Reflecting on “Weaponized Incompetence” and Why it Could Help Explain the Church’s Response to Abuse

By: Jennifer Eichenmiller

I recently read an article about a trending hashtag on TikTok. Don’t judge.

The article described something called “weaponized incompetence” and included videos of (mostly) women who were frustrated by the lack of competence shown by their partners when doing simple and mundane tasks. Think: a child going to school in their underwear because dad dressed them that morning or a woman putting together a detailed grocery list with pictures and descriptions of where to find each item since that is the only way her partner would come home with all of the groceries.

Weaponized incompetence is the idea that one person procrastinates, doesn’t take the time to learn how to do something correctly, or does something so poorly that the other person gets frustrated and eventually just takes care of it themselves. Over time, the person who ends up doing the task learns that it is just easier to always do it, and they stop asking or expecting the other person to help. Sometimes weaponized incompetence is deliberate, like the time my youngest daughter whined and complained about her math homework so much that I was tempted to just do it for her (Don’t worry. I really wanted to, but I didn’t do it.) Other times, weaponized incompetence is more of a subconscious thing, like the time my husband agreed to help our daughter with her math homework and it went so badly that everyone decided I was the only person in our household with the appropriate skill set to handle 1st grade math homework.

The videos and examples are both a little funny and kind of sad when you think about it. But the point of this post is not to bash my husband or yours or anyone else’s. Since we’re being honest here, I use weaponized incompetence when I let the gas tank get dangerously close to empty and then wait until 10:00 on Sunday night to suddenly “remember” that I need gas for work the next day so my husband will generously offer to get it for me. (On a side note, Dave didn’t catch on to my little gas trick until he read my first draft.) So no, this isn’t a husband or man-bashing post because weaponized incompetence is a tool that we all use sometimes. It’s just that some people use it more frequently than others. Is it used more often by men? My husband thinks so, but he can write that blog post if he wants. Frankly, I’m intrigued by this concept because it can offer insight into more than just a mother’s mental overload or a co-worker’s growing frustration. I think weaponized incompetence might be able to help us understand the church’s under-whelming response to abuse.

Weaponized incompetence has several looks. It is:

  • minimizing the importance of something
  • not taking time to learn how to solve a problem or do something correctly
  • displaying over-exaggerated frustration when asked to do something
  • saying we’ll do something, but procrastinating until everyone forgets about it or until someone else does it for us
  • passive-aggressively making the other person regret having asked for help in the first place
  • undercutting personal responsibility with statements like: “that’s not my job,” “I don’t know how to do that,” or “what do you want me to do about it?”

If you have read even one news report about a church that covered up abuse, you most likely encountered at least one of these responses. Take a minute to honestly think about this. Anyone who has a conscience would agree that abuse is wrong. Pretty much every pastor and church leader would say that abuse is wrong. So, if we know that abuse is wrong, then why do so few victims report it? If churches know that abuse is wrong, why do many churches wait so long to respond to it? The answer might be weaponized incompetence.

Research shows that weaponized incompetence happens when we don’t want to do something because it is hard or uncomfortable or inconvenient. Appropriately addressing abuse is every single one of those things. Occasionally, a church will completely ignore an allegation of abuse. More often, they offer half-hearted responses and make themselves feel better by saying or thinking things like:

  • It’s not a big deal
  • It’s an isolated event and not a pattern
  • we’ve always handled it this way
  • It would never happen here
  • Investigating this further would be disruptive to our church
  • I know he did [fill in the blank], but God is still using him to do great things
  • He is such a gifted speaker. Do you see how many people attend his church?
  • We don’t want to ruin a good man’s reputation
  • Don’t touch the Lord’s “anointed” (you all know this verse is about King Saul, right? Anyways…)

Then they make themselves feel better by doing things like:

  • Conducting a less than thorough “investigation”
  • acknowledging that there is a problem and agreeing that more should be done to fix it, but then never getting around to actually doing anything about it 
  • Spending years arguing about how to create a policy that won’t make them legally liable (here’s looking at you SBC)

Let’s just call it what it is. The church’s historically mediocre response to abuse is a terrifying example of weaponized incompetence; and like all forms of weaponized incompetence, it teaches victims and witnesses of abuse that speaking up is pointless and not worth the effort. This is not ok. Honestly, weaponized incompetence isn’t acceptable in any situation. It can cause unnecessary stress at work and serious damage to personal relationships. And it is absolutely inexcusable for this to happen in a church.

