Here’s an article/essay a friend of mine sent to me. I’m publishing it with his permission:
There’s an essay that was brought to my attention that I think has a lot of relevance to the church in general and to the world of ADM blogging in particular. You can find the essay here at Frontline Fellowship. There is a lot of truth to what the author is saying here about the way in which pastors are treated both in their local congregations and by those who do not belong to their congregations.
The author of the essay is reviewing a book, The Wounded Minister (Dr Guy Greenfield). I’ll excerpt these two sections and let them speak for themselves. The essay (review) is helpful. The men and women who serve in pulpit positions really do struggle with this and with the proliferation of internet web pages and blogs upping the ante, it’s no wonder more and more men and women leave the ministry each year.
Who are these clergy killers? “These are not normal people, average complainers, critics and typical dissidents who are generally unhappy about life itself … they are deadly and have a knack for gathering a following of ordinary folk with common complaints and disagreements in the church. They can easily create the illusion that there are hordes of people against the pastor. They are masters at using the tyrannical they in their comments: ‘They are very unhappy about …’ or the illusive people: ‘people are saying that ….’ These are verbal instruments in the arsenal that they use to destroy a minister.”
Dr.Greenfield describes pathological antagonists/clergy killers, as persons with “a very mean spirited disposition … they are destructive. The damage that they want to inflict is intentional and deliberate. They are not out simply to disagree … they want to inflict pain and damage persons.… clergy killers are determined. They are headstrong and will stop at nothing. They may pause for a time, change strategies, even go underground to reconnoitre, but they will come back with a vengeance to continue the intimidation, networking and breaking all rules of decency to accomplish their destructive objectives. For them, their plans have priority over all other programmes of the church. These persons are deceitful … masters of manipulation, camouflage, misrepresentation and accusing others of their own atrocious deeds … experts at twisting facts. … maybe mentally disordered, but they do not yield to patience or love, nor do they honour human decency. Apparently clergy killers carry around a lot of internal pain, confusion, anger, and even rage. Spiritual leaders … become available scapegoats for this pain and confusion, which is unidentified and untreated.”
“Clergy killers are masters of intimidation, using it to violate the rules of decency and caring that most Christians try to follow. Intimidation is a powerful weapon … therefore, ministers and their supporters are easily intimidated by these persuasive and charming religious assailants. Clergy killers are experts of disguise when they see it would be to their advantage. They are able to present themselves as pious, devout and spiritual church members, who are doing their destructive work ‘for the good of the church to advance God’s Kingdom.’ They can convince naïve church members that they are raising legitimate issues. These religious monsters often hide among their allies of opportunity … they openly intimidate any opposition by making it clear that they will fight dirty and use any tactic to accomplish their goals. Gentle and peace-at- any-price church members are quickly sidelined by such threats, leaving ministers and those who support them to cope with the problem the best way they can.”
“Clinically speaking, … they may possess distinct personality disorders… anti-social, borderline paranoid, narcissistic … others have learnt to throw tantrums to get their selfish ways. They’ve learnt how to distract, confuse, lie and seduce to do harm to the vulnerable.”
“Clergy killers wound or destroy either by direct attacks or by inciting others to inflict the wounds. Sometimes they induce victims to self-destruct, by harassing them to the point of frustration and anger. … it only takes one or two in the church to create havoc and bedlam. Because these people live in denial as to their true nature, they would not see themselves in this chapter, even if they were to read it. Clergy killers have surrounded and insulated themselves with a whole array of defense mechanisms and justifications for their actions. They firmly believe that what they are doing in harming and terminating a minister is the right thing to do. For them, it is the will of God. Nevertheless, they are sick and mean people.”
What is a Pathological Antagonist?
A pathological antagonist is an intransigent person of antagonistic disposition.
