Bullies in the Pulpit

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The Roys Report
The Roys Report
Bullies in the Pulpit
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Bullies. We’ve all encountered them on the playground. But what happens when you encounter them in your church?

In this edition of The Roys Report, joining Julie to talk about bullies in the pulpit is Paul Coughlin, an expert on bullying and a best-selling author and speaker.

Contrary to popular opinion, Paul says bullies aren’t typically “wounded” people who are seeking to ease their pain. They’re prideful predators with contempt for others. And the only way to stop them is for bystanders to courageously take a stand.

As founder of The Protectors, an organization that helps organizations and communities combat bullying, Paul has significant practical insights for identifying and dealing with the problem of bullying by pastors.

Plus, in this podcast, he shares details about close encounters he’s had with two bully pastors—Mark Driscoll of The Trinity Church and Jon Courson of Applegate Christian Fellowship.

This Weeks Guests

PAUL COUGHLIN

Paul Coughlin is an author, an international speaker and the founder and president of The Protectors, which is dedicated to helping schools, organizations and communities combat bullying. His books include No More Christian Nice Guy, Raising Bully-Proof Kids and 5 Secrets Great Dads Know. Paul and his wife, Sandy, reside in southern Oregon and have three teenage children. Learn more about Paul and his organization at www.theprotectors.org.

Show Transcript

SPEAKERS
JULIE ROYS, PAUL COUGHLIN

JULIE ROYS 00:04
Bullies. We all encountered them on the playground. But what happens when you encounter them not just in your church, but in the pulpit of your church? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to recording the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And joining me today to talk about bullies in the pulpit is Paul Coughlin, an expert on bullying and a best-selling author and speaker. Contrary to popular opinion, Paul says bullies aren’t typically wounded people who are seeking to ease their pain. They’re prideful predators with contempt for others, and the only way to stop them is for bystanders to courageously take a stand. Paul has tons of practical insights for tackling the problem of bullying by pastors, and I can’t wait to speak with him. But first, I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University, and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson University is a top ranked Christian University providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus, the school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to Judsonu.edu. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there, Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of character. To check them out, just go to buyacar123.com. Well, again, joining me today is Paul Coughlin an expert regarding bullying and a best-selling author and speaker. Paul’s books include No More Christina Nice Guy, Free Us From Bullying, and No More Jellyfish, Chickens , CSpan, and I’m so thrilled to have him today on The Roys Report. So, Paul, welcome such a privilege to have you.

PAUL COUGHLIN 02:02
Julie. I’m thrilled as well. I’ve been a fan for a long time, and I finally get to be your guests. So, thank you.

JULIE ROYS 02:09
Well, thank you and a lot of stuff that I want to cover today. And a lot of your work deals with bullying among adolescents. But what I specifically want to talk about is bullying in the church, and specifically, sadly, among pastors, because that’s what so much of my work centers on. So, I’d like to just sort of start there. Why is it Paul that the Church, which is supposed to be a place of healing, a place where we’re led by shepherds who care for us, has sadly become a place where there’s so much bullying going on?

PAUL COUGHLIN 02:44
So, as we both know, the vast majority of church leaders aren’t bullies. So maybe we start there. But what happens is the damage of a serial bully can be so profound, that it ends up making the headlines all across the nation, and sometimes even in the world. And the reason why I think we have this is that roughly 15% of a given population will have a bullying mentality. And then the real question is, does it activate? Does it find a soil in which to grow? In regard to the church, it’s additionally problematic because we come to church with a lot of presuppositions, and one of them is that if the person is a leader, then they must be kind and generous and wise, and certainly not looking to abuse other people. So, we have this assumption. And there are those around 15%, who use this assumption against other people. And then on top of that, of course, we have a belief, another presupposition, that the person that who is speaking really speaks for God and even represents the character of God. So, when we have that, we are really set up for tremendous disaster and harm, when we come into a situation like that with those presuppositions, especially when someone knows we have those and uses them against us.

JULIE ROYS 04:22
And you also say in your book, bullies are a place that’s most dangerous for bullies, is a place that attracts people who have nurturing personalities who really care about people. Talk about that a little bit, because I think there is sort of a setup there for bullies, where they notice people who are like that

PAUL COUGHLIN 04:42
The areas where bullying could be most profound in a vocation are going to be education, nursing, and ministry. And the reason for that is most attract a more nurturing personality. Which is wonderful because those are people-friendly jobs or vocations. But the problem with that is the nurturing personality doesn’t know how to handle a serial bully. The nurturing personality has been led to believe in part through a lot of Scripture twisting, as well as pop psychology. to believe that all we have to do is love that person more, and we will melt their heart. We will kind of make them feel guilty for their behavior. And there’ll be sunshine and roses in the future. And that really isn’t the right approach to a serial bully. Serial bullies do not listen to peace, love and understanding. We wish they did, but they don’t. They listen to power and consequences. And I would also argue that though not all liars are serial bullies, all serial bullies lie. Every one of them, even if they’re holding a Bible, even if they’re holding a Bible. And that’s tough for the more nurturing personality to understand. And I would argue that I’ve seen in the work that we do, that that kind of person is fearful of a world where a person might lie to them regularly, so much so that they just won’t believe it. And because of that, they will not be able to confront that person well, and they won’t be able to serve their church well either. In fact, they’ll harm their church with being so naive.

