April 27, 2016: Corruption in Christian Leadership, Part 6


By Dr. David Schnittger

This is the sixth and final article on the subject of “corruption in Christian leadership.”  The purpose of this series is to help you maintain your spiritual freedom by becoming more discerning as to whether corrupt and spiritually abusive leadership has taken over your church or parachurch organization.  This series is based on my almost 50 years of studying the Bible and over 40 years of experience in vocational Christian ministry.

We began this series by looking at biblical examples of corrupt leadership, such as Saul in the realm of civil leadership and the sons of Eli in the area of religious leadership.  The second article described the attitudes these individuals had which led to their corrupt actions.  We concluded that their behavior placed them in the clinical categories of “sociopathic” and “narcissistic.”

In the third article I gave examples of Christian leaders I have served under who exhibited these sociopathic/narcissistic behaviors.  This was followed in the fourth article with a description of what corrupt leadership looks like from the vantage point of the boardroom and the pew.  In other words, what does corruption and spiritual abuse look like close up, from the perspective of one in leadership, and far off, from the perspective of one in non-leadership roles in the church or Christian organization?  We then saw, in the fifth article, marks of an abusive church.  Perhaps you recognize some of these “nine marks”  are true of your church or the Christian organization where you serve.  What do you do now?  That is the purpose of this concluding article.

First, I want to look at scriptural motifs in the New Testament of corrupt religious leadership.  The twin motifs of “burdens” and “bondage” are biblical figures of speech that are used to describe what corrupt religious leaders seek to do to their followers.

Jesus spoke of the scribes and Pharisees of his day in the following manner:  “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Mt 23:4).  Jesus described the hypocrisy of the Pharisees more fully in Luke 11:39, 46:  “And the Lord said unto him, ‘Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness…Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! For ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.”

So one of the characteristics of corrupt religious leaders is that they place heavy and grievous legalistic burdens on their followers, burdens which these hypocritical leaders do not themselves keep.

Another biblical figure used of those suffering under corrupt religious leaders is the picture of “bondage.” In the book of Galatians, Paul warned against religious leaders who sought to bring their followers into the bondage of legalism:  “And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage” (Gal 2:4).  Paul went on to warn these Galatian believers:  “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal 5:1).

So the biblical motifs of corrupt religious leaders, as used in the New Testament, are the figures of “burdens” that lead to “bondage.”  One modern day example of this in some churches is the trend of imposing “membership covenants” on congregations.  While these covenants often sound holy and proper, upon closer examination they are means of placing “burdens” and “bondage” upon congregations by elevating the leadership to a place of privileged unaccountability and reducing the congregation to servile submission.  Check out the following link that examines membership covenant “red flags.” (click link below)


What, then, is the biblical remedy if you are suffering from leaders who are seeking to impose elitist legalistic “burdens” on you designed to bring you into “bondage?”  The answer is found in 2 Corinthians 6:14-19:  “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

In my view, when corrupt leaders take over your church or Christian organization, you should consider them as unbelievers and you should separate from them.  The Apostle Paul referred to them as “…grievous wolves…not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29).  You are wasting your time to try to unseat them.  Once they have taken the reins of power, you have no other recourse but to leave and leave quickly.  I have known individuals who have tried to stand against corrupt leadership, and they always lose and get badly bruised in the process.

I have had many people through the years talk to me about how bad things are in their church, about how the pastor does not preach the Word and how the leadership is arrogant and abusive.  When I counsel them to leave they say, “But there aren’t any good churches in my area.   Where do I go?”  My advice to them is this:  START YOUR OWN CHURCH!   Gather your friends and likeminded friends in your living room or a nearby restaurant with a private room, and start holding worship services.  Many new churches are started because of church splits.

I started a new church in my home a few years ago and had a fantastic time!  A few likeminded families joined my family weekly for a time of sharing, prayer and study of the Word.  It was a rich and rewarding experience.  We sometimes have the mistaken idea in America that one has to have a seminary degree, be ordained and have a church building in order to hold services.  That is NONSENSE!  None of the apostles had credentials or facilities, yet look at the explosive growth of the church under their leadership!

If you do not think you have the wherewithal to begin a church, let me suggest a website where you might actually find a good church in your area.  Check out the following website: www.chuckbaldwinlive.com.  There is a link on the right column of the home page called “Black Regiment Pastors.”   Within that link is a directory of sound, liberty minded churches and pastors all across America.

If you work for a Christian organization that has been taken over by corrupt leadership, my advice would be the same.  Leave the organization, and, if possible, start your own ministry.  Do not think this is impossible, for that is how many new ministries get started.   Do not despise the day of small beginnings, for nothing is too hard for God!  We read in Daniel 11:32b:  “…but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”


April 26, 2016: Corruption in Christian Leadership, Part 5


By Dr. David Schnittger

This article is the fifth in a series on the subject of “corruption in Christian leadership.  The purpose of this series is to help you maintain your spiritual freedom by becoming more discerning as to whether corrupt and spiritually abusive leaders have taken over your church or parachurch organization.  We began this series by looking at biblical examples of corrupt leadership, such as Saul in the realm of civil leadership and the sons of Eli in the area of religious leadership.

