Their general philosophy of mentoring or discipling
is one that is hierarchical in nature.
Jesus warned against authority which is more like the
world than like Him (Matt. 20:25, for one) Unfortunately, the Church has
been infiltrated with a number of half-baked teachings that support the
ideas of worldly authority being wielded in their churches . The result
is a hierarchy mindset in relationships.
I have found a common thread with people who hold on to
the hierarchy philosophy. That is, they constantly compare themselves
to other people, and then relate to them according to their assessment.
They measure you as being either: over or under them, more spiritual or
less spiritual, with more revelation or less revelation, more gifted or
less gifted, getting more public recognition or less, acceptable or unacceptable,
worthy or unworthy, superior or inferior. This preoccupation with comparing
and contrasting reveals issues of self-esteem, ego, and insecurity. This
is not head knowledge, it is in the heart, emotions, and attitude. It may
even be a stronghold from which Christ must set free.
This "hierarchical discipleship philosophy" may not be
readily apparent at first, but will become clear as the way they relate
to you or others expresses itself in both words and actions:
First of all, as disciplers or ministers, they approach
you as though they are your superiors. Paul, a true apostle, did not approach
in that way (1 Corinth. 2:1-5) Worse then that, these people will stay
superior position. In other words, you are ever the child and they are
ever the parent and any reversal or change in these roles is not tolerated.
They may try to force you into false humility or hypocrisy (pretending
you know less or are less capable than you are) They do not rejoice with
you if it is found that you have the same or greater knowledge, maturity,
or anointing in Christ. Instead, there will be a competitive or demeaning
reaction as they seek to re-establish their feeling of superiority and
sooth their bruised egos. If you were once needy and now seem ‘whole’,
they may attempt manipulation to convince you that you still ‘need’ them.
They may seem jealous and unwilling to share their role with another. They
may be overly ‘protective’ of your spiritual safety (as if you cannot discern
or decide for yourself).
If a person with this hierarchical mindset is someone
who is seeking or receiving ministry, they may excessively flatter you
and inflate your ‘ministry’ toward them (idolize you). Any admission on
your part that you are human may offend them. Or, they may search for faults
or weaknesses until they find one, because they are interested in assuring
themselves that you are not ‘better’ than they are. They may be easily
insulted and quickly offended beyond repair. They may criticize, judge,
demean, or try to put you into an inferior category compared to them. They
may accuse you of thinking of them as inferior all along. They will have
nothing to back up their accusations up except their suspicions. (Footnote--No
matter what your ‘failings’ as ‘minister’, you do not deserve to be in
an abusive relationship. The best recourse for this would be to respectfully
withdraw yourself as ‘minister’ before you are provoked sufficiently enough
to react. You do not have to "return evil for evil" or reject in order
to do this. Do not go beyond what you have grace for. It is not your job
to convince anyone of your good motives or get past their abuse in order
to bless them. It takes supernatural grace to love the unloving, and this
love can only come from God. Even so, pride is an effective barrier to
receiving ministry or wisdom.)
Besides idolatry and its twin sister, despising (you may
get one or the other, or both), another obvious sign of the hierarchy mindset
is in how accountability is actually practiced. The false mentor does not
answer to you, but you must answer to them. They may choose whom they will
be accountable to, while you may not. This is the ‘trickle down’ theory
of accountability. It’s like water under the law of gravity: it always
goes down but never goes up! Although they may claim to be open to accountability
themselves, their consistent rejection of responsibility for actions proves
Scripture does not make such distinctions however. Although
we should be careful of levying accusations against honorable elders (1
Tim. 5:17-19), there is no room for an ‘elder’ never to receive correction
(1 Tim. 5:20), or for an ‘elder’ to somehow have shed his ‘Christian brother’
status! (Matt. 18: 15-17) Scripture does not suggest that wisdom from God
is the special privilege of an elite elder or set of elders. A fool who
rejects godly wisdom or reproof from anyone (regardless of political status
or title), is still a fool. (Proverbs 1:7; 2:6; James 1:5; Proverbs 12:1,
Spiritual pride (and indeed, pride of any kind) is the
fuel of any religious organization that expresses itself in hierarchy.
