Cheryl is a licensed, ordained minister and has a BA in Psychology and Church ministry.
Addressing issues is not a personal attack
This Hub is not aimed at any particular ministers or ministries but is bringing to light a growing trend where paranoia is being exuded from pulpits instead of a pure word from the Lord. There is a vast difference between a rousing sermon and a preacher who is hurling insults and threats from their platform. Is it the Holy Spirit or a paranoid personality you encounter each week and do you even know the difference? If not perhaps by the end of this article you will so take heed, You should desire to know if you are listening to the Holy Ghost or hogwash.
Paranoia is defined as being in a nearly constant state of distrust without rhyme or reason. Paranoid individuals mistrust everyone and their intentions, including family, friends, and colleagues, Pulpit paranoia may be exhibited by a pastor ranting and rambling on issues that have nothing to do with the gospel. In the middle of sermons, they blurt out things that leave you wondering where that last statement came from. Instead of exalting Jesus, paranoid preachers brag about themselves and belittle congregants by insisting they are not doing enough in the ministry. Another way paranoia manifests is when preachers consistently say: "Don't let anyone talk about your pastor," but never teach about defending the gospel. The emphasis from the pulpit on the leader's personal perks under the guise of "house cleaning" is another way paranoia sneaks into pulpits. Paranoid pastors may also surround themselves with yes people and say that only certain individuals are called to be up close. These leaders set up their ministries so they don't have to listen to wise counsel yet demand their every command must be obeyed. Touch not the anointed is a favorite phrase of paranoid preachers.
Insecurity and fear
Insecurity and fear of being undermined is a cause of good leaders becoming paranoid. Pastoring is not an easy job and church members should always pray for their spiritual leaders and show them respect. According to The Paranoid Leader, however, some pastors are hypersensitive to how everyone acts and reacts to them. They fear possible church splits and rebellions and always feel that someone is trying to overthrow their authority, remove them from office, or take their place. These preachers become guarded, suspicious, and hostile and like King Saul, they are intimidated by someone they perceive could take over their kingdom, (ministry). It could be an associate minister in the church or one in the community who is getting rave reviews. In I Kings chapter 18 Saul heard the women singing after a battle: "Saul has slain his thousands and David his 10,000's. The king hated the shepherd from that time and even tried to kill him on several occasions. Some pastors, like Saul, are deeply insecure. They don't trust their own abilities and they lead by using threats and dictatorship, Perhaps they were mistreated in a former church and have vowed to never again allow church members to do such damage again. If you are often hearing "This is my church", I'm the leader, and I'm not going anywhere".you might be dealing with a paranoid pastor.
A pulpit was designed as a place to preach the gospel and lead sinners to Christ, Today a little bit of everything comes from the church rostrum. You should not be hearing the pastor each week defending why he or she needs a manicure, pedicure, massage, spa day, vacation, or a specific house or vehicle. The worship hour should be utilized to encourage the saints and bring sinners to salvation. Defensiveness may also come from having been seen engaging in certain activities and feeling guilty that someone will not agree. To be fair it might also come from constant gossip and untruths being spread as lies are often told on pastors.
The church as a whole has become complacent and is going along for the ride without realizing they have been led off course. One of the best examples I know is that from the mid-1990s until a few years ago the prosperity preachers promised there would be millionaires in the church pews. They are now teaching that prosperity is not only money and the saints are repeating this as if they had not sat in the seats each week giving their tithes, seeds, and offerings expecting that overflow due season. There should be hundreds if thousands of churchgoers who are furious that they were lied to. They gave their hard-earned money to make the preachers rich and have nothing to show for it except what they have worked hard and earned. In the same vein, gospel messages that lead sinners to Christ have been replaced with paranoid pastors threatening the sheep and defending their own actions. Another way the church has become complacent is in regard to tithing. Since COVID, with membership and giving decreasing, paranoid preachers demand that members tithe or leave the church and threaten curses from the pulpit based on Malachai 3. which was written to wicked priests and not the people. II Corinthians 9:7 says to give as you have purposed in your own heart and not because it's being demanded.
The bottom line
A preacher constantly defending his spending and threatening that God will punish you if you talk about him is paranoid. Wasting the gospel hour on personal issues is not feeding the sheep or leading the lost to Jesus. Yelling that you should not compare him or her to other preachers, demanding you never ask questions or screaming that you better obey his or her every command or face God's wrath is not lifting up the Name above all names. This is paranoia in the pulpit so please beware. If any one of us does cross a line the Lord will surely deal with us so why do pastors need to issue threats from their platform? It's because for whatever reason. real or imagined they have become paranoid. Reading this in print may not seem serious to some but there are those living this every week and wondering if something is wrong. Now they know there is so keep praying. If you are in a setting where you are being yelled at and hearing everything except salvation this is not a healthy spiritual environment. If you are being told something bad will happen if you leave that church or that you will not prosper without that particular pastor you are dealing with a paranoid individual who perhaps needs mental health counseling and to step down from the pulpit and seek professional help.
This information comes from my personal experience and testimonies from many others. It is not for anyone to accuse, judge or attack their spiritual leader This is only to give insight so that those who are dealing with a paranoid pastor will recognize the warning signs. Never disrespect those the Lord has placed over you in leadership. If you suspect something is seriously wrong please go through the proper channels in your ministry. If you are in a setting where that is not possible you always have the option to leave. Above all listen to the Holy Spirit and pray. We know all too well the signs of physical and mental abuse and now it's time to recognize spiritual abuse because it damages His sheep.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Cheryl E Preston
Joanne Hayle from Wiltshire, U.K. on June 28, 2021:
Thank you for taking time to highlight this issue. We are often disposed to accept an authority figure's words without questioning if they are speaking from an honest and open heart. Excellent read.
Margaret Minnicks from Richmond, VA on June 28, 2021:
I know first-hand about spiritual abuse. I had a pastor who had a habit of including me in her sermons. She just didn't give clues such as "a certain person" but she would literally call my name when she wanted to say something personal to me instead of addressing the issue in her office. This happened on many occasions. That's why I can say, "There is no hurt like a church hurt."
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 28, 2021:
I am so glad our pastor is not like what you described, Cheryl. I hope there are not too many pastors like the ones you described. I agree with you about the purpose of the pulpit.
I don't think I have ever thought about spiritual abuse in that way. Thank you for enlightening me.