The second article described the attitudes these individuals had which led to their corrupt actions.  We concluded that their behavior placed them in the clinical categories of “sociopathic” and “narcissistic.”

In the third article I gave examples of Christian leaders I have served under who exhibited these sociopathic/narcissistic behaviors.  This was followed in the fourth article with a description of what corrupt leadership looks like from the vantage point of the boardroom and the pew.  In other words, what does corruption and spiritual abuse look like close up, from the perspective of one in leadership, and far off, from the perspective of one in non-leadership roles in the church or Christian organization?

In this article, I would like to expand on the previous article by giving additional indicators of corruption in leadership, which translates into spiritually abusive churches and organizations.  I am going to borrow heavily from Ronald Enroth’s excellent book, Churches That Abuse (Zondervan, 1992).   I am going to summarize Enroth’s book by chronicling “Nine Marks of an Abusive Church.”

  1. Control-oriented style of leadership

Control-oriented leadership is at the core of all such churches.  These spiritual power holders become strong role models, and their dogmatic teaching, bold confidence, and arrogant assertiveness become powerful forces of influence.  They use their spiritual authority to intimidate the weak. (p. 80)

  1. Spiritual elitism

Enroth explains that abusive churches have an… elitist orientation that is so pervasive in authoritarian-church movements.  It alone has the Truth, and to question its teaching and practices is to invite rebuke.

  1. Manipulation of members

Spiritually abusive groups routinely use guilt, fear, and intimidation as effective means for controlling their members.  In my opinion, the leaders consciously foster an unhealthy form of dependency, spiritually and interpersonally, by focusing on themes of submission, loyalty, and obedience to those in authority. (p. 103)

  1. Perceived persecution

Pat Zuckeran enlarges on this point, writing… Because abusive churches see themselves as elite, they expect persecution in the world and even feed on it.  Criticism and exposure by the media are seen as proof that they are the true church being persecuted by Satan.  However, the persecution received by abusive churches is different from the persecution received by Jesus and the Apostles.  Jesus and the Apostles were persecuted for preaching the truth.  Abusive churches bring on much of their negative press because of their own actions.  Yet, any criticism received, no matter what the source—whether Christian or secular–is always viewed as an attack from Satan, even if the criticisms are based on the Bible.

  1. Lifestyle rigidity

Life-style rigidity in abusive churches often manifests itself in a curiously reactive mode with regard to sexuality.  Proscriptive measures reveal a sometimes bizarre preoccupation with sex that mental-health professionals would no doubt conclude gives evidence of repression. (p. 135)

  1. Suppression of dissent

Unwavering obedience to religious leadership and unquestioning loyalty to the group would be less easily achieved if analysis and feedback were available to members from the outside.  It is not without reason that leaders of abusive groups react so strongly and so defensively to any media criticism of their organizations. (p. 162)

  1. Harsh discipline of members

Virtually all authoritarian groups that I have studied imposes discipline, in one form or another, on members.  A common theme that I encountered during interviews with ex-members of these groups was that the discipline was often carried out in public—and involved ridicule and humiliation (p. 152)

In my research of abusive churches, I never cease to be amazed at the degree to which private and personal concerns are made public and brought to the attention of the congregation (p. 137)

The ultimate form of discipline in authoritarian churches is excommunication or disfellowshipping, followed by strict avoidance procedures or shunning (p. 157)

  1. Denunciation of other churches

Dr. Enroth quotes a former member of a spiritually abusive church who stated, Although we didn’t come right out and say it, in our innermost hearts we really felt that there no place in the world like our assembly.  We thought the rest of Christianity was out to lunch… A church which believes itself to be elite and does not associate with other Christian churches is not motivated by the spirit of God but by divisive pride.

  1. Painful exit process

Leaving an abusive church can be extremely difficult, calling into question every aspect of life members may have experienced for the period of time they were involved.  I want to discuss the range of emotions and issues that ex-members may face when they exit an abusive-church situation.  Then I will provide a general overview of the changing experiences, feelings, and needs that emerge over the course of weeks, months, and even years after departure. 

Leaving a restricted and abusive community involves what sociologists call the desocialization process whereby the individual loses identification with the past group and moves toward resocialization, or reintegration into the main stream culture…There are a number of emotions and needs that emerge during this transition process. How one deals with these feelings and affective experiences has a significant impact on the overall healing that is required.

Many have described the aftermath of abusive-church involvement as comparable to that of rape victims or the delayed stress syndrome experience by war veterans.  It is recovery from what might be called spiritual rape.  You feel like something has been lost and you will never be the same again.  Initially, victims may have a total lack of feeling regarding their experience.  They may not evidence pain, anger, sadness, or even joy at being free.  Such lack of feeling may be a protective mechanism from the strong surge of emotion that is sure to come.  Victims need a safe and secure environment in which to vent their emotions.  Such venting was often labeled as ‘sin’ in their previous environment, and it may take some time until they give themselves permission to allow these feelings to surface.

Whether or not they show any emotion, victims are in great need of empathetic, objective individuals who will not treat them like spiritual pariahs or paranoid storytellers.  The events that they have just been through are as unbelievable to them as they are to their listeners.  They have experienced great social and psychological dislocation.  An open attitude on the part of friends, family and counselors greatly assists the healing process. (pp. 174-75)

Perhaps you recognize that some of these nine marks of an abusive church are true of your church or the Christian organization where you serve.  What do you do now?  Tune in next Friday for the answers to that question.


