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Ed Stetzer: 5 Attitudes to Have When You Are in an Unhealthy Place

unhealthy Christian organization

In part one of “Moving Unhealthy Organizations Toward Health,” I shared six signs you may be working in an unhealthy Christian organization. Unfortunately those issues occur more often than any of us would like.

When I’ve talked or written about this previously I get interesting responses. Sometimes I will have more than one person from the same organization contact me to thank me for bringing attention to this. My exhortation to them, or to you if that is you, is simple — I’ve been there; hang in there but get out as fast as you can.

If you do find yourself in an unhealthy Christian organization, I encourage you to consider that God may want you to leave it. My own standard is this: will staying here hurt my walk with God or harm my family?

You might be able to handle it, but you have to ask how it will impact your family as well. You may notice that the leader often talks about the priority of family, but generally only gives priority to his or her own family — if even them. You are the only one who is advocating for your family. It is your calling to protect them.

Being at a place that “makes a difference” sounds good, but if you end up with a confused spiritual life or broken family, it is just not worth the price. You do not want to be a “great place” and have a broken life because you have become warped by the culture around you.

That is indeed what happens. You can often see the impact on those close to the leader. An unhealthy Christian organization tends to have two things going on at the top of the organizations:

First, many of the best leaders leave (and the leader finds a way to spin their departure).

Second, the leaders that stay take on the unhealthy characteristics of the organization and/or the leader, becoming part of the problem (even though they often bemoan the attributes of the leader). In a sense, we reproduce who we are––creating “mini-me” personalities of the leader.

Yet, that is what the unhealthy leader wants — no one to disagree or give another idea. So, in all likelihood, your best scenario is to leave.

If you believe you need to leave, start praying and looking for another ministry opportunity. This recognition of a different future will likely ease the daily pain and struggle, and help you to face each day. When you know you are going to leave, you can deal with staying a lot easier — and I know this from personal experience. When I have been in unhealthy situations, once I decided I was going to leave I did not worry so much about what was going on around me. Either way, trust your future to Christ and he gives peace that passes all understanding.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves as interim teaching pastor of Calvary Church in New York City and serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church.