The following excerpts are taken from my book Hypocrisy Exposed. The topic of domestic abusers and sexual predators in the church is not a fun topic, and one I would much rather not have to address. I can relate to Jude, who wanted to write about the blessings of our salvation, but was compelled instead to warn of false prophets creeping into the church (see Jude vs. 3-4). There are many other subjects I would rather write about, but this topic needs to be addressed!
Narcissists by nature, are abusive toward people. When you combine an extreme sense of entitlement, a self-centered need for admiration, and no ability to empathize with others, you have a person who thrives on having power and control over others. You have a person who uses others for their own gain. You have a person who sees others as objects instead of people. Abuse can take on many forms—physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, and more.
It is important to understand that abusers are not abusive toward everyone; they have targets with whom they connect to and systematically destroy over time. The abuse often happens off-and-on in cycles, which creates much confusion for the victim. If you discover that someone is guilty of abusive behavior, you will probably think, How can that be true? He seems like such a nice guy! This is the deceptive nature of hypocrisy and narcissistic abuse.
One of the areas that I have witnessed the dynamics of hypocrisy and narcissism at play in the church is in situations of domestic abuse. Through a series of events, my wife and I have had our eyes opened to the widespread reality of abuse happening in “Christian” marriages. This is a far greater problem than we have ever realized and is hiding in our congregations. Many wives are being abused and degraded by their husbands behind closed doors, while publicly they wear a nice religious mask. We have seen this firsthand in various situations, and the effects on the woman are devastating. (And though not nearly as common, sometimes the woman is the one abusing her husband.)
Sometimes, much of the abuse that happens is not blatantly physical. It can be emotional, psychological, spiritual, or verbal. Make no mistake; these types of abuse are very real and can be more damaging than physical abuse. Wives in these situations are sometimes not even aware of the abusive nature of the relationship. There is much manipulation, hypocrisy, and a cycle of destructive behavior that leaves her in confusion. Her soul is being destroyed and her personhood is being eradicated. Unless you have experienced this type of abuse yourself, or seen it up close firsthand, it can be very hard to understand.
Another area where narcissism and religious hypocrisy are at work in the church is with sexual predators. Unfortunately, the church has been plagued with a dark history of scandal in the area of sexual abuse. We have all heard of the many molestation and abuse allegations within the Catholic church, but this problem is far from merely a Catholic one. Just recently, the Southern Baptist Convention was rocked with exposure of hundreds of reports of sexual abuse from clergy. Some were elders, some pastors, and some youth pastors who preyed on teenagers. We have seen it in Charismatic and Pentecostal churches, non-denominational churches, and every branch of Christendom. Just this week alone I came across an article about a youth pastor who was sentenced to three years in prison for sexually abusing teenage girls, and another article about a pastor who was sentenced to life in prison for sexual abuse and child sex trafficking.
Sexual predators use hypocrisy in the process of grooming their victims. They portray themselves one way in order to build trust, hiding their real intentions. They use hypocrisy in displaying a public persona that is far from the reality of what happens behind closed doors. They keep a holy public image while living a hellish private reality. But God is bringing exposure and justice to these areas.
At the beginning of 2019, I felt that the Lord impressed upon my heart that it was going to be a year of exposure. Shortly after this, something happened as a confirmation to what I sensed from the Holy Spirit. Toward the end of January, I was invited to speak for a ministry and I felt led to preach a message on exposing the true nature of hypocrisy. This was the first full message I had ever preached on the topic. As the message was closing, I led the people in intercession for God to expose hypocrisy happening in the region, and for sexual abuse and other areas of darkness to be exposed. Just a few weeks later, I was stunned when I saw an article describing the arrest of a man for charges of sexually abusing an underage girl over a period of years. Not only did this man live in the same area where I had preached, he was in attendance that very night! He was part of a church, frequently attended Christian conferences, and was often known for prayer and prophetic ministry. What a shock!
The year 2019 certainly turned out to be a year of exposure, and it is only increasing. We are seeing moral failures, scandals, and high-profile church leaders brought down at an alarming rate. But I hope we are learning some lessons; not just from the big scale exposures that hit national news, but from the uncovering of abuse happening across the board in our churches and “Christian” homes. We must become wiser to evil; we have been too naïve. The church has become a safe haven for wolves in sheep’s clothing, narcissists, and sexual predators. Instead of protecting sheep, we have often enabled wolves. We fall for the hypocrisy far too often, and don’t look beneath the surface to see what is actually going on.
Perhaps we prefer not to see. Perhaps we would rather turn a blind eye like the priest and Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:30-37). Perhaps we don’t want to get our hands dirty or have to face the reality of the darkness hiding in our midst. Perhaps it is too inconvenient to deal with such devastating reality. But we cannot afford to be ignorant or silent any longer!