Hyper-Headship and the Scandal of Domestic Abuse in the Church


(Reblogged from The Gospel Coalition Blog)

by Jared C. Wilson

(NOTE: This is the kind of thing I have been praying for – no, BEGGING for – to see happen in the church for a VERY long time. His word-picture about the 3 doors parallels what I have often said: “When it comes to abuse, there is no ‘Switzerland’ – you either side with the abuser or the abused; there is no third choice.”)

Jason Meyer, pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, gave a powerful and important sermon this past Sunday.

In it, he defined things like “hyper-headship”:

Hyper-headship is a satanic distortion of male leadership, but it can fly under the radar of discernment because it is disguised as strong male leadership. Make no mistake—it is harsh, oppressive, and controlling. In other words, hyper-headship becomes a breeding ground for domestic abuse.

Meyer also addressed the issue of…

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Abuse Has No Switzerland



“There is no such thing as a bystander when it comes to abuse.”

The following is another excerpt from the book I am writing about my experiences being a Biblical counselor to abuse survivors:

Abuse Has No Switzerland

As I have mentioned many, many times in the past, “There is no such thing as a bystander when it comes to abuse!” Intentionally or unintentionally, we automatically side with either the victim or the offender. There is no neutral territory, no middle ground.

Abuse does not and cannot happen in a vacuum: it happens in relationships; it happens in families; ; it happens in churches; it happens in communities.

Evil people don’t look evil – they look just like everyone else. So, becoming aware of and sensitive to the warning signs of abuse and abusers is necessary if we are going to answer God’s call to rescue those caught in…

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How pastors respond to accusations of domestic abuse


A Christian woman who gets up the courage to report her husband’s abuse frequently turns to her pastor first. Usually, he is not equipped to help her. The church hasn’t yet fully stepped up to confront domestic abuse. If they would, they’d find that the women involved in it are both out in the world and in their pews. Many Christians have a hard time believing that Christianity and domestic abuse can, and do, go together, so all too often it gets swept under the rug.

Before you misunderstand, hear this: I’m not saying that a true Christian can be an abuser. A genuine Christian cannot be an abuser, but an abuser can hide in a Christian church. A Christian can lose their temper, fall into sin for a season (like King David), be hard to get along with at times, and misbehave in various other ways but domestic abuse isn’t a temporary sin. It’s a pattern of sin, of control, of seeking power over one’s partner. Domestic abuse is evil, and it often hides in our churches.

One in four American women experience some form of domestic abuse in her lifetime. Many of those are members of churches. When those abused members get up the courage to speak out about the abuse, and seek help for it, they often turn to their pastors. And, more likely than not, they will receive little, if any help.

How could that be? Wouldn’t a pastor jump at the chance to help an abused woman? You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But you’d be wrong. Here’s why.

  1. Domestic abuse is, at its core, unbelievable. This man, who stood before God and man, proclaiming his love for a woman, making a husband’s vows, is now beating her, berating her, or neglecting her? How could such a thing be? So when a wife comes to her pastor and tells him that her husband, a man he most likely knows, has done and/or said these horrible things to her, his first response is likely to be that she’s blowing it out of proportion. She must be mistaken. How could she not be? He knows Peter (or Bob, Tony, Phillip, etc.), he’s prayed with him, talked with him, ministered to him. He’s seen his heart for God, for his children, for the church, for her. There’s no way that she can be telling the full unmitigated truth.
  2. Pastors don’t understand domestic abuse. Seminaries don’t usually offer classes in how to handle domestic abuse cases. So when he’s faced with it, he just doesn’t know what to do. So he does what he commonly does when faced with marital problems: He suggests prayer, self-examination, couple’s counseling, etc. He might tell her that if she would just work on herself some, she could probably make things better in her marriage. Minister to him, find out what’s eating at him, serve him more, help him more, repent of her own sins, and things should get better. 
  3. Abusive men are masters at manipulation. They can pull the wool over your eyes quicker than anyone. Do they need to act repentant? They will. Do they need to confess to some small aspect of the abuse to give credence to their denial of greater acts? Confess they will. Do they need to shake their head, sigh, and tell the pastor that he didn’t really want to have to expose this about his wife but, well, she’s not really mentally stable. She lies. She twists the truth. She, well, see, she just can’t be trusted. He looks sad, downcast, maybe even sheds a tear.  And the pastor is eating out of his hand, just like he intended.
  4. Pastors don’t understand that traditional marital problems and problems caused by domestic abuse are nothing alike. When the things he’s suggested, such as couple’s counseling, the wife working on herself, etc., don’t work, he might just be inclined to blame the wife, not realizing that she could do those things eight days a week, and it won’t ever make a dime’s worth of difference–except now her abuser understands himself to be the victim in the pastor’s eyes, and he sees that he now has her permission to continue with the abuse because she isn’t confronting him, isn’t demanding change from him, isn’t threatening to leave or actually leaving, but is accepting the blame for it. So things get worse.

