When Christian Leaders Abuse Their Authority

by Jerry D. Kaifetz, Ph.D.

With another clerical scandal in our back yard, this time of the Roman Catholic variety, we can see once again how far we are from learning anything vaguely resembling a meaningful lesson in all of this. The tragic element, once again, is that our blind loyalty to religious institutions and tradition rather than scriptural principles and innocent lives is exercised at the expense of children.

In traditional biblical Christianity, the believer is his own priest. He has direct access to God, and does not need a robed intermediary who thinks marriage is incompatible with serving God. In the nineties, we saw the child abuse scandals at the hands of First Baptist Church of Hammond and their child molesting deacon and scandal ridden pastor. Then came other child molesters in ecclesiastical garb who had also been spawned by this church and their college in Indiana, Hyles-Anderson College. The most notable was Andy Beith, the Christian school principal from Lake Station who abducted and repeatedly raped an eleven year old female student and became the object of a nationwide F.B.I. manhunt before being captured in Las Vegas.

Having attended First Baptist Church of Hammond, graduated from their college and seminary, and having spent a year at the church in Lake Station that hired Andy Beith, I have some insight as to why certain institutions seem to be more prone to child molesting scandals than others. No, it’s not something in the water. I saw it all happen, I understand the pathology, and I know how keep it from happening and how to fix it once it has.

The Christian scriptures have held for several millennia that spiritual authority does not rest in any office: it ultimately rests with the group, the “eklesia“. Roman Catholicism is based on the complete overthrow of this basic principle, establishing a man-made church hierarchy that woos the church with its accouterments, fanfare, rituals and costumes. Thus the accountability is not to the people, it is to appointed individuals over whom the local church members exercises no influence. Given the understanding we derive from the Bible concerning man’s nature, this is a recipe for disaster, especially when the contrived element of forced celibacy is added to the mix.

In traditional, biblical Christianity, the believer is his own priest. He has direct access to God, and does not need a robed intermediary who thinks marriage is incompatible with serving God, and whose own church history has left millions dead and tortured in it’s wake for the crime of “heresy:” expressing an opinion that disagreed with that of the church.

The abusive pastoral legacy left to Northwest Indiana and the rest of the nation by Jack Hyles is in principle not any better. The late Jack Hyles bequeathed upon himself the title of “God’s man,” once boasting from the pulpit in my presence that the “entire spiritual fate of this nation rests on these two shoulders right here,” pointing to his own shoulders. The requirement in his church was termed “blind loyalty” — you supported him 100% and didn’t ask questions. Nothing could set the stage for the disastrous abuse that befell this group any better than this mindset, as we see demonstrated over and over again, apparently without learning a thing from seeing children repeatedly victimized there. Hyles’ number one Bible teacher, Joe Combs, now sits in Tennessee prison for decades to come for enslaving and abusing his illegally adopted daughter. Many church cults have leaders who live their lives with a strictly Old Testament mindset. Combs was a brilliant Bible teacher, but knew nothing of grace. This is always a dangerous mindset when it lives in the minds of church leaders. I am convinced that even after a decade in jail, Combs probably doesn’t think he has done anything wrong.

What will it take to see a pattern in these churches, and to begin understanding the reasons why they abuse? It all has to do with the unwillingness of churches to hold their leaders accountable to biblical standards of leadership. Instead, we weekly provide them with a platform for self-exaltation and endorse a religious agenda designed to centralize ecclesiastical power more and more and to increase the artificial disparity created between “God’s man” and the average church member.

Anyone asking questions is painfully reminded of the cardinal rule in these churches: DON’T STAND UP IN THE CANOE! The system becomes quite adept at the political ostrasization of anyone demonstrating the capability to think independently and critically in applying correct biblical standards of behavior to church leaders and events. Righteousness loses its place of honor on the altar and is replaced by the church itself. This perversion of holiness has brought to human history the persecution and even the death of millions. This dynamic is responsible for the Inquisition, a dark, dark time in human history when the process described above was wielded by Roman Catholicism, endorsed by popes and executed by Jesuits. The cost in lives was 50 million! The torture devices they used now fill many museums in Europe. (The Rack, the Breast Ripper, the Iron Maiden, the Cage, etc..)

