gotten over it but Ahithophel never could get beyond it. This is typical for those who hold on to malice, anger, hate, and grief; it will end up killing them. This is the great value of letting things go and getting beyond it. The Old Hanging Tree! Look around you and you will discover that there are many people who are caught up in this kind of life.

2. Timing & Relevance

Timing and relevance is very important with preaching. A man can have a great sermon but if it is preached at the wrong time, it is going to be wasted. The revelation that you have has to be relevant. Brother Osborne made the analogy that if you happened to be called to work with a man that had been receiving care from a hospice, you probably ought not to start with the Tabernacle in the wilderness to explain salvation, you might need to move a little further over to the New Testament. The silver sockets and badger skins aren’t going to be very helpful despite the fact that you might have an awesome sermon on them! Sermons don’t necessarily need to be deep but it needs to be relevant to where they are living in life.

The badger skins came from porpoises in the Nile River. But the way that Moses got them was that their shoes were made of badger skins and they were needed to make the roof of the Tabernacle. So the children of Israel give up their shoes just before making a forty-year trek into the wilderness. That doesn’t make much sense! But when they had given up their shoes, God provides them with shoes that never wore out.

3. Cheap Bread (or The Cost Involved in Bringing the Bread)

John 6 mentions bread and Jesus identifying himself as the Bread of Life. In Matthew 4 the temptation took place in the wilderness and the devil tried to get the Lord to turn the stones into bread so he would be able to eat. All through the life of Jesus, he was a man who was very humble and his life would end in untold pain and rejection. He would finally suffer the excruciating and humiliating pain of death on the Cross. All of it had been laid out for him and his path was very difficult.

All three of the temptations were in actuality an easier path for the Lord to accomplish his goal. No need for divine order, future pain, and other matters that was required. The devil was simply offering the ability for him to get it all immediately. This is perhaps one of the greatest temptations to overcome.

He had been languishing in hunger and now his body is screaming for something to eat after the forty day fast. Just looking at this passage of Scripture and understanding these things is not particularly hard to grasp. In fact, when the Bible speaks of bread, in the general sense it is making the comparison to all food that would nourish someone. The word of the tempter always comes through our appetites. It was a reasonable solution to a physical problem. It was a cheap miracle that would have met the need for his hunger.

The reality of falling to this temptation would have meant that it would have set the tone for the rest of his life. It would have bypassed the whole set of necessary disciplines that his life was to be based on. Cheap bread would have saved him from the hardship and poverty. But instead of falling to the whims of his flesh, he chose to wait. In overcoming this pull for cheap bread, he then could go to prepare a feast that would meet the needs of everyone but it comes at a future point. The choice: Cheap bread today or wait and prepare a more expensive bread later that will feed the generations to come. He would have to eat alone if he chose cheap bread or in waiting, multitudes would be fed.

This generation of ministers is tempted by cheap bread. Bread that is painless and doesn’t cost anything will not last beyond the day. Cheap bread is not the plan or purpose of God for his church. The point to hammer home is this: Preaching genuine, heart-felt messages will not come some easy and painless way. There is a cost involved that is exacting, holy, godly, and excruciating but it will last beyond the day. Cheap bread always feeds the ego of a preacher but it does not last in the long run! Jesus chose to make bread in the costly way which put him on a trail of death. Yet through that death would mean redemption for all. His body is the bread!

The ultimate question: Does preaching feed the ego of the preacher or the needs of the people? The answer to that question helps us to understand volumes about a preacher’s motives.

Isaiah mentions bread corn that is bruised. The only way for bread to come about is for the corn or wheat to be ground to powder and then baked. Crushing, winnowing, and then the heat are the process that brings real bread. This is the way that God chooses to make His men preach the Gospel unflinchingly. There is going to be a great brokenness involved in a man who is going to be a true minister of Jesus Christ. You may fight it or you may settle for cheap bread and in the end, it will all come to nothing. Or you can resist the temptation to get involved in the trinkets of religion and pay the price! 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

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Ps131:1My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

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Books by John Arcovio on Amazon, digital and paperback http://amzn.to/xORLi5

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

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The fire reveals whats in us! Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him

Monday, February 6, 2012

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1.China trip in April, traveling mercies, safety for leaders and angelic
Covering in meeting.
2. Wisdom for Andrea and IWith family.
3. Andrea has started a new thyroid medication that her body will not reject it and for the ultimate healing.
4. Favor direction and finances for upcoming 6 Regional Eagles Summits budget $75,000
5. Favor and direction on possible India Crusade in June potential of 100,000 people attending budget $60,000
Thank you for prayer & support!

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Thank you to prayer warrior cover..we love and depend in you! Here are new requests.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

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Good stuff by Phillip Harrelson

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Good stuff by Phillip Harrelson

The Dark Side of Spiritual Abuse Part 5 (reprint)

The Dark Side of Spiritual Abuse -- Part 5

This is the last post on this particular series. I appreciate the comments, e-mails, and phone calls that I have received concerning this very sensitive subject. The genesis of this blog series actually begin when I was asked by J. R. Ensey to put together a paper to present at a theological forum that he hosts annually at various places around the country. I am very appreciative at the response I received when I delivered this paper at the forum in Albany, Georgia a few weeks ago. I have just a few final thoughts to add before moving to other areas on the blog.