April 25, 2016: Corruption in Christian Leadership, Part 4


By Dr. David Schnittger, President, Southwest Prophecy Ministries

This article is the fourth in a series on the subject of “corruption in Christian leadership.”  The purpose of this series is to help you maintain your spiritual freedom by becoming more discerning as to whether corrupt leaders have taken over your church or parachurch organization.  We began our series by looking at biblical examples of corrupt leadership.  We considered King Saul as an example of corrupt civil leadership and the sons of Eli as examples of corrupt religious leadership.

In the second article we described the corrupt attitudes that these individuals had which led to their corrupt actions.  We concluded that their behavior basically placed them in the clinical categories of “sociopath” (Saul) and “narcissist” (Hophni and Phineas).  In actuality, these individuals had characteristics of both types of personality disorders.  They were sociopathic narcissists.  Both of these personality disorders were defined in this article.

In the third article I gave examples of Christian leaders I have served under who exhibited these sociopathic/narcissistic behaviors.  As a sidebar, let me just add that, from a biblical perspective, a person is defined by their behavior.  Jesus said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Mt 7:16).  How then do you know whether a person is a sociopath or a narcissist?  By their behavior!  When a person misbehaves, do not accept their excuse, “That is not like me.”  That kind of statement is dishonest and betrays a lack of responsibility toward one’s actions.

Perhaps you do not know the leader of your church or parachurch organization personally.  How do you know what kind of person they are, and what kind of leadership they are bringing to that organization?  That is the purpose of this article.  In this article, I am going to describe what corrupt leadership looks like from two vantage points; from the boardroom and from the pew.  In other words, if you are serving on staff or lay leadership of a church or parachurch organization, what should you be looking for if the leadership is corrupt?  In the same way, if you are not in leadership but are in the “followership” ranks, either as a parishioner or a non-management employee of a Christian organization, what clues should you be alert to?

Let me make it clear at the outset that this article is based solely on my experience and observation.  I do not portray this article as a scientific sociological study.  These are merely my observations.  At the same time, my observations have taken place over a period of about 40 years and include staff participation in five churches and two parachurch organizations.  I have noticed patterns that occur when corrupt leadership takes over a Christian organizations.  It is these patterns that I want to expose.

Before I get into the specifics let me make a general statement that is universally true, both experientially and scripturally.  The corruption of a church or Christian organization is always from within, never from without!  Paul made this clear in his farewell address to the elders in Ephesus, stating:  “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.  Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29, 30).  Satan’s strategy for taking over and taking down a church or Christian organization is through infiltration and usurpation!


The View from the Boardroom

            From my experience, a corrupt leader will attempt to take over an organization in the following sequence.  First, the corrupt leader will seek to divide the leadership into two categories: the loyal and the disloyal.  Through a series of personal initiatives, the skillful usurper will determine the leaders that are malleable and are willing to betray others to advance the new leader’s agenda.    One way they may do this is by raising “controversial” issues with individual leaders to gauge those who are willing to go along and those who resist.

For example, Andy, the senior pastor of the megachurch where I served, early on in his tenure began to advance different models of church leadership than had been taught or practiced before in the church.  Those who resisted these initiatives were put in the “disloyal” category.

Second, once the leadership has been categorized into the “loyal” and “disloyal” categories, it will eventually become obvious that there is collusion and orchestration “offline” between the corrupt leader and his minions.  Board meetings seem more orchestrated and outcomes more predictable.  Skillful observation will lead to the conclusion that the board has been divided into “players” and “observers.”  The players are the “loyal” and the “observers” are the “disloyal.”

In addition to these “flying wedge” tactics in board meetings, major decisions, “reorganizations,” and changed directions start taking place away from the board, in “executive meetings” or through Senior Pastor/CEO “executive-orders.”  Consolidation of power has begun to take place.

Third, the corrupt leader and his team of sycophants begin to marginalize the “disloyal.”  Authority and responsibility is gradually transitioned away from the disloyal and given to the loyal.  This leads inevitably to open attacks on the disloyal, either regarding their performance or character.  The “job performance” and “dedication” of the disloyal is called into question.  If that doesn’t work the character of the disloyal will be called into question.  For example, the disloyal will be characterized as having an “unsuitable temperament” of not being a “team player,” or not having a “pastor’s heart.”  These kinds of nebulous attacks are very difficult to defend against.

The final step in the takeover occurs as the disloyal are forced out, either through termination, or through a sustained campaign of harassment, intimidation and character assassination, resulting in their resignation and exodus.  In the case of the local church, this process often leads to church splits, where the disaffected will ban together to start a new assembly.  This happened after 18 months of Andy’s corrupt leadership.

The View from the Pew

Perhaps you are not in leadership of the church you attend or the Christian organization where you work.  Are there observable signs that corrupt leadership has taken over your organization?  Let me suggest some things to watch for if questionable “changes” are taking place in your organization.

First, you may notice that the “leadership circle” is growing smaller.  For example, in the church you may begin to see the same few people in the pulpit, especially communicating on leadership issues.  Perhaps some are new people you hadn’t seen before.  At the same time, you notice that some of the long-term leaders are not as visible anymore.  These are clues that, behind the scenes, a change in leadership is taking place.

