Warning: Some of the content in this blog may be triggering.

Last weekend, thousands of people rallied to protest the increasing levels of violence and other abuse against women by intimate partners. There comes a time when people say enough. That time has come. Among G20 nations, Australia ranks eighth for rates of domestic violence against women. There’s been an almost 30% spike in the rate of Australian women killed by intimate partners last year.

In the Church

A church community should be a safe place where abuse is named, victims are not blamed or shamed, and unequal gender roles are challenged. Sadly, this is not always the case. Domestic violence and other kinds of abuse occur in Christian families to the same degree as outside of the Christian community. Churches can do better. An excellent place to start is the Safer Faith website, which has abundant information, guidelines, resources, and Bible studies to help Christians and our communities be safer.

So, let’s explore some reasons why churches are not always safe and free from domestic violence.

Church Structure

Some church structures can be a critical factor in causing domestic violence. It concerns me that we still have patriarchal churches that are run by men and invariably support men at the expense of women. You can pick these churches a mile away. Check out their websites and observe the leadership structure. I’m not talking just about the staff. Who’s on the Board, the senior leadership, and are women permitted to teach and preach? If they’re all men, run away.


These churches invariably espouse Complementarianism, the belief that men and women are “equal but different.” I’m not suggesting that all complementarian churches have an abuse problem, and I don’t deny that there are clear differences between these two genders. Still, complementarianism usually places men in the superior role of leading and women as their “helper,” supporting the man of God. It’s all very Orwellian: All humans are equal, but some humans are more equal than others!

As Matthew Henry once wrote, “Eve was not taken out of Adam’s head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.”

Church Teaching

It’s easy (and lazy) to quote isolated verses out of context. I heard of one guy who beat his wife while quoting scriptures on submission: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord,” clearly ignoring the previous verse: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Paul affirms that husbands should love their wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. I’m pretty sure Jesus doesn’t beat up his church (or anyone else, for that matter). Jesus stood up for the victims and showed compassion and grace. We are to follow his example.

Submission has been used for centuries to suppress women. I have heard of multiple occasions where a pastor has instructed a woman to stay with an abusive partner, to submit to him and to be the best wife she can be. The inference is that the violence is somehow her fault, and if she were a better wife, he wouldn’t hit her. If you’re in a situation like that, THIS PASTOR encourages you to get away to safety as quickly as possible and reach out for help.

Church Emphasis

Another woman told of her minister advising her that her husband might stop hitting her if she had more sex with him. This stereotype is emphasised by some of today’s megachurches that stress the manly man versus the feminine submissive woman who looks after the home and keeps her husband happy. Consider the recent Stronger Men’s Conference, complete with monster trucks, a sword swallower, a wrestling match, motorcycles, and pyrotechnics. In contrast, the upcoming women’s conference is all pretty and pink and looks like a promo for Barbie. Aussie megachurches are much the same.

Pastor Josh Howerton recently got himself into trouble for propagating this same trope at his church in Dallas, where he gave a “gold nugget of advice” that his mentor had given him for couples intending to marry. He encouraged men to do whatever their fiancés wanted in the lead-up to the wedding and then told the women they needed to do the same thing for their husbands on the wedding night: “Stand where he tells you to stand, wear what he tells you to wear, and do what he tells you to do.” With this level of objectivation and misogyny, this guy needs to get a new mentor.

These churches encourage men to be Wild at Heart and to recover their masculinity, strength, and roughness. Women are to delight in their men’s strength, look up adoringly at them, and think how lucky they are. Teaching like this leads to all kinds of abuse that, sadly, we see regularly reported by news outlets.

Other Causes

In the same way that some churches and Bible teachings characterise women as subordinate to men, pornography does the same thing. In porn, “females are characterised as subordinate to males, and their primary role is the provision of sex to men.” Much porn is gonzo, a genre that depicts hard-core, body-punishing sex in which women are demeaned and debased. It won’t be long until the man who consumes this rubbish wants to try it.

Domestic violence can be caused by alcohol abuse or drug use, which can lead to higher levels of aggression by perpetrators. Pregnancy may also intensify the risk of domestic violence, as can financial hardship and unemployment.


What I’ve written about here is complex; we all have a role. If we know someone who is violent or abusive to their wife or girlfriend, we need to act. Dads can talk to their sons about respect for women and healthy models of masculinity. All men can behave considerately towards others. Appropriately, the focus for International Men’s Day for 2024 is Positive Male Role Models.

