I preface the words to follow by stating that not every church organization or church leader is guilty of inflicting institutionalized spiritual abuse and i personally know some pastors who are deeply kind, humble and sincere followers of Lord Jesus. This being said, a deeply alarming number of them have sold out to the system and are caught up in this abuse. These wolves in sheep's clothing are no longer genuine followers of Lord Jesus no matter how much they may believe and/or pretend themselves to be through their outward appearances. Theoretically, only the pastors and other church leaders who are guilty of this abuse will be upset by this article and theoretically the ones who have kept themselves accountable before the Lord and oppose this type of abuse will be in support of these words.
The foremost example of spiritual abuse has been inflicted for many centuries through a trusted institution and its trusted leaders all of whom carried official titles which for all too many overly trusting sheep made them believe these leaders and the institution they represent to be above reproach. The Catholic church has been the Apex Wolf in sheep's clothing since its inception and has controlled, manipulated and dominated its sheep... including with the lie that says the sheep had to go through the Catholic church to get to God as if the Catholic church rather than Jesus in Living relationship was the way, the truth, the life, Savior, Lord, Messiah, the gate, the door, the Good Shepherd, etc. The history of the Catholic church illustrates one obvious example of this institutionalized church abuse but it's also vitally essential to be aware that countless non-catholic churches and their leaders into the present day have followed in the corrupted footsteps of the catholic church and have been guilty of inflicting the very same type of control, manipulation, domination and other spiritually abusive behavior against the innocent sheep who incorrectly assumed that these institutions and their titled leaders could be blindly trusted.
Identical to the lie told by the catholic church, a lie which is in direct opposition to what the Lord Jesus Himself actually taught, and as one central element in how this worldly religious system chooses to deceive as a means of controlling the sheep, many leaders within these non-catholic institutions today will tell the sheep (in so many words, sometimes more subtly than others) that the sheep are required to choose a 501-c3 corporation (or other non-501-c3 institution) as their "home church" and submit themselves spiritually under the so called "covering" (another word for which is "Lordship") of this institution and its paid and /or titled leaders in order supposedly to be in correct and non-apostate relationship with the Lord. Submission under and alignment and conformity under this false power posture essentially makes this system and its leaders all or in large part the Lord of this sheep (instead of this sheep choosing Lord Jesus in living relationship to be this 100%)... and aligning with this posture is idolatrous and entails the selling of a big part of the sheep's soul to this controlling institution and to its titled and/or paid controlling leaders.
Lord Jesus warned against Hirelings and if not these institutionalized controlling, manipulating, dominating and otherwise spiritually abusive leaders, to whom could He possibly have been referring?
As one aspect of the control over the sheep this system seeks to impose, the verse "do not forsake the assembling" in a way which is falsely, manipulatively and legalistically interpreted as specifically referring to a mandatory, legalistic involvement in an institution, rather than like minded lovers of God simply being free to meet together to glorify the Lord without any legalistic requirements that this must be done within such an institution.
A church and it's leaders asserting domination over its constituents constitutes spiritual abuse... and the pastor, church or other counterfeit servant of the Lord who is guilty of this is a wolf in sheep's clothing no matter how legitimate they, their title, or their institution may make them seem.
Often times the seeming legitimacy of the institution and/or of the title is the very clothing the wolf is wearing to deceive, betray and abuse the sheep.
Often as well, the false servant of the Lord is more susceptible to becoming blind to the corruption they have embraced because they are making their living doing this which can often open the door to the business and monetary aspect becoming an idol which interferes with more purely hearing the Lord's true voice including getting in touch with their conscience through deep and honest self reflection and choosing to live in purity unto Him whatever the cost may be including financially. The perception that these false, controlling and manipulative teachings work in their favor in a business sense can often lead them to very quickly and willingly turning a blind eye to these false teachings and to eventually having their conscience completely seared in this area. It doesn't help that the mainstream system is so deeply corrupted that majority opinion among these institutionalized wolves in sheep's clothing solidifies the false servant in believing through popular religious opinion and group-think that they are in good company and that the lies must therefore be true.
