Solving Spiritual Abuse in the Church Is Simple and Straightforward—at Least in Theory

None of Michael Kruger’s proposals are earthshaking, but they require time, effort, and vigilance.

Spiritual abuse is far from new, but recent scandals involving high-profile leaders have drawn renewed attention to this reality. Michael J. Kruger’s Bully Pulpit: Confronting the Problem of Spiritual Abuse in the Church brings a new resource to the conversation, rich with biblical foundations and practical applications.

Kruger isn’t the first name you might expect to see on the cover of a book about spiritual abuse. He’s a well-respected scholar of the New Testament and early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. Yet, in his role as a professor and seminary president, he has witnessed several recent cases that compelled him to address the issue of spiritual abuse. “Sometimes,” he points out, “you do things not because you want to but because they need to be done.”

Bully Pulpit isn’t aimed primarily at abusive leaders. The book is directed first toward Christian leaders, churches, and parachurch organizations that may be hiring and enabling leaders whose practices are opposed to the ideals described in Scripture. Such leaders may embrace orthodox theology even as their habits of leadership distort or ignore the New Testament’s witness.

What spiritual abuse is—and isn’t

Early in the book, Kruger acknowledges potential misunderstandings related to the term spiritual abuse. He is careful to point out that not every sin a leader commits is spiritual abuse; nor is every slight that a member feels. Spiritual abuse can be confused with calling out someone’s sin, initiating church discipline, and engaging in other legitimate practices of pastoral care.

So why use the term spiritual abuse at all, given the possibility of such …

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