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How To Know You Belong to a Toxic Church

Updated on January 17, 2017
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Rev. Margaret Minnicks: Ordained Minister of Christian Education, BA English; MA Christian Education; M.Div. Divinity, Writer, 2011.

Poison
Poison | Source

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.

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

Church
Church | Source

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 but put 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, the 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 cleansed 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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