Spiritual Abuse and Recovery

This page is the primary resource of the entire Barnabas Ministry website. It has articles on identifying, addressing and recovering from unhealthy or abusive churches. There are also book reviews and recommendations.

There is also a series of
Audio Messages addressing the topic of spiritual abuse and recovery.

Church history is also an important part of understanding how churches work. Link to articles and books discussing church history.

Barnabas Ministry Articles
Identifying and Understanding Unhealthy Church Dynamics and Spiritual Abuse

Uncovering and Facing Spiritual Abuse (50k)

Characteristics of Unhealthy and Abusive Church Environments (32k)
What makes a church unhealthy?

Favoritism (39k)
Discerning legitimate and damaging instances of favoritism

Why Churches Make Mistakes, and What Can Be Done About It (38K)
Examining mistakes and mistake-prevention in a church.

Guest Articles

The Perils of Obedience (39k)
Classic article on obedience to authority, by psychologist Stanley Milgram

The Yeast of the Pharisees: Spiritual Abuse by Pastors and Counselors (23k).
By Edward J. Cumella, Ph. D. Reprinted from Christian Counseling Today, a publication of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC).

Confronting the Unhealthy Church

Confronting Those in Authority (12k)
Practical guidelines for working things out with leaders

When Confronting Doesn't Bring About Change, and Why Churches Can't Change (35k)
Exploring the dynamics and options when confrontation doesn't go well

Scriptural Reasons for Leaving a Church (15k)
When it's time to go, and how to look at it.

The Story of Barnabas (11k)
Insights about the work of Barnabas in the early church-- and how the Barnabas Ministry got it's name.

Parenthood Lessons for Church Conflicts (32k)
Church conflict from a father's point of view

Recovering from an Unhealthy Church

Finding a Counselor (22k)
A discussion of one of the most common issues that arises in correspondence with the Barnabas Ministry

Leaving an Unhealthy Church and the Grief Process (37k)- How leaving a church is a loss, how various grief models can help us understand the process, and various mechanisms on recovering from the loss. It also discusses how patterns learned in an unhealthy church environment can make recovery more difficult.
Letting Go of Offenses in the Unhealthy Church (22k)
The question of forgiveness in the context of the unhealthy or negative church experience.

Losing Weight (37K)
How the author lost 40 pounds in 6 months.

Practicals on Spiritual Recovery (10k)
Practicals on getting better from spiritual wounds

The Spiritual Life Cycle (70k)
Examination of the various stages of spiritual life.

Why I'm a "Revolutionary"  (12k)
One man's thoughts on the being a "revolutionary" (as used by George Barna in the book of the same name).

Thoughts on Followership (25k)
Healthy and spiritual patterns of followership.

Thoughts on Primitivism (16k)
Perspectives on "restoring the early church."

The Fallacy of Christian One True Wayism (29k)
The problem with "one-true-wayism" and some thoughts about solutions.

Barnabas Ministry Topic and Passage Discussion
Passages and Topics Frequently at the Center of Unhealthy Churches


Egypt, O Egypt (130k)-- A series of articles examining the Israelite experience in Egypt with a view towards understanding unhealthy and abusive spiritual environments.
Royal Leadership in the Church (55k)
Discussing the rise of King Saul and its relevance for the church today.

Matthew 7:21 (3k)
What the Gospels have to say about "the will of God"

Matthew 11:12 (html, 29k) Matthew 11:12 pdf, 197k, has footnotes and more)
Forceful men?

Matthew 16:18 (19k) (Matthew 16:18 pdf, 46k, has footnotes)
Who is the Rock?

Matthew 28:18-20 (6k)
Baptize disciples?

John 2:17 (27k)
Was Jesus "consumed with zeal?"

Acts 2:36 (35k)
Who crucified Christ?

Ephesians 1:17-19a (36k)
Enlightening the eyes of the heart.

Titus 3:10 (25k)
Reject A Factious Man: Another Look at Marking

1 John 1:7 (10k)
Walking in the Light


Agapao and Phileo- What's the Difference? (34k)
Tithing (52k)
Discussing tithing in the Law of Moses and its relevance for Christians today.