The underlying attitude is sometimes subtle, yet it becomes clear soon
enough. In these organizations, you will find people who have agreed with
the organization's perception of itself and the leaders they choose.
Someone who is ‘anybody’ in these organizations are either the favored
minister, or has been tutored or mentored by the favorite minister or ministry.
If you are inside an organization or group that has been slowly convinced
of it's own specialness, you will eventually see the infection of spiritual
pride if you pray and ask for discernment. This may be painful though,
because you may find out where you yourself have come to agree with their
values, and will have to repent.
If you are outside of such an organization or group, the
people who have taken on this mentality will approach you (an outsider)
with an assumption of your spiritual inferiority. If you can say,
"I am of (insert name of popular minister or ministry, or favored
title, here) …" your status will miraculously change. Suddenly you have
been elevated a few notches on that invisible hierarchy ladder. And this
miracle happened by name-dropping and organization recognition! With
your announced ‘credentials’, the assumption or inferiority takes an about
face: "Oh then, you have arrived and you are someone to be listened to".
You are suddenly preferred, and doors open.
Sad to say, instead of this attitude making ministers
uncomfortable, many have become poisoned by it and no longer notice their
condition of spiritual pride. They are not aware of how utterly depraved
the hierarchy system is. Furthermore, most of the church culture now feeds
into it and supports it. So, ministers oblige by commending themselves
and having letters of commendation. They also ‘watch out for the flock’
by getting letters of commendations before looking twice at a fellow minister.
(II Corinth. 3:1) Just look at all the written comments under the minister’s
name to convince the Christian public they are ‘okay’, and listen to the
long-winded announcements made before someone steps up to the microphone!
What do all the PhD’s, status titles, organization names, and man’s approval
mean? They mean nothing very little, and may indeed be the 'dung' that
Paul referred to in his former life as a Pharisee . In fact, these "letters
of commendation" serve best to take the place of discernment in a system
leavened with the leaven of pride (I Corinth. 5:6; II Corinth. 3:2)
They are controlling.
This is related to the hierarchy mindset, but needs to
be treated separately because it is broader than a philosophy or teaching.
Logically, a controlling person would be a poor choice
for ‘mentor’. Not only do the controlling give foolish counsel (1 Kings
12:1-16), but they would be an especially dangerous choice for an accountability
relationship of any kind. This is because their idea of accountability
is not really a free service to a brother or sister, but is a bondage to
them and their particular agendas and fancy. This would seem simple enough
to spot, and sometimes it is that obvious.
However, many times a controlling personality is so subtle
that they may be hard to discern at first. By the time their control tactics
are obvious, the bondage of control is in full-bloom. At this point,
it is more difficult to untangle from them or their deadly tactics. You
need not wait until then. It is better to spot a deadly flower before it
blooms, and to see a trap before it is sprung. By knowing the symptoms,
you can be forewarned of control tactics and better prepared for them if
and when they arise.
I have found that the first area in which a person usually
tries to establish unhealthy control in a relationship is in the communications
arena of that relationship. It may seem that communications is only
a byproduct and is of little importance, but I believe the Bible shows
otherwise. Scripture shows that a ‘dance’ or relationship of sorts exists
between the conduct of our communications and our actual conduct. Jesus
establishes that we can tell the 'fruits' from the good tree or the bad
tree by what comes out of a man's mouth, since this is also what is in
his heart (Luke 6:45). In James, we see that much can be directed
by such a small instrument, the tongue, too--which may defile our entire
body (James 1:1-6). And so, our communication is not only a symptom
of what is already there, but may indeed change or direct what is already
This is reflected in the book of Ephesians too.