JULIE ROYS 06:32
And there was a time where in the church, it was thought that you couldn’t fire somebody for being a bully. In fact, you have a quote that I thought was really interesting by Jimmy Dodd, who’s the president of Pastor Servant. And he said, and I quote, “There was a belief among church leaders that you could fire a guy for moral failure, and lack of financial integrity, but couldn’t fire a pastor for being a bully.” That changed with somebody by the name of Mark Driscoll, who was the former pastor of Mars Hill Church. People who listen to this podcast regularly have heard a lot about Mark Driscoll. in fact, he’s continuing to bully. But what happened with him that was so, you know, kind of changed the whole landscape when it comes to this bully pastor phenomenon?

PAUL COUGHLIN 07:18
Yeah, so it did become an ability to fire because the person is a bully. And what happened with Driscoll is that he had been a bully for a long time because I’ve spoken with people, you know, kind of behind the scenes of what happened there at Mars Hill. And I’m currently speaking with people who are at Trinity who are experiencing the same behavior. But what happened with Driscoll, and this is really important to understand, is that though people tolerated his bullying for a long time, there wasn’t a lot of evidence. And what I believe got him ultimately in trouble is that, though, like I said earlier, not all liars are bullies, but all bullies are liars, is that they just couldn’t hide anymore. And documentation came out about working his way on to the New York Times bestseller list with tithe money, as I understand. And so, when people saw that, it’s like, okay, this person, you know, could no longer keep up the game. They couldn’t keep the house of cards going because there was documentation. So, I say to that, to anyone who’s watching and listening, it’s very important to document as best you can. If you decide to take on a bully pastor, documentation is extremely important. And again, that’s what got Driscoll in trouble. And then if you can, don’t go alone, there’s a great Greek proverb that says only the gods are courageous in isolation. And studies show, Solomon Asch conformity study, for example, shows that when we have someone standing by our side, yielding to negative peer pressure drops to about 6%. So, it’s amazing to have someone standing by your side.

JULIE ROYS 09:08
And I understand too that back when Driscoll was at his height, so it would have been right around what 2012,13,14 , and what Driscoll you know how he came across to you?

PAUL COUGHLIN 09:27
Yeah, it was a private dinner. It was about 8 or 10 people. It was right after he preached there up in Seattle. I would say the only good thing about the meeting was the steak. It was very good. And then he paid for it. So that was even better. Yeah, I was just blown away. My wife was with me. He was at the height of his powers. I expected to hear things interesting. I heard just a lot of repeating of slogans. One was It’s all about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. And he was very aggressive and confrontational, I would say even rude, and I think it’s very safe to say that he had believed his own press releases. It’s safe to say that the popularity had gone to his head. In fact, after that meeting, so long story short, my wife and I can get a chance to talk for a few hours. We got into a car because I was speaking down in San Diego, I believe. They flew down there. We get into the car, we looked at each other, like what just happened? You know, this guy supposed to be a pastor. Uh, you know, I used to work for a chamber of commerce. And so, I’ve worked with politicians, and they have egos.

JULIE ROYS 10:47
Really?

PAUL COUGHLIN 10:50
By far, by far, I’ve never met a pastor with a bigger ego. It was it was stunning. So, when I, you know, learned about the fall of Mars Hill, I wasn’t surprised at all because pride goes before a fall. And what we don’t understand we layman in the church is that it’s often arrogance, and narcissism and pride and hubris that makes a person a bully. It is not brokenness that makes a person an abuser. It’s arrogance and pride that makes a person an abuser. And here’s how we know. People with low self-esteem, don’t take chances. They cannot stand public speaking. They don’t like exposure. They just want to make it through the day. Abusers take a lot of risks, and particularly abusers within the church. They love standing on stages. People with low self-esteem cannot stand being on a stage. So, it’s hubris, not self-hatred, that leads them to do what they do.