Rescuing the Gospel from the Gospels (32k)
A discussion of the place of the gospels in the life of a Christian

Disciples, Followers and Believers (48k)
The two different calls of Jesus

Jumping off the Temple (44k)
A look at taking advantage of God's providence vs. the law of sowing and reaping in the high-demand church.

A Sober Look at Unity (24k)
Examining  group dynamics and Scriptural insights about unity.

Statistics and Christianity (18k)
A discussion of the pros and cons of utilizing statistics in the church and in one's spiritual life.

Suffering, Growth and Bitterness (17k)
Overview of bitterness from a scriptural point of view

The Mature Attributes (18k)
A discussion of s
ome biblical attributes for mature Christians. One discriminating characteristic between a healthy and unhealthy church is the presence or absence of these traits.

The Eldership: A Noble Task (32k)
The work and qualifications of the eldership

Financial Support for Full-Time Workers (55k)
Study in the New Testament on the topic of compensation for ministers

Barnabas Ministry Book Reviews

Highly Recommended by the Barnabas Ministry

Changes That Heal: How to Understand Your Past To Ensure a Healthier Future (11k)
Dr. Henry Cloud (Harper Paperbacks, New York, NY. 1990, 1992, 1995.)

The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith (7k)
Janet O. Hagberg and Robert A. Guelich, Sheffield Publishing Company, Salem, WI 1989/1995.

Happiness is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual
By Dennis Prager, Harper Books, New York, NY. 1998)

Healing Spiritual Abuse: How to Break Free from Bad Church Experiences (11k)
Ken Blue (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. 1993).

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (10k)
Robert B. Cialdini, Ph. D.  (Quill/William Morrow, New York, NY, Revised Edition 1993).

Life After Church- God's Call to Disillusioned Christians (12k)
Brian Sanders (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL 2007)

Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership- The Paradox of Personal Dysfunction (7k)
Gary L. McIntosh & Samuel D. Rima (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI. 1997. 233 pages). A fascinating look into leadership failure and what can be done to prevent it.

So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore (10k)
Wayne Jacobson and Dave Coleman

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse (13k)
David Johnson and Jeff Vanvonderen, Bethany House, 1991. Discussion of the roots of spiritual abuse and dealing with the problem in a constructive manner.

Not Necessarily Recommended, but Reviewed

Combatting Cult Mind Control  (3k)
 Steven Hassan (Park Street Press, Rochester, VT. 1990. 236 pages). A behind-the-scenes look at how cults of all sorts manipulate and control people.

Cults in Our Midst- The Hidden Menace in Our Everyday Lives (7k)
Margaret Thaler Singer with Janja Lalich  (Josey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, CA, 1995, 1996).

Dining with the Devil: The Megachurch Movement Flirts with Modernity (13k)
By Os Guinness (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1993)

Escape From Freedom (10k)
By Erich Fromm (Henry Holt and Company, New York, NY, 1941, Owl Books Edition 1994)

Firestorm: Preventing and Overcoming Church Conflicts (10k)
Ron Susek (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI. 1999). 253 pages

Good News for Anxious Christians (13k)
By Phillip Cary
(Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, MI 2010)

Letters to a Devastated Christian- Healing for the Brokenhearted (6k)
Gene Edwards  (The Seedsowers, Jacksonville, FL, 2001)

Life After Church- God's Call to Disillusioned Christians (12k)
Brian Sanders (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL 2007)

Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community (16k)
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Man's Search for Meaning
Viktor E. Frankl (Beacon Press, Boston, MA 2006).

Releasing The Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves  (9k)
Steven Hassan (Aitan Publishing Company, Danbury, CT. 2000). Healthy techniques for helping those in unhealthy groups evaluate their experiences and make good choices.

Toxic Faith  (11k)
 Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton (Shaw Books, Colorado Springs, CO. 1991, 2001. 268 pages).