Churches are made up of imperfect people including the Pastor’s who lead them. Pastoring is a hard task that bears both a physical and spiritual weight. People are messed up and have issues (myself included). Just because someone is a pastor doesn’t mean they know everything and how to fix everything. This presumption is unfair to the pastor for the congregation to put unreal expectations which will lead to disillusionment and disappointment. Pastoring is a learning experience that happens mostly “on the job” and is a continual process of improvement by personal, spiritual, and professional development. What I learned as a pastor is that it’s hard work and is much more than preaching.

Jesus is building His Church, and we get the privilege to partner as builders with him. Jesus is building a living church, made up of people, who are connected to one another in a unity of purpose to expand His kingdom on earth. Many churches start out with great intentions, passion, and zeal for their cities but in the process lose their power, their influence, and ultimately their people.   While a church is growing, finding its identity, and building culture, it’s not exempt from making mistakes.

I believe in being committed to a local church, yes, even a local church that is imperfect and makes mistakes. Great churches and leaders learn from mistakes and become better churches is healthy. It’s a part of growing and maturing; healthy is not perfect. You don’t always know why God has you in a particular place. He knows the part you play. But when do you know that it’s time to change churches?  What are some signs of an unhealthy church? What are the warning signs of an underlying leadership problem?

Below is a list of characteristics to consider when determining the health of the church you attend. If these signs are present, there are some major leadership issues and should bring caution to the forefront. You may need to find a different, healthy local church and plugin. We live in a culture where many people have been hurt by these types of cultures and have chosen to leave churches altogether. This is not God’s desire. The Church is God’s plan, and we are to be people committed to a local body regardless of past hurts; you get to decide where to plant (with God’s direction) and when its time to leave, not the pastor. Dealing with these types of hurts and recovering from them are for another blog post at a later date. Here is my pastoral disclaimer for you regarding unhealthy church commitment:

You don’t need a “word from God” to stay in an unhealthy church environment that is dangerous to your emotional and spiritual health. The Bible is full of scriptures that should be evidenced enough for you to change environments. Unhealthy church environments create bondage and destroy purpose, dreams, and callings.

Here is my list of unhealthy characteristics:

1/ At all levels will create circles of inclusion.

2/ Create people or followers who obey leaders as though they are responding to God. This is dangerous and leads to committing idolatry. Leaders who speak Gods words are not equal with God.

3/ Leadership is insecure and label their opponents as unspiritual for rebellious rather than examine and be open to the truth of their critic’s words. Disagreement is seen as an attack on authority and therefore considered rebellion.

4/ Leaders who begrudge people the opportunity to seek God for themselves and who do not actively teach their people to hear God’s voice. This leader has disqualified themselves as spiritual leaders.

5/ Favor is conditional upon obedience and loyalty. This creates volatility.

6/ Takes the younger generation out of the family unit to mold thought patterns consistent with their own.

7/ Conflict resolution is one-sided. The other party is always the problem.

8/ Power is exercised through manipulation and control, although often disguised as mentoring.

9/ Followers or church attenders often speak of the leader more than Jesus.

10/ Truth becomes un-examinable.


About the Author:

Terry is the President and Co-founder of Forward Leader and through his experience as a creative strategist and Executive Pastor is on a mission to transform followers into leaders who have a Jesus-Centered purpose, passion, and pursuit. As an anointed and gifted communicator, author, and pastor, Terry preaches the Bible and speaks on topics such as Leadership, Organizational Culture, Assimilation, and Teams. Terry is also the CEO of Stonefish Group, a full-service creative agency in the Pacific Northwest that provides solutions that positions clients in the marketplace to engage, influence, and lead.