In working with dozens of churches over the last 20 years, I’ve discovered some deadly sins of an unhealthy church. And I should clarify that and say these are deadly sins of church people. I’m a walking testimony that the people who make up Christ’s church still sin. It is the result of who we are that we need a Savior.
I chose the word “deadly” intentionally. Of course, it’s a strong word, and I have no research behind my claim that if you have any of these your specific church will eventually die. I have been told a church on average will take 30 years to die if it remains in continual decline. (But I can’t confirm that statistic either.)
I know many unhealthy churches that are in decline. There are church buildings that once housed vibrant, growing churches, which have been turned into a unique restaurant, office building or condominium. I’ve seen that. I have enjoyed some the food. Again, I have worked with many churches and pastors in revitalization – as a pastor and a consultant. Those churches needed revitalization for a reason. They were in decline.
In each unhealthy church, I saw some – sometimes all – of these deadly sins. So, that’s my “research.” Simply knowing these sins will not heal an unhealthy church or help it grow again. My hope, however, is that the awareness helps you lead through them.
As pastor, when I encounter these sins in an unhealthy church they become the subject of much of my teaching and leadership, since each of them have biblical implications. I am not afraid to challenge these head-on if needed; either directly with individuals or even with the congregation as a whole. They are too important not to address.
In fact, I’m not sure you will see much progress towards revitalization until there is some repentance or, at least, discontinuance of these deadly sins.
Five Deadly Sins of an Unhealthy Church:
As soon as a church stops caring for the mission of the church more than any other activity it has lost its way. The mission must come first. To be clear, the mission is not programs, systems or buildings. These are means to accomplish the mission. We should care for them and have the best we can offer. But they are secondary to the mission.
An Unhealthy church cares more about the personal comfort of members and protecting the way things have always been done than it does about the broken and lostness of the community around them it has fallen into the deadly sin of apathy.
This may be the most often repeated sin I have seen in unhealthy churches. It mostly occurs when a church has had success and then simply became comfortable. When pride takes over anything that is challenged in the church will cause people to become defensive. People will protect what they perceive to have built. “My grandmother donated that furniture. You can’t get rid of it.” (Actual statement I’ve heard and many similar.)
If I have to remind you from Scriptures how offensive pride is to God then we will need another post. There is too much biblical evidence for this short article.
See Page Two for the final three signs of an unhealthy church . . .