God’s Word stands against abuse. The word isn’t usually in most versions but words such as oppressor and oppressed are. God’s heart is with the abused, and against the abusers. Ours must be also.

If we want to see change within our churches concerning how domestic abuse cases are handled, then pastors must become educated about domestic abuse. Christ’s church should be a haven for His people, including for His women who are being beaten down by their husbands; instead, churches are often havens for the abusers who manipulate the leaders into believing them rather than helping their victims. It’s a win-win for the abusers. And a lose-lose for the victims, for our churches, for our church leadership, and for the proclamation of the pure Gospel because the Gospel of Christ cannot thrive where abusers hide.

Have you know a church that had to confront a domestic abuse case? How was it handled?

Defining myself


Abuse will not define me.

I am more than a woman who has been abused. More than a child with a broken heart wondering why…again. More than an over-comer, a survivor or a thriver. I am the proud mother of beautiful children. I am blessed to homeschool them (yeah!). I am a lover of words, of beautiful music, of creativity. And I’m a pretty good cook. I love cooking new dishes but my favorite foods to eat are simple ones. Time and again, I turn to cheesy oatmeal and tomato soup. I hate soft-drinks of any kind but I adore water. And coffee. And milk, but I’m now allergic to milk so I drink almond milk. And lots of sweet tea.

I’m a sometimes crazy woman who actually loves housework–as long as it is accompanied by the sounds of children’s laughter, much prayer, or really good music. I love old movies, funny ones, serious ones, sappy ones. Bring ’em on. I get a kick out of ’60’s sitcom’s. My middle daughter and I steal moments away to watch them because she enjoys them just as much as I do. I’m a reader. Growing up, I was that child that, when she had nothing else to read, she read the back of the box of cereal. And the toothpaste container. And the writing on the box of grits. I just get a thrill out of reading. I especially love reading the Bible. But I also love poetry, mystery novels, and lots and lots of non-fiction. I always wanted to be a writer and, you know what? I am a writer. A writer of journals, of poetry, of truth, and a co-author of a book on domestic abuse. Oh, and there’s this: I can’t turn away a stray animal. I’m pretty sure animals know this as they seem to find their way to my house. My children laugh and say that we’ve got a big flashing neon sign above our house that’s only visible to animals that says “Sucker for animals lives here”. Best of all, though, and the thing that actually defines me is this: I’m a child of God, a daughter of His who is undeserving of His tender grace and mercy but oh-so glad to be blessed by it. By His wounds on that old rugged cross, all of my wounds, even the worst ones, are healed.

And I’m tired. Tired of a messy life. Tired of fighting battles that I didn’t start. Tired of dealing with, and cleaning up, other people’s messes. It’s been such a long, hard road for such a long, long, time. But I’m here, and I’m fighting. Against being labeled by folks who don’t have a clue what I have gone through, against false accusations–by folks who are foolish enough to believe the lies and then repeat them. Against passing this madness on to the next generation. Against abuse in all its forms. In all its evil. So, to that end, I’m here to share my heart, my story, and I’m going to listen as others do the same. More importantly, I’m here to share what God has done–what Jesus did on Calvary two millennium ago, and what He’s done for me. Ultimately, He is my story. He is what, and Who, defines me.

Would you care to start the conversation? What defines you?

What does God’s Word have to say about domestic abuse?


Scripture has much to say about the abusive mentality, how God’s people are to respond to, and help, the abused, and how He Himself sees the abuser. These modern words aren’t used but words such as oppressor, oppressed, afflicted and so on convey the same message. Below are but some of the verses in Holy Scripture through which the Lord has revealed His heart for victims.

