From Unquestioning Submission to Speaking Out
Michelle Van Loon
My husband and I once belonged to a congregation where leaders took their cues from the Shepherding Movement. Emphasizing allegiance and church unity, they expected members to submit to their authority in all matters. One of their favorite mantras came from 1 Corinthians, using the King James Version for extra emphasis: Touch not God’s anointed. I was taught that to question a leader was to defy God himself.
I was a naive sheep in this flock until I stumbled upon the elaborate efforts to keep hidden the pastor’s porn addiction and infidelity with a congregant. Anyone who got too close to this secret was branded a problem. I found myself drafted into the uncomfortable role of whistleblower. After my husband and I brought our concerns to church leadership, the elders made it clear that we were untrustworthy and troublemakers. After a number of failed attempts to resolve the situation, we left the church.
It took a while to heal from the manipulation and misuse of authority my husband and I experienced at the hands of these men. Over time, others experienced the same treatment, which, turns out, was a demonically effective way of deflecting attention from the real problem. Over a decade passed before the pastor’s marriage fell apart and the truth came out.
I’ve watched from afar as similar scenarios play out as whistleblowers decry leaders-gone-bad in organizations and congregations across the country: Doug Phillips, Bill Gothard, Mark Driscoll. Especially online, we hear from these voices long before the pastor finally makes a grudging public admission of his wrongdoing.
When I see someone suggest those harboring hurt or suspicion ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more