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Healthy Church or Unhealthy Church?

By Rebecca Hanson*

Number 196

No church is completely healthy nor totally unhealthy, but most lie somewhere along a continuum. Some churches lie very close to the cult end while others are somewhere in between. The way to tell if a church is healthy or unhealthy is to examine the INTERPERSONAL relationships that are actually occurring. Most issues involving interpersonal relationships fall into one or two of the following categories: COMMUNICATION, CARE and/or CONTROL.
Here is a "thumbnail" comparison of ten Healthy vs. Unhealthy practices which will help you identify the "3 C's"--Communication, Care and Control:
Healthy Churches
1.Group identity and true motives are revealed.--communication--open and honest, nothing to hide.
2. Visitors are genuinely made to feel welcome and included--caring, supportive, inclusive.
3. Potential members are free to decide which meetings and activities to attend--(Non)controlling, allows differences of priorities.
4. Communication is reciprocal--communication--open and equal.
5. Leaders and members are easily available and candid when YOU want to talk.--(non)controlling, considerate of others, values your time more than his.
6. You have a sense of "freedom" and "affirmation" when you leave the meetings.--(non)controlling, enhancing others, releases others to be themselves.
7. Your personal boundaries are important and respected--caring, respectful.
8. You have the right to question beliefs, practices and motives.--communication is encouraged, not threatened, willing to admit faults or wrongs, (non)controlling.
9. You have a right to ask MORE questions if not satisfied with initial answers.--nothing to hide, willing to be closely examined, high integrity, (non)controlling.
10. You have complete freedom to EXIT the church if you are not satisfied.--(non)controlling, doesn't "use" or need to "hang on" to people.
Unhealthy Churches
1. Members are told to withhold certain information from outsiders--communication is blocked, hidden agenda, secret, controlling, deceptive.
2. Newcomers are made to feel so special that they don't dare go elsewhere (without seeming ungrateful).-- overzealous to recruit, prey on vulnerable people, manipulation. Or they are ignored and have to figure out how to be included--exclusiveness.
3. The leaders encourage you to put their meetings and activities before all other commitments. Family, friends and even jobs are expected to be secondary.--control, use of shame or guilt, badgering, ridicule, manipulation.
4. Communication is mostly one-way. (i.e., If you don't initiate it, it doesn't happen.--(non)caring, controlling, wanting to be served rather than serving.
5. The "higher" the positioned leader, the less accessible--doesn't return phone messages promptly, keeps conversation to a minimum. --control, (non)caring, self-seeking.
6. You have a sense of "fear" or "condemnation" or "shame" or "guilt" when you leave the meetings --control, judgmentalism, legalism.
7. "Boundaries" are unheard of and you often feel "violated"--(non)caring, abusive, controlling.
8. They insist on total, unquestioning obedience and submission to the leadership. --control level is more extreme, very dangerous sign.
9. You are singled out or shunned if you persist in "questioning their authority." --control level is very dangerous, get out right away.
10. You fear leaving, because there will be a "price to pay"--labeling, slander, or some form of intimidation.--control level is that of a cult. You will probably need help to get away from them.

* This article is reprinted with permission of the author from Rebecca's Well Website

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