JULIE ROYS 11:52
That’s so interesting that you say that and I remember reading that in in your book, free us from bullies. This whole idea of there being the wounded bully, and from my experience reporting on James McDonald, for example, who I was always told, very close relationship with Mark Driscoll. In fact, they said, James was kind of like the big brother to Mark and, and you thought they were bad individually, you know. People that saw them together said it was you know, just like on steroids. But yeah, he had I mean, if you listen, if you see his even now, he’s a victim, he’s always a victim. Right? And but it’s also in our popular our movies, our literature, like, like all of the bullies and the victims. And there’s got to be truth to this. I mean, a lot of people who offend and become, you know, awful people had bad things happen to them as kids, I mean, that that does happen. But you say, this idea of sort of the wounded bully that’s really been fostered in our culture. That’s not really true.

PAUL COUGHLIN 12:54
There’s a mountain of research that actually says otherwise. And one of the best, I believe, is a book called Almost A Psychopath. And in this book, and I write about it in my book, as well, the` explain around 50% of a given population is malevolent. And when you look back, you look into their history. They don’t have any more abuse than any other group of people. And it’s very similar Julie to pedophilia. You know, there was a time a long time ago, about 20-30 years ago, that we thought, well, the reason a person becomes a pedophile is that they were sexually abused. That’s how I mean, how else would they do it? But studies show only about 25% at the most, pedophiles were sexually abused. And it’s very similar to bullying in the sense where we thought that pedophilia was a crime of opportunity. It’s not. It’s a crime of habit. A pedophile will take a job all the way across the United States for years to get access to children. This is what they do. They plan their attack. Bullies are the same way. Bullies plan their attacks against other people. If you’ve ever noticed, for example, Julie, when an adult bully enters a room, they often have an accusation on their tongue, right when they walk through the door. That’s on purpose. They’re planning their attack on the person ahead of time. So, it really is a crime of habit, not necessarily opportunity. And there’s plenty of studies showing, again, that your average bully is not broken. They’re just full of themselves.

JULIE ROYS 14:30
And they also have as I understand from reading you, contempt. And I’ve seen that too. I mean, just an absolute contempt for certain people and for people in general, where they just vent.

PAUL COUGHLIN 14:47
They do and so we often think that they’re angry and they can be. But anger isn’t necessarily at the root of why they bully. It’s the stain and contempt for other people for real or perceived differences. Now that’s often the case in adolescent bullying. What you have with adult bullying is the stain and contempt because someone stands in their way. Your average bully is a narcissist. And narcissists are very good at kissing up and kicking down. So, this helps us understand why a bully pastor, for example, will be warm and charismatic in one setting. And then horrendous in another because they’re duplicitous. It’s the simulation that they are very good at, and they hone their skills at a young age, I would bet money that James McDonald and Mark Driscoll and others were very good at honing this skill at a young age, by the time they get older. I mean, many people just don’t know how to handle such a person. Yeah, and so narcissists often see people as below them, or a threat. And that is the world in which they, that’s how they view people. And I get that in the world, I get that. It’s dangerous in the world. But to have that in the church is such a recipe for not just harm to an individual at that time. But it has a pedigree, it harms the reputation of the church with these people. And I just have to say that we have to stop the adulation. These people are, again, roughly this 15%. They hunger for adulation; they hunger for it. And unfortunately, within the megachurch structure, we have a situation, a dynamic where we provide plenty of adulation. And I was one of those people at one time, so I’m not throwing stones. But I woke up and I realized, in my anti bullying work, that I was part of the problem. That I was helping to set up a pastor for a larger fall, than was necessary. That I was lifting them higher and higher in my mind and even my words to them. And as a result, I was one of like many hands, lifting the person really high. And I believe being part of that fall, you know, we’re all responsible for our own behavior, but I’m responsible for this adulation that I provided as well. So, I’ve come to a conclusion, I will not show adulation to a pastor. I will pray for them. I will complement them, but I’m not gonna put them on a pedestal because I don’t want to be part of the problem anymore.

JULIE ROYS 17:31
Well, that’s interesting you say that, and I know you do have a background with Applegate. And I’d like to talk about that a little bit. And in full confession, in the late 80s, early 90s, my husband and I went to Willow Creek. And although I will say when we first got there Don Cousins, the associate pastor, was preaching and we love Don. And when Bill Hybels came, we were like, who’s this guy, you know? But I know how that is. I mean, it’s a big stage, we’d never seen this before. I saw and I experienced having I was in sales at the time. I had a sales job before I went to grad school, you know, to make money for school and I saw a lot of people become believers through us bringing them to church. I mean, we used to fill two rows on a Wednesday night for their midweek services. It was exciting to see that happen. But I had no idea although I’m glad I didn’t I honestly, I’m glad I didn’t find out when I was that age, what was actually going on behind the scenes because that would have rocked my world. By the time I found out. You know, I’m in my 50s I’m a little more capable of dealing with it. But talk about your experience because it was when you were in your 20s right? That you were at Applegate where John Courson who, folks if you haven’t heard of John Courson, I’ve been I’ve been publishing on him for the past few months. Rebecca Hopkins is a reporter that’s been doing the investigating. Incredible work on the corruption there and some sexual misconduct. But you were there in your 20s. Describe what that was like and kind of how you got sucked in and as I understand it, John Courson is not a bully, like a Driscoll who’s kind of a rough, hyper macho kind of redneck kind of guy. Courson, I mean, comes across extraordinarily winsome, right?