Second, a takeover is often accompanied with announcements of a “changed direction” or “reorganization.”  Or there may be a push for new programs or facilities that do not make sense logically or financially.  These changes are often promoted in an excessive or manipulative manner, such as being “God’s will” or other calculating language.  These may be wedge issues designed to push out the old leadership and establish the new.

Third, you may begin to hear generalized accusations about “divisive” or “disloyal”  “troublemakers” in the church.  These accusations will come from the “new” leaders who have risen to prominence.  These accusations will often be described in cunning terms such as “Satanic attacks.”

Fourth, you may notice that some long-term staff members are being fired and others are resigning under mysterious circumstances.  At the same time, you may notice some long-term lay leaders leaving the church.  This is a very bad sign that corrupt leaders have taken over the organization!  Usually, these departures will be accompanied by derogatory comments about those who have left, and an unwillingness by the “new leadership” to answer questions about the causes of these departures.

Finally, the new leadership will attempt to put a positive spin on these departures, and will also make promises of very positive outcomes from these “changes.”  For example, in the church that Pastor Andy split, the remaining minions boasted that the church was on the “launching pad” for new growth.  The loss of four pastors in four months was chronicled in the annual report as:  “The church has added several new pastors to our staff this year!”  There was no mention of the departed pastors who were forced out.

One organization that was taken over by corrupt leadership concocted a narrative that both slandered the disloyal and painted a rosy picture of the future in the same breath.  One of the minions in the newly ascended corrupt leadership was heard to say:  “Now that the troublemakers have left, we will be even better than before.”

As a parishioner or non-management employee of a Christian organization, when you begin to see and hear the kinds of things chronicled above, it may be that corrupt leadership has taken over your organization.  What do you do then?  Tune in next Friday for the answers to that question.

April 22, 2016: Corruption in Christian Leadership, Part 3


By Dr. David Schnittger, President, Southwest Prophecy Ministries

This article is the third in a series on the subject of “corruption in Christian leadership.”  We began by looking at biblical examples of corrupt leadership.  We considered King Saul as an example of corrupt civil leadership.  Then we considered Hophni and Phineas as examples of corrupt religious leadership.

In the second article we described the corrupt attitudes that these individuals had which led to their corrupt actions.  The essence of Saul’s attitude was “a MEOCENTRIC view of the universe.”  In other words, “the universe revolves around ME, and everything people around me do must have some relationship to their attitude toward me.”  The essence of Hophni and Phineas’ attitude was that the “the ministry belongs to me.  I can use the resources and the people associated with MY ministry any way I please.”

If we were to express these attitudes in psychological terms, in my view Saul was primarily a “sociopath” and Hophni and Phineas were primarily “narcissists.”   All three had characteristics that could lead one to conclude that they exhibited characteristics that were both sociopathic and narcissistic, as human behaviors tend not to fit into neat little categories.  These “conditions” share some similarities but also some differences.  Let’s define these terms before we proceed.  I will quote from the DSM-III-R (American Psychiatric Association, 1987) for a brief description of each.  Both are clustered in the DSM-III-R as “personality disorders.”

Some of the characteristics of a sociopath are:  “fails to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior; e.g. destroying property, harassing others, stealing, irritable and aggressive, fails to plan ahead, impulsive, has no regard for the truth, reckless, lacks remorse.”

Some of the characteristics of a narcissist are:  “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), lack of empathy, and hypersensitivity to the evaluation of others, reacts to criticism with feelings of rage, is interpersonally exploitive; takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own needs, exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be noticed as ‘special’ without appropriate achievement, has a sense of entitlement, requests constant attention and admiration, lacks empathy, is preoccupied with feelings of envy.”

In my 40 years of vocational Christian ministry, I have served with and under several

Christian leaders that were either sociopathic or narcissistic or some combination of both.  Let me give some examples so you can have some idea what these attitudes look like in the context of a Christian organization.  I have changed the names to protect the “guilty.”

I was once on staff of a large church with over 2,000 parishioners.  After I had been on staff for several years, the senior pastor left because of adultery.  Aside from his infidelity, “Michael” had been a very humble and affirming pastor, who did not micromanage the staff.  After 18 months “Andy” was hired to be the senior pastor.     Andy was of a very opposite temperament than his predecessor.  Andy radiated pride and self-importance.  He felt it was his role to be the CEO of the church, and to micromanage the staff.  It soon became obvious that his litmus for success was not competence but loyalty.  The staff began to divide between those who were minions and those who just focused on doing their jobs.  After he had sorted out those who were in his fan club and those who were not, he began to skillfully and systematically marginalize the “disloyal” and replace them with his loyalists.  Within 18 months, Andy had split the church.  Three pastors left, along with several lay elders, deacons, and a cadre of very committed people.  Those who left were demonized by Andy and his sycophants. Andy consolidated power and ruled the church for several years, before departing for another ministry of greater size and prominence.  Andy was primarily a sociopath.

