For those that follow this blog, you will know that the issue of spiritual abuse has been on my mind for the last several years now. Even before Mike Cosper’s excellent podcast, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, put it on the national radar, I’ve been concerned about some trends and patterns I am seeing across the spectrum of evangelical and reformed churches.
As a seminary president, and professor of New Testament, it’s part of my job to think about such things. After all, producing the next generation of leaders is what we are all about. And, more than anything, we want them to be like Christ.
And most of them are. To be sure, there’s much to be encouraged about when I look at pastors today. As a whole, they are a sacrificial, godly, and faithful bunch. Indeed, I am around pastors every day. I love pastors. I am a pastor myself.
But that is not all that can be said. For anyone paying attention over the last ten years, we have also seen the rise of a type of Christian leader that is, sadly, very different than Christ. Rather than being gentle, patient, shepherds, some pastors (for a variety of reasons) are heavy-handed and domineering to the flocks under their care.
Of course, such behavior is fundamentally contrary to scriptural teaching about Christian leadership (1 Tim 3:3; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet 5:3). Indeed, Jesus spoke a good bit about such domineering behavior, warning his disciples against precisely this sort of authoritarian model of ministry (e.g., Mark 10:35-45).
Despite these warnings, however, some churches (at least more than we should be comfortable with) have tolerated, and sometimes even celebrated, precisely the kinds of leaders Jesus warned us against.
Indeed, there has been a bit of a “pile up” of churches wrecked by such behavior over the last number of years. Some of the high-profile cases are known to most. But there are countless other stories behind the scenes that we will never hear about.
I have written and talked about this issue before. I have a written a lengthy blog series about it (see here), as well as led a panel discussion on spiritual abuse at the TGC 2021 National Conference (see here).
In fact, my series on spiritual abuse has been, by far, the most read series on my blog. On top of this, the series triggered a deluge of emails, queries, comments, and even personal stories about spiritual abuse from all over the country. It has far surpassed anything that I have ever experienced before. Clearly there is something going on out there and God’s people are hurting.
But there’s more that needs to be said and done. Churches need a resource that can help them understand what spiritual abuse is, how to spot it, how it affects the victims of abuse, and how the church can keep such behavior from happening.
So, I am pleased to announce my forthcoming book with Zondervan: Bully Pulpit: Confronting the Problem of Spiritual Abuse in the Church. The book releases November 1st—just seven short weeks from now.
I have written this book out of love for the church. After all, the church is the most important institution on the planet. Not only do we want to see her more and more sanctified as the day of Christ approaches, but we want to protect the sheep in the church from the wolves that Christ warned us about.
While loving the church may involve more than this, it certainly doesn’t involve less.
My prayer is that this book would find its way to the hands of pastors, elder boards (sessions), and other organizations that train and commend Christian leaders.
Here’s the official description:
Are churches looking for the wrong kind of leaders? The last decade has witnessed a rising number of churches wrecked by spiritual abuse–harsh, heavy-handed, domineering behavior from those in a position of spiritual authority. And high-profile cases are only a small portion of this widespread problem. Behind the scenes are many more cases of spiritual abuse that we will never hear about. Victims suffer in silence, not knowing where to turn.
Of course, most pastors and leaders are godly, wonderful people who don’t abuse their sheep. They shepherd their flocks gently and patiently. But we can’t ignore the growing number who do not. We have tolerated and even celebrated the kind of leaders Jesus warned us against.
We need gentle shepherds now more than ever, and in Bully Pulpit, seminary president and biblical scholar Michael J. Kruger offers a unique perspective for both church leaders and church members on the problem of spiritual abuse, how to spot it, and how to handle it in the church.