What I increasingly discovered was in these dark spiritually abusive environments that it serves as excellent and fertile conditions for hypocrisy to prevail. As you dig deeper into these environments you soon discover dark, deviant sins and moral corruption simmering beneath the surface. I believe that the huge level of repression that takes place in these “churches” does nothing except bring out the worst sins of the flesh. Although when someone finally does decide to speak up concerning the matter of these dark sins, the leader usually resorts to efforts of damage control so that the leadership and the church do not have a soiling of “reputation.” Man hasn’t really learned any new tricks about covering sin; he still resorts to insufficient fig leaves just as Adam and Eve did at the beginning of the state of man.

What I also found to be very surprising is that most of the time the wife of the leader will also work toward damage control. She will do everything within her power to live up to the social pressures of maintaining some semblance of normalcy in the various relationships she has within the church. She apparently has come to understand that the dark side of her mate can shift on her as much as it does with those people he is taking advantage of. So instead of dealing with the moral and spiritual failure that is present things are left to follow the course of gravity. Gravity leads the person to maintain an environment of manipulation and absolute mind control on those people he is supposed to serve.

While I have written about the traits and characteristics of those who are involved in a spiritually abusive environment, I have not been specific with practices of spiritual abuse. I will list some of the practices while leaving some of the most extreme situations out as some would probably be absolutely shocked to know this kind of thing takes place under the guise of religion. So here are some actual practices of spiritual abuse:

• A member having to submit financial records to the church leader and the leader determines how and when they are to spend their money.
• A member having to sell various things on a constant basis to feed the coffers of the church so that it entirely benefits the leader.
• A wide disparity between the lifestyle of the leader and the members. He lives like a king while the members appear to live at a level of poverty or barely just able to get by.
• The leader using a “word of knowledge” or “word of wisdom” to pick a spouse for those who are in the congregation.
• Members being absolutely forbidden to question the direction the leader takes or question the decisions he is making.
• Members being forced to totally forsake their extended family who do not attend the “church.”
• Members being told that if they leave the church for any reason that “the hand of God will be against you.”
• The leader gives the implication that his “church” is the only place that people may be saved with the hope of going to Heaven.
• A “pastor” who has a tendency to want to befriend the congregants on a social level but when he gets in the pulpit he uses that avenue to browbeat, condemn, criticize, and name-call those who hear him.
• A “pastor” who may call out several people or a single individual and call them to the front of the church for a public humiliation in front of everyone.
• A “pastor” who catches people in extremely vulnerable positions and when they need grace most, he turns up the control to humiliate them and ultimately control them.

There are some other unnamed situations that involve deeply personal matters that spiritual abusers will attempt to get involved in as a matter of control. If you go to a place that has these kinds of traits, it would probably be a good idea for you to carefully seek God, read your Bible, and find someone to confide in who can help you. I have also come to understand from people who have been in terribly spiritually abusive situations that God would speak to them through very vivid dreams. While I am not one to necessarily over-play those situations, I do know that there are times when God does indeed speak to us very clearly and directly through dreams. I encourage you that if this is taking place, do not ignore it! Seek out spiritual advice from a trusted source and you may even need to give yourself to some extended times of prayer and fasting so God can become even clearer to you. I would also add that if what you are experiencing from this “leader” anything that is outside the realm of Scripture, that man is wrong! He may violate you with intimidation and control but if he chooses to go against Scripture, he is wrong! He has no liberty whatsoever to go against the principles of Scripture!

On the other hand, if you go to a church that has an incredibly warm, spiritual environment where God is exalted and His Word is preached, sometime today you owe it to God to breathe out some gratitude.

When I addressed the forum in Albany, I prefaced my remarks by saying that there are some could literally have a field day with this subject. There are some who are unconverted, resistant to the Gospel, and are presently lost but have been deceived in their minds and truly believe they are part of the church who scoff at and malign every church that has any spiritual requirements and label them as spiritually abusive. So for those who may have come to this blog looking for a loop-hole, I am going to close it before you make it down that path. Because there are some things that are NOT spiritual abuse but as the church has increasingly come under the assault of culture and the devil, some very godly, separated, and righteous churches may look like they are spiritually abusive. But because they have a high level of respect for doctrine, holiness, and the mission of the church, our world has changed so much that much of what is passed off as Christianity has become so watered down it is powerless to save. So let me address in conclusion what spiritual abuse is not.

• Spiritual abuse is not preaching a steady diet of the Word that is cross-cultural and opposes the modern humanistic mindset of most of the world. In fact it is spiritual abuse when a pastor does not have the intestinal fortitude to do so.
• Spiritual abuse is not when a pastor gets involved and helps financially challenged people set up a budget in an effort to help them gain control of their money. (By the way, people don’t have money problems, they have behavior problems! Thanks to Dave Ramsey for that quote.)
• Spiritual abuse is not when a pastor determines that there are biblical standards of modesty that are to be honored no matter what our culture says and does. I believe it is spiritual abuse when a pastor does not set a biblical level of expectation on the church he is called to serve.
• Spiritual abuse is not when a pastor calls for a church to support the work of God with a tenth of their income that serves as a tithe and also encourages giving beyond that to accomplish the work of national and global missions. It is spiritual abuse when we allow the materialism of the age to grip a church until its spiritual life is choked out while chasing “stuff.”

