Last week, CT published an investigative report on allegations of spiritual abuse by Steve Timmis, who previously served as the CEO of the church planting ministry Acts 29. But long before assuming the leadership in 2014, Timmis was known for his model of intensive gospel community developed at his 120-person church in England known as The Crowded House and for his books like Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community.
But not everyone who was part of Timmis’s close-knit church community felt warmly toward the church leader. According to our report:
Fifteen people who served under Timmis described to Christianity Today a pattern of spiritual abuse through bullying and intimidation, overbearing demands in the name of mission and discipline, rejection of critical feedback, and an expectation of unconditional loyalty.
People in these environments aren’t always aware they’re being abused, says Lisa Oakley, the co-author of Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse: Creating Healthy Christian Cultures.
“Psychological abuse is not a one-off. It's usually a series of incidents which when told by themselves can seem minimal,” said Oakley, now an assistant professor for the developmental psychology team at the University of Chester. “It's when you put that story together that you actually start to see this pattern of control.”
Oakley joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editorial director Ted Olsen to discuss what people should do if they think they are being spiritually abused, how spiritual abuse can also affect pastors, and why it may be hard for people in close-knit communities to realize the unhealthy state of their church’s leadership.
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