Healing From Complex Trauma & PTSD/CPTSD

A journey to healing from complex trauma.

Can Abusive Churches Change?


Those who find themselves in authoritarian churches often remain despite the difficulties because there is an underlying hope that the church can change. Even after they leave they often remain keenly interested in the affairs of the former church because they hope restoration will still occur.

Can abusive churches change? Although with God all things are possible, it is my opinion that it is highly unlikely that this will happen. Although a few have, they are the exceptions.

Why is change in these organizations so difficult? One reason is that change usually begins in the leadership. However, the leadership structure is designed so that the leader has control over the personnel. Although there may be a board, the individuals on the board are ultimately selected by the authoritarian leader. He selects men and women loyal to him, who do not question him, or hold him accountable. Therefore, he insulates himself from dealing with difficult issues or addressing his unhealthy practices.

Dysfunctional leaders also resist change because it is an admission of failure. In order for a genuine change of heart, leaders must first acknowledge a problem and repent. However, a leader who considers himself “God’s man” or the spokesman for God will rarely humble himself to confess his shortcomings. Spiritual wholeness and renewal cannot be achieved until unhealthy behavior is recognized and dealt with. Unless this behavior is confronted, the likelihood of real change is diminished.

In most cases, the leadership focuses the blame on others. Those who left the church were not committed, were church hoppers, etc. Stephen Arterburn writes, “Anyone who rebels against the system must be personally attacked so people will think the problem is with the person, not the system.” It is often useless to point out flaws because an abusive church lives in a world of denial. Many of the leaders are themselves deceived. Although sincere in their efforts, they may have no idea their leadership style is unhealthy and harmful. They are usually so narcissistic or so focused on some great thing they are doing for God that they don’t notice the wounds they are inflicting on their followers. These leaders often twist Scripture to justify their unhealthy behavior. Most members will go along with this because they assume their pastors know the Bible better than they do.

Lastly, authoritarian churches make every effort to ensure that a good name and image is preserved. Therefore, the leadership often functions in secrecy. Disagreeing members are threatened and told to remain silent or are quietly dismissed.

For these reasons, it is my opinion that it is best to leave an abusive or unhealthy church. Learn to let go and let God deal with that group. Only He can bring people to repentance. Although painful, leaving an unhealthy church and joining a healthy body of believers will begin the healing process and open new doors of fellowship, worship, and service for you.

This is an extract from this link, that I found very useful in my recovery from spiritual abuse, from an authoritarian Church, with far too many cult like behaviours.

the spiritual abuse with grooming from the associate pastor was absolutely intentional, along with all his lies and denial and attacking me with lies, because I exposed him.

The senior pastor is just a weak, deceived man, who wanted this all kept quiet, but being stronger than them all, I exposed them, just as God’s Word says to and in obedience for what is needed by God.


Author: Healing From Complex Trauma & PTSD/CPTSD

I am a survivor of complex and multiple trauma and abuse, who at the age of 40, began my healing journey. I am using my journey to recovery and healing, to help others, to help survivors feel less alone, validated, encouraged and to enable others to understand themselves more. Complex trauma, particularly from severe, prolonged childhood abuse, is profoundly life changing. Complex trauma produces complex adults. The journey to recovery is a painful, often lonely, emotional daily challenge and it is my aim to encourage others in their daily battle. ~ Lilly Hope Lucario

6 thoughts on “Can Abusive Churches Change?

  1. Do you truly believe that there is a such thing as a ‘non-abusive’ church? That’s the nature of religion after all. To separate ‘us from them,’ to fleece the congregants for money, to ingrain in individuals who is acceptable to associate with and who is not, and at the more extreme levels to justify all sorts of terrible things.

    If there is a church that does none of these things, I have yet to encounter it.

    • Yes, I do believe there are non abusive Church’s, because I believe in God, and God is good and is pure love.
      I believe there are abusive church’s and cults. God values free will and this is abused.
      And I also know abuse is ignored and condoned in too many Church’s, but there are many more doing great work.
      I know I need to be part of a healthy Church, run by healthy leaders, who can handle being challenged, who encourage people to think and challenge, both their own beliefs and that of others.
      The Church I currently go to, don’t just help themselves, they have outreach work, helping people outside of their Church community who are in need.
      There is much good done within Christianity.
      Even within the Catholic Church, they are largest provider of health care in the world.
      You made a good point about ‘religion’.
      I agree ‘religion’ is abusive, but it is meant to be about personal relationship with Christ, following His example.
      I am not religious, I have a personal relationship with the One who died, for my eternal salvation and I follow His example only, not those of religious people.


  2. There are so many truths in this article. I believe a lot of people that are in abusive churches ignore it because they are afraid to be shunned by the other members in the church. And even after it is exposed they don’t really want to deal with or blame the minister underneath them. Most abusive won’t go out to witness.

    • That is what I also witnessed. the whole church polarised around the issue, all completely failing to support me, or my family.
      This church very much have their entire identity in their ‘church family’, church doctrine, which is an inner circle that you are only part of if you follow the rules and don’t question or challenge that, or the leaders. They are afraid to ‘go against the flow’, which is sin.
      These church ‘sheep’ are sinning, because they are not following God’s Word and Jesus’ example and that is sin.
      I did expose them, and there is a formal complaint in process and I am still praying the investigators realise this church are in much need of help, starting with the spiritual abuser pastor being removed, and then the senior pastor have some help to address his issues and sin and then these cult like issues within the church are addressed.

      • In most cases i believe a lot of assistant pastors won’t speak up because they don’t to be rejected by the senior pastors family in fear of having their license revoked by a board or district.

  3. Yes, that no doubt happens and this ‘fear’ people have of speaking up, enables and allows abuse to continue.
    In my situation, the abusive pastor was the associate pastor. But, the senior pastor defended his actions, twisting scripture to suit his needs to keep the situation quiet.
    It was made clear to me I was no longer welcome, by the leaders and Church sheep, but required this exposed and used me and my strengths for this purpose.
    My hope and prayer is this narc ass pastor loses his license due to his very clear spiritual abuse with evidence provided, the senior pastor is made aware of all his failures/sin and the Church realise too, that all that has occurred, is sin and much of it.
    Whether that happens, is out of my control, but I still have options after that, which I am considering.