What are the indicators of an unhealthy church? It can be hard to recognize the symptoms, especially if you’ve only ever attended one or two churches in your life. There are, however, a few sure signs to be watchful for when it comes to unhealthy church bodies. The Gospel Coalition’s Kevin DeYoung has written a fantastic piece called the 9 Marks of an Unhealthy Church. Here are just a few signs he says to be watchful for:
1. The more peripheral the sermon topic, the more excited the people become.“I’m concerned when a congregation gets tired of hearing about the Trinity, the atonement, the new birth, or the resurrection and wants to hear another long series on handling stress or the 70 weeks in Daniel,” Kevin writes. A healthy church keeps the gospel central, especially from the pulpit.
2. No one is ever raised up from the church for pastoral ministry or sent from the church into missionary service.“Good preaching inspires young men to preach,” says Kevin. “Smaller churches may not send our workers every year, but the congregation which almost never produces pastors and missionaries is almost never a healthy church.”
3. The leadership team never changes or always changes.“Both are warning signs,” Kevin notes. “On the one hand, churches become ingrown when there is never any new blood among the leaders.” On the other hand, if the church can’t keep anyone in leadership positions, that is also a sign of unhealthiness.
I encourage you to read the rest of Kevin’s signs of unhealthy churches here.
Related, Crosswalk blogger and pastor Joe McKeever shares what he thinks are key indicators of an unhealthy congregations in his post, 10 Signs You Are Part of an Unhealthy Church:
1. Prayer, if offered at all, is a formality, an afterthought, a burden.
2. Giving stems from duty and is never a joy.
3. Laughter is rare, and when present at all, forced and quickly stifled.
4. When church ends, everyone scatters.
5. When a leader calls for volunteers, he gets few responses.
6. When conflict arises, leaders ignore it, push the panic button, or jump ship.
7. Even the leaders have a poor understanding of Scripture.
8. Jesus is rarely mentioned. It's all about "God."
9. No one hears about salvation, no one gets saved, the baptistry is dry.
10. Neither the members nor the leaders are willing to pay the price to make the church healthy.
You can read more about each of these key indicators here.
So the question remains: if you recognize these symptoms of an unhealthy church in your own congregation, what should you do? Should you leave? In her article, Does God Want You to Leave Your Church?, Crosswalk contributor Whitney Hopler suggests this:
Until you find a new, healthier church where you can grow more, be sure to keep up your spiritual disciplines (like prayer and Bible reading), meet with other believers regularly, and keep serving and giving (perhaps through charities or other organizations in your community). Remember that you’re still part of the universal church even when you’re in between local congregations.
What do you think? Have you ever been a part of an unhealthy church? What signs have you recognized in unhealthy congregations? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com.