I understand that churches are made up of imperfect human beings, but when those imperfect human beings tell us that they have a calling to teach us about God and how we can know Him better, they have a responsibility to do better. Because when pastors and church leaders (consciously or unconsciously) use weaponized incompetence to avoid taking responsibility for abuse, they inadvertently imply that God feels this way too. That’s a precarious position for anyone to be in. James 3:1 warns that God holds church leaders to a higher standard. Moses, the man for whom Calvary Chapel’s “Moses Model” is named, wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land despite his years of devotion and close relationship to God because he struck a rock and misrepresented God to the people. If that isn’t a good enough reason for church leaders to do better, then I don’t know what is.

So how can churches stop using weaponized incompetence to avoid responsibility and start treating abuse as something that is important enough to actually deal with? They have to put in the work. Here are four steps churches can take to do better:


We can’t fix a problem we won’t admit that we have. So, the first step is to admit that this is happening. Ignorance and good intentions are only good enough until you reach the line of “should have known better,” and that is where we are now. Churches should know better. Pastors and church leaders should know better. They CAN know better if they make an honest effort to see what is happening. It takes about 3 seconds to run a google search and sift through the results to find verifiable accounts of abuse. It takes less than a minute to pick up the phone and ask other pastors and congregants if this is happening. If church leaders didn’t know it before, then they should know it now. And if their response is to minimize or disregard abuse, then they have crossed the line into weaponized incompetence.


The next step is to put in the time and effort to learn. Church leaders need to ask the questions they have been avoiding this whole time. Questions like:

  • Is abuse happening here? 
  • What exactly is happening? 
  • How does this happen?

They need to get to know the details they didn’t want to know before, the things that make them uncomfortable, and anything they may have previously avoided by using phrases like “what happened is in the past.” Let’s be real for a moment: if it wasn’t properly addressed in the past, then it isn’t in the past. Especially for the person who was abused.

This is a grueling process for so many reasons, including the fact that most of what churches learn in this step are things they genuinely don’t want to know. As a result, this is the step where most churches get stuck. When it gets too uncomfortable, they fall back on weaponized incompetence by deciding their efforts are “good enough already” or by making overly-defensive statements like, “we’re not on a witch hunt.” I empathize with feeling uncomfortable, I really do. Because the very nature of abuse is uncomfortable. Its uncomfortable to experience. Its uncomfortable to heal from. It’s uncomfortable to talk about. Its uncomfortable to hear about. But when abuse happens in a church, the only way to prevent it from happening again is to put in the hard work to root out the whole truth. It’s uncomfortable. Take a moment to acknowledge that, and then keep going.


Once churches get through the honest conversations about what happened and how it happened, they can finally ask the question: how do we keep this from happening again? The answer to this question will depend on what the questions in step 2 revealed. If abuse occurred because there isn’t appropriate policy in place, then there needs to be better policy. If there is appropriate policy in place and abuse occurred because that policy wasn’t being enforced, then the answer might be to find ways to provide meaningful accountability. Sometimes those who experienced abuse will be able to offer some insight into how to fix things; but relying solely on abuse survivors to provide the answers is just another form of weaponized incompetence. Churches can offer survivors the chance to help find solutions and implement change, but they need to do their own research too. This means finding out what has or hasn’t worked for churches in the past, reading the information on church abuse prevention websites, and asking organizations like GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) for advice on how to respond appropriately. It takes a lot of work to do this, but it is worth the time and effort to do it well. Doing it right the first time will make it less likely that they will have to do it all over again in the future.


Once church leaders have done all of these things with honesty and integrity, then they can move forward. But moving forward doesn’t mean making a few changes and forgetting what happened. It means acknowledging that abuse can still happen and that it is most likely to occur in churches that think they’ve fixed all the loopholes. Its exhausting, I know. Its also exhausting to try to maintain the status quo while constantly overlooking abuse. Church leaders are going to be exhausted either way, but only one of those ways involves setting a godly example.


Before I close this post out, I want to point out that churches shouldn’t wait for abuse to happen before making positive changes. After all,” an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” (that’s good old Ben Franklin). Churches can avoid the traps of weaponized incompetence by proactively researching church abuse (especially abuses that have occurred in their denomination or affiliation) and then having honest and open discussions among leadership and congregants about whether there are appropriate policies and procedures in place. Recognizing that abuse could happen and then frequently assessing the church’s policies and responses makes it easier to stop abuse early on, and that benefits everyone.

My first post details some of my experiences in Calvary Chapel and explains why I believe 3rd party independent investigations are necessary for every church. (You can find it here.) It also includes a list of red flags that congregants can look for in assessing the likelihood that abuse is occurring in their churches. Weaponized incompetence is a double-edged sword. If you have witnessed or experienced abuse in a church, its not your fault. They should have done better. And now that we know this happens, we should educate ourselves about the signs of abuse and ask our church leaders the tough questions. It’s not easy. But if we genuinely care about our churches, we should want them to handle these things the right way.



