6 Signs of an Unhealthy Church

Churches are filled with people, and people make mistakes. That’s a natural part of learning and growing – two key things every healthy church does as years go by.

Attending a healthy church doesn’t mean you’ll never experience conflict or challenges, but it does mean that together, you and your church family will mature and grow closer through these learning experiences.

When you’re surrounded by an unhealthy church environment, one in which God is not the head, you’re going to notice these six key signs:

1. The Church Prioritizes Numbers, Not People

When a church is run like a business, you will see a heavy emphasis placed on numbers instead of people. Exactly how many people were in attendance last week? How many programs are we offering this fall? Are we gathering enough tithes and offerings to make our budget goals?

Yes, the answers to all of these questions are important. But when leadership uses these numbers to gauge success, it’s a sign of a misdirected focus and an unhealthy emphasis on earthly matters.

The central goal of every healthy church is to grow spiritually-strong Christians who are ready to enter the world with the Gospel. The numbers can all add up perfectly and a church can still be unhealthy.

2. The Church Members Talk About Their Pastor More Than God

In an unhealthy church, the members can’t stop talking about their pastor. They often speak of their pastor more than God. A healthy love for a pastor is always positive, but there’s a difference between respect, which is good for an authority figure, and reverence, which should be reserved for God. Pastors should be revealing the wonders of Jesus to their flock, not cultivating blind loyalty to themselves.

3. The Favor of Church Leaders Is Given Only When Members Obey

When leaders only give approval to obedient members, it creates an authoritative, volatile environment which is decidedly unhealthy for spiritual growth. Disagreement does not equal rebellion. If leaders interpret every question and doubt as an attack on their authority, they’re clearly insecure. If leaders only give love to those who obey without question, they’re using manipulation as a tool to get their way.

4. The Church Has Cliques and Exclusive Groups

Every unhealthy church has cliques. When there are exclusive groups of members who have a bigger say over the church’s direction than others, there is no peaceful community. It only leads to an adversarial “us against them” mentality, with in-fighting and gossiping.

5. The Church Doesn’t Prioritize Prayer

If prayer is an afterthought, a chore to be completed before the service can end, it’s a sign of an unhealthy church. Prayer is a direct line of communication with God. If it’s never used, how can the church be following God’s leading and direction?

6. The Church Does Not Create Disciples

You will know them by their fruits. While not every small church will produce a missionary every year, churches of all sizes should be inspiring their members to serve. If the church struggles to get one volunteer, the congregation isn’t in on the vision. They’re not being led. If a pastor has to use guilt to get people to move beyond the role of a pew-warmer, there’s a deeper issue.

Unhealthy churches need divine healing, but first, the root problems must be identified. Have you ever been a part of an unhealthy church? What signs have you noticed that belong on this list?

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