Years later I served on staff of another church under a senior pastor by the name of Matt.  Matt was a very personable, charismatic man, who was loved by all.  He was a very competitive man athletically, who was obsessed with winning in sports.  He also coached his daughters’ softball teams, and loved having undefeated seasons.  He also portrayed himself as possessing unusual scholarship.  Matt was very cordial with subordinates unless they happened to disagree with him.  Then, he would become sullen, authoritarian and would occasionally fly into “purple rages.”

Matt was also very attentive to the finances of the church.  The first thing he would do when he came into work at the beginning of the week was open the church safe and find out who gave what.  He was very nice to the generous givers, but had little time or regard for those less generous.  Matt was also very generous with himself in terms of the use of church funds for his expense account.  Matt thought nothing of using his expense account to pay for golfing trips with church buddies, or to pay for liquor for his parties.

It was eventually discovered that Matt had a habit of beating his wife and daughters so badly that police had to intervene.  Matt had surrounded himself with elders and deacons who protected his drunken and raging behavior from congregational scrutiny.  Eventually, the beatings became known within the congregation in such a way that his enablers could no longer protect him.  He was fired and has since become an open infidel to the Christian faith.  Matt was primarily a narcissist, who, viewed the church as HIS!  Like Hophni and Phineas, Matt’s basic attitude toward the church was:  “This ministry belongs to me.  I can use the resources and the people associated with my ministry any way I please.”

How do people like Andy and Matt make their way up through the ranks into Christian leadership?  Let me give my opinion based on 40 years of observation.  I am convinced that sociopaths and narcissists more commonly occupy positions of leadership in Christian organizations than secular ones, because they view “the ministry” as a soft target for their predilections.  Christian organizations are primarily populated with “nice” people, who are humble, trusting and easily led (or misled).  Within that environment, charming and often articulate individuals are able to make inroads more easily, and consolidate power.

My observation is corroborated by statistical analysis. Eric Barker identifies the jobs that are most attractive to psychopaths.  “Clergy person” is number eight on the list. (click link here). I think another reason why psychopaths are attracted to Christian organizations is that there  seems to commonly exist within the secondary ranks of Christian organizations individuals who are easily led, and who will, because of self-interest, sign on to all kinds of mischief and tyranny in order to keep their positions.

I am reminded of what Friedrich Hayek said, in a political context, of “why the worst get on top:”  “The totalitarian leader must collect around him a group which is prepared voluntarily to submit to that discipline they are to impose by force upon the rest of the people . . .advancement within a totalitarian group or party depends largely on a willingness to do immoral things.”[1]

What is true in government is also true in Christian organizations, as politics is all about the acquisition and distribution of power.  In my experience, in every Christian organization in which I have served, leadership is occupied by the best and worst of people.  Which group eventually prevails determines the tenor and direction of the organization.

In my next article, I will go into the consequences of corrupt leadership taking over an organization.   We will explore what corrupt leadership looks like from the pews as well as what it looks like in the board room.  This article will help you become more discerning as to the kind of leadership that is prevailing in your church or the organization in which you serve.

[1] Friedrich A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (Abridged Edition: The Heritage Foundation) 19, 21.

April 21, 2016: Corruption in Christian Leadership, Part 2


By Dr. David Schnittger, President, Southwest Prophecy Ministries

This article is the second in a series on the subject of “Corruption in Christian Leadership”.  This series is based on my 40 years of experience in full-time vocational Christian service, both in local churches and parachurch organizations.  It is also based on my training, having earned a Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Training, as well as nearly 50 years of studying the Word of God on the subject of biblical anthropology.

Let me begin by sharing a personal word as to why I am undertaking this series.  This series arose primarily because of my personal experience in Christian ministry.  I was saved at age 14 and worked in secular employment for many years before becoming involved vocationally in Christian service.  My experience in secular work was primarily a pleasant one.  My superiors were generally affirming and ethical.  It was a surprise to me when I became involved in “Christian work” to find that there were some really nasty people among the leadership of churches and Christian organizations!  These were people who apparently thought nothing about lying, stealing, character assassination, harassment and intimidation.  My surprise was compounded when I rarely saw any kind of negative career consequences accrue from this kind of behavior.  These leaders were able to avoid consequences, either because of their “religious” demeanor, their charismatic personalities or because of the group of “enablers” with whom they had surrounded themselves.

At first, I thought I must have done something to deserve this kind of treatment, either in terms of character flaws on my part or God’s chastisement.  Then I saw other employees or parishioners experience the same kind of treatment.  I saw good people hurt really badly, both emotionally and vocationally by these “so-called” Christian leaders.  If they tried to do anything about the corruption in leadership they experienced, they were labeled as “troublemakers” and fired or driven from the organization by continual harassment.  These victims were then “blackballed” and found it difficult to gain employment elsewhere.  I found it puzzling that what I had experienced in “Christian service” was much worse than I ever experienced in “secular work.”

As I have associated with other people in the Lord’s work through the years, I have found that I am not alone in my experience. In fact, I know of some truly godly and ethical men who will probably never be able to find another job in the pastorate again, because they stood up against sociopathic or narcissistic leaders, and have been black-balled as a result.  I also know of parishioners who have not only been kicked out of churches because they have taken a stand for truth and against evil, but these same people have also been served with restraining orders that prohibited them from stepping foot on the property of churches they attended, supported and served in FOR YEARS!  They were not able to fellowship with friends or family members who attended their former church.   Let me make it clear that I am not talking about cults, like the Amish or Mormons, who practice “shunning.”  I am talking about evangelical churches who preach that “God so loved the world…” but yet actively seek to destroy those who resist their wicked leadership.