Obviously this list is not all-inclusive however it is enough for you to understand that there are some very good godly men who are doing their best to make a difference in their churches. Pray for them!

Thanks for reading. . .

Philip Harrelson

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Spiritual Abuse Part 3

The Dark Side of Spiritual Abuse -- Part 3

This is the third installment in a series on spiritual abuse (Part 1 & Part 2). The whole idea of spiritual abuse is a very troubling at best. The church was intended to be a place of redemptive recovery facilitated by the grace of God. When manipulative control moves to the forefront it can have a very harmful effect on the people who gather to worship. It also has to be established that spiritual abuse can take place in a reverse order. It can originate from the congregation in the form of a board of elders or a single influential member who controls the pastor through financial means or sometimes through psychological and physical intimidation. Increasingly one will find the reverse order in churches that once had to deal with a pastor who was spiritually abusive. 

Spiritual abuse is defined as “the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support, or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining or decreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment.” It can be defined another way as “destructive and dangerous involvement in a religion that allows the religion, not a relationship with God, to control a person’s life. He also goes on to say, “People broken by various experiences, people from dysfunctional families, people with unrealistic expectations, and people out for their own gain or comfort seem especially prone to it.” Spiritual leaders who resort to this kind of activity may or may not immediately recognize the control they are exerting. The trend usually isn’t immediately recognized but as time passes the cycle of behavior manifests in a manner that has a horrific effect on people’s lives. Even worse is the leader who acclimates himself to a state of denial of his own personal responsibility. To compensate for the increasingly unsettled environment, he may begin to assign all of the spiritual shipwrecks of the past as those who were “wolves” or “rebellious.” 

As I filtered through all of the material concerning spiritual abuse, I jotted down a series of questions concerning not just the church but the leader too. They were based more on a rhetorical nature that did not so much require an answer but rather an evaluation of the spiritual health of the place where this activity is taking place. 

• What does spiritual abuse do to those who worship there? How does it affect their sense of worship and understanding of God?
• Can God have freedom to transform and can grace really do an adequate work in this atmosphere where fear, intimidation, and manipulation prevail?
• Can true spiritual growth and discipleship take place in this setting?
• What do the actions of the pastor have on his soul in the long term? This was a very troubling question to me personally. What dark things begin to take place in the soul of the pastor who exerts force in such a way that he is never challenged and held to a standard of accountability himself?????
• Are his actions motivated by pride of place or position?
• Has he moved from being an under-shepherd to a lord over God’s heritage? Such spiritual abuse literally takes the place of God in the working of the church. 
• Is there a sense of the grace of God reflected in any of the public ministry of the Word?
• Is there an attempt to place heavy weights on the people he is called to shepherd?
• Does he empower people to live in a venue of spiritual growth in a public setting as well as within the private confines of the heart?
• Are implications given that the church one serves in is the only church that has the ability to prepare people for eternity?
• Is there an attitude by the spiritual leader that seems to promote a sense of spiritual elitism and aloofness around the members of the church? 
• Is he placed on a pedestal on a spiritual plane and material plane above them? 
• What is his standard of living compared to those he pastors?
• Is there a feeling of subtle paranoia expressed by the people of being afraid to associate with other churches that may not be entirely similar in principles but hold the same level of doctrinal commitment to the apostolic message?

A pastor who resorts to spiritual abuse will use shame and manipulation to wield his sense of authority. He will take emotional and traumatic failures and use them in a manner to spiritually blackmail and discredit them. Shame is a very powerful tool to use when it comes to having absolute control over the people. Johnson and Vonderen in their book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse identifies seven distinct characteristics of shame based relationships that pastors will resort to using. Shaming takes place in the course of general church life. It is used such a way to imply that this person may be so weak and defective that they are nothing in comparison to other church members. Through this kind of action the shamed person may feel unloved, unaccepted, an inability to fit in, of no real value, and isolated and alone. 

The abuser will begin to quite verbally and publicly shame people. He will use name-calling, belittling put-downs and comparisons to others. A focus on performance that implies how a person behaves is more important than real spiritual change that takes place at the level of the heart. 

Another technique that is used will manipulate people into various circles of influence that helps him to control the whole group. It works with a series of unspoken rules that people are afraid to over-step because of their fear of the fallout. There is almost as if they think that some measure of punishment that may come to them and will either hurt them or embarrass them. There may be times that he will even resort to work within a family so that the majority of a family stands with the abuser against a single victim. Now the person who is experiencing the brunt of the abuse has no one to turn to because the pastor and his own family is opposed to him. 

The abuser is masterful at using a “grapevine” network instead of meeting them face-to-face to work toward a solution to the problem.
 When there is a face-to-face meeting the abuser pours on humiliation and contempt in such a way that the person has no way to respond positively to the correction. It can be very wilting both spiritually and psychologically to the person who experiences this kind of treatment. 

The fourth characteristic of shame-based relationships works with a system of idolatry that makes God nothing more than an impossible to please judge who is constantly seeking to destroy.Instead of changing God into a graven image, He is changed into a nit-picking, harsh, and very narrow being who is so concerned with performance at the expense of grace that no person can live up to. The necessary observation to be entertained is this changing of the nature of God breaks the first commandment and encroaches on the change in the nature of God. This is the great mistake that the reprobate man was guilty of in Romans 1. There was the nature of being changed into something that He was not. Spiritual abusers are guilty of this action!

