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How to Know If You Belong to a Toxic Church

Updated on August 22, 2019
revmjm profile image

Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She researches and shares remedies for using certain products for illnesses.

Meaning of Toxic

If you look up the word "toxic" in the dictionary, you will find that toxic means anything that is poisonous. Anything that is toxic can be extremely harsh, malicious and harmful. Besides, anything that is toxic can cause damage, debilitation, and even death.

Churches Can Be Toxic

So many toxic things are going on in the world today. Terrorism, police killing citizens, citizens killing police, mass shootings, airplane crashes, corrupt politicians, sickness, and diseases. It is hard to fathom, but some churches are toxic. Instead of providing healing and wholeness for one's soul, the church is killing people. The last thing one would think of being toxic is a church. However, the church is slowing causing death to the souls of many people.

When toxicity shows up in the church, it is the worst kind of toxicity because churches are supposed to make people well and not harm them. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. A healthy church can be a true blessing if it encourages people, but a toxic church can be dangerous to a person's spiritual health.

Your church should be a foretaste of heaven; not hell.

Characteristics of a Toxic Church

While one might not want to face the truth, there are toxic churches, and you might belong to one.

  • Toxic churches are led by dictators who think members are to do exactly what they say whether good, bad or indifferent. Dictators don't let members make suggestions about things in the church.
  • Toxic churches are led by leaders who think they are above everybody else. They refuse to be accountable to anyone. They say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
  • Toxic churches have leaders who focus on favorites. They show favoritism with their own family and friends while marginalizing others. They fail to obey God as recorded in James 2:1 that says, "My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism."
  • Toxic churches are full of leaders who manipulate and micromanage. They have their hand in every facet of the church whether they are equipped in those areas or not.
  • Toxic churches have leaders who put down their members more than they lift them up. They see almost everyone else as inferior to themselves. They criticize others just to build themselves up.
  • Toxic churches have top leaders who say one thing to some people and something else to others. When confronted about the discrepancy later, they deny what they said. This is a soft way of saying they lie. One of their favorite comment is "It's not what I said, it's what you heard." Another comment is "That's your perspective."
  • Leaders in toxic churches are manipulative. They use their authority to excuse their behavior while putting everybody else down. They don't listen to advice or suggestions from others. If others disagree with them, they retaliate.
  • In a toxic church, top leaders surround themselves with sycophants. That means they are most comfortable with "Yes people." This includes family members and friends in the church who go along with everything the toxic leaders do.
  • Toxic churches have no collaboration. One person, usually the pastor, makes all the decisions without the input from others. Instead of involving others in the decision-making process, one person makes the decision and then tells the others what he has decided.
  • Toxic churches usually have a lack of communication among members. Top leaders keep others in the dark as much as possible.

Toxic Churches Have Toxic Leaders
Toxic Churches Have Toxic Leaders | Source

Toxic Churches Have Toxic Leaders

A church can't be a healthy one if the leaders are toxic. That's what is wrong with many churches today. The top leaders wear the title, but their behavior is far from healthy. If their characteristics and qualifications were to be examined, it will be determined that they are doing damage to those they are supposed to be helping. God is not pleased with toxic churches and toxic leaders within those churches.

What Can Be Done About a Toxic Church?

In order to understand what can be done about a toxic church, let's look at a biblical example. According to 2 Kings 2:19-22, Elijah had ascended up to heaven after giving his mantle to Elisha. The new prophet went to Jericho and performed his very first miracle. People in Jericho were facing an environmental crisis. Their water was toxic, most likely because of the sulfur and other chemicals that had rained down from Sodom and Gomorrah years earlier. The poisoned water was affecting people, animals, land, and plant life.

Elisha performed a miracle by throwing salt in the water and proclaimed, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.” His miracle and message brought forth immediate cleansing.

If you are in a toxic church, it needs a miracle and a prophetic proclamation so it can be clean again. Salt needs to be thrown into the water so people can be healed and made whole.

Do you belong to a toxic church?

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    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      11 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Donnamay, from what you wrote it seems like there are a lot of unresolved issues going on in your church. Since you and your husband are leaders, both of you should sit down with your pastor and share your concerns without beating around the bush. Give him the opportunity to explain why he is doing those things you don't agree with. Perhaps he is unaware of your discontent.

      See what happens after you communicate your concerns. After a person has been a leader in one church, it is very difficult to adjust to another church.

    • profile image


      11 months ago

      I've been going through alot lately in deciding if the church I attend is like this. I've been there for about 10 years. My husband, my two sons and I attend. The pastor has a son who is 30 and is a leader. His son is having difficulty in his faith. And has been for about 4 years and its been getting worse. His dad forces him to be a leader. He is not accountable for anything. Dosent care about the ministry at all. His father when upset even said he doesn't tithe. Has even said God told him he is a curse to the church. He tells us he talks to more than one girls. And he still has him as a leader. Recently I had a son. I was in charge of the praise and worship. Which his son is also the leader of. I had to pick up his slack. Basically I did everything while his son held a title and looked pretty singing. But this has nothing to do with his son. His son told his dad that he doesn't want to be a leader. He doesn't feel right doing what he does and lead. The pastor dosent want to look bad so he keeps him as a leader. It's all for looks. Im not in anyway boasting but I love my ministry and even if I had to do it all my self I would because I love God. And I care about His house. My son was born recently, and the pastor expected me to right away start serving again. And find someone to take care of my baby. Me and my husband are both leaders. And we have another son too. My pastor wasn't willing to help us like take turns in our ministry to be with the baby so I sat down. I don't understand how he is willing to work with his son who doesn't care about the church and how he isn't willing to work with us who do care and want the best for the Lord. I miss my ministry. And unfortunately we don't have a baby ministry in chuch. He won't allow me to do anything in church. Not even a church gathering of decorating the doors of church for Christmas because I will have the baby. I feel like if I can't serve I should leave. I want to serve so bad. My husband serves 100%. And I do to but I'm not allowed to because of my baby..I feel so confused....what do I do?

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, Jack Jenn, for your well thought out comments and your call to discipleship at the end. Everything you said was biblically correct.

    • Jack Jenn profile image

      Jack Jenn 

      2 years ago from Nelson Bay NSW Australia.

      Hi Margaret,

      I enjoyed your article on this topic that few are aware or even interested - and I am meaning those who are already in the church system or are thinking of joining same.

      I have a slightly different view on this in saying there is very little that can be done about it and all connected with any and all 'churches' will soon find themselves as 'fallen under satanic influence', which is only going to increase as the day draws closer.

      It is already prophesied that the false prophet will coerce all the fallen religions into one in the second half of Tribulation - and that should be of considerable concern to those in the church system.

      Of course, there will be many who will disagree with my views but I can't help that either.

      There is only 'one way out' and Jesus tells us about it Matthew 7: 13 & 14 - the strait and narrow gate but so many think they ARE in the narrow way already and no matter what you or I say will make any difference to them.

      Finding the strait and narrow way isn't difficult if you know the truth but is it any wonder that Jesus said FEW there be that find it. 2nd Corinthians 3: 3 is a wonderful blessing and in 4: 3 & 4 it tells us who will never find it and why.

      It is my sincere wish that all who desire salvation, which is a free gift paid in full by Jesus, would think deeply about the strait gate verses and they only have to ask the Spirit to lead them.

      Best regards,



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