PAUL COUGHLIN 19:19
He has great presentation if you for example, if you were to listen to Chuck Smith and you listen to John Courson, extreme similarities there. Courson is very good at being critical but with a smile in his eye and a lilt in his voice. I was at Applegate when it was at its height really or close to its height. It’s where I met my wife, and I was a transplant. I moved down to Southern Oregon from Hillsboro, Oregon. And of course, it was it was the place to go. It’s the closest you’re going to get to kind of a celebrity culture. So, you just drive out there and you follow all the cars, and you go there. I heard this person speaking and met my wife there, like I said. We get married. And then after a while though, some of the stuff just wouldn’t add up. It would be I call it the things that made you go hmm. And I heard in the way he would describe himself and indeed his family in such glowing terms. For example, tragic situation when his daughter died, I think her name is Jessica, and there was a service there. And he and his family are on the stage, and its very emotional time. And he said something that I couldn’t forget. He had said that it was probably a good thing. Or rather, there was a silver lining, I should say to her, her passing, and she was only 16, I believe. And that was that she would never be able to find a man spiritually mature enough for her. Your 16-year-old daughter, I mean, I know we all have a father to, of a daughter. And of course, we joke about how no one is good enough for our daughters. But I don’t know anyone who really believes that. He actually believed that when he said that, and this was his example of how spiritually mature she was. That the day before that, or maybe the morning of the tragic accident, that she had found numbers in the Old Testament that somehow aligned with numbers in the New Testament. And that was the example of spiritual maturity that he gave. And that isn’t what the Bible says. The Bible says that spiritual maturity is mature love, agape love, deep and abiding love. This is a person who literally thought that there wasn’t a person in America, indeed the world, who was the spiritual match for his 16-year-old daughter. That’s just one example that I saw there. That made me think this isn’t right. This isn’t how normal people think. I think what happens with these celebrity pastors, John Courson being one of them, again, is they just believe the press releases, they believe the adulation. And it really goes to their head in a profound way. And then when you have the seed of narcissism, which according to a former pastor there, Steve Hopkins, has come out and said, publicly, John Courson is a narcissist. It’s just even worse and pride goes before a fall. And I think that’s what we’re seeing more and more.

JULIE ROYS 22:46
And like you say, he was very winsome in public. But in private, you got to see a side of him that was a little different when you were involved, cuz you were a radio host at the time, right? And there’s something going on with the sale of the station? I don’t know exactly. But tell me what he was like when you encountered him in private?

PAUL COUGHLIN 23:05
Yeah. So, I would hear a gentle Jesus meek and mild message on Sunday. And then I was the program director and the news director of the radio station that they bought. And so, I would see how members acted on Sunday or rather Monday. And you know, in psychology is called cognitive dissidence. Where I had this idea of how they were because that’s what I saw on Sunday, but I saw how they behaved on Monday. And Julie, I just have to tell you, it was stunning. Rude, accusatory. mean, even nasty. I remember being hung up on from Courson. I was apparently not important enough to talk to him. And he’s very rude on the phone as well. And definitely, you know, you hear the winsome on Sunday, but there’s a whole new personality on Monday. And today, what we would do, Julie, you know, people would record that behavior, and probably post it, and I highly recommend that people do that. But back then, we didn’t have you know, smartphones or anything like that. You just kind of had to sit there and take it. And oh, no, I saw a whole other world. And which brings you to a different conclusion. You know, you and I are in a certain lane in regard to ministry and one of the reasons I’m in that lane, and I assume you as well, is because we’ve seen things and we know things and though we don’t want them to be true, they are true. And people are harmed because of it.

JULIE ROYS 24:45
Yeah, that’s really true. And once you find those things out, you can’t unlearn them, right? You know they’re there.

PAUL COUGHLIN 24:52
We/re responsible to our Lord for the truth, you know, that we know and the skills we have.

JULIE ROYS 24:59
And I know right now you’re working with some people from Applegate, some victims over the years. Explain that a little bit in how that work is going. And I know there’s a survivor’s group now that’s I don’t know, what is pushing about 400 on Facebook?

