How do you recognize abusive leadership? Abusive churches and Christian leaders characteristically: Make dogmatic prescriptions in places where Scripture is silent. Rely on intelligence, humor, charm, guilt, emotions, or threats rather than on God’s Word and prayer (see Acts 6:4). Play favorites. Punish those who disagree. Employ extreme forms of communication (tempers, silent treatment). Recommend courses of action which always, somehow, improves the leader’s own situation, even at the expense of others. Seldom do good deeds in secret. Seldom encourage. Seldom give the benefit of the doubt. Emphasize outward conformity, rather than repentance of heart. Preach, counsel, disciple, and oversee the church with lips that fail to ground everything in what Christ has done in the gospel and to give glory to God.
What Happens When Members Don’t Represent Jesus? by Jonathan Leeman taken from Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman, copyright (2012), Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton Illinois 60187, www.crosswaybooks.org. p. 118-119.
When members leave [the church] for insufficient reason, the fellowship of the church is broken, its witness is weakened, and the peace and unity of the congregation are sacrificed. Tragically, a superficial understanding of church membership undermines our witness to the gospel of Christ.
In the end, the only sufficient reason for separating from a church is theological. A faithful Christian must separate from a congregation or denomination when that body obstinately rejects efforts at doctrinal correction over an issue of true significance.
Here are some things which must be done before one leaves a church:
1. We must check our motives very carefully.
2. Our reasons must be well grounded and clearly articulated.
3. We must be in regular, earnest prayer about the matter.
4. We must guard our tongues very carefully.
5. We must be extremely careful that we do not unnecessarily create unrest in other members.
6. Our discussions with the leadership must be characterized by love.
7. Our attempts to correct matters must be with great respect, care and patience.
8. If our concern is over personal preferences, rather than biblical matters, we must consider others’ interests more important than ours.
9. Great care should be taken that we submit to the leadership of the church, unless we determine with proper counsel that there is a serious biblical issue at stake.
10. If the leadership will listen, we need to give them plenty of time to consider the matter.
11. If the leadership will not listen to us, or will not take proper action to correct the matter and we are thoroughly convinced that there is a serious biblical issue, we should ask for a meeting of the church in which to express our concerns.
12. We should ask ourselves what we have personally done to correct any wrong or deficiency in the church with which we are concerned.
13. We should evaluate if our leaving would do harm to an otherwise good church.
14. We should never leave, nor encourage others to leave, unless we are thoroughly convinced that one or both of the following conditions exist: 1) that the church has become an apostate church (where serious unbiblical teaching or practices are allowed), or 2) that we are convinced that, over the long haul, we cannot find a place to serve in the church, or that our families will not be spiritually fed in that body.
The next time you think about leaving a church, think of the example of Christ. He does not just walk away from His people, but patiently suffers with them through many trials and tribulations, always thinking of their needs before His own.