Genesis 42:21 And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.

2 Samuel 22:28 And the afflicted people thou wilt save: but thine eyes are upon the haughty, that thou mayest bring them down.

Psalms 11:5, The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.

Psalms 9:9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.

Psalms 18:48 He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.

Psalms 22:24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.

Psalms 72:14 He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.

Psalms 140:12 I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor.

Psalms 103:6 The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

Psalms 146:7 Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:

Psalms 82: 3-4, Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.

Proverbs 10:6 Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.

Proverbs 10:11 The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.

Proverbs 11: 29 He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.

Proverbs 22: 8 Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail. (ESV)

Proverbs 22: 10 Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease. (ESV)

Proverbs 31:9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Isaiah 35:3,4 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.

Jeremiah 22:3 Thus saith the LORD; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.

Malachi 2: 16 …and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment” says the Lord Almighty.

Matthew 5:21, 22 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Matthew 18:10, See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.

Colossians 3:19, Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

Galatians 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Galatians 5:19-21, Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 4:29-32, Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (ESV)

Ephesians 5:25, Husbands, love your own wives, even as also the Christ loved the assembly, and gave up himself for it;

Ephesians 6: 4, And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Hebrews 12:12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

Hebrews 13:3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

James 1: 19, 20, Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

James 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.

James 3:10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.

It’s a cry out for help


Isolation takes the victim away from friends, family and those that love them unconditionally.  Domestic abuse destroys lives with perpetrators always in control and always blaming.

For those looking at this complex cycle, won’t understand the in-depth impact it has on the victim, with many being blinded by the charisma oozing from the charming partner and not seeing them for the controlling perpetrator.

Friends and family will probably only notice changes in the victim such as being moody, late and different but not really understanding they have changed so much too soon.

Victims will be feeling so lonely and even alone when surrounded by so many with terror ripping through their body and soul, always living in fear of doing, saying or being in the wrong; constantly walking on a tightrope everyday.

The manipulation of the perpetrators verbal death threats making any decision that the victim may have of leaving…

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Abuse needs no excuse


Psalms 103:6, The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

Abuse needs no excuse. Abusers need no reason to abuse. They abuse because they are abusers. They don’t think like normal people, they don’t react like normal people, they don’t respond like normal people. They think, react and respond like abusive people because that is what they are. Because of that, it doesn’t matter if their victim failed or didn’t fail, or what they might have failed in, they will abuse anyway. Abusers can be driven to abuse by anything or by nothing.

God is on the side of the oppressed. He cares about you, and He cares about your children. But that doesn’t mean that you must just submit and obey and leave everything in God’s hands. Many people in the Bible fled in order to protect themselves from violence. Even Jesus did (John 8: 59). If you are being abused you have a right to protect yourself. You have a right to leave. To get to safety. To tell your story. To get a restraining order, have him arrested, or even hide from him. You have a right to divorce. You have a right to do whatever it takes to protect yourself and your children.

If you are being abused, and you don’t know who to turn to, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. Help is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It’s free, and it’s confidential. If you cannot call someone, but can get away, go to your local police station or even to an emergency room. Someone there can help you.

God be with you.

Soli Deo gloria!

Is what I have experienced domestic abuse?

behindtheeyesMy father beat my mother. He’d get into drunken rages and he’d physically hurt her. That was abuse. I grew up understanding that. Having been on the run from him for a long time, when we settled down in my mother’s hometown I was finally able to be at peace. That was a good thing. Being away from him, even when I’d miss him, was a good thing. He’d hit her. He’d burned her. He’d even broken some of her bones. He’d hurt me, too. Even as a child, I understood that. I grasped that what he did was abuse.

Because my father was physical, his abuse of us was easy to label as abuse. Anyone around us knew what was going on. My mother had support for getting away from him. Friends, family, and even the church, helped her.

It’s not always so easy to identify abuse. And it’s not always so easy to get others to understand what you are going through. We might be being abused and not even recognize it. Yelling, screaming, saying cruel things, even hitting a wall in anger, can be easy to justify if we try hard enough. “He’s had a bad day”/”I haven’t tried hard enough to please him”/”If only this or that had/hadn’t happened, he wouldn’t have gotten upset”. But if we’re having to justify such behavior, it’s probably a sign that something is wrong.