As I have seen this kind of behavior by some Christian leaders in just about every ministry where I have served, it led me to ponder, “How can this be so?” “Why do the worst kinds of people often end up in Christian leadership?”  I am hoping that by researching and presenting this information, some of my questions can be answered, and, hopefully, yours, as well.

Having said that, let us return to our examples from last week’s article (see the October 23 FRONT LINE article).    First let’s analyze the corrupt attitudes King Saul exhibited.  The first attitude Saul exhibited is that “everything people do is in relationship to me.”  In other words, Saul had what I call a “meocentric” view of the universe (as opposed to a “theocentric” or God-centered view of the universe).  In other words, to Saul, the universe revolves around ME, and everything people around me do must have some relationship to their attitude toward me.  We see this in Saul’s response to David’s increasing popularity, as expressed in 1 Kings 18:7-9:  “And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.  And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?  And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.”

Associated with this “meocentric” view of the universe is the attitude that “everyone owes me unqualified loyalty or worship.”  Because these women acknowledged David’s exploits as being greater than Saul’s, in Saul’s mind they were guilty of disloyalty.  By implication, David was disloyal as well.  We know that this perception was untrue, because David was extremely loyal to Saul.  However, Saul had begun to make a break with reality, as we will see in the following verses.

The third and resultant attitude and behavior that flows from this “meocentric” view of the universe is “if you don’t worship me, you will be punished.”  This was seen almost immediately in Saul’s subsequent treatment of David:  “And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul’s hand.  And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it” (1 Sam 18:10, 11).  We know from subsequent events described in I Samuel that Saul’s behavior became increasingly maniacal, leading to his eventual destruction as well as that of his sons.  Saul’s “meocentric” view of the universe eventually resulted in the Lord sending an “evil spirit” upon him, which resulted increasingly in irrational and destructive behavior which eventually destroyed his entire family.

Let’s shift gears and now look at the corrupt attitudes and conduct of Hophni and Phineas, the Levitical priests who served at the Tabernacle in Shiloh during the time of the Judges.  You will recall that their misconduct was two-fold.  First, they stole, by force, sacrifices that were being offered to the Lord (I Sam 2:12-17).  Secondly, they had sex with the women who came to the tabernacle to worship (1 Sam 2:22).  Their basic attitude toward the ministry was “this ministry belongs to me.  I can use the resources and the people associated with my ministry any way I please.”  It is obvious by the severe judgments that followed, both on the Israelites, then on Hophni and Phineas and their permissive father Eli, that God abhors this kind of attitude toward ministry.

In our next article, I will give examples of how these corrupt attitudes by those in Christian leadership today find expression.  This series will also subsequently delve into the consequences of this corruption, both within the leadership team as well as those who are under this kind of leadership.


April 20, 2016: A Plea for Unity


By David Schnittger, President, Southwest Prophecy Ministries

The Bible has much to say on the importance of preserving unity among believers in Jesus Christ.  For example, we read in Ephesians 4:3-6:  “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”  Here Paul emphasizes the unity of Spirit that preserves peace among Christians.

Notice that this unity is built upon the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, not secondary disputable issues.  Paul deals with what our attitude should be toward disputable issues in Romans 14:1-5:  “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.  For one believes that he may eat all things:  another, who is weak, eateth herbs.  Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.  Who are thou that judgest another man’s servant?  To his own master he standeth or falleth.  Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.  One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike.  Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”

In this passage, Paul is dealing with secondary preferential issues, not primary fundamental issues such as those listed in Ephesians chapter four.  In these preferential issues, according to Paul, we are not to despise or judge other Christians, but rather seek to be “fully persuaded in his own mind” regarding his own convictions on such matters.

I want to apply these biblical principles to the current presidential primary season.  The 2016 primary season, for both major parties, has been the most divisive in recent memory.  For example, I have heard in recent weeks, of good patriotic organizations fracturing because of divergent candidate preferences.  I have also heard patriotic radio hosts chastening listeners for not supporting their preferred candidate.  I have even heard of marriages being disrupted over candidate preferences.  As I consider these divisions, I say, with James, “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:10b).

The Bible makes it clear that our unity is based on the unchanging fundamentals of the Christian faith, not on disputable issues such as preferences for fallible candidates.  I like my pastor’s bumper sticker which proclaims, “Jesus for President.”  My friends, He is the only perfect person, but sadly, He is not running for office this year.  I can honestly say that I am greatly looking forward to His administration!

What I am urging among the brethren, even in the midst of this heated primary season, is a plea for unity.  Believers should not judge or despise one another over these disputable, preferential issues.  In the United States, our constitutional system provides for free elections and the “sanctity of the ballot box.”  In America, no citizen, Christian or otherwise, should be judged, harassed or intimidated because of preferences regarding their political party or candidate.  As I have thought and prayed about what I am observing, particularly in the Christian community of late, in the interests of unity I have decided that Southwest Prophecy Ministries will implement the following non-endorsement policy effective immediately:

            Southwest Prophecy Ministries will not post any articles, headlines, videos or Facebook posts either criticizing or endorsing any candidate or political party or election process during the election season.  We will continue to post information critiquing those non-candidates who are currently in office based on biblical and constitutional criteria.