PAUL COUGHLIN 25:17
Yeah, that’s interesting. And I don’t know this for sure. But there are people in that group, where there’s maybe 100-150 people at a service and think about this. There’s around 400 people in the Facebook group that say they’re survivors of some degree of abuse. I mean, there was almost twice as many people in that Facebook group, and then who may go to an average service, that tells you something. Yeah, I have been able to be part of that. It was I’ve been asked to help with people who have been, who have experienced abuse, and need help finding their way through many of the lies is one of the hardest things to overcome. Abusers always lie. They always lie about a person’s value, dignity and worth. They don’t go after necessarily job performance. They go after the person themselves. It’s a big difference between tough leadership and abuse of leadership there. And one of the things that I’ve tried to do, given my experience there at the radio station, where I was there every day, every day, and I saw this behavior not just once, not just twice, regularly. And what I’ve been doing with that group, is by telling my story about what I saw, that it gives courage to others to tell their story. And that’s been my intent in many of my writings. It isn’t necessarily to go after a person, it’s not my nature necessarily, to do that. But if I need to write certain truths, in order to give other people, the courage to speak up, and then thereby establishing a pattern of behavior, what abuse is then I’m willing to do it, and I’ve done it. And I’m glad to say that some of what I’ve written in that group, and on my own Facebook page, has given other people courage to speak up. I mean, there are reportedly a number of women who have had bad experiences of a sexual nature up there. And what’s stopping them isn’t their knowledge. It isn’t the emotion that stops them. It’s often the courage to act upon what they know and what they feel. So, my hope has been to help them overcome that fear, and find their courage because courage is almost as contagious as fear.

JULIE ROYS 27:44
Hmm, that’s true. And that’s why whenever I report, I begin an investigation, I report that first story, then people get emboldened. And I get more and more and more people coming out of the woodwork. And they do, they strengthen each other. And I know, just yesterday, I read an article that actually I’m in contact too some of the survivors of sexual rape and assault at Liberty University and the Jane Doe case against them has grown from like 10 or 12 to now they have 22. So, these women are becoming emboldened and it’s encouraging to see. And yet there is sort of a phenomenon, I think, and as you’re saying, people get so beat down, especially if they stay, if they’re in the inner circle, at one of these churches where there’s a bully pastor and depending on how long they’re there. I mean, I talked to people that one guy, he was more than 10 years out of Harvest. His counselor said, how often do you think of James McDonald? And he said, I know it’s at least seven times a week, because he said, Yeah, every day, he comes to mind, and this is 10 years after and after years of counseling. So, there is a phenomenon there. And I know you recently spoke at Harvest Christian Academy, which is associated with Harvest Bible Chapel. And I mean, I can imagine what it must be like there in the wake of COVID. And also, what happened with James McDonald, the whole implosion there, but what was the environment like when you spoke?

PAUL COUGHLIN 29:17
They look like they had been through a war. I’ve done well, I’m sure we have trained over 10,000 teachers at this point, mostly in North America but throughout the world, as well. So, I’ve done a lot of teacher training. And I know sometimes at the end of the day people are pretty tired. So, I know how to handle that and hopefully get them interested and stay connected. There was hardly any of that there because they were so beat down. They look like you know a dog had left outside in the heat without water. And I heard horror stories of what not just the James, but I believe is one or

JULIE ROYS 30:00
His son, Luke?

PAUL COUGHLIN 30:02
Yeah, it’s a family trait, apparently of what I heard there. And one thing that I can’t forget, Julie, was at the very beginning of my presentation, because many of these teachers attended the church at that time. And I said to them, that no serial bully should ever be allowed back into the pulpit, ever. And I saw people physically shake when I said that. Now, I’ve said that many times in other settings, and also during community night. But I hadn’t seen that in a teacher training. And so, I thought, boy, this is messed up. So, I went up to my lead person there, the headmaster, and I said, you know, do you remember when I made that statement, then I saw people shake? And she said something profound. She said that they had never heard a person in authority say that. And it became physically noticeable how powerful that was. And she said, how helpful it was for someone to hear that. And I think there in speaks to what we’ve been talking about. And that is the lies that bullies tell other people, and they get you to question your own sanity, they get you to believe that you’re less than you currently are. And for some people, that is debilitating to the point that they don’t recover. They just don’t recover from that. Short of miraculous experience with our Lord, they will be wounded for the rest of their lives.

