The Bully Pulpit: Confronting the Problem of Spiritual Abuse in the Church – Michael J. Kruger

Michael J. Kruger, The Bully Pulpit: Confronting the Problem of Spiritual Abuse in the Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2022), 164 pp.

Spiritual abuse is one of the last topics that people want to discuss in the church. But it is imperative that this problem is explored and addressed. Better yet, the problem of spiritual abuse in the church needs to be rooted out once and for all. Michael J. Kruger tackles this challenge in his book, Bully Pulpit: Confronting the Problem of Spiritual Abuse in the Church. 

Dr. Kruger documents several cases of spiritual abuse including men such as Ravi Zacharias, James McDonald, Bill Hybels, and Mark Driscoll. These examples are indicative of the kind of spiritual abuse that plagues the church. One of the problems that surfaces is that churches place a high priority on the competency of leaders, while neglecting the character qualities that Scripture commends and commands. This oversight tends to attract narcissistic pastors, which only perpetuates the problem. 

The author defines spiritual abuse in clear and unambiguous terms:

Spiritual abuse is when a spiritual leader – such as a pastor, elder, or head of a Christian organization – wields his position of spiritual authority in such a way that he manipulates, domineers, bullies, and intimidates those under him as a means of maintaining his own power and control, even if he is convinced he is seeking biblical and kingdom-related goals.

The symptoms of spiritual abuse, according to Kruger, include various signs such as cruelty, threatening behavior, defensiveness, and being hyper-critical. Perhaps the most dominant quality of a spiritual abuser is manipulation. 

Kruger surveys the long history of spiritual abuse in both the Old and New Testament, helping readers understand that his problem goes back to the Fall of man. It is a problem and sin, nonetheless, that needs to be addressed and uprooted. 

The Bully Pulpit does not claim to have all the answers. But it does address the vexing problem in a straightforward and biblical way. Dr. Kruger describes the problem and offers helpful prescriptions for dealing with spiritual abuse and preventing it. He writes boldly and graciously, confronting sin and consoling those who have been sinned against. In short, The Bully Pulpit strikes a biblical balance that is much-needed in our day. May the church rise up and confront every spiritual abuser and may victims move down a path of wholeness and healing as they cling to the cross of Christ and his gospel.

3 thoughts on “The Bully Pulpit: Confronting the Problem of Spiritual Abuse in the Church – Michael J. Kruger

  1. You cannot eradicate sinful attitudes and practices in the church or ministries by carnal methods. Only the Holy Spirit must be agent that changed people, especially character and motivation. Successful people in all fields of endeavor use carnal methods to achieve success. Using the worldy success model in the church world is not appropriate.

  2. Thank you my friend. I am dealing with this exact problem right now with the rest of our church leaders. I will be ordering this book for all of our leadership to read together. I too have also suffered from abuse by “christian” leadership and have been through abuse counseling. It is a very real problem and grieves me to no end. We need to run to our savior for His comfort.

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