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The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse Paperback – October, 1991

4.7 out of 5 stars 164 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

David Johnson grew up in a Christian home, the son of a Baptist Minister. There were great benefits to growing up in the church, but they were not all positive. Along with the life, and truth, and purity&151;there was death, and lies and hypocrisy. At a relatively young age he began to wonder why, if its called good news, it didn't feel that good. Johnson vividly recalls the pattern of being 'yelled at' to tell people the good news of Jesus. It struck him that if it really was good news, "why did they have to yell?" Everything, including evangelism felt like a weight.

Early in his High School years, brokenness in the form of serious family issues, invaded his home. Johnson's initial fear of the trouble was that his parents response would be to add even more weight&try even harder to look good and right. Instead, his father discovered grace and the weight in their family was lifted. For the first time, "how things looked" was not what mattered most and how things really were could be discussed and dealt with without fear.

Johnson entered the ministry with a deep desire to bring that liberating grace to people who has been weighted down by a system of religious performance. In the process, he discovered that the issue was bigger and more wide spread that he had ever imagined. Recently he discovered a name for it&spiritual abuse.

Johnson's education includes a B.A. in Psychology from Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Further education followed at Bethel Seminary and Trinity Evangelical School, Deerfield, Illinois. While attending Trinity, he served as the Senior Pastor at the Melrose Bible Church, in Melrose Park, Illinois. Johnson is presently Senior Pastor at Church of the Open Door of Crystal, Minnesota.

David and his wife have 4 children. They make their home in Minnesota.

size : 5.2 x 8
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 235 pages
  • Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (October 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556611609
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556611605
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,263,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lara McClintock on August 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
It's right on target. I've seen all of the signs of spiritual abuse in several churches I've attended, and I'm in a church now where the signs do not exist among the leadership (and it's easy to dodge the self-righteous members who do practice any of the bad signs... no church is perfect). The difference between churches that use manipulation and those that practice grace is like night and day.
The key to preventing spiritual abuse is balance. God has placed boundaries around ministers and laypeople alike which should not be crossed. When the "leaders" run roughshod over the church members' boundaries while misusing Scripture to protect themselves from legitimate criticism, something is wrong. Pastors cannot claim authority reserved solely for God or expect to control people in ways that only the Holy Spirit can do. God has rules for leaders to obey, and ways for laymen to confront leaders about sin.
I have to disagree very strongly with those who say that this book is anti-leadership or that this book causes problems in churches.
One of the examples used in the book is about a pastor whose congregation expected too much of him. Yes, some churches do place burdens on pastors that are too hard to bear; so this book is for wounded ministers as much as for wounded laypeople. Yes, we're guilty of expecting our pastors do do everything when God really gives ministries to every believer.
Van Vonderen and Johnson warn people who read the book not to use what they have learned as a weapon, but to take action only in the proper spirit. Of course, any time someone takes action in a church, real problems will become visible. My question in every case is: are those problems caused by those speaking out, or have they been there all along and are only now being exposed?
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Format: Paperback
This book was the best book I've read on spiritual abuse issues. It covers all areas: from being spiritually abused, why things go wrong in the churches today, how to recognize an abusive system, to recovering and returning to a right relationship with God, one of faith, hope, love, and grace. These are the things that build a relationship, and create change in our lives. It's not about rules, regulations, being obedient to leaders, and having people tell you their perception and belief of God's will for your life. That's why God gave us His Word, and we are to grow in a relationship with Him. He will do the work in us , we could not do ourselves. This book was the key to helping our family get our lives back together after having experienced abuse in a church. It not only validated us, but it is packed full of scriptures to search the truth out for yourself, to really look at what the Bible is saying, to whom, why, and to see Jesus's true character, and heart of God's Word. What a blessing! I noticed a person was sort of negative in their response to this book, and spoke of how we are to submit to leaders, etc. The Bible tells us to submit to leaders who speak the truth, who operate in the "fruits of the spirit," and who love (both saints and sinners alike). How can we get to the lost, and get them saved if we are to self-righteous to reach out to them, and love them enough to meet them where they are. Self-righteousness sends people away from God, not toward him. Legalism is based on getting right with God, not how to have a relationship with Him.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Full disclosure is probably necessary at this point: I not only attend the church where the author (David) preaches, I work for him, too. I can attest to his personal integrity and his commitment to proper, evangelical Biblical exegesis.
This book is one of the top two or three on the topic, and I highly recommend it to others. It's insightful, timely, and has plenty of examples to help "shine the light" on bad situations. I know it's effective, too: we receive hundreds of messages every year from those who have read the book and now feel liberated to love God again.
In no way does the book encourge parishoners to villify their pastors, or go looking for occasions to "feel abused." It does, however, help expose an all-too-frequent phenomena of pastors who, in the name of God, abuse their authority to achieve their own destructive desires.
God Bless!
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By A Customer on July 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
I feel I must chime in to review this book. The authors define well the aspects of a dysfunctional system. The rules of don't talk, don't trust, and don't feel are conveyed with accuracy in an often unlooked setting, the church family. I highly recommend this book as not only to deal with dysfunction but to get a better feel of the grace of God. Jeff's other book, Families Where Grace is in Place, deals excellently with grace, how to look to God for all of your needs, and how to not control your children. This book is not a herald for mutiny but puts a face on the pink elephant in the room. Read the book and make your own judgement call. Do I agree with everything they say? No. Who does? As for the negative comments on this page, they trouble me. I am both angered and frustrated.

One person is discussing repressed memories. What does that have to do with this book? He also says it describes every church he has been in. We have a tendency to gravitate toward those churches with leadership that align with our dysfunctions.
Another person talked of how the book destroyed their church. The person said a few members led a mutiny with the book. How did a few people take over a church? Where was the leadership and the membership? It sounds like the person is really grieving the loss of their church and that is a sad thing. If those people were engaging in known sin (and just not what the pastor didn't like), then those people were wrong. The book doesn't condone that. The authors are not responsible for people's distortion of the truth.
One set of comments is really troubling. They both are from the same city, probably the same person.
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