Much of this book addresses both Body function and spiritual warfare. Therefore,
we should pay attention to the fact that a number of instructions are given
regarding communications within the Christian community. Interestingly
enough, these instructions are given during discussion of particular
sins or problems. It appears there is a clear pattern that both the
discernment (or 'symptom') AND the solution (the instruction to bring about
change) are found in the arena of communication. Please take
note of the following Scriptures in the Bible as soon as you can (they
are summarized for you, in paraphrase form):
Ephesians 4:14-15 (Don’t be children tossed about by deceitful
doctrine and trickery or men---Please speak the truth in love among yourselves
and grow up)
Ephesians 4:17-25 (Stop being hard of heart, sensual,
greedy for the practice of every kind of impurity—Lay aside falsehood and
deceit. Instead, speak truth to each other)
Ephesians 4:25-32 (Don’t cheat and steal from one another,
or be wrathful and bitter with slander—have godly righteous anger and confront
immediately, reverse the sin of stealing with sharing instead, and be kind
and gracious in speech as you forgive)
Ephesians 5:3-7 (Give thanks instead of being involved
with inappropriate silly or filthy speech and jesting----remember that
the disobedient and immoral are full of empty words)
Ephesians 5:5-8 (Don’t participate in shameful deeds of
darkness----let them become visible---speak about them in the light instead)
Ephesians 5:15-20 (Don’t be foolish, wasting your days,
drunk with wine---Instead, find the will of God, be filled with the Holy
Spirit and sing and give thanks to the Lord!)
It’s not at all illogical to assume that a controlling
person would want control over all areas of the relationship---communication
included. Therefore, there will be a power-struggle phase over communications
until control is established. During this power-struggle phase,
there will likely be double mindedness and sudden reversals in communication.
For instance, there may be friendliness and then a sudden silent treatment,
kindness in communication and then cruelty, flattery or compliments and
then insults, apparent openness and then secrecy. These sudden reversals
may seem to have no rhyme or reason at first, and you may feel confused
or stunned by them. It is not uncommon for these reversals to flip-flop,
as the other person goes back and forth in communication style, sometimes
dramatically. When asked about their communication conduct, they may deny,
be evasive, blame, or refuse to give an explanation by expressing anger
or disappointment that you question them or what they say, or how they
say it, or by telling you that you have no 'right' to question them because
of their authority status. They may even ‘punish’ you or test you by switching
their communication again to exactly what you have just objected to!
After the power-struggle phase, there is the control
phase. In this phase, you will find that the other party has succeeded
in controlling the type, manner, timing, and content of communication.
However, you might not notice it immediately because you have been shamed
or manipulated into not objecting to the 'rules' of communication. However,
if you will take note of these spoken or unspoken 'rules', you will find
that they are very uneven. In other words, they apply to you, but
not to them. This gives the other person an unfair psychological upper
hand. For instance, you are available while they remain aloof. You are
accessible while they are less accessible. (You have to initiate communication
and wait, while they do not have to be prompt in answering. However, they
are sure to initiate communication when they want something from you, and
they will expect an immediate answer.) You are expected to be open with
your life, thoughts, feelings, or intentions while they remain closed with
theirs. You are to keep their secrets, while they do not keep yours (if
you have any). They may dismiss your reproof or concerns, while you may
not dismiss theirs. You are to defer to them—for instance, getting prior
approval for your communications--- while they do not have to defer to
If you realize the unfairness of these rules and challenge
them, then the power-struggle phase will return again. During
this phase, you may be very surprised at the kind of reactions you can
get from your very small, seemingly non-threatening, communications. Therefore,
it is best to be as fully prepared as possible. These reactions can indeed
include various types of accusations, guilt-tripping, manipulation, rejection,
and frank intimidation. Be prepared for the worst! If you are
in a group of people where communication and information is tightly controlled
by the group leader or leaders, you are in for a rough ride indeed.
In fact, I would personally recommend you have a support system OUTSIDE
the group, if at all possible. Breaking the spoken or unspoken (and unscriptural)
rules of communication may indeed turn the entire group against you.
Those who would support you, will not verbally do so publicly. They are
often too controlled by the leader or peer pressure themselves. Rejoice,
however, "for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the
prophets who were before you." (Matt. 5:12)
Whether individual to individual, or group to individual,
this power-struggle will continue until the controlling party is assured
they have gained control back. That is, if they can. Since, it is
unpleasant and even painful to continue in a power-struggle phase or state
of tension, you may be worn down and stop fighting—just for the sake of
peace. However, this ‘peace’ has a high price: your communications and
you yourself being controlled by the unhealthy ‘rules’ the controller has
established. Picture the lion wearing down his prey until they are too
tired to struggle, and you will understand how important it is to find
a better alternative than this exhausting 'war' with the controlling personality!
The power struggle is not really with the person, however.