1. “The arguments of a pathological antagonist are usually found in little or terribly misrepresented evidence … quibbling over petty details, offering strong proof of irrelevant points … exaggerating the position of one’s opponent … making an accusation that cannot be disproved and then claiming that this makes it true … outright lying or falsification. An antagonist, in his attempt to make the kill, will take certain facts and so twist them that they are blatantly false when presented. In time he convinces himself that his twisted facts are true.”
2. Pathological antagonists are ‘”hyper-sensitive to any word or action, even trivial oversights, so that he takes these things as a personal attack and responds aggressively.”
3. “The pathological antagonist is never satisfied. His demands are insatiable. No amount of accommodation on the ministers part will ever suffice. Attempts at appeasement will not calm him down, but will encourage him to make more demands. … he is persistent and unstoppable.”
4. “The pathological antagonist will lead a campaign of attack on the minister … not trying to give constructive criticism … his goal is nothing short of control, no matter what it may cost the minister or the church. The antagonist is so full of rage that he feels compelled to attack the enemy (the minister) until he is destroyed (terminated and eliminated from the scene).”
5. “This person probably has a God problem. He feels some deep-seated anger towards God for some reason out of his past experiences. Because it is difficult to show anger directly towards God, the pathological antagonist chooses the minister, the ‘man of God’, as his target. Sometimes this anger is guilt-driven (possibly due to some hidden sin) … a smokescreen to cover his own moral indiscretions.”
6. “The attacking behaviour of a pathological antagonist is selfish in nature … this person is rarely interested in authentic spiritual goals. If one rationale no longer works to his advantage, he will devise another … his stated reasons for opposition are a ruse for his own hidden agenda. What he really wants is power, control, status and authority.”
7. “The attacks … are for destruction rather than construction. The antagonists’ actions divide the church; they do not pull the people together.
In the Pulpit and Pew Project at Duke University, Hoge and Wenger did some research and wrote a paper detailing the reasons why ‘numerous pastors’ are leaving church ministry. The paper, from 2003, is insightful and contains wonderful tables at the end. They write,
The most commonly mentioned motivation was “an opportunity came for new ministry.” This factor was not always the only one in pushing the decision, since a highly satisfied local church pastor may not be likely to leave even if an opportunity came for new ministry. We need to see it as often acting in combination with other factors, making the task of discerning its importance a difficult one. In any event, it is lower as a motivation for the Methodists and Assemblies of God than for the others, and it is highest for the Missouri Synod pastors.
The second most common comment was that the denomination was not supportive, or that there was conflict with denominational officials. It is similar across denominations. The third most common was that the minister was burned out, discouraged, stressed, or overworked, a feeling voiced by ministers in all the denominations. The fourth–needs of children and family–was slightly higher for the Presbyterians than for others. The fifth–conflicts with church members—and the sixth–doctrinal conflicts over specific issues –occurred similarly in all denominations.
(This work was later published in book form and titled Pastors in Transition. Here.)
It seems to me that armchair discernment, then, is not limited to the online types. They are everywhere in the church. John the apostle did warn that a certain type of malicious person would come from within the church and Paul makes warnings to Timothy for how to deal with such rebels. I am not saying that all preachers are innocent, nor am I saying that all accusations are false. All I am saying is that if this type of ‘ministry’ is so damaging in the local church, to local pastors, (and the repercussions and collateral damage are massive), then how much more damaging is it when you have an online audience? If I am reading the author of the paper correctly, nothing good comes out of this type of ‘work.’ It damages too many people, not to mention the pastor, his family, his children, his wife. It is an insidious evil that is not meant to build up the church, but to destroy it, sidetrack it, and utterly ruin it’s effective witness in a community.
What I have learned personally about such people is that normally the issue is one of control. That’s all. Pure and simple. Being in the public eye is hard enough as it is. Being a local church pastor, in a small or large church, is terribly difficult. It’s downright terrifying when the worst critics of the pastor are not those outside the church, but those inside it.
Seeking justice, mercy, and faithfulness amidst persecution from within.