JULIE ROYS 31:44
I appreciate that you said that about bullies because what I’m noticing in the church is that we want to replatform them as soon as they’re done, because I mean, they’re a commodity, right? They’ve got a huge platform. Publishers know they can make money with them. Church networks know that this is somebody they can put up at a conference and he’ll still attract a crowd. We’ve seen Mark Driscoll go back and get his platform back at Trinity Church. As you said, he’s just reoffended. You mentioned somebody in your book, Darrin Patrick, who sadly was replatformed, and then committed suicide. A very tragic story. I have a story about Darrin that I may never publish because of what happened. But from people who knew him after his supposed restoration, and he wasn’t restored, according to them. And why is it that we’re so quick to put these guys back up on a platform and we have churches like I just did a story about the Association of Related Churches. And these pastors that are the lead of this organization, one of the biggest church planning organizations in the country in North America, they pride themselves on replatforming fallen pastors.

PAUL COUGHLIN 33:13
This is systematic abuse. A serial bully should never be allowed back into a pulpit. They don’t change. They are very good at pretending to change. They’re very good at telling people what they want to hear. But as soon as the power and consequences are taken out of the theater, they will just revert back to what they’ve done before. It happens so many times that we are negligent that we who support them, who tithe too them, who say great things about them, we’re culpable. We need to change how we view it. And I think one reason why we’ve been taught about second chances and about redemption. And of course, we should have that, and we should do that. But we need to be wise how we apply those particular scriptures. These people don’t change once they have gotten to a certain level of adulation. The income is profound as I understand it, when Driscoll left Mars Hill, I think he fought that tax year he made something like over $800,000. After destroying what is to some degree and some could argue a denomination that’s not suffering for Jesus, people. I mean, few people ever make that kind of money after destroying the church. They don’t change. We must know that moving forward and our Lord doesn’t need them. He doesn’t need them. So, another mistake we make too Julie we’re too slowly to act, we’re too quick to forgive. It’s a cheap forgiveness as similar to what we might call cheap grace. And I think we do that because we want the conflict to go away. We don’t understand the mindset of a true serial abuser. We don’t understand that as soon as we’re not looking, they’ll go back to what they’ve done before. And so, we need to be better educated, those of us who end up in the pews, and particularly those of us who are part of the leadership structure of that church. Bullies don’t change.

JULIE ROYS 35:38
And you say, the number one quality that bullies need is humility. That’s a hard thing to acquire. Pride is a difficult thing for all of us, right? I mean, let’s be honest, it’s like the first sin is pride. And you have a phenomenal quote actually by Mark Driscoll, where he says Humility is the great omission and failure in my 11 years of preaching. I believe that this is my greatest oversight, both in my example, and in my instruction. I therefore do not claim to be humble; I do not claim to have been humble, I’m convicted of my pride. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have been exorcised from him in all these years since then. They need humility. But as bystanders, which is what a lot of us are, right? We’re watching this. We’re, and you’ve alluded a little bit to this as well. But what character quality do we need, and what responsibility do we have to do something?

PAUL COUGHLIN 36:40
You know, there comes a point where we know what we’re seeing is wrong. Get that feeling in our gut, for example. We know something’s not right. I had that feeling many times at Applegate while listening to John Courson. And we often feel that things are wrong. But what happens is, what we really need to do is find the courage to act upon what we know and what we feel. We must find the courage to be uncomfortable, we have to find the courage to be unpopular. And one thing we don’t fully understand or probably ever been taught, is that we know that the opposite of courage is cowardice. But what most people in the church don’t know is that cowardice is listed as a sin. And Revelation 21:8, cowardice is listed as a sin. So many of us who, for example, may want to do something but we say we’re waiting patiently upon the Lord. I think that’s what’s happening now, in many of the people from Applegate. I know they know things. I’ve spoken with them, but they’re waiting patiently upon the Lord. That’s innately problematic when it comes to abuse because these are portal moments. They don’t last forever. There is a critical mass that forms and Julie, you probably know it better than anyone. And after a while that critical mass dissipates, and the courage that you could get from other people, the inspiration that you could get from other people. Eventually people go on with their lives, and it dissipates and it kind of melts into the soil. I believe that when people say they’re waiting patiently upon the Lord, for some of those people, if not many of them, they’re actually covering up the sin of cowardice. And we got to find our courage. And another thing with the victims of abuse, we often think what they need is love. I have come to the understanding of working with many, many bullied children that first and foremost abused people don’t need love, not first and foremost, they need hope. Beleaguered individuals and indeed, beleaguered communities need to have some belief that tomorrow, next week, next month, could be better. And a lot of that hope comes through the strength of other people. We’re told in the greatest of all commandments in Mark, to love the Lord our God in our neighbor, through our mind through our reason. We’re told to love them through our hearts, our emotions. We’re also told in Mark to love other people through our strength. Through our strength, the courage and strength are almost synonymous in Scripture. In fact, many of the key scriptures, they appear in the same sentence, if not the same paragraph, we get that first Corinthians, for example. So, what people who have been harmed, what they really need is hope. And that hope often comes through the portal of courage of other people.