Another characteristic is a preoccupation with fault and blame. The force behind this gives the abuser power because any confession that is given will be an opportunity for him to know who to shame and hold them hostage to their actions. Buried reality is a principle that gives the implication that any thought, opinion, or feeling that is opposed to the one who is in authority must be denied. This dilemma creates angst in the mind of the followers because should they see some principle in operation in their church environment that they do not agree with; instead of dealing with it in a healthy and spiritual way, they are forced to suppress their own thoughts that oppose that of the leader. 

Because of this people are unable to work through the challenges of life that life present to them for the fear of having to endure the shame that will be poured out on them if they are not in lockstep with the rest of the group. This is the most dangerous of all of the actions of shame-based relationships because it operates in such a way to induce mental pressures that may lead to a complete collapse of their psychological system. The people who are often under the duress of this kind of dynamic will experience stress-related illnesses. Sometimes it can lead to a total mental shutdown requiring psychiatric care. There are various types of medical conditions that health care professionals immediately recognize to be related to the mental hygiene or lack thereof in the presentation of the patients. The mind is a very powerful device that has much impact on the natural function of the human body. Some spiritual abusers may or may not be aware of this but usually in the cases where the victim finally does breakdown, it is looked upon almost gleefully as an act of God that “took care” of the problem so to speak. What does it say about the abuser who feels this way??? 

The last characteristic of shame-based relationships has to do with the relationships within the group.
 There appears a great disparity that is demonstrated by a strong over-involvement or a complete lack of involvement. This kind of relationship with the group causes people to manifest various traits such as a fear of being deserted, lack of self-discipline, rebelling against the structure, a high need of structure, a sense that if there is a problem the solution comes only through self-reliance, putting up boundaries that keep safe people away, and strong feelings of guilt even when nothing has been violated. As you can see, the enemy of the soul loves to take advantage of these kinds of situations so he can create strongholds in their minds that warps them for future service (2 Cor. 10:1-5). 

In the environment where spiritual abuse predominates there are frequent references in the public setting of preaching and in the private times of counseling that commonly brings up subjects like rebellion, accusations of causing dissension, and other methods of emotional intimidation. He will emphasize his own personal “anointing” and calling in an exclusive manner which serves in a way that dictates more than it serves. Frequently he will state that you cannot touch God’s anointed. He will call to mind biblical references of Korah, Dathan, Abiram, Absalom, and even Judas as a measure of control that heaps on guilt and further empowers the leader. He can also even resort to bringing in outside ministers who serve as nothing more than “hired guns” to eviscerate emotionally, spiritually and psychologically a congregation with a so-called sermon. Usually there is some aura about the merchants of Balaam and they are cast in the role of a prophet that is not to be crossed. However my strong contention to this kind of manipulation is that the visiting “prophet” has done nothing more than to merchandize his own calling to a lesser standard motivated by what Peter called “filthy lucre.” 

This emphasis on authority will be so much to the effect that the person enduring this malicious behavior of the abuser will soon discover a creeping depression or a spiritual numbness overcoming their mind. The cycle darkens when the accused begins to manufacture feelings that if they were “spiritual” enough then they would not be in the place where they are now. They have a real concern that they are indeed living in open rebellion to the authority of God. Over the course of time, spiritual abuse will damages spiritual development and leads to damaged souls who have no real ability to respond properly to God and the church. In fact, I have witnessed with my own eyes what I call spiritual pygmies who have never overcome the abuse that a spiritually abusive leader heaped on them decades ago. 

Spiritually abusive leaders constantly drive home the fact that members are never doing enough. It can be a very simple laundry list of good and disciplined practices that enhance our relationship with God but the demands of performance have such power over the person until it wilts them down. The demands can be: not praying enough, not giving enough, not “spiritual” enough, not praising enough. In doing this the abuser gains even more control by placing the heavy burden of human performance on the congregation until it will never measure up to the spiritual demands that are being made. 

Spiritual abusers are usually very tuned into the personal lives of those whom they tower over and will use their knowledge of those details to control them. They will take personal sickness, sick children, financial maladies, nagging wives and abusive husbands, unruly children, and a myriad of other life situations to say that this is the judgment of God because of their lack of submission to authority. There are times that the spiritual abuser will imply that he has come to the information because of direct revelation from God. In actuality the information came to him simply because he fills the role of a pastor. His truth twisting that God has revealed this to him only serves to heighten his control of the people because they may fear his seeming clairvoyance into their lives. The truth is that all people have problems and it simply comes with the territory called life. While the church is confined to the world there always will be constant struggles with the world, the flesh, and the devil. To place a heavier burden on people for these kinds of calamities of life is unconscionable, deceptive, and malicious. 

More next week. . . 

Thanks for reading. . .

Spiritual Abuse Part 4

The Dark Side of Spiritual Abuse -- Part 4

This post may seem as if there is an overlap from the last post. In our last post, I tried to show you what actions the spiritual abusers resorted to. In this post, I will attempt to show you what a spiritual abuser looks like. 

