You think of your church as the “family” and so it is. The New Testament writers speak of the church as “the family of God” (Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 2:19). That is the reality to which we should aspire! We see one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. But there is another simultaneous reality: your church is a gathering of families. This is the reality that makes relationships in your church dynamic. By that I mean, there is energy and vigor in the multiple complexities of relationships. Because the fall is still a reality for the redeemed, that energy isn’t always a positive force moving people in godly directions. There are dysfunctional families (that is, families behaving and relating in unhealthy and sinful ways) among the church families.
If the church is not biblically careful and prayerfully discerning, then the church’s relational environment can become toxic. Like smog can be dangerous to your health, toxic churches make for dangerous-to-your-spiritual-health-churches. They can become “crazy-making” churches that abuse people, leaders and often chase off pastors. If the cycle isn’t interrupted with a healthy dose of gospel ministry to correct the toxicity, the church becomes a “pastor-killing” church and each successive pastor becomes the latest casualty of the church’s unhealthy environment.
My old friend Chris Creech (it’s an inside joke), with the skills of a professor of theology and of a spiritual heart-surgeon, diagnoses several contributions (and there are many!) to unhealthy churches. Most importantly, Chris offers the cure in this book. Like any good doctor, he’ll be straight with what you need to know and give you the Rx before your life and ministry hit a critical stage of toxicity – stage four systems failure. Read it for your church or ministry health and see if the cure is right for you.
Robert R. Buchanan D. Min., Associate Pastor for Spiritual Formation, Cornerstone Church, Uxbridge, MA