I’ve written before about deliverance ministries. So-called deliverance ministers are often self-trained or receive training from questionable sources. My biggest complaint about deliverance ministers is their tendency to diagnose evil spirits for psychological/psychiatric problems. Vulnerable people with real-world problems are convinced that evil spirits are behind their difficulties. Instead of receiving the proper counseling or medication they need, they are drawn into an endless cycle of demon oppression and deliverance. Vulnerable people are taken advantage of. Some deliverance ministers take advantage of them financially selling, or more accurately accepting donations for, deliverance services, books, videos, and protective knick-knacks. Some deliverance ministers, the self-trained variety, provide their services for free but they enjoy having the influence and control over another person. The worse are the sexual predators that exploit the vulnerable and use deliverance as a way to sexually assault their victims.

Meet, Bishop Wayne Jones, former pastor of Mt. Ararat Spiritual Baptist Church, who was convicted of sexual assault.

Jones preyed on women convincing them they had been cursed and needed an exorcism. Of course, the only way for the exorcism to really work was if the women had sex with him. Jones managed to not only financially abuse these women but sexually abuse them as well. He exploited the vulnerable and used his position of trust to gratify his own sexually perverse needs.

Meet the Rev. Dr. William Weaver, former pastor of Linden Presbyterian Church, who resigned from the ministry. Legal actions are still pending due to questions of consent.

This predator started grooming men in his church who turned to him for counseling. When he spotted men who were vulnerable, he would introduce the idea that they were taking spiritual “hits” from evil spirits. In order to remove these spirits, Weaver would perform rituals involving a mix of “Native American” rituals and Bible verses. He would have the victim lay naked with gemstones on their hands and feet. He instructed them to lie very still and not to move the stones. He would light candles, read Bible verses. When his victims had been sufficiently groomed, he would tell them that the only way to remove the evil spirits was through ejaculation. He then performed oral sex on them.

In both of these cases, people were exploited. Vulnerable people were lied to and because they trusted the authority and spiritual expertise of a pastor, ended up targets of a sexual predator.

How can churches combat this problem? First, the church must destigmatize mental illness. The Church should be supportive of psychological counseling and psychiatric treatment. Issues like depression, alcoholism, and homosexuality are not caused by demons. There is no Biblical evidence for this. The teachers, books, and video that promote this dangerous doctrine must be denounced.

Second, churches need to protect their congregants from predators. Abusers are drawn to positions that involve trust and authority. Many churches are established by men who have no system of accountability. They, through force of personality, start a new church and set themselves up as a trusted authority figure. The Church needs to educate Christians on the need for accountability and oversight of leaders.

Third, I strongly believe in co-counselors when the situation allows. As a former youth pastor, I never met with one of my students, the majority of which were minors, without another leader present. If the situation warranted meeting one-on-one, we had the line of sight rule. Meet with the person where you could talk privately but still be seen. For example, at my last church, we had outdoor picnic tables on grounds. I would sit at the table with a student one-on-one but have another leader keep us in line of sight. It afforded privacy and prevented any inappropriate behavior.

Vulnerable people turn to pastors for help. Abusers know this, and they take advantage of it. Church leaders and congregants have both the right and duty to question the actions of a pastor.

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)

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