Leadership seems to be the buzzword of our times. Bookstores now have multiple rows upon rows of books concerning this particular subject. Some of the content is very good and can help a person to hone their management skills and work toward becoming self-disciplined in a manner that will prove good for the organization that they are serving. I personally have benefited from some of the secular leadership books that I have read over the years. Despite all of these necessary and good resources only a small, in fact, microscopic amount of these books address spiritual issues in the life of the leader. 

There aren’t any spiritual leadership concepts given in the books that Jim Collins has written. Patrick Lencioni does not address the spiritual side of a man who wants to build a Fortune 500 company. Peter Drucker’s works have almost elevated him posthumously to an exalted messiah among the leadership gurus of the last century. If we are not careful, there can be a tendency to think that we can build a church the same way that Steve Jobs made Apple successful. Once a spiritual leader buys into that particular idea that he can build a spiritual church with the same techniques that a profit-driven company is built, he deceives himself and he will create spiritual mayhem with the sheep he is meant to feed. 

Spiritually abusive leaders are often very ambitious and driven toward success. It is important to understand the motives that drive men in spiritual leadership because our motives say much about our true intentions. Gary McIntosh in his book,Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, identifies five types of leadership styles that lead toward tendencies to be spiritually abusive. The compulsive leader is characterized by being status conscious, looking for reassurance and approval from those in authority. He will have a tendency to try to control activities and keep order at all times doing this by being an extreme workaholic. They can be excessively moralistic, conscientious, and judgmental. He may have an angry and rebellious attitude but will repress his true feelings and hold in the anger and resentment. When these dark emotions turn on the church, the atmosphere immediately turns into one of control and extreme authoritarianism.

There are certain traits that usually show up in the preaching style of a compulsive leader. He will frequently be a gifted and charismatic speaker but has the tendency to minimize any impact of the Scriptures unless they are going to serve his own agenda. He will also be the hero of all of his stories and listeners will be “amazed” at his feats in personal outreach/evangelism, prayer schedule, and devotion to the Scriptures. He may even say something like this; “I am God’s appointed authority in your life. If you oppose me you’re opposing God.” He will almost have the capacity to turn himself into a rock star for a lack of a better description. He leads people to follow him instead of the Lord. 

The narcissistic leader is driven to succeed by a need for admiration and acclaim. Often he will demonstrate an inflated sense of self-importance as well as great ambitions and grandiose fantasies. These leaders are generally very self-absorbed but will have a sense of uncertainty because of deep feelings of inferiority. Frequently they are unable to enjoy any success that comes into their life. He will have an outward presentation of discontentment and dissatisfaction with life. As his feelings of discontentment surface, he will seek to have more control in the operation of daily spiritual life. Additionally this leader will become embroiled in the financial decisions, career choices, and various day-to-day functions of life. The interesting thing is that some people allow this up-close intrusion in their lives and seem to think nothing of it. 

The paranoid leader is suspicious, hostile, fearful, and jealous. He is constantly afraid that someone will undermine his position and are hypersensitive to the actions of others. He will attach subjective meaning to the motives of those around him and will create rigid structures for control. He also demonstrates strong feelings of insecurity and a lack of confidence. This leader is the most dangerous of all because he will work to manipulate the entire body of believers into docile, intimidated followers who are afraid of him. Anyone who opposes his methods of madness will be horribly ostracized and publicly humiliated.

A couple of the methods that this kind of leader will use can be incredibly intimidating. He will use outside “ministries” that appear to operate in the gifts of the Spirit. After spending time with the pastor who informs the “prophet” of the shortcomings and failings of the people, this “prophet” will call people out and confront or shame them in front of the entire congregation. They will be accused of stirring dissension, creating a mutiny, or of hosting demonic spirits of rebellion. The other method is a little less direct and more private. It usually involves a time of “counseling” in which the Lord has supposedly revealed some form of dark hidden character flaw to the pastor and he uses this as a way to control the people he is leading. 

The co-dependent leader is marked by being a peacemaker who covers up problems rather than facing them. The reason he covers up the problems is to maintain the balance of the group. He can be very benevolent with a high tolerance for deviant behavior and willing to take on more work so he does not have to ask anyone for assistance. He would rather react than act decisively. Often they are a repressed, frustrated person who has trouble giving full, honest expression to emotions or problems. Often one may scratch the surface of communities like this and there will be a discovery of dark, deviant sins that have been covered over for years. The reason that sin is covered is because the leader is more concerned with appearances than true spiritual substance and spiritual growth. If the sin is uncovered or if there have to be instances of church discipline this can destroy the perception the abusive spiritual leader has worked to build. 

The passive-aggressive leader has traits such as being extremely stubborn, forgetful, and intentionally inefficient. There is a tendency to complain, resist demands, procrastinate, and drag out assignments as a means of controlling the environment and those around them. Periodically they may exert control by the use of short outbursts of sadness or anger. These leaders are generally filled with anger, bitterness, and a fear of success since it will lead to higher expectations.

In an atmosphere where a passive-aggressive leader rules you will rarely see young men coming to develop a calling into the ministry. The most prominent reason for this is because the leader does not want anyone to outpace him. Passive-aggressive leaders have a strong affinity toward a messiah complex in which they believe all ideas must come from them or through them. In fact what you will discover is that the people who do dare to oppose him operate on the premise that they will advance their cause first and get forgiveness later. They understand that they will not get permission if they ask, so they engage their plan or project and wait for the fallout to develop. Passive-aggressive leaders rarely want to sit down and deal with problems face-to-face and if they are forced into this kind of meeting, it immediately becomes heavy-handed and often the leader resorts to angry rants. The leader will work everything to play to his advantage so that he can humiliate the person who has dared to oppose him. 

