5 Dangerous Types of Churches
When one says the word “church”, this brings many emotions, thoughts, and ideas. With so many different denominations and church styles, it is easy to wonder what kind of church represents God’s vision the most. In my own life, as a pastor’s wife, I often hear of those who question the purpose of the church and even express the hurts they have experienced. In it all, there appear to be specific aspects of church culture that can cause great distress if not addressed. Though we cannot fix every church, we can be aware of potential warning signs and cultures that may cause us more damage in the long run. In other words, not all churches are created the same and we have to do our due diligence to research the churches we choose to be a part of.
Here's what I know, we shouldn’t leave a church more broken than we came in. From personal experience, church hurt can ruin marriages, destroy friendship and even cause people to walk away from God. I encourage you to ask God for discernment as you enter your next church home.
I want to share with you today five church cultures that can be dangerous if left unchecked.
1.) The Exclusive Church
Church should be a family. Even more so, church should reflect a family always ready to invite a new member in. In the book, When The Church Was Family, Hellerman discusses the depth of community surrounding the early church. Hellerman shares the idea that the word “brother” was not to be taken lightly during the time Jesus walked the earth. In fact, to be a brother was the deepest bond one could have. In other words, when Jesus saw His disciples, he saw them as more than friends, they were a family.
The Lord calls us to do the same when it comes to His church. Yet, time and time again, experts hear that a central reason many do not attend a church is that they did not feel welcome. Some feel immediately judged or simply can’t find a way to be a part of the larger group. Rather than taking the family approach, many churches see those who are new as “outsiders.”
The exclusive church culture is very dangerous because it rejects the new believer and anyone else the in-crowd of the church has deemed as “unworthy.” This can be due to race, socioeconomic status, talent, age, or personality. Whatever the case may be, the exclusive church can make the newcomer feel as if they don’t belong within the local church and within the Body of Christ. Remembering that each local church serves as representatives of Christ, we must be careful to not be a part of ministries that spends more time pushing people out than bringing them in.
Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
2.) The Controlling Church
Churches that operate in control and manipulation can cause great damage to members. Within this culture, leadership tend to have a disdain for the members. Regarding themselves, as much more spiritual they place an expectation that the life of each member should be condoned by them first. Failure to comply in any manner can lead to public shame, removal from positions, and meetings to address their lack of submission. This culture places more focus on submitting to the leadership versus submitting to the will of God. The danger in this is that anyone who does not fall in line completely will likely be ostracized and seen as outside of the God's plan.
Here are a few clues that you may be involved in a controlling church culture.
· Church shames those who do not comply 100%.
· Leadership requires much of your personal life to be approved by them.
· Taking a Sunday off is not an option.
· Pastor refuses to delegate responsibilities.
· Pastor preaches messages about members from the pulpit.
· Leadership refuses to receive input from others.
3.) The Surface Church
Over the last decade, there has been an urgency to make churches more “seeker-friendly.” The idea of this method of the church is to create an environment where those seeking Jesus can come and feel comfortable. From ensuring the service is short to the songs chosen, the experience is catered to making the service attractable. As a church planter of Enlighten Church, alongside my husband, I can attest there is great value in creating a Sunday morning service that’s welcoming, current, and operates in excellence. However, often the focus of the service can become the production versus sharing the message of Jesus.
One major aspect of the seeker-friendly method is to only teach messages that are brief and surface level. It is believed that going too much deeper could offend and lead the seeker away from Christ. So, in many scenarios, Christians who want to learn deeper revelation about God are unable to learn more within the church setting. A potential danger is that those who are mature in Christ will often find that church is no longer relevant for them. In my personal life, I have seen that those who attend surface level churches often need to attend other churches and events to feel spiritually “filled-up.” They easily find themselves feeling dried up and wondering if God is still speaking to them
Though, the surface church avoids messages that may bring conviction, we Jesus did not shy away from topics that were uncomfortable or simply teach to the unbelievers. In fact, he would directly address sin, greed, misunderstandings about the Word of God, and lack of faith. Jesus was not afraid to present a challenge and encourage deeper conversation. Though He did this, He did it with love and through the perspective of grace. Churches that choose surface-level message are not as much dangerous as they are a place where spiritual growth can become stagnant. If you find that you have been a part of a ministry for years and you cannot see spiritual growth, you may be a part of surface-level congregation.
4.) The Legalistic Church
The legalistic church is one that is founded around many rules. Adhering to the rules becomes more important than having a deeper relationship with God. In fact, those who do not conform to behaving, dressing, or carrying themselves in a specific way are deemed as unholy. In this way, the church is able to control and manipulate the members, as discussed earlier. This church culture prides itself in being the only right way church is done. In doing so, those who do not comply are seen as backsliders and are judged accordingly.
The danger of this culture is that it requires our relationship with God to be solely based on works. How we dress, fix our hair, or behave becomes associated with our level of holiness. In doing so, religion and rituals are more important than developing a deeper relationship with Jesus. In other words, a legalistic church chooses to focus on helping everyone follow a standard of behavior vs addressing heart issues. Just as with the controlling church, people often leave legalistic churches assuming they could never be “good enough” to fit in.
Fritz Cherz gives these examples of what you may see in a legalistic church.
You must work inside the church and if not you are not saved.
You must go to church every week in order to keep your salvation.
You must listen to only this type of music.
If you don’t evangelize you are not saved.
You must look like this in order to be saved.
You must stop eating this.
5.) Compromising Church
In an effort to be relevant, many churches have become compromising. This goes beyond the style of the church. In these churches, God's word takes second place to what people see as uncomfortable. This issue here is not whether the church should be "modern" with contemporary music or a traditional church with hymns. Church style does not equal compromise. The truth is, God can move in a Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, or any other denomination or style. The issue, instead is when local churches are so desperate to grow their congregations they would rather adjust the Word to fit the culture than to teach God's word. Many churches have become complacent. However, as the church, we should be transforming our communities, and not the other way around. In our society, we see churches compromise the truth of speaking the Word of God to make sure everyone is comfortable, and it shouldn’t be so.
The danger of the compromising church is that it never stirs conviction and presumes that God’s grace is permission to sin. As I heard one pastor say,
“God is love but He is required to respond to sin.”
By not confronting sin, when the Lord leads, churches run the risk of leading people further away from Christ versus closer. Each church should take a moment to examine if they have allowed the culture to influence them so much that they may be leading people astray.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3
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* Excerpts from the above article originally written by Victoria Riollano on ibelieve.com*