Signs of an unhealthy church: J. Lee Grady (Charisma Magazine)
This is a good time to remind people of the warning signs of an unhealthy church:
1. Little or no accountability. When celebrity preachers seem eager to tell everyone else what to do but aren't willing to hear correction from others, prepare for a train wreck. There is safety in the multitude of counselors (see Prov. 11:14). There is much less safety—even danger—when a leader does not seek counsel from a diverse group of his peers.
2. Spiritual elitism. If there is a spirit of control in a church, people are usually told their group is superior. If people choose to leave, they are shunned or branded as renegades. Sometimes, in extreme cases, people are even cursed if they leave. This cultic behavior inflicts unimaginable emotional suffering and also divides families.
3. An oppressive atmosphere. Authoritarian leaders control people through manipulation. This may come in the form of threats, legalistic demands, unreasonable requirements or false doctrines. In such a church no one is allowed to ask questions. Spiritual heaviness lies like a thick cloud over the congregation, and few believers manifest genuine joy.
4. Angry domination. Tyrants are surprisingly similar. Because they want to control their surroundings, they often blow up when people do not conform to their demands. Yet the apostle Paul taught that church leaders should not be "violent" or "quarrelsome" but "self-controlled" and "gentle" (see 1 Tim. 3:2-3). He also instructed Timothy that the Lord's servant "must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone" (2 Timothy 2:24).
5. A low view of women. While churches today differ in their views on women in leadership, it should be noted that authoritarian churches almost always discourage women from pursuing any genuine role in ministry. Women are viewed as useful only in their functions as submissive wives and mothers, and they are not encouraged to step beyond these confines to pursue ministry opportunities.
Let's pray that the healing power of Jesus covers this with his blood and heals the members of churches that have been abused.
J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. He is the author of 10 Lies Men Believe and other books.