And, if you continue being trapped in a power struggle, you are fighting
against flesh and blood. The Scripture reminds us that our
power-struggle are not really with the people involved("We wrestle not
against flesh and blood..." Eph. 6:12 KJV). So, it is wise to refuse to
engage in power-struggles. How do you drop the power struggle, though?
This is indeed a difficult question and one that will take alot of prayer
and wisdom. This is why I suggest a support system (the wisdom of
counselors), if possible and if you feel you do not violate your conscience
while relating events to someone outside the group. Remember, insiders
of a controlled group have often been told certain types of communication
is not 'allowed', and are often coached in various ways to keep the secrets
of the group or leader, and to refuse any questioning of the 'rules' in
place. Therefore, be careful for your sake and according to your
situation. If you seek wise counsel or support from outside the exclusive
group, it is not necessary to name the person you struggle with, as that
may put you in danger from the group or leader.
Power-struggles are all about control. So, you must take
yourself out of the struggle for control. The controlling person gives
you the option of letting yourself be controlled, or of continueing the
struggle by trying to control them. You cannot participate in either option,
and may have to physically remove yourself from the relationship in order
to follow the path of righteousness. This is because the controlling
person does not understand either options, and will continue the struggle
even though you are not interested in it. Behavior from you that
does not include sinful manipulation or intimidation on your part, simply
does not compute in his world. So, standing your ground by refusing
to be controlling or be controlled may stir up a great deal of fear and
controlling behavior on the part of the controlling person. Part
of this may be surprising, because you would think that yourself being
noncontrolling would provoke less fear and anger, not more--but that's
often not the case! This is because it does not compute to them and
worse, noncontrolling behavior on your part is unacceptable. Before
you become overwhelmed or provoked into sinful behavior, it is imperative
that you disengage politely and come back on YOUR terms, if you wish. God
can give wisdom on how this is to be accomplished.
A healthy relationship is not about power-struggles and
control. However, a person with control issues seems incapable of maintaining
a relationship without initiating power-struggles and control issues.
The question for them (and for you, if you are not careful) is not, "Is
this healthy?", but "Who’s in control?" This is a question born out
of fear, not security. Fear leads to power-struggles, which leads to an
establishment of who’s in control. By being in control or by knowing who
is in control, they hope to assuage their fears and know a sense of security.
An uneven relationship is all they understand. So, someone must
be in control. An uneven amount of ‘power’ must be given to either
themselves or the other party. Therfore, uneven ‘rules’ in a relationship
is a reflection of the need for that uneven power.
A person who is in fear and has control issues settles
for an illusion of control, since this gives the illusion of not being
afraid or insecure, to themselves and others. However, this resolution
of anxiety is only temporary. There will soon be something else to be fearful
over, and something or someone else to control. I am of course not talking
about the Spirit with the fruit of self-control (Gal. 5:23). Ironically,
I find that those who are controlling do not practice much of this, especially
in the realm of being quick to anger with its various expressions (Proverbs
16:32). Perhaps it is because they are too busy attempting external control
(outside themselves and toward the world around them), to be able to focus
on internal impulse control. In fact, I find that the more ungodly and
demonic ‘external’ control is practiced by the person, the more they themselves
lose proper control over their inner man (Proverbs 25:28). Wherever one
does not give the Spirit reign, another spirit reigns by default. If our
‘house’ (soul) is left empty of the Spirit, other spirits fills it (Luke
11:24-26). Also, in the absence of walking in the Spirit, we are left with
walking in the flesh (Gal. 6:25).
This vicious cycle of fear and ungodly control, with the
byproduct of loss of godly self-control, actually has its roots in insecurity
over God’s love. The Bible says in 1 John 4:16-18, that those who fear
are not perfected in love. That simple fact is very important, yet more
is revealed if one looks closer. In verse 17, the Apostle John states "love
is perfected in us," by coming to know and believe the love which God
has for us (verse 16). Therefore, someone with fear and control
issues can only resolve this with a deep assurance of
God’s love for them—an assurance that only God can give.