When all of these processes are set into motion, a very dark environment comes to life. There will be a revolving door of members who come and go. Every honest-hearted pastor must admit that he has lost some people for various reasons over his years of pastoral ministry. Truthfully some fault rests on both sides of the pulpit. On the other hand, if you are a pastor, take a look at the people you are leading and ask yourself if you can see all stages of various Christian growth in the congregation. In fact, I personally believe that you ought to have a range of the most mature to the most immature of Christians who show up every week. That can usually be a good sign of spiritual health in a church. If the congregation is all new folks or all “old” folks then it very well could be an opportunity to address some of your own spiritual issues.

I appreciate you reading about this very sensitive subject. I realize the volatility of it and know that there will be detractors on both sides of the fence who say there is not enough authority expressed by spiritual leaders and others who will say that there is too much authority taken. I will use a couple more posts to tell you what spiritual abuse is not and also some resources that will help a pastor to see the ultimate priority of his calling should be about. 
Philip Harrelson

Monday, January 16, 2012

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@JoshuaMelancon giving Honor to Bishop Ronnie Melancon who has been a "quiet" voice in my life for past 17 years as well as a great friend!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Spiritual Abuse Part 2

The Dark Side of Spiritual Abuse -- Part 2

To give a little history as to how some of the heavy-handed authoritative traits came into play among pastors you have to trace back to the charismatic movement. Out of the charismatic movement there was the evolving of a concept called “shepherding.”

The Latter Rain movement actually had its earliest beginnings in the late 1800’s and was born out of the Methodist and Holiness camp-meeting environment. It would continue to generate momentum and experience growth during the post-World War II years and be much encouraged by the Charismatic movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Marked by extreme excess and abuse of the gifts of the Spirit, this activity led to the production of “prophets” who had little use for personal holiness and consecration. After a while it appeared that they only had a desire for their own personal kingdoms to grow.

As time went by these intruders became susceptible to moral and ethical failures. The subsequent fallout from their failures caused many who followed them to be led astray by their repulsive actions. In an effort to recover from these shenanigans a group of leaders came together and formed what was called “The Shepherding Movement.” Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Charles Simpson, and Don Basham were the primary founders of this loosely formed organization who determined that its sole purpose would be to form a system of personal accountability. Later a fifth leader, Ern Baxter would be added to make up what was referred to as the “Fort Lauderdale Five.”

They decided that their work would be modeled after the pattern of Paul mentoring his sons in the faith, Timothy and Titus. They would work toward building a system of accountability that would form deeper relationships among pastors, ministry development at all levels, and ethical standards with emphasis on moral and financial dealings.

The whole system worked with the idea that anyone who came into the church needed a “shepherd.” After witnessing the moral collapse of several prominent men, this seemed to be a good and necessary thing. Who could object to the need for spiritual leadership and accountability? It became very heavy on authority and control in a manner that even simple decisions of daily living had to be monitored and approved by the pastor/leader of local congregations.

As an example, the leader would have to make the final decisions on car purchases, home mortgages, and job opportunities. In some cases, the “shepherd” would designate who young men and young women would marry to the degree that the marriages were arranged and carried through. The “shepherd” would have almost complete control over the personal finances. The parishioners would bring their paychecks to him and he would cash them and take his cut which was oftentimes more than 10% and give them the remainder. So as you can see the role of the pastor changed into an extreme form of authoritative control.

Some of the characteristics of the Shepherding system are as follow:

• Discipleship only takes place when one is committed to the group, cell ministry, and its leader.
• The only hope of salvation is extreme devotion to the shepherd of the group. This indicates the leader has more power to save than does Jesus Christ.
• Jesus Christ does not work directly in the life of the follower but rather He works through a system of delegated authority that flows down from the shepherd. You are to submit to this man as you would submit to God.
• Our relationship with God is not primary but rather it works in tandem with the power of a shepherd who has total control over the present, material world we live in.
• Our obedience to the shepherd and his direction is to be unquestioning even if it is discovered to be faulty. The idea being that God is more concerned with submission to authority than the nature of the orders being given.
• The shepherd is an extension of God and we are to allow him to have the final say in every decision that we make in life.
• Our submission to the shepherd causes us to come under the “umbrella” of his authority so that our response to his control opens to us a “door” of God’s approval.

While all of these components may have a portion of truth in them, they have the ability to seriously hinder the sanctifying work of the Word and the Spirit in the believer’s life. Over the course of time, a leader who operates in this manner is throwing wide open the door for corruption to gain entrance into his soul (If you haven’t read the Perils of Power by Richard Exely, it is a very good book on this matter although somewhat dated). Very few leaders have the consecration of a Cross-driven life to maintain this kind of leadership for a long period of time. In fact one writer noted that there is a dark side to every leader that has to be constantly brought into the presence of the Lord for careful scrutiny by the Spirit. The dark side of a personality has been affected with examples, emotions, expectations, and experiences that come during a lifetime of service for the Lord. Some of them are spot on and others are faulty.