We guys can also teach others to resist the sexist rhetoric of public figures, be they politicians, pastors, or influencers like Andrew Tate. We can warn of porn addiction that can lead to sexualised violence and be educated on the dangers of social media and the sheer vitriol and hatred of the online space, and the algorithms that continually dish up more of the same.

We can advocate for women’s rights and believe that women deserve equal rights to men in every sphere of life. We can nurture our children, nieces, and nephews by having honest, frank, and healthy conversations about these challenging issues.

And that’s where the church can shine by modelling respectful relationships in which everyone is equally worthy of respect, dignity, and love, regardless of who they are. We can healthily teach the scriptures focusing on the Royal Law and the Golden Rule: love your neighbour as yourself and treat others as you would like to be treated.


For Further Help:

National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Line.

Phone: 1800 737 732 Web: www.1800respect.org.au

First point of call for access to all services across Australia (24 hours a day).

Bayside Church Pastoral Care Phone: 0401 721 912

I regularly hear words of alarm and outrage from some of Jesus’ followers who embrace a gloomy view of the world. Confession: I used to hold that viewpoint, too. It’s all tied into a futurist understanding of Revelation and Bible prophecy, which teaches that things will worsen until Jesus returns. I used to look for evidence that everything was deteriorating, but I eventually woke up because history and the present world tell a different story. For the most part, the world is a better place to live now than ever in human history.

And so, when I hear people say, “Every year, it gets worse and worse,” I find myself reacting to this so-called “Christian” form of outrage. Some of Jesus’ followers feel compelled to be incensed about something as fuel to keep their faith alive. I don’t believe this is an appropriate way for God’s people to live.

Amazing Insight

Consider what it would be like to build a church in a corrupt and dreadful place next to a temple that was dedicated to an idolatrous god that was worshipped by people having sex with prostitutes and animals. That story is reflected in Jesus’ incredible discussion with his disciples in Caesarea Philippi, near a mountainous region containing Mount Hermon, Israel’s largest mountain.

Matthew tells us that Jesus asked his disciples what people were saying about him. They told Jesus that people’s opinions were mixed, with some believing Jesus was John the Baptist reincarnated. Others thought Jesus was Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets who had returned from the dead.

Jesus then asked his disciples for their thoughts on his identity. Peter answered first, of course, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Play on Words

Jesus told Peter that his insights had a heavenly origin, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

The Play on words in the original manuscript was between Peter (Petros), a rock that can be thrown, and Rock (Petra), a large mass rising from the earth. Matthew 16:18 could be translated as, “I tell you, Peter, that you are like a little stone, but on this massive mountain of the revelation of who I am, I will build my church.” The Church was and is established on the foundation of Jesus the Messiah.

The Worst Place

So, what are the gates of Hades that will not overcome Jesus’ Church? As mentioned, this conversation occurred at Caesarea Philippi, ancient Paneas, “The city of Pan.” In Jesus’ day, a temple to the goat god Pan was at the centre of town.

Pan received worship through intimate acts with goats. The court in public view outside the temple was called the Court of Pan and the Nymphs. Nymphs are creatures of fantasy, like elves or fairies and were thought to be a large group of inferior divinities. Today, the word can refer to a woman who suffers from hypersexuality, a mental illness.

Pan’s temple was set on the side of a gigantic rock face. Next to it was an enormous cave where the Jordan River originates and flows to the Dead Sea. The cave was called the “gates of Hell.” The priests of Pan would say that if you did not worship Pan to his satisfaction, he would open the cave and swallow you into Hell.

For the disciples, this was an evil place, and this is where Jesus says, on this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. In other words, think of the most formidable and least likely place to found a church; that is where the Church will thrive.

Worth Considering

I find it fascinating that of all the places where Jesus could initiate his Church, he chose that place. It’s a truth that resonates through the centuries right down to our time.

The Church has had the worst of things thrown at it. It’s been outlawed and oppressed, and its people persecuted and martyred. Sacred books and Bibles were burned or banned. Add to that the trouble we’ve brought on ourselves – immoral and abusive pastors and priests, Church splits, discrimination against minorities and selfishness, always wanting everything our way. It’s a miracle that the Church still exists, but here we are.

My encouragement to you is simple: while some awful things are happening in the world right now, the world is much better than it was. If you follow Jesus, Set your mind on things above, not earthly things. Jesus affirmed that His Church would be built on the rock where the darkest rituals occurred, and it would prevail. Live in faith, not fear and be encouraged.