Man has free will and may disregard, resist, and disobey
God. He may refuse to believe God loves him, and instead end up being very
insecure of God’s ultimate control over their lives. These are the people
who do not fully surrender to God or yield to His ways, because they do
not trust Him. How can they trust Someone who does not LOVE THEM? So for
them, it seems actually safer to resist Him! God simply cannot be
trusted to be in ultimate control. It does not compute for them. So, when
the question arises: "Who’s in control?" the answer for them can not be
"God—whose ways are higher than mine—He is the one I can trust with ultimate
control." At the core of their being, this is not a reassuring thought
to them at all. Therefore, they may decide to be the one in control, or
to be controlled themselves by someone "they can really trust (at last)"
(this is still not fully trusting God, but another person instead of God).
So, if the answer cannot be "God is in control", then
someone ‘more trustworthy’ has to play God. If you are in control, then
you are playing God. If someone else is in control, then they are playing
God. Whoever is attempting to take God’s place in this way must repent
of it (Ex. 20:3). Barring that, others need to refuse to agree to or lend
them this illegitimate God-like power and authority. (*NOTE: I understand
that an abused child finds himself powerless to effect change in a world
of unrighteous adults, but this discussion is about adults to adults).
A controlling person cannot have their needs for security
and love met by illegitimate means. Nothing and no one can serve as an
avenue or fulfillment for that missing piece of their soul. Only God can
give the assurance of His love to them, and so only God can fulfil their
need for love completely. Only He can solve a controlling person’s inner
insecurity, fear, and control issues, and only they can choose to surrender
and yield every part to Him. I must stress that control issues have nothing
to do with the people or situations the controller wishes to manipulate.
These people or situations just happen to be in their path. These issues,
however, have everything to do with their relationship with God.
There is therefore no reason to feel guilty for not being able to satisfy,
heal, or trust the controller.
In all things, no relationship can withstand unhealthy
and uneven ‘rules’ and have a semblance of being healthy. Either the ‘rules’
must be re-established to healthy ones, or the relationship itself will
remain unhealthy. A sick relationship with sick rules is a bondage (to
the sick rules). Eventually, there can be a bondage to the person who makes
and enforces the sick rules. However, even after the person is no longer
controlling your life, the bondage of sick rules can remain.
Indeed, we may not even realize there are, or have been,
‘warped’ communication ‘rules’ in place until we compare them with Scripture.
We need to examine the Scripture and compare these rules with what type
of ‘rules’ we have unwittingly agreed to. Once we have this knowledge,
we then can take appropriate action and change our own rules of conduct.
A healthy plant cannot bloom in unhealthy soil, so it is time to change
the soil. The power of Christ breaks the powers of darkness, and transforms.
We must start somewhere, and it seems that according to Scripture, communications
is a good place to start!
Going back to the Scriptural content on the matter of
communication, we can look at this as an example: Secret sin is done
in darkness and the communication ‘fruit’ of that kind of darkness is discussing
it in secret only or not discussing it at all—which is covering the sin
up and concealing it. We are commanded as Christians, however, to expose
to the light (Eph. 5:8-13). This is not just for the sinner himself, but
for everyone involved. Ungodly ‘rules’ of secrecy serve only to
cloak secret sin and conceal its effects. What else is such secrecy good
for? The most wonderful thing, however, is that even victims of secret
sin can ‘come alive’ and know the Life and Light of Christ by choosing
to abide by scriptural intent and break these ‘rules’ (Eph. 5:14). This
can take a great deal of courage and it must be their choice, since controlling
abusers often instill terror in their victims (the message being "Don’t
talk"). The choice that was forced upon them once (often as children) can
be reversed. They can now agree with the conduct of darkness or agree with
the conduct of light, and experience life again.
Most of all, they are blind hypocrites.
In Matthew chapter 23, Jesus launches into a most unflattering
description of the scribes and Pharisees, calling them "hypocrites" over
and over again. He gives the results of the Pharisees discipling techniques
in verse 15: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you
travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes
one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves". So,
if you want to become a ‘child of hell’, let a hypocrite make you into
an image of himself. If you want to fall into a pit, follow a ‘blind guide’!
(Matt. 15:14). A blind guide mistakes the worldly and the material for
the spiritual, giving prominence to the one while not ‘seeing’ the other
(Matt. 23:16-21). They also are good at noticing, and straining for, the
tiny and inconsequential, without noticing the huge and important (Matt.
23:24; Matt. 7:3-5).