Alignment with and blind loyalty towards a corrupted church system, its corrupted leaders, its various false teachings and and its various false practices is nowhere near the same as surrendering oneself 100% to Jesus as Lord in Living relationship and living unto Him. Where the institutionalized system is in error and corruption - as has so prolifically been the case all throughout history - true followers of Lord Jesus need to challenge this corruption rather than submitting under it and aligning their hearts with it. Whenever choosing to stand up for truth in challenging institutionalized spiritual abuse or other corruption, one should always be prepared for the normal institutionalized religious backlash and persecution including perhaps being falsely accused of having the very jezebel spirit that these institutionalized abusers actually have or being accused of having the Absalom spirit as if by challenging them in their false teachings and other abuse you are somehow trying to take over their counterfeit kingdom.
As has always been the case, true prophets and true followers of God seek to protect the sheep from this institutionalized abuse and deception while anybody choosing to defend this abuse and to align themselves with it will twist the truth, shift the blame, and falsely accuse the true followers of God as being the problem. As well as being the foremost wolves in sheep's clothing, the institutionalized corrupted system and it's corrupted leaders have always been and continue to be the foremost persecutors of God's true servants using their power, their titles, and their perceived legitimacy as supposed servants of the Lord to do so. The pharisees did this against Lord Jesus, Peter, Stephen and others and the false system is in the same way perpetuating persecution against the Lord's true servants today. Jesus said that when you are His true followers the world (primarily referring to the counterfeit religious system) will hate you just as it hated Him. These wolves within many of today's supposedly Christian churches are of the world and are picking up where the pharisees left off.
Mainstream religion demonstrates its complicity in this deception and abuse all throughout the bible and all throughout the history to follow and into the present day. Thus the foremost and by far the most prolific Wolves in sheep's clothing over the centuries and into the present moment have always been and continue to be the institutionalized catholic church and its leaders and the many (but not all) institutionalized non-catholic churches and their leaders following in the footsteps and traditions of their catholic forefathers... and of their religious pharisee forefathers before them. This corrupted man-made model represents counterfeit religion, a strong delusion of legitimacy, and a massive diversion from what it truly is and has always been to follow the living God in living relationship the way the true prophets followed Him and the way Lord Jesus taught and exemplified.
People have been deceived by the false system which has groomed them to be receptive spiritual abuse victims. As a part of this deception, these sheep have actually come into idolatry to church institutions and to church leaders, conflating this system with God Himself and ascribing a substantial portion of Lordship to it, idolatrously misplaced Lordship which belongs 100% to Lord Jesus. This idolatry has opened the door wide for institutionalized wolves in sheep's clothing with official titles to rule and reign over the hearts of the sheep that trust them, rather than Lord Jesus actually being 100% Lord and true covering of these sheep as a means of protecting them from surrendering themselves over to the counterfeit institutionalized lordship provided by the system.
Jesus said to call no man Father and that we are all brothers in Him. Much of the institutionalized church system has clearly chosen to ignore this teaching and has chosen instead to create a false spiritual hierarchy structure rather than the leaders being deeply and genuinely humble and being the servants of All as Lord Jesus has so clearly taught.
As an example of how healthy and fruitful Jesus-centered ministry can look, people seeking help in drawing closer unto the Lord can call or visit one of His true servants, with or without a title - who has not sold out to the counterfeit system and been caught up in this institutionalized abuse and deception, carefully discerning love, kindness and other good fruit and good character as much as possible - for prayer, Christ centered counseling, discipleship, worshiping together, or other ministry. All of this can be deeply healthy and beautiful, wonderfully aligned with the Kingdom of Heaven - as long as everything is kept in the proper perspective, as long as Lord Jesus is kept at the center as the one and only Lord, and as long as no man or institution repeats the mistake of the Catholic church and its many non-catholic mimickers by seeking to assert control, manipulation, domination and/or Lordship over anybody.
To reaffirm an important point made earlier, there are some pastors, seemingly relatively few and far between, who are genuinely followers of Lord Jesus, who are not puffed up with perceived power over others, and who have not turned themselves over to being partakers of the cup of worldly religion which includes being drunk with control, manipulation, domination and other spiritually abusive ways. In every instance, one must very carefully discern.
To any church leaders who have gone against Lord Jesus and have chosen to follow in the footsteps of the many institutionalized wolves in sheep's clothing who came before them or who are being tempted into this, hopefully they will catch themselves before it's too late - while their conscience has not as yet become completely seared in this area - and cry out to the Lord in deep and sincere repentance, giving their heart and their obedience truly back to Him.