The Language of Enslavement

If the disciple can be steered by mere suggestion and the manipulation of the meanings of words, then the cumulative effect of repeatedly rejecting his own desires for the discipler's advice, and the continual pressure to conform, can cause emotional problems.

An un-Biblical definition of authority opens the door to abusive discipleship. This takes place in part through a distortion of language. Biblical terms may be re-defined to have different meaning and different applications than the original Scriptural usage. The door to abuse is then thrown wide open. As the meaning of the language is changed, disciples begin to think and behave in new ways. These changes are imperative to allow a discipler to have excessive influence on many of the disciple's every-day decisions.

In Chapter 4 we discussed some Biblical words whose meanings were altered to allow leaders to escape accountability. In this Chapter I have compiled a glossary of some other words and verses frequently distorted, redefined or misapplied by abusive discipleship groups which in combination can produce an exaggerated level of control. As you read them, perhaps you can think of how these are used in your group.


Originally, if a person said that he was struggling, it may have meant that he did not want to keep the commandments of God, or that he didn't want to pray to God. Today, in controlling groups, if you don't want to agree with a leader's opinions, you may be "struggling". In a non-abusive discipleship you wouldn't have to struggle with rejecting advice because there isn't much pressure to accept ordinary advice. If you are struggling with accepting your discipler's opinion of something that is contrary to your own judgement, then the discipler likely has become a subtle spiritual dictator in that area of your life. A controlling discipler will usually see you as more loyal (to God) if you acquiesce and follow his advice, even in areas of non-moral issues. There will be times when he doesn't mind if you don't follow his advice; but I am speaking about those times when he feels that you are not following God's will because you do not accept his opinion. ...


Try this test right now. Write on a piece of paper the word, independent. Write the other words that you associate with this word. If you labeled someone in your group "independent", would you see that as positive or negative? Describe the characteristics that a person would have if your group labeled him "independent".

If you are reading this book with others, share the words that everyone has associated with "independent". Is there a significant difference in the way each of you perceives this word? If you are in a controlled environment, you likely saw "independent" in a negative light. If there are others not in a controlled environment, they probably saw the word in a positive light.

Is it a bad thing to be independent? Not if you are raising kids. You want them to grow up to make decisions on their own, keep their own place, and eventually stop bringing their dirty laundry home to mom. But the word "independence" has a negative connotation in controlling groups; independent decisions are looked down upon in such groups. It is understood that your decisions should almost always be weighed by your discipler. This will keep you from independent decisions, and eventually you will come to believe you are more likely to be wrong, without guidance. The end effect of this process is to make you regress to a state of infancy.

Your discipler, like a watchdog, is going to keep you away from independent decisions, thus assuring that you are more likely to live a Christian life as he or she sees it. Sounds like legalism, doesn't it? The unwritten law is this: "If I have my discipler and follow his/her advice, I am bound to live a more perfect Christian life." The disciple in whom this belief is ingrained is vulnerable and easily influenced by the discipler. This is a far more profound dependence on advice than that of a normal spiritual director / disciple relationship.

"Independent" is redefined to imply selfishness or sinfulness in some way. Some words that describe the emotions that former disciples felt when they heard "independent" are: dirty.. contaminated.. defiled.

Here is an equation that might demonstrate the new sense of the word...

Independent = non-Christian life
Dependent = Godliness

Interestingly enough, independence is neither sinful nor virtuous in the Biblical context. Paul, for example, was very independent but also completely dependent on God. Another person may be independent but not keeping God's commandments. The "sin" and the "independence" are not necessarily related.

Obey and Submit

"Obey" and "Submit" are two words that are especially twisted by abusive discipleships. It appears that in abusive discipleships, the chief virtue is not love, but obedience. Obedience in abusive discipleships can be honored even when a leader gives wrong advice! One of the many Bible. ...


Manipulative Groups Might...

•extend church authority to every area of your life instead of staying within the boundaries of Biblical morals and values.
•cause you to receive excessive advice in matters not involving faith or morals.
•cause you to struggle trying to accept some of that excessive advice
•cause you to feel guilty when you don't follow that advice
•subtly pressure you into accepting advice by allowing you to witness those who were rebuked or witness others being called unteachable, prideful, or hard hearted because they went against leader's advice
•play "God the Father" by setting up rules which appear to make you obey God's laws
•twist Bible verses to say "Stay away from non-believers who are reprobates." (According to the disciplers' narrow definition).
•cause you to reject the sinner along with the sin
•cause you to feel that you are more accountable because they confront you or judge your motives and actions more often
•cause you to want to confront nearly every sin in others (i.e.; their definition of sin)
•cause you to loose mercy and compassion for others who sin
•never teach that you may overlook weakness in others
•cause you to see new people in discipleship as new converts or babes in Christ regardless of their knowledge or holiness
•cause you to label someone as "having a bad heart" when you really lack knowledge about the person
•cause you to categorize disciples as having a bad heart when they are only offering healthy criticism that should be accepted by the leaders
•cause you to categorize disciples as sinful if they merely reject advice
•change the meaning of "brokenness" to mean "willingly following advice or direction from leaders"
•limit your choices, while simultaneously making one or two of those choices appear to be God's will
•cause you to think that real commitment is only possible by having a discipler
•cause you to think that Christ's teachings aren't enough; now you need a personal discipler
•cause you to think that nearly all doubt about the group is sinful
•cause you to think, act and choose from a narrower range of options than you normally would have accepted
•restrain your free will by causing you to feel that many things are sinful when they really aren't
•restrain your whole personality by telling you that you should die to every thought, goal and desire instead of just your sinful desires
•put down your family in subtle ways
•urge you to imitate your leader in every way, instead of only the leader's virtue in Christ
•put down your former church for reasons which have nothing to do with morality or virtue (having crosses, wearing robes, etc.)
•teach you that being a follower of Christ means putting another man's wishes above your own
•cause you to turn down job promotions, stay in town, and give up career opportunities because of dependency on your discipler, which is created by the discipleship
•cause you think that you are falling away from God or at least falling down on your commitment to Christ when you want to quit the program
•cause you to see the word "independent" in a negative light when formerly you knew it was positive
•twist the Biblical definitions of obedience and submission
•redefine the word "selfish" to mean "disciples who do not conform to the group's will"
•cause you to think that you are selfish when you carry out your wishes instead of your discipler's
•cause certain "triggering" words to bring forth intense emotions in order to influence your thinking

Copyright 1996 Mary Alice Chrnalogar