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.