By Mike Fehlauer
1. Power positioning
There is certainly a place for biblical teaching on spiritual authority. But if a pastor preaches on this subject every Sunday, constantly reminding everyone that he is in charge, you can be sure that trouble is around the corner. In an unhealthy church, the pastor actually begins to take the place of Jesus in our lives.
2. An atmosphere of secrecy
When a church member surrenders to a system of control, the leader gives limited information to each individual, carefully monitoring each relationship. As a result, each member is only able to relate to other members based on the information he receives from the leader.
This way, if the pastor or church staff determines that one of the members has become a “threat,” they have a strategy in place to maintain the control they believe is required. Consequently the church can sever relationships when necessary and keep this process cloaked behind a veil of secrecy.
3. An elitist attitude
This deadly trait produces an “us and them” mentality. This is the church that believes no one is really preaching the gospel but them. Or at least, no one is preaching it as effectively as they are!
An elitist spirit discourages church members from visiting other churches or receiving counsel from anyone who doesn’t attend their church. If anyone visits another church, he is viewed as a dissident.
“Everything you need can be found within the framework of our group,” this spirit says, adding, “Everything you need to know, you will receive from the pastor and his teachings.” Consequently there is little respect, if any, for other denominations.
4. Performance emphasis
Opportunities to minister are abundant in most churches. Yet in a controlling church, these areas of ministry are no longer opportunities to serve. They become necessary in order to prove one’s commitment to the organisation. Whether it’s faithful attendance to worship services or working in some department, loyalty becomes the key.
Obviously church attendance is vital to our spiritual growth. But if we find ourselves attending church so we can win favor with the pastor or to earn his trust, then we have missed the point.
5. Fear motivation
When a pastor tells his congregation that those who leave his church or disobey his authority are in danger of God’s wrath, you can be sure this man is operating in a spirit of control. He is attempting to use fear as a carnal means of keeping people in his church.
The line usually goes like this: “If you leave our church, the blessing of God will be lifted from your life, and you will miss God’s will.” Another version says, “If you leave our church, you will be in rebellion, and Satan will be free to bring havoc into your life.”
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