Abuse is a repeated pattern of mistreatment. Anyone can lose their temper. Anyone can say something that they don’t mean, or say cruel things in anger. That’s not to justify those things. Scripture says we’re to treat others as we want to be treated, and that we are to submit one to another. Such behavior isn’t seeking anyone’s good and so a Christian shouldn’t allow himself/herself to do or say such things. However, a one time or even once in a blue moon action isn’t an abusive pattern. What he or she did or said may have indeed been abusive but it’s not yet a pattern.

Domestic abuse is a continual pattern of behavior that is designed to hurt, manipulate or control another person. Physical abuse is just one type of abuse, and even with physical abuse, there doesn’t have to be bruises or scars for abuse to have taken place. If he drove recklessly in order to scare you, if he pushed or shoved you, if he restrained you against your will, he has abused you.

Sexual abuse isn’t just rape. A man can rape his wife and that is abusive. He can also force her to view pornography, loan her out to another man against her will, or force her to participate in sexual activity that is painful or shameful. He can forceably undress her, make her have sex or force her to be undressed in front of others or in a public place. He can spank her during sex when she doesn’t want to be spanked. He can make sex painful through use of some object, through rough-handling her, or by other means.

He can abuse her financially by not meeting her financial needs when he could. He can refuse to allow her to purchase needed supplies for herself. He can ruin her credit. He can force her to go bankrupt. He can refuse to allow her to have any money or keep her on a strict budget. If he is doing these things to control her, he is abusing her financially.

He can be cruel to her, saying or doing things that constitute verbal or emotional abuse. He can gaslight her by telling her he didn’t do or say something she knows he did. He can humiliate her in front of others. He can act erratically so that she feels the need to walk on eggshells around him.

He can spiritually abuse her by not allowing her to attend church or by twisting Scripture to justify his abuse of her. He can twist Scripture in order to justify subjugating her.

Paul Hegstrom, author of Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them has identified 21 types of abuse. I don’t have room here to cover them all but I will come back to that in a future post. Suffice it to say that there are many ways that one person can abuse another. If you are being hurt (physically or otherwise), if you are being controlled (not allowed out of the house, forced to keep a tight schedule or budget, etc.), if your needs are being ignored, if you are being told that you “deserve this because you are a woman”, you are being abused.

Please, if you think you are being abused, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE). Or tell someone who can help you. There are shelters available in many cities. Tell a friend or a pastor. Even tell your doctor (even if there are no marks). Just get help. Please, just reach out to someone.

Meanwhile, I may not know you or what you are going through but, as my reader, know that I’m lifting you up to God. I care. I’m praying for you. Just act. If you need to talk, email me at thecrossisall@gmail.com

God be with you.

Rose Tinted Glasses: Should’ve gone to Specsavers?

A reader shared this post with me, and I want to share it with you. It is a stark, tender, and powerful look at domestic abuse from one on the outside looking in. If only everyone had the desire to respond in such a way to one reaching out in hope and fear.


She reeled from the message on the screen. She stared at its few, blunt, heartbroken words and the world swam around her. All her life, she had been bathing in- not quite luxury- but in plenty, and she had been brought up to expect the world to treat her as joyfully as she viewed it. Having grown up clever, fairly pretty (maybe not by society’s standards, but in her own quirky way), and being as liked as she was well disposed towards people, she had never known how to try. She had been taught that the world was her oyster; it was, but through the rose tinted glasses perched firmly upon her nose from a lazy and shallow life she had seen everything she needed to see.

Not anymore. It was as if the rose tinted glasses had been smashed into thousands and thousands of shards by those simple letters…

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How churches can help victims of domestic abuse


I just re-blogged an article concerning churches helping abuse victims from Peace Works Blog https://revchrismoles.wordpress.com/ . The blog was written by a pastor concerned about abuse in Christian homes. Unfortunate, he doesn’t seem to be updating it anymore but I still visit it from time to time to drink of his wisdom.

