No church is completely healthy nor totally unhealthy, but most lie somewhere along a continuum. Some churches lie very close to the cult end while others are somewhere in between. The way to tell if a church is healthy or unhealthy is to examine the INTERPERSONAL relationships that are actually occurring. Most issues involving interpersonal relationships fall into one or two of the following categories: COMMUNICATION, CARE and/or CONTROL.
Here is a “thumbnail” comparison of ten Healthy vs. Unhealthy practices which will help you identify the “3 C’s”–Communication, Care and Control:
1.Group identity and true motives are revealed.–communication–open and honest, nothing to hide.
2. Visitors are genuinely made to feel welcome and included–caring, supportive, inclusive.
3. Potential members are free to decide which meetings and activities to attend–(Non)controlling, allows differences of priorities.
4. Communication is reciprocal–communication–open and equal.
5. Leaders and members are easily available and candid when YOU want to talk.–(non)controlling, considerate of others, values your time more than his.
6. You have a sense of “freedom” and “affirmation” when you leave the meetings.–(non)controlling, enhancing others, releases others to be themselves.
7. Your personal boundaries are important and respected–caring, respectful.
8. You have the right to question beliefs, practices and motives.–communication is encouraged, not threatened, willing to admit faults or wrongs, (non)controlling.
9. You have a right to ask MORE questions if not satisfied with initial answers.–nothing to hide, willing to be closely examined, high integrity, (non)controlling.
10. You have complete freedom to EXIT the church if you are not satisfied.–(non)controlling, doesn’t “use” or need to “hang on” to people.
1. Members are told to withhold certain information from outsiders–communication is blocked, hidden agenda, secret, controlling, deceptive.
2. Newcomers are made to feel so special that they don’t dare go elsewhere (without seeming ungrateful).– overzealous to recruit, prey on vulnerable people, manipulation. Or they are ignored and have to figure out how to be included–exclusiveness.
3. The leaders encourage you to put their meetings and activities before all other commitments. Family, friends and even jobs are expected to be secondary.–control, use of shame or guilt, badgering, ridicule, manipulation.
4. Communication is mostly one-way. (i.e., If you don’t initiate it, it doesn’t happen.–(non)caring, controlling, wanting to be served rather than serving.
5. The “higher” the positioned leader, the less accessible–doesn’t return phone messages promptly, keeps conversation to a minimum. –control, (non)caring, self-seeking.
6. You have a sense of “fear” or “condemnation” or “shame” or “guilt” when you leave the meetings –control, judgmentalism, legalism.
7. “Boundaries” are unheard of and you often feel “violated”–(non)caring, abusive, controlling.
8. They insist on total, unquestioning obedience and submission to the leadership. –control level is more extreme, very dangerous sign.
9. You are singled out or shunned if you persist in “questioning their authority.” –control level is very dangerous, get out right away.
10. You fear leaving, because there will be a “price to pay”–labeling, slander, or some form of intimidation.–control level is that of a cult. You will probably need help to get away from them.
* This article is reprinted with permission of the author from Rebecca’s Well Website http://ww.attractmore.com/Rebeccaswell/healthy_church.htm
Ministry Health contains hundreds of in-depth articles to help support pastors and church professionals toward healthier ministries.