JULIE ROYS 39:56
Well, and that’s one reason we’re doing a conference. We did our first conference Restore conference in 2019. It was right on the heels of what happened at Harvest Bible Chapel. And wow, I mean, it was just so powerful . People coming together sharing their stories and the sense of the Holy Spirit, the presence of him coming. I mean, when you’re wounded, and you’re hungry, God seems to really inhabit those places. And, and he did, it was amazing. And people were ministered in just such a profound way. And we’re doing another one coming up. But because of COVID, we haven’t been able to do anything. But in May, in fact, if you’re listening, you’d like to come, it’s just go to our website, Restore2022.com, and you can sign up for that. But I know Laurie Anne Thompson, who’s a victim of Ravi Zacharias, she powerfully posted this video for us, where she talks about how those of us who are wounded, you know, we’re hanging on to our faith by thread a lot of them. And we need to come together and hear the testimony of each other, and to really minister to each other. And a lot of people said to me, well, can I do this online? And I’m like, man, there’s just something that doesn’t happen online, that happens face to face. And so, you know, I just encourage people to find those communities where you can find that kind of support and encouragement. And I just want you to talk about hope. And I think that something that right now is, is hard for a lot of us. I mean, there’s days where, you know, frankly, I feel very despairing about the state of the church. And, and I feel like, you know, I look at evangelicalism, and this is my tribe, I grew up in this. You know, given my life to the church, and I think, you know, is there hope? Can we recover from this? It just seems like every week, there’s scandal after scandal after scandal, and there’s people occupying the pulpit who don’t have the character to be elders in a church. So, speak to that. I mean, do you think we have hope that this is going to rectify itself?

PAUL COUGHLIN 42:10
And I agree that face to face conversation, especially if someone’s been abused. When I do community night or parent night, I now put in an extra at least half hour, and sometimes it goes for an hour, where I, hear people’s individual stories. They’ve gotta get them out, if they trust you, and they think you’ve got wisdom that you can help them. It leaks. It’s like hydraulic brakes. I mean, eventually, just it just spews out of them. And it’s such an important time of ministry, it’s a cleansing time, because you think you’re crazy. When you get bullied and you get abused, you believe the gaslighting, the love bombing, and all the other things that people will do to you. And it’s, it’s evil, and you need help getting that it’s like being it’s like, it’s like a poison, you need help getting the poison out of your system. I have a functioning hope. I have to say, I don’t have an emotional hope, I have more of an intellectual hope, given what I know of our Lord, and how much He loves His church. But more so, I mean, we used to say, saying that he loves his people more than the building. And because of that, I know he will continue to work. I think was Augustine who talked about the will of God and the will of man. And he gave the wonderful analogy of a person riding a horse. And when a writer is so in tune with the horse that they’re riding, you don’t know which one is spurring which other one further, they’re so melded together. And I say that to say that there are two wills involved in regard to the cleansing of the church. We know our Lord is there because we know he is a God of justice and fairness and mercy and humility. But I’m not seeing the will of man there. We need to get on that horse. And we need to start riding together and we need to find our courage more. Because the longer this bleeding takes place, the lessened reputation of the Church takes place. A blowout is always better than a slow leak in personal relationships and in regard to the nastiness that can be taking place at the church. The blowout is better; there’s less pain and suffering at a bad reputation on the other side. So, there’s my functioning hope, which requires to some degree that people get off their blessed assurance, find their courage and take part in the kingdom of heaven. That’s really, I believe what’s missing. Our Lord’s will is always there.

JULIE ROYS 45:03
That’s so true. And I have hope too. I think the functioning hope that’s a good way of putting it because I think emotionally, a lot of us aren’t there. Although at times I can be. And I do think that, in the words of Marilla, from Anne of Green Gables to despair is to turn your back on God. And I do think, you know, we know from scripture that God has said that the gates of hell will not prevail over his church. Does that mean that this is going to be I think the word, it doesn’t mean, we’re not going to have a very messy season. And I think we’re in for not just a few years, I think we’re in for a decade or more, because the structures that have been built around a lot of the propping up of this.

PAUL COUGHLIN 45:47
I agree, I agree, sadly.

JULIE ROYS 45:49
But I appreciate what you’re doing. So much, and the voice and support that you’ve been, to me and my work, really encouraged by getting to meet you and being able to interact and, I think what you’re doing is so important. And so, I thank God for you. And I thank God that there are people like you, who are in the fight, and wanting to see the church reformed and wanting to see us do good and be the people of God. So, thank you, and thank you for taking the time today. This has been great.

