Home Pastors Articles for Pastors When You Should NOT Submit to a Church

When You Should NOT Submit to a Church

Originally appeared here.

All of us will, at times, be called to endure humbly a leader’s mistakes and sins. Nonetheless, should you find yourself in a church where the leadership is characteristically abusive, I would, in most cases, encourage you to flee. Flee to protect your discipleship, to protect your family, to set a good example for the members left behind, to serve non-Christian neighbors by not lending credibility to the church’s ministry.

How do you recognize abusive leadership? Paul requires two witnesses for a charge to be leveled against an elder (1 Tim. 5:19), probably because he knows that leaders will be charged with infelicities more often than others, often unfairly. That said, abusive churches and Christian leaders characteristically:

  • Make dogmatic prescriptions in places where Scripture is silent.
  • Rely on intelligence, humor, charm, guilt, emotions or threats rather than on God’s Word and prayer (see Acts 6:4).
  • Play favorites.
  • Punish those who disagree.
  • Employ extreme forms of communication (tempers, silent treatment).
  • Recommend courses of action that always, somehow, improve the leader’s own situation, even at the expense of others.
  • Speak often and quickly.
  • Seldom do good deeds in secret.
  • Seldom encourage.
  • Seldom give the benefit of the doubt.
  • Emphasize outward conformity rather than repentance of heart.
  • Preach, counsel, disciple and oversee the church with lips that fail to ground everything in what Christ has done in the gospel and to give glory to God.  
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jleeman@churchleaders.com'
Jonathan is the director of communications for 9Marks. He first joined Capitol Hill Baptist Church in 1996. After a stint in journalism, he felt called to ministry in 2001. Since then he has completed one seminary degree, is working on another, and has served as interim pastor in two churches. Jonathan is absolutely amazed that God has saved him, in spite of all the reasons he has given him not to. He’s also amazed that he has a wonderful wife, Shannon, and two young daughters, Emma and Hannah.