So when you see legitimate, biblical authority abused by church leadership, act with courage, with much prayer, and with the determination to see righteousness prevail regardles of personal cost.

I am including here a video I produced on Pastoral Authority. You will also find on Youtube my 5 part series entitled, “How a Good Church Becomes a Cult.” These are 100% Bible based. They are designed to teach truth.

Jerry D. Kaifetz, Ph.D.

About Jerry Kaifetz

Christian author, c.e.o. Omega Chemical Corp.
This entry was posted in Church, Fundamentalism And Church Cults. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to When Christian Leaders Abuse Their Authority

  1. robert shriver says:

    I read “When Christian Leaders Abuse Their Authority” and I think you are spot on.
    Unfortunately, I had been attending a fundamental church pastored by a Hyles-anderson graduate several years ago. I made the “mistake” of questioning the pastor on the KJV-only issue and women needing to wear dresses. When it was obvious that I would not submit to his teaching, I was shown the door. As a further result, my wife left me and no one in the church will even talk to me. The pastor will not even talk to me now, unless I return and apologize for questioning his authority.
    I am not sorry for standing up to this man. Even though it cost me my marriage, I know that I did what was right. To God be the glory, I would rather have His approval than anything else. Thanks for standing for the truth. Others may need to know that they are not alone in dealing with these kind of churches.

    • Jerry Kaifetz says:

      This ignorant pastor does not understand so many things, one hardly knows where to begin.

      First of all, the authority of the New Testament church is not in the pulpit, it is in the assembly. The assembly’s relationship to the pastor is based on personal persuasion, as Heb. 13:17 makes abundantly clear to anyone who has spend thirty seconds studying it. (look up “obey” — EPISTHESTHE – on p. 806 of Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.”)

      Yours is a testimony of courage and fidelity to truth. Unfortunately, like all cults, the Hyles clones have nothing but volume & proof texts (If you say it loud enough, it must be so.)

      Your old church has obviously never read Galatians 6:1. That is God’s protocol for Christians dealing with other Christians with whom they disagree.

      It is a sick and pathetically shallow “church” that cannot abide anything but “blind loyalty” & fear anyone who disgrees with them. I hope they don’t ever change their name to include the word “Berean.” That would surely go beyond God’s gag threshold.

      God bless you, Brother. God is keeping score, and you surely will have His reward. I know you have his peace already.


  2. Jerry Kaifetz says:

    Ryan, I answered you via e-mail & want to make sure you received it. jk

  3. Searching for Wisdom says:

    Trusting in the Man of God is difficult to differentiate from Obeying the UPCI Man of God.
    I was in sin and my Pastor requires 100% obedience and there is doctrine and standards which I am not 100% vested in that seem right but trouble me and always. I do not know if they are wrong or I am wrong.

    I have fought this sin all my adult life and during my time in church and have not been set free. Conversely my judgement may not be best because of my sin.

    It is difficult for me to give a man 100% obedience. My wife stated she will leave me if I don’t.
    I have been in my church 20 years and my marriage 30.

    I am in the same position as the earlier poster but I have failed and find my predicament a catch 22. I am searching for wisdom.

  4. Lee says:

    I would suggest that you not only read the Bible (and in a modern version) but also read the commentaries written by those that have been called into the ministry of His church. One of the problems with the IBF churches is that the pastor believes that he is the under-shepherd of the flock but we are simply dumb dumb dumb sheep that need to be guided. In pitching to read only the King James version of the Bible, they possess the same evil spirit that was in the Dark Ages trying to keep the Bible from being printed in the vernacular. Be careful in following man instead of the Spirit of the Lord (If indeed if His spirit lives within you – Romans 8:9).

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