I am implementing this policy in order to prevent division within our ministry as well as to prevent discord and estrangement within our constituency.  I respect you, our reader, enough to have confidence that you will seek out candidate information elsewhere and that you will vote according to your conscience.  We welcome believers and non-believers alike to our website, regardless of your party affiliation or candidate preference.  Our purpose is equipping end-time saints, not endorsing political candidates!  We freely acknowledge that no candidate is perfect (Romans 3:10), and that all candidates will inevitably disappoint us once they are elected.  I believe this non-endorsement policy reflects the sage counsel attributed to Saint Augustine who purportedly said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

April 19, 2016: Corruption in Christian Leadership, Part 1


By Dr. David Schnittger, President, Southwest Prophecy Ministries

The 1980s brought news of a spate of high profile corruption cases regarding prominent Christian ministries.  In 1987, PTL TV Preacher Jim Bakker, was not only caught in an adulterous relationship with an employee but also convicted of massive financial corruption which sent him to prison.  The following year Pentecostal evangelist Jimmy Swaggart was exposed for cavorting with prostitutes, and his very public confession greatly reduced the size and influence of his ministry.  More recently, reports of massive financial corruption at TBN came to light. News of prominent Christian leaders involved in immoral lifestyles and unethical financial dealings bring shock and disappointment to their followers and disrepute on the cause of Christ to a watching world.

The purpose of this series of articles, which will appear in THE FRONT LINE column over the next several weeks, is to examine the “forbidden” subject of “Corruption in Christian Leadership.”  This series is based on my 40 years of experience in full-time vocational Christian ministry, both in local churches and in parachurch organizations.  It is also based on my training, having earned a Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Training.  Most importantly, it is based on almost 50 years of study of the Word of God as it relates to biblical anthropology.  Perhaps you have been a victim of abusive “Christian leaders” either in your church, place of business or in your family.   I believe this series will aid in your understanding and healing.

Let me begin by stating that corruption among those in places of “religious” authority is nothing new.  We find some prominent examples in Scripture of those in authority over God’s people misusing their position for power and privilege.  This article will deal with the corruption of King Saul in the realm of government as well as religious corruption as seen in the lives of Levitical priests Hophni and Phineas, the sons of Eli.

King Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin, was the first king of Israel.  When Samuel, last of the judges became old, the people demanded a king that they might be like the nations around them (1 Samuel 8).  In acceding to the people’s worldly request God provided the Israelites with exactly the kind of king they desired.  Though Saul was a man of great ability as an administrator and a warrior Saul acted not in the power and wisdom of the Lord but in dependence on his own judgment and strength.  This led to eventual disaster for himself and his family.

Saul’s first great failure was that of usurping the priestly office by offering a sacrifice on the altar at Gilgal (I Sam 13).  His second failure was outright disobedience by sparing king Agag and the best of the animals (1 Sam 15).  However, it was Saul’s actions toward his anointed successor David that most fully demonstrates Saul’s progressive corruption.  After David’s victory over Goliath and his subsequent victories over the Philistines, David’s popularity among the Israelites began to eclipse that of Saul.  Saul reacts first with jealousy, then with rage and violence (1 Sam 18:5-16).  This behavior is attributed to an “…evil spirit from God [that] came upon Saul…”(I Sam 18:10).  Some commentators speculate that Saul actually became “mentally ill” because of his irrational attitudes and behavior toward David, who had nothing but love and loyalty toward King Saul.

Saul’s corruption resulted in his son-in-law David having to flee the kingdom and run for his life for seven years (1 K 18-20).  Because the high priest Ahimelech had aided David (I Sam 21-22), Saul had the whole priestly family at Nob slaughtered (I Sam 21-22).  Although David twice spared Saul’s life, the king failed to recognize in this the warning of God and continued on his way to final destruction (1 Sam 24, 26).  The final straw in Saul’s rebellion against God was when he consulted the witch of Endor for some word of hope in his approaching battle with the Philistines.  Instead Samuel, dead for many years, appeared to pronounce Saul’s doom:  “Tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me” (I Sam 28:19).  The next day Saul met the Philistines on the slopes of Mount Gilboa, and there he and his sons died.  In Saul, we see abuse of power toward David, that began with jealousy, then progressed to rage, violence and eventually maniacal behavior, leading to his destruction.

Let’s now turn our attention to corruption in religious leadership, as demonstrated in the lives of Hophni and Phineas, the sons of Eli.  These men were all Levitical priests who served in the Tabernacle located in Shiloh.  It was to this location that Hannah and her husband Elkanah came to worship and pray for a son.  After God answered her prayer, she presented her son Samuel to Eli to minister in the house of God at Shiloh (1 Sam 12:1-11).  The narrative then shifts to Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas.  The text immediately identifies their spiritual lineage:  “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord” (1 Sam 2:12).  “Belial” was a Hebrew epithet meaning “good-for-nothing” or even “evil.”  So Eli had two good-for-nothing sons who were serving in the priesthood.  Let’s see how these good-for-nothing, evil sons conducted themselves in the ministry.

