As a pastor I am overwhelmed by the struggles that women go through when it comes to abuse. I have asked God many times “What do I do?”. A pastor who goes through 6 or 7 years of theological training will not be prepared for the issues of abuse involved in the pastoral ministry. You will have many jaw dropping, heart breaking and angry moments as you confront the awful reality of abuse within your congregation. You will feel helpless. It is an elephant in the room on Sunday morning. Taking a moment to read the 23 pages in Diane Langberg’s Mini Book called Bringing Christ to Abused Women should convince you of this issue if you are not already. When Diane says “being born female is still something of a risk” I can agree without reservation.
Here are some very sobering facts from Diane’s Mini Book…
One in three (nearly one billion) females worldwide are beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in their lifetime.
“If we think specifically about the US most studies suggest that one in four females is sexually abused by the age of eighteen.”
Estimates indicate that a women is battered every fifteen seconds in the US.
Battering is the leading cause of injury in women ages 15-44, more than rape, mugging, and car accidents combined. Statistically it is far more dangerous for women to go home than walk city streets alone at night. These numbers do not change when you survey the body of Christ.”
This little book is full of troubling statistics like these. Just look out into your congregation on Sunday and begin counting and these statistics suddenly become a personal reality. I am 34 years old. I have been a “senior pastor” for eight years now. As a 26 year old I was not prepared for the abuse stories and issues I would encounter in pastoral ministry especially concerning women. I wish that I had a little book like this to reference in my early years of ministry. Diane shares statistics, a case study, scripture and practical advise for those who find themselves involved in the soul care of women who have been and are being abused. Let me make it clear though, her advice does not simply consist of a mechanical list of biblical proof texts with commentary. Her advice is practical, relational and soaked in experience. Diane says… “We need to be the love of Christ to an abused woman”. She helps us to understand how to “carry”, “hear”, “absorb”, “walk”, “demonstrate” and “live” a women’s pain and suffering through the soul care of personal ministry. We cannot “fix” the abused women that God brings into our lives as pastors but we can serve them. We can be the hands and feet of Christ. We can love them as Christ would. Diane says we need to be “Following the One Who Loves and Cares for Women”. She points out that Christ’s lineage has several “trashed” women in it – Tamar, Rhab, Ruth and Bathseba. I love it!
I want to encourage you as a pastor to grab this little book and keep it in your desk or make them available at your church. If you know of a women who is being abused don’t sit back and watch. Engage the issue but engage with sensitivity and caution. Here are some questions that I try to remember to ask myself when ministering to those who are being or have been abused.
- Is this person in immediate danger?
- When I act on this what will happen to the person being abused?
- How should I act in light of the context?
- Does this person have all the resources available to them for help like hotlines, websites etc…
- Are the children in danger?
- Can I share this with the Elders or is this just between us?
- Do I have any trusted women in my church who can help me out here and would the abused person be willing to talk with them present?
- How is this issue connected to church politics? (Is the abuser a church leader in some way?)
- Is this an issue where I need to call the police?
- When was the last time I heard from them? Should I check up?
Some questions for you…
Q: As a pastor do you have any advice for other pastors regarding the soul care or personal ministry in an abuse situation?
Q: What resources have you found that are helpful?
*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review*