The entrance of the “shepherding” leadership model entered our ranks through two other influences. While many men were vigilant against the excesses of the Latter Rain and would not be taken in by the ideas and concepts of the Shepherding Movement, our guard was dropped a bit with the influence of the works of Watchman Nee.

The books The Spiritual Man and Spiritual Authority had an appeal because of their seemingly very simple directives that led to a “deeper spiritual life.” Because of the rampant promotion of revival, renewal and outpouring, the door was opened for the influence of these writings. The Spiritual Man had a greater appeal for a deepening spiritual life that promoted prayer and a sensitivity to the work of the Holy Ghost among both leadership and laity. While there are some solid Scriptural principles in The Spiritual Man, Nee had a tendency to lean toward a heavy sense of mysticism and subjectivity when it came to understanding Scripture.

The second book, Spiritual Authority, made inroads to those who were in positions of spiritual leadership. It promoted the concept of unquestioning obedience even if the advice was suspect or even faulty in doctrine. In some cases the emphasis of the book even insinuated that if the pastor was absolutely wrong in his leadership, the people were still supposed to follow him. Nee believed that God would not hold the people responsible but rather the leader would be held responsible.

I am certain that deep within the heart of every authentic godly pastor there is a great desire for holiness, harvest, prayer, and the Word. Sometimes the passion for these elements of the Kingdom of God overcomes the ability to honestly discern what may be bad for the apostolic church. If zeal is not tempered and directed by knowledge it can lead to the downfall of many. Through the influence of personal consecration in prayer, devotion to Scripture, and well-placed elders a minister can find a sense of spiritual safety. But that sense of safety is very carefully preserved by having a sense of discernment. At some point, discernment always forces us to make choices that will separate fellowship from those who abuse their authority.

The second influence besides Watchman Nee also approached very subtly. It was through a role that Bill Gothard would play. Through his books and his seminars, Gothard managed to influence those who were willing to give credence to his material. Bill Gothard appealed to the apostolic movement because of his very structured and conservative views on lifestyle. In fact, his teachings promote personal purity, morality, and a devotion to the Bible as the greatest guide to life. Those who follow Gothard manage to live by his checklists and formulas and through behavior modification seem to promote righteousness.

Throughout his writings concerning life principles that are set about in series of “conflicts,” there are continuous inferences concerning absolute submission to authority and the problems of rebellion. While some of his principles in both of these matters carry some weight, they can get out of control very quickly. Gothard popularized the idea concerning the “umbrella” of authority. He believed that a pastor had ultimate authority that was never to be questioned. Those who were under his “care” would find protection if they submitted blindly to his teachings. To the spiritually discerning, it should be very easy to understand how dangerous that this position of ministry can be to even the man whose motives have been completely purified by God through sanctification and suffering. A pastor/elder who has no one to whom he answers to will at some point make a terrible decision that will affect many of those that he is trying to lead.

I will never forget a friend of mine, who had a busy itinerant ministry all across the United States in the mid-90’s, recommending a book to me. He had managed to gain an entrance to preach in some of the more prominent leaders churches’ during that period of time. In one place, he was told that if he wanted to replicate what he saw in that church as far as growth, numbers, leadership, and direction that he should read a book called Atlas Shrugged. When he called me late one night and recommended that book to me, I had never heard of it. But all of us young guys wanted “success” and so over the next few days (this was before the internet and all the gadgets we have now) I scoured various bookstores and finally found a copy at the library. The book was written by Ayn Rand who I soon discovered was a proponent of the survival of the fittest mentality with the concept of crushing any opposition that attempted to oppose the progress that was being promoted. It was shocking to me to discover that this humanistic and secular kind of fodder was being used to build a spiritual kingdom.

Lastly, I remember another time that a pastor who was a bit older than I was told me that if I would follow the principles by Watchman Nee in Spiritual Authority that I would build a “big” church. I soon determined I wasn’t so much interested in building a “big” church as I was a godly, faithful, and righteous church and to do that I would have to pray and teach/preach the Bible and by being a sower, God would let the growth take care of itself.

More tomorrow. . .

Thanks for reading. . .

Re-Post of Philip Harrelson Blog

he Dark Side of Spiritual Abuse -- Part 1

For the last six weeks or so, I have been researching, reading, and taking notes from various places concerning the difficult subject of spiritual abuse. One of the reasons for my doing this is in preparation for a theological forum to be held in Albany, Georgia in a few weeks. It is being organized by the former president of Texas Bible College, J. R. Ensey, and hosted by Pastor Steve Waldron.

Back in the summer, Brother Ensey sent out an e-mail soliciting papers to be written on various subjects and after musing through the choices, I started thinking more along the lines of a pastoral theology kind of subject. Although I am not quite sure how I finally settled on this particular issue, I have been thoroughly enlightened on this subject.

In the past, I have written on church trouble from the angle of people in the congregation who found great enthusiasm for tormenting pastors until they finally ran them off. The religious landscape is littered with men who no longer pastor churches and gave up the calling of a ministry because of a situation where they found themselves in great contention with the hidden powers that ran the church. If you are interested you may read those old Barnabas Blog posts from a couple of years ago (Part 1 & Part 2). Since writing those posts, I have observed a few more of these unfortunate situations as they unfolded.