In the first place, they stole, by force, sacrifices that were being offered to the Lord.  The priests at the tabernacle were entitled to receive the beast and right thigh of the animal being sacrificed (Le 7:34), but only after the fat had been burned on the altar (Le 3:3,5).  Eli’s sons ignored both requirements (I Sam 2:13-17).

Second, they had sex with women that came to the Tabernacle to worship.  We read in I Samuel 2:22: “Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and that they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.”

As a result of their corruption in the ministry, the Lord pronounced their doom in 2 Samuel 2:25:  “If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him?  Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them.”  The LORD here enunciated a most important principle, applicable in every age:  Sins against God and His Word are more dangerous than sins against other people.   The family of Eli was about to discover how dangerous their sins against God really were.

The Lord made good His promise when the Philistines slaughtered over 30,000 Israeli soldiers in the battle at Shiloh (I Sam 4:10).  The Philistines then proceeded to slay both Hophni and Phineas, and also took the Ark of the Covenant (I Sam 4:17).   When Eli heard the dreadful news, he fell backward, broke his neck and died (I Sam 4:18).   To top it all off, the widow of Phineas went into labor upon hearing the devastating news, and “…she named the child, Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband” (I Sam 4:21).

We see from these two examples, one of a civil leader and the other of religious leaders, that the potential to misuse leadership over God’s people abounds, and that the results are devastating, both to those in leadership and those they lead.  In the next article, I will analyze the attitudes and behaviors of those engaged in the corruption of Christian leadership.



Jerry Guiltner

Preachers, theologians, those who perch on church pews and others ridicule Christians who dare to enter the political realm in America today. They say it is our duty to preach the Gospel but not to engage sinners who are in the process of destroying the nation God has so richly blessed. Are they correct? Should believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ leave well enough alone on the political front while America plunges headlong toward hell?

To answer our question, let us consider the past. When God’s people were acquiescing to the political leaders of their day in Old Testament times, He sent prophets to sound the shofar and warn the people of coming judgment unless they turned from their wicked ways. Prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel and others were speaking against the political scene in their day. They linked God’s desire for obedience to Him by confronting sin head on.

A question many of us have is this: Where have God’s prophets gone? Are they hiding in corners and behind curtains? Or are they simply non-existent?

America desperately needs an Amos, a Jeremiah, a Joel. We are dying for lack of a spirit filled man of God who will stand boldly to proclaim that Jesus is a heart changer and that His ways lead to freedom and prosperity.

Presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton on the campaign trail told a group of “Black Lives Matter” proponents that we do not need to change hearts but rather we need to change laws and rules. CNN quoted Clinton on August 18, 2015 as saying to them: “Look, I don’t believe you change hearts,” Clinton said, arguing that the movement can’t change deep seated racism. “I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate.” According to her thinking, more government intervention in the lives of United States citizens is the way to go. That is counter to what God says and the reason He sent His only begotten Son from heaven to earth.

Scripture relates: “But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away” (2 Cor. 3:15-16). That is a heart that has been turned around. Changing the people’s hearts is the only true answer to the dilemma we face in a country once devoted to God and His ways. And we as Christians need to be quick in telling those outside the family of God about the saving grace of God through the blood of Jesus.

Our Lord and Saviour is coming and it could be soon. According to the Bible, while there are a few unfulfilled prophecies to be accomplished before the Second Coming of Christ, there is no prophecy left to be fulfilled before the rapture of His Bride. That event is imminent. It could be before you finish reading these words.

It is true that the Gospel will be preached to the entire world, which has not yet occurred. But that will happen during the days known as the Tribulation. That prophecy is found in Matthew 24:14. Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations.” The fulfillment verse is found in the book of Revelation during the Tribulation. John wrote: “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of water” (Rev. 14:6-7).

Do you have family members, friends, acquaintances who will be left behind to endure the horrors of the Tribulation when Jesus comes to rescue His church before that time? If so, why not let them know in a loving way that Jesus died for them on the cross and that He is the heart changer needed by everyone in the world?

Paul provided a passage of Scripture that tells how those who are on the road to damnation can alter the course of their lives and spend eternity with Jesus. He wrote: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him (Jesus) from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

It is just that simple. Confess that Jesus is Lord, believe in your heart that He has been raised from the dead. Believe all that in your heart and call upon the name of Jesus and you will be saved from the wrath of the Tribulation. We read: “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9).

Those of us who hold to the pre-tribulation position concerning the rapture have been accused of being escapists by those who have another view. That means they think that since we believe we will be taken up to be with Jesus in the air we are looking for an escape clause. However, if we are true to the Word, being pre-trib causes us to be zealous to reach as many unsaved people as quickly as we can. We know there is an urgency because Jesus’ coming for His church could be at any time.

So, I say with all earnestness, if you know someone who is on the road to destruction; tell them about the love of Christ. If, on the other hand, you have never surrendered your own life to Him, please follow Romans 10:9-10, 13 and trust wholly in Jesus and the salvation that only He can provide.

Perhaps God will call you, or someone you have a part in bringing to a saving knowledge of Jesus, to be a modern-day prophet proclaiming the message of the simple and everlasting Gospel. We desperately need more godly prophets if America is to survive the onslaught of socialism and big government.