PAUL COUGHLIN 46:22
Well, Julie, everything you just said goes right back to you. I’ll just give you a big Ditto. Because I feel the same way. And I know too the weight of I think you know trying to wake people up, I guess, to show them things they don’t want to see. And there is that casting, well, you’re casting pearls before swine in the sense where not only will they turn around and they’ll trample them under foot and turn around and attack you. I have experienced it most of my writing career and I’m confident you have as well. So, continue the good fight. There will be jewels in your crown in heaven for the work that you’ve been doing.

JULIE ROYS 47:03
Well, thank you same to you. And thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. If you’d like to connect with me online, just go to Julieroys.com. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast, Google podcast or we’re also on Spotify. And then if you would help us out by leaving a review, we’d really appreciate that. And then please share this content on social media so other people can hear about it. Again, thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report. Hope you have a great day and God bless.

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10 thoughts on “Bullies in the Pulpit”

  1. I’m sure, gracious hostess, that you already thought of this, but you might want to talk with Mr. Patrick’s estate to see if they’d be willing to have that shared–if you think that it would help those prone to bullying see their errors and recover without taking such drastic action, of course. No idea what the whole story is, but it might be worth a look.

  2. Thank you for sharing this podcast. Very helpful and insightful. There are way too many bullies in the pulpits these days! I have first hand experience with bullying from the lead pastor at one of the churches you alluded to in the podcast.It can be very traumatic. But God will not be mocked and justice will prevail one day.

  3. Julie, have you thought about doing a series on the future of mega churches? Obviously, bullies are found in congregations of all sizes, but the mega churches are (generally) the ones that tend to create celebrity pastors.

    With all their problems, I still miss the days when small churches were common; where we didn’t drive past 20 churches to get to the popular one; where pastors knew you by name and you felt you could call on the elders in times of need. Everyone knew how much the pastor made and it wasn’t much.

    I lead small groups and know first hand how disconnected, lonely, and hungry for community people are. I also see people who are living openly sinful lies who are never called to account because no one knows them.

    Even when the pastor is a humble guy, there is a huge disconnect between leadership and the average church member. I truly don’t know how much longer this can go on with the darkness enveloping our culture.

  4. Recognizing we have imperfect people in the pastorate, I’m wondering if you’ll have a follow up of the congregations part in this. As one pastor said, “the average church prayer meeting looks like a hospital admissions list.” We pray mostly for what concerns our physical selves. Not to excuse a pastors actions, but if they are at all godly they do have a target on their backs, just waiting for an arrow to lodge. The average Christian, at least in this country is weak in prayer and an understanding of spiritual warfare.
    I know one of the pastors you’re talking about. It’s really too bad their names need to be tarnished, when they have also done so much good. These Facebook support groups seem to be unwise, as you’re going to get some that are just chronic complainers, and others who have a gripe, and other just haters, who will do the devils work of accusation. Maybe we should check out everyone on the support group first, to see if their complaint is valid.
    It seems their could be a better way to bring accountability to these pastors, and social media doesn’t seem to be the place.

    1. Nancy, I have been thinking about these things, too. I have observed that things done in secret eventually come to light. Sometimes people feel that they have no choice but to go public. I am learning that most people who do this are probably telling the truth, at least from their perspective. Where else can you go if the people around you practically idolize your pastor? Speaking of which, too many congregants idolize their pastors instead of checking what they say and do with Scripture. This is a good first step to take.

  5. You Christians need to figure yourselves out. A woman may not preach but your “male” pastors are caught in acts of bullying, intimidation and sexual abuse.

    You pray for these bullies, predators etc because the Bible teaches to love em all.

    Yet your Bible in 26 of 27 of the books of the New Testament warns of false prophets among yourselves.

    Now does your bible teach you to love these false prophets or FLEE from them?

    Were the apostles in Acts told to go and love the false prophets and win them over? Show me your scriptures that says they were sent out to love the false prophets?

  6. This was an excellent podcast.

    It would be helpful to have a podcast or article that gives advice to current employees of an abusive church and what they can do. What steps should they take to protect their families before blowing the whistle? Should they contact a lawyer?

  7. I sadly listened to this..yet, agreed on every item Paul states. I was in ACF leadership (lead deacon and elder) ’89 – ’99 when I walked out due to much of what Paul says and saw. I have such love for my brothers and sisters from those days–still connected with many. Jon baptized me 9-10-89. I was raised in love, as a SDA and schooled same. I then became the prodigal son for 21 years. ALL things MUST be purely Jesus based, and the Holy Spirit MUST be our strength. God Bless you all! The greatest gift is LOVE! (1 Corinthians 13:13!)

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