On the other hand, there are also churches that have had endure terrible abuses at the hands of heavy-handed, manipulative, and dark pastors who fall into the category of being a spiritual abuser.

I must say from the outset that this kind of activity to me is totally foreign because of the environment that I grew up in with my own pastor (and now father-in-law) Joe Patterson. Because of his spiritual leadership, I grew up with the idea that the church was the most incredible, warm, and safe place on the earth. It was only after I begin to travel around a bit and grew up some spiritually and mentally that I was exposed to the dark side of the church and ministry. To be quite frank with you, it was a bit unnerving and initially faith-jarring.

Once I saw the dark side, I was forced to go back to Scripture and really analyze what the church looked like in its early stages. I discovered that Pentecostals have a very romantic view about the early church and usually see nothing but a bunch of miracles, exponential numerical growth, and great displays of spiritual authority and power. However, every where the early church went there were problems and generally the problems had a name on them with a body attached. Paul’s struggle with the raging beasts at Ephesus no doubt had a human body attached to it!

When you look at the book of Acts from a chronological standpoint, it covers a 30 to 40 year time frame, depending on what scholar that you read. Furthermore when you look at it from a geographical point of reference, there were hundreds of thousands of square miles covered. So from the vantage point of time and space, there weren’t miracles and amazing growth going on every day. There was a lot of trouble mixed up with the expansion of the church. Correlate that with Paul’s catalogs of calamities in 2 Corinthians 11 and you will see a man paying a heavy price to be involved in the expansion of the Kingdom. Tie that in with the words of Ananias in Acts 9 which were directly from the Lord when Paul was informed by God that he must suffer, and then it puts the whole process into proper and much clearer perspective.

So the Scripture helped to shed some light on my faulty view of the church. There are troubled people who come into them including laity and leadership. These people who refuse to allow the Cross to really transform their lives can very easily become spiritual abusers. While the Church Trouble series highlighted the abuse that comes from the pew, my paper opened up the avenue of when abuse comes from the pulpit.

There were four books that particularly helped me to gain some insight into the whole concept of spiritual abuse. The first one was a book that focused primarily on leadership patterns by Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima entitled “Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership—The Paradox of Personal Dysfunction.” They did a very good job of shedding light on the reasons that leaders can go bad. The second book was one written by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen called “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.” There were a lot of helpful case studies that were scattered throughout this book that showed how the culture of spiritual abuse can develop in a closed church system. Two books by Stephen Arterburn called “Toxic Faith” and “More Jesus, Less Religion” also caused me to look at ministry in a whole new way.

Over the next few days, I have the intentions of sharing some observations about spiritual abusers.

Thanks for reading. . .

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Healthy Tip #7
Andrea McDonald Arcovio and I switched to only eating WHOLE foods 10 years ago ( lots of greens, fruit and sparingly on meat, mostly broiled fish and chicken). Our grocery bill was increased somewhat each month but the $$$ we have saved on doctor bills is incredible! Also each morning I replace my breakfast with this healthy shake/smoothie mixed with frozen fruit and a soy yogurt. http://slm.124online.com/ Also Dr Furmans book on "Eat to Live is excellent! Here is a eye opener video. http://www.youtube.com/watchv=KLjgBLwH3Wc&sns=em

Thursday, January 12, 2012

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Luke 11:28
He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it." May we walk in obedience today! John Arcovio

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

Saturday, January 7, 2012

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Ministry as an idol
We dream for results, but preoccupation with results can turn the churches or ministries we serve into a measurement of success. For those who feel “successful”, ministry becomes a badge of honor or trophy to be admired by others or God. When we allow the success of our church or ministry to determine our security or sense of wellbeing we are seeking from it something God intends us to receive from Him. I am describing idolatry.
At times in their history the Israelites worshipped idols. They didn’t always forsake worship of the living God – they merely served other gods with Him. Sometimes they simply made an idol of something good. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they elevated issues of holiness higher than the very God who declared them holy (Mat 12:1-8; 23:24). An idol is anything other than God in which we seek security and fulfillment.  It may be something biblical or good, but if it has the power to determine our wellbeing, we have elevated it higher than God meant for us. As those who are devoted to our churches and ministries, and therefore invest a great deal of time, energy, and heart, it is easy to elevate them too high.
We know we have made our church or ministry an idol when we put our hope and trust in it more than in God – we look to it rather than God for our identity and significance. And we know we look to our church or ministry for our significance when it has the most power to lift us up or to demoralize us A great problem with idolatry is that idols require sacrifice, and we end up sacrificing relationship with the people we serve for the idol of the family.  When we elevate the image of the church or ministry we serve, we effectively trade the people we serve hearts for our reputation. 
Craving a reputation for success puts great pressure on us, and then on our churches and ministries – we feel quite constrained to succeed. If we grow and have “success” in ministry, then we can credit ourselves with success, but the church or ministry we serve struggles or fails, then we may live with guilt, embarrassment, and bitterness.
Our highest success is not measured by the effect we have upon others, but strictly by our obedience to God. In other words, God does not credit us that someone came to faith into the Kingdom through our words – He credits us for our obedience. We obey and speak the truth – God bears the fruit (1 Cor 3:6) (re-vised re-print Bradley) John Arcovio