5 Dangerous Church Cultures You Should Know About – Victoria Riollano

5 Dangerous Church Cultures You Should Know About – Victoria Riollano

The word “church” may bring up many emotions, thoughts, and ideas for different people. With so many different denominations and church styles, it is easy to wonder what kind of church closest represents God’s vision. In my own life, as a pastor’s wife, I often hear of those who question the purpose of church and even express the hurts they have experience. In it all, there appears to specific aspects of church culture that can cause great distress if not addressed.

Though we cannot fix every church, we can be aware of potential warning signs and cultures that may cause us more damage in the long run. In other words, not all churches are created the same and we have to do our due diligence to research the churches we choose to be a part of.

With this in mind, here are 5 dangerous cultures you should know about.

The word “church” may bring up many emotions, thoughts, and ideas for different people. With so many different denominations and church styles, it is easy to wonder what kind of church closest represents God’s vision. In my own life, as a pastor’s wife, I often hear of those who question the purpose of church and even express the hurts they have experience. In it all, there appears to specific aspects of church culture that can cause great distress if not addressed.

Though we cannot fix every church, we can be aware of potential warning signs and cultures that may cause us more damage in the long run. In other words, not all churches are created the same and we have to do our due diligence to research the churches we choose to be a part of.

With this in mind, here are 5 dangerous cultures you should know about.

1. The Exclusive Church

Church should be a family. Even more so, church should reflect a family always ready to invite a new member in. In the book, When The Church Was Family, Hellerman discusses the depth of community surrounding the early church. Hellerman shares the idea that the word “brother” was not to be taken lightly during the time Jesus walked the earth. In fact, to be a brother was the deepest bond one could have. In other words, when Jesus saw His disciples, he saw them as more than friends, they were a family.

The Lord calls us to do the same when it comes to His church. Yet, time and time again, experts hear that a central reason many do not attend a church is because they did not feel welcome. Some feel immediately judged or simply can’t find a way to be a part of the larger group. Rather than taking the family approach, many churches see those who are new as “outsiders.”

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The exclusive church culture is very dangerous because it rejects the new believer and anyone else the in-crowd of the church has deemed as “unworthy.” This can be due to race, socioeconomic status, talent, age, or personality. Whatever the case may be, the exclusive church can make the newcomer feel as if they don’t belong within the local church and within the Body of Christ. Remembering that each local church serves as representatives of Christ, we must be careful to not be a part of ministries that spend more time pushing people out than bringing them in.

Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)

2. The Controlling Church

Churches that operate by control and manipulation can cause great damage to members. Within this culture, leadership tend to have a disdain for the members. Regarding themselves as much more spiritual, they place an expectation that the life of each member should be condoned by them first. Failure to comply in any manner can lead to public shame, removal from positions, and arranging meetings to address their lack of submission. This culture places more focus on submitting to the leadership than submitting to the will of God. The danger in this is that anyone who does not fall in line completely will likely leave the church over time and believe that all churches operate in this manner.

Here are a few clues that you may be involved in a controlling church culture:

  • Church shames those who do not comply 100%.
  • Leadership requires much of your personal life to be approved by them.
  • Pastor refuses to delegate responsibilities.
  • Pastor preaches messages about specific members from the pulpit.
  • Leadership refuses to receive input from others.

3. The Surface-Level Church

Over the last decade, there has been an urgency to make churches more “seeker-friendly.” The idea of this method of church is to create an environment where those seeking Jesus can come and feel comfortable. From ensuring the service is short to the songs chosen, the experience is catered to making the service attractable. As a church planter of Enlighten Church, alongside my husband, I can attest there is great value in creating a Sunday morning service that’s welcoming, current, and operates in excellence. However, often the focus of the service can become the production versus sharing the message of Jesus.

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One major aspect of the seeker-friendly method is to only teach messages that are brief and surface level. It is believed that going too much deeper could offend and push the seeker away from Christ. So, in many scenarios, Christians who want to learn deeper revelation about God are unable to learn more within the church setting. A potential danger is that those who are mature in Christ will often find that church is no longer relevant for them. In my personal life, I have seen that those who attend surface level churches often need to attend other churches and events to feel spiritually “filled-up.” They easily find themselves feeling dried up and wondering if God is still speaking to them.

Though the surface church avoids messages that may bring conviction, Jesus did not shy away from topics that were uncomfortable. In fact, he would directly address sin, greed, misunderstandings about the word of God, and lack of faith. Jesus was not afraid to present a challenge and encourage deeper conversation. Though He did this, He did it with love and through the perspective of grace.  Churches that choose surface-level message are not so much dangerous as they are a place where spiritual growth can become stagnant. If you find that you have been a part of a ministry for years and you don’t see spiritual growth, you may be part of a surface-level congregation.

4. The Legalistic Church

The legalistic church is founded around many rules. Adhering to the rules becomes more important than having a deeper relationship with God. In fact, those who do not conform to behaving, dressing, or carrying themselves in a specific way are deemed as unholy. In this way, the church is able to control and manipulate the members, as discussed earlier. This church culture prides itself in being the only right way church is done. In doing so, those who do not comply are seen as backsliders and are judged accordingly.

The danger of this culture is that it requires our relationship with God to be solely based on works. How we dress, fix our hair, or behave becomes associated with our level of holiness. In doing so, religion and rituals are more important than developing a deeper relationship with Jesus. In other words, a legalistic church chooses to focus on helping everyone follow a standard of behavior vs addressing the heart issues. Just as with the controlling church, people often leave legalistic churches assuming they could never be “good enough” to fit in.

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5. The Compromising Church

In an effort to be relevant, many churches have become compromising. This goes beyond the style of the church. Whether the church is seeker-friendly, does expository teaching, or just sings hymns take second place to allowing God’s Word to be the foundation. The truth is, God can move in Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, or any other denomination. The issues rise instead when the heart of a church is misplaced. They may have begun to conform to society instead of teaching uncomfortable—but ultimately life-giving—truth. However, as the church, we should be transforming our communities, and not the other way around.

One of the dangers of the compromising church is that it fails to stir conviction and presumes that God’s grace is a permission to sin. As I heard one pastor say, “God is love but He is required to respond to sin.”

By not confronting sin when the Lord leads, churches run the risk of leading people further away from Christ instead of closer. Each church should take a moment to examine whether they have allowed culture to influence them so much that they may be leading people astray.

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3)

Victoria Riollano is an author, blogger, and speaker. As a mother of six, military spouse, Psychology professor and minister’s wife, Victoria has learned the art of balancing family and accomplishing God’s ultimate purpose for her life. Recently, Victoria released her book, The Victory Walk: A 21 Day Devotional on Living A Victorious Life.  Her ultimate desire is to empower women to live a life of victory, hope, and love. She believes that with Christ we can live a life that is ALWAYS winning. You can learn more about her ministry at victoryspeaks.org.

Source: iBelieve

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