Why I Won’t Attend any Church Without Clear Policies on Handling Abuse

By: Jennifer Eichenmiller

Dear friends,

If you are a member of a Calvary Chapel, then you probably already know that allegations of misconduct have been made against Ben Courson. While I am saddened by what has occurred, I am not surprised. This is because it seems like the response to pastoral abuse, sexual sin, and “moral failures” is a weak spot for many churches. Abuse can happen in any denomination, but it is particularly challenging to deal with in churches like Courson’s, which uses a “Moses Model” structure. Moses Model churches give pastors the authority to make decisions and set policies based on the needs of the local church. Done well, it’s an efficient church model that eliminates a lot of bureaucratic red tape. Unfortunately, there are always two sides, and the flipside of this model is that it is nearly impossible to consistently implement even commonsense policies to prevent abuse. Here’s why:

Ben Courson’s church is affiliated with Calvary Chapel, which does not have formal:

  • sexual abuse or misconduct policies
  • pastoral code of conduct
  • consistent procedures for how to address allegations of abuse
  • consistent procedures for how to respond when allegations are founded.

As a result, the responsibility for accountability is in the hands of individual churches. And with church structures like the Moses Model, you should not assume that elders and other church leaders can provide meaningful accountability. In fact, unless the individual church bylaws state otherwise, the pastor can usually overrule or remove elders for any reason. Individual churches can adopt oversight/conduct policies for themselves, but only if the pastor specifically puts them in place. This reminds me of the time I told my kids that we would use the “honor system” for the candy jar—they did ok for a while, but eventually they put their hands where they didn’t belong. And once they realized no one was there to stop them, they went back for more. I’ve also noticed that they tend to hide the evidence if they think they are about to get caught.


As someone who spent 20 years in Calvary Chapel, this topic is especially important to me.  I am the daughter of a Calvary Chapel Pastor. My husband and I both attended a CC Bible College. I served as a worship leader at a CC church plant for about 5 years. During most of that time, it never crossed my mind to ask questions about how my church might handle concerns over a pastor’s conduct. Then I experienced interactions with a pastor whose behavior made me extremely uncomfortable.

At the end of 2018, a former elder at our church reported his concerns about the pastor’s conduct, including his conduct towards me. He reported his concerns to another Calvary Chapel pastor, who followed up and suggested specific policies to address the situation. While this situation was handled well, I became increasingly disturbed by my pastor’s conduct towards me during the Spring of 2019 and I finally reported my concerns to the church board in June of 2019. This time the board brought the concerns to a different CC Pastor who had not been directly involved with the first allegation.

Several weeks later, I received a letter stating that the elders at my church had investigated and determined that my concerns were a “personal” matter, despite much of the conduct I brought up taking place in the pastor’s office. Although I was both the person who reported and the person who experienced the conduct in question, I was never interviewed or asked any questions during the course of the elders’ investigation. I didn’t even know an investigation had occurred until after it had concluded.

The point of telling my story is not to argue that the elders’ investigation should have resulted in one particular outcome or action. In fact, I am a proponent of policies that require independent 3rd party investigations because I strongly believe that concerns like these should be handled by a neutral party from outside of the affiliation or denomination. The purpose of sharing my story is to tell you what it can look like when a church does not have specific policies in place before concerns are raised.


I don’t want to minimize what happened at my church, but it is clear that this issue is so much bigger than my story. It is also bigger than Calvary Chapel. Over the past 2 years I have listened to many similar accounts. I’ve read the news reports about Ravi Zacharias, Brian Houston, Ben Courson, and so many others. The problems that allow these things to happen cannot be fixed overnight and they won’t be fixed because of this one post. But as someone who has walked a relatively mild version of this path, I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone. This is something that needs to be fixed, and it is worth the time and effort to get it right.

So, start small. Stop thinking of this as a problem that happens somewhere else to someone else. Start asking: what would I expect to see if this happened to me, or my spouse, or my child? And then educate yourself on your church’s policies.

Ask your church leadership questions about their policies for handling concerns about church leaders’ conduct towards members of the congregation. Ask to see things in writing. The response you get will be very telling. If your church leaders say they have safeguards in place, but they can’t show you where these safeguards are described in the bylaws, that should be a red flag. If the bylaws discuss safeguards but don’t provide a specific procedure for how allegations of sexual abuse or pastoral misconduct are handled, that should be a red flag. If the bylaws include a procedure that doesn’t require using an independent 3rd party to handle allegations of abuse or misconduct towards members of the congregation, that should be a red flag.  If your church bylaws do not include a procedure for how to respond to the results of a 3rd party independent investigation, that should be a red flag.