The article I re-blogged from him, What can a healthy church provide to victims of abuse?, https://revchrismoles.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/what-can-a-healthy-church-provide-to-victims-of-abuse/ ,was one that hits right where I live. Having been in the position of trying to get help from God’s people, and having been hurt in the process, I shared his article in the hopes that somewhere down the line, someone else will receive the help, and the Christian love, that they so desperately need.

A reoccurring story that I hear from other abuse victims is that, when they turned to their local church for help, their pleas for help were rejected, they were blamed for the abuse, they were sent back home to be further abused or they were disbelieved. Our family has moved around quite a bit so I’ve sought help in multiple churches. Sadly when I turned to church leaders in order to seek guidance for the difficulties I and my children were facing, I was more often than not, turned away. Contrary to what I had hoped to find, I found leaders who were not approachable.

It is hard for an abuse victim to find the courage to speak up about her life. It was hard for me. To find that, instead of encouragement, concern, and prayerful guidance, I received harsh treatment, was ignored, or sent away, was disconcerting. I was used to that type of behavior from him but from God’s leaders? It hurt.

Eventually I was listened to, and believed, and offered prayers and prayerful advice but it took several attempts. Practical help still eluded me.

I wanted to go through some of what Peace Works writer, Pastor Chris Moles, suggested that the church can do to help victims of domestic abuse. I appreciate that he suggested that church leaders Believe her. As he put it, When a woman in particular gathers the courage to tell her pastor what she is experiencing it is important that we believe her. Remember we are not gathering evidence for a court case; we are supporting a sister who is hurting. Belief validates her suffering and puts us in a position to help. My experience has informed me that we may be the first people to truly believe her story and her, genuine, response to that kind of hope will convince us of her sincerity. 

Yes, there are women, and men, who will lie about being abused but a God-fearing woman won’t. Being believed, and accepted, means so much. When you live in an abusive situation, the abuse beats you down. You’re often told no one will believe you and, in fact, that is often true. It’s terrifying to reach out for help. Will anyone believe you? What will happen if that information makes it back to the abuser? So, him encouraging churches to believe her is beautiful.

He also suggested that the church Support her. He went on to say that supporting her means that she be allowed to walk through her pain in community, surrounded by loving sisters who will comfort, pray for her, and hold her accountable to the process. Part of supporting her, Pastor Moles suggested was providing biblical counsel to her. Counsel which will include a process of healing and forgiveness in the context of safety. Ensure her that the church will not rush reconciliation but will promote her healing, while aggressively calling her husband to repentance, change, and accountability. While I know this will be a difficult subject for some churches, consider how your plan may include considerations for separation, and even divorce if necessary. For more information on a biblical approach to abuse and divorce please consider my friend Barbara Robert’s book Not Under Bondage. http://notunderbondage.com

I’ve read Barbara Robert’s book and, when the blog A Cry for Justice (which sprang the book I worked on with Pastor Crippen) was first getting started I worked with her for a while on the blog. I cannot recommend her book highly enough.

Further, Pastor Moles suggested that the church Consider meeting physical needs. For instance should we establish an emergency fund to help her and children if the abuser is unwilling to financially contribute to her well being? Should we establish safe houses within our congregations for temporary shelters? Are we prepared to offer rides or other services that may be needed? 

For some abuse victims, money isn’t an issue. For many others, it is. Sometimes she’s struggling because they simply didn’t have much, other times it’s due to financial abuse. To have the church say “We’ll help you –in this way or that–until you can get on your feet” would be amazing to the women and their children who couldn’t dream of getting to safety otherwise.

Lastly, he suggested that the church should be prepared to Confront the abuser: I believe the greatest means of serving victims is holding abusers accountable. WARNING. Unless you fear for her health or immediate safety and are taking her to a safe house, communicate to the victims your desires and intentions before you address her abuser.

Pastor Moles went on to suggest that, before talking to him, you tell her that you plan to and ask her permission. Confronting him without making sure she’s safe (usually away from home either for an extended period or permanently) is dangerous.

So that’s it in a rather large nutshell. It’s an excellent article and one I suggest you read and then pass on to your church leaders. Domestic abuse is alive in our churches. We must confront it and we must love and support the victims while doing so. To do otherwise, is to be the Priest and the Levite that ignored the victim and passed by on the other side of the road. And remember, Jesus condemned them.