I am so thankful for these colleagues who took the time to read and endorse this project:
‘Spiritual abuse is one of the greatest stains on the bride of Christ today. Too few with pulpits and platforms are willing to recognize the basic truths that Michael Kruger addresses clearly, convincingly, and biblically. I thought Bully Pulpit would be a book every pastor and Christian leader ought to read. But I changed my mind: every Christian from pulpit to pew needs to read this wise and timely work–for the sake of the church and her people.’ — Karen Swallow Prior, research professor of English and Christianity & Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of On Reading Well
‘Who would ever have thought we would reach a point in the life of the church where the adjective bully would modify the noun pulpit? Yet, sadly, we have arrived. This book is both urgent and timely, as the presence of domineering and abusive church leaders continues to make headlines. This book is not only for pastors and elders but should be read by all Christians who care about the life and health of the body of Christ. I highly recommend it.’ — Sam Storms, lead pastor for preaching and vision at Bridgeway Church and author of Understanding Spiritual Gifts
‘With prophetic courage and pastoral compassion, Mike Kruger has written an important book on a difficult subject. No one likes to think or talk about spiritual abuse, especially in the church, but if we neglect and ignore this very real problem and don’t find the right ways to confront it, woe to us. So if you’re a church leader who wants to shepherd the precious flock of God in the paradigm, pattern, and posture of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, pick up this must-read book, then listen and learn.’ — Julius J. Kim, PhD, president of the Gospel Coalition
‘The apostle Paul tells us the overseer of God’s people is not to be a bully, but gentle (1 Tim. 3:3, CSB), and yet we too often overlook significant character issues or actions that should be disqualifying for ministry because of how God seems to be using an individual or growing a church. Bully Pulpit provides wise and measured reflections on the reality of shepherds who reject Christ’s vision of leadership and leave spiritual destruction in the wake of their sin. I hope this important book prompts serious discussion among God’s people.’ — Trevin Wax, vice president of research and resource development at the North American Mission Board and visiting professor at Cedarville University, author of The Thrill of Orthodoxy
‘Learned and wise, urgent and timely, biblical and hopeful–this book deals with a sensitive topic with enormous skill and care. I can think of no better book on the subject and hope it will be read widely.’ — Sam Allberry, pastor and author of Why Bother with Church?
‘This book is not a reaction but a response. Reactions to spiritual abuse are understandably passionate, but often without constructive insight. Dr. Kruger responds with both passion and constructive insight into both how leadership dynamics often deny the character of our Lord Jesus and how building new dynamics will put that very character on vibrant display.’ — Jeremy Pierre, Lawrence & Charlotte Hoover Professor of Biblical Counseling Chair, Department of Biblical Counseling and Family Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of When Home Hurts
‘The topic of spiritual abuse needs careful attention and sober reflection, so I’m thankful for this thoughtful, wise, and biblical book. Dr. Kruger provides helpful clarity on a controversial subject while courageously cautioning ministry leaders about the kind of leadership that doesn’t reflect the heart of Christ. Anyone who serves the spiritual needs of people should read this timely book.’ — Mark Vroegop, lead pastor of College Park Church and author of Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy
‘I have been waiting for a book like this that I can assign for my seminary courses on abuse. Michael has brought much needed clarity and wisdom to the devastating reality of spiritual abuse. Michael’s perspective as a Bible scholar and seminary president is invaluable. He brings church leaders face-to-face with the destruction abusers cause. He does this to help us take spiritual abuse seriously, to foster the motivation to enact real change, and to fill us with compassion for those who suffer from abusive ‘leaders.” — Justin S. Holcomb, Episcopal priest, seminary professor, and coauthor of God Made All of Me
‘While exposing spiritual abuse has become commonplace in American Christianity, few offer constructive solutions or practical wisdom. In this book Michael Kruger diagnoses the problem of spiritual abuse, describes what it is (and is not), and equips leaders to prevent abuse as well as respond appropriately when it happens. I hope every pastor reads this book and that it leads to faithfully representing our Lord, who used his power to serve.’ — Jeremy Treat, pastor for preaching and vision at Reality LA and author of Seek First
‘Michael has written a courageous book for such a time as this. I pray he is a prophet who is accepted and welcomed in his own country, particularly within a Reformed and Presbyterian community not immune to this pervasive plague within the church.’ — Rev. Chuck DeGroat, PhD, professor of pastoral care and Christian spirituality at Western Theological Seminary
While the book releases November 1st, you can pre-order a copy here!