**Not all churches without appropriate policies have abusive pastors, but MANY churches with abusive pastors do not have appropriate policies.**

Having an independent 3rd party handle allegation is important because abuse doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Abusers don’t usually look abusive until they get caught, and abuse victims are not the only ones who are “groomed.”  Abusive pastors groom victims to accept inappropriate behaviors they wouldn’t otherwise have allowed. They groom the entire congregation to believe that there are safeguards in place. They groom church leadership to not enforce safeguards and to disbelieve or minimize victims and allegations.

Here are some other potential red flags that should give you pause. If you notice any of these, it’s time to start asking questions:

  • Multiple church leaders or long-term members leaving abruptly and without explanation
  • Frequently mentioning “wolves in sheep’s clothing” in any context beside the actual biblical context (please note: people who leave a church, speak up about abuse, ask questions, or express concerns about accountability are not wolves in sheep’s clothing)
  • Frequently mentioning safeguards but not enforcing them or enforcing them inconsistently; if there are exceptions to the rules, then it’s not really a rule
  • Presenting their church/denomination/affiliation as the only “faithful” church
  • Addressing allegations of abuse in your church or other churches with comments like:
“we’ll never know what really happened”Rather than“let’s ask questions and find out what happened.”
“I feel bad for her”Instead of“let’s support her” (and then taking action to do so)
“this is why we have safeguards in place”Rather than“let’s review our safeguards, policies, and procedures to prevent this from happening here.”

Some additional red flags include:

Using words like “affair” or “relationship” or “boundary violations”Instead ofAbuse
Making vague statements about past allegations of misconductInstead ofAcknowledging and taking responsibility for specific actions

Identifying how allegations will be addressed

Creating specific policies to prevent it from happening again
Discrediting victims and reports of abuse because it was not handled according to Matthew 18Rather thanRecognizing that it may not be appropriate for an abuse victim to confront an abuser privately, especially if the abuser is in a position of power
Calling discussions and questions about abuse or concerns in the church, “gossip” or “slander”Rather thanEncouraging questions and open discussion when concerns are raised
Making statements that the elder’s role is to protect the pastorRather thanMaking it clear that the position of elder is to care for the “flock”  (1 Peter 5:1-3)
Narrowing discussions about abuse to congregants abusing their pastorsRather thanAcknowledging that the power imbalance makes it far more likely that the pastor is the abuser
Making comments that are overly defensive, acting hurt, or claiming to be the victim when conduct is questionedRather thanRecognizing that a 3rd party investigation protects both the pastor and the congregation!
Making comments about needing to protect the church/ flock/ congregation from people who make allegationsInstead ofProtecting the congregation from people with authority who actually have the ability to do damage and a platform to do it from.  

Recognizing that an independent 3rd party investigation protects everyone, including the congregation
Making statements about how often false allegations are made.    

This may look like comments about how the church can’t possibly follow up on all allegations.  
Rather thanRecognizing that false allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct are actually very rare. In fact, most churches won’t have any allegations. If your church has several, that’s a red flag all on its own.  

But also, the best response is allowing an independent 3rd party investigator to determine if an allegation is credible and then allowing the independent 3rd party to investigate all credible claims
Referring to people who report abuse/call out lack of policy as: angry, disgruntled, emotional, divisive, unstable, wolves, or jezebelsInstead ofTaking the lack of policy for preventing church abuse seriously, taking allegations of abuse by pastors seriously, and requiring independent 3rd party investigations for abuse or misconduct allegations

If you would like to understand more about pastoral abuse or if you think you may have experienced it, an organization called GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) is doing great work. You can find their website here: GRACE (

I also highly recommend these 2 podcasts:

  1. Shipwreck Over Safety Season 2 Episode 2, Sins of the Church: Sexual Harassment and Grooming
  2. Christianity Today: The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill

These podcasts describe spiritual and sexual abuse in 2 different types of churches. Don’t get tripped up over differences in theology.  Abuse often looks very similar and it is wrong in every denomination.

Final Note:

I have found that one of the greatest challenges of addressing abuse in independent/non-denominational church affiliations is simply recognizing that each allegation of abuse is a pattern and not just a series of “isolated” events.  Do your research and see how churches like yours have handled abuse in the past. If you attend a Calvary Chapel, here are 2 news articles and a few names to get you started in your search:

San Jose Mercury News – Bay Area news, technology, jobs, cars and real estate (

Day of Reckoning | Christianity Today

Ben Courson, Applegate Christian Fellowship

Bob Coy, CC Ft Lauderdale

David Hocking, CC Costa Mesa

John Flores, CC Costa Mesa

Bob Caldwell, CC Boise

Anthony Iglesias, various CC churches

Dino Cardelli, CC in Arcata

Christopher Raymond Olague, Southland CC

Matthew Tague, North Coast CC

Roger Gales, Former Potter’s Field Board Member