Home Podcast Wade Mullen: How to Recognize Spiritual Abuse in the Church

Wade Mullen: How to Recognize Spiritual Abuse in the Church

signs of spiritual abuse

Dr. Wade Mullen is a professor and researcher at Capital Seminary & Graduate School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He also serves as an advocate working to help those trapped in the confusion and captivity that mark abusive situations. His personal experiences and ongoing research on the signs of spiritual abuse enable him to write with both care and expertise about this very important topic. His book, entitled Something’s Not Right: Decoding the Hidden Tactics of Abuse—and Freeing Yourself from Its Power, is available from Tyndale.

Key Questions for Wade Mullen About Signs of Spiritual Abuse

-What was your experience with abuse? How did you come to recognize it as such?

-What is “impression management” and how do we watch out for it without becoming cynical?

-How can we protect ourselves from experienced abusers, especially when in ministry we’re often looking for the best in others?

-What are healthy ways of structuring a church to avoid being set up for abusive situations?

Key Quotes from Wade Mullen About Signs of Spiritual Abuse

“I think many of us have this perception of abuse that is related to some kind of violent event…what I’ve come to realize over time is that abuse is much broader than that.”

“Abuse in its very basic form is using something or someone wrongly. And there are many ways somebody can be abused.” 

“Impression management is simply shaping people’s perception of yourself or of something that you want them to believe about your institution or whatever it might be. Impression management is putting up a front so that other people like and accept you. A very common example is when somebody flatters you.”

“Charm can very quickly transform into anger if the person is being deceptive and trying to coerce you.”

“I think the most practical thing we can do to protect ourselves from deception just breeding and becoming worse and worse is speaking truth in love at the first sign of deception.” 

“What I’ve often found is that the person who is promoting themselves…will often be very defensive if they’re called out or challenged in some way.”

“Small deceptions will continue to worsen and that can eventually devolve into more severe types of behavior that cause people injury.”

“I don’t think it’s just the cult leader who’s [seeking power through starting a church]. I think it’s the person who simply wants a crowd perhaps to praise them or they just want some kind of control over other people.”

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As Vice President of Ministry Mobilization for Outreach, Inc., Jason dedicates his time to encouraging and equipping churches, denominations and ministry organizations to develop their Kingdom effectiveness by creating a culture that is both incarnational and invitational. He also serves as the Executive Director of the National Back to Church Sunday movement and hosts the weekly ChurchLeaders podcast. Jason lives on Anastasia Island, Florida, with his beautiful wife and children. Connect with him on Twitter and Instagram @jasondaye