..I’ve never found a perfect church in all my travels—and it certainly wouldn’t be perfect if I joined it. But there are some churches that deserve to be called unhealthy. While I believe we shouldn’t give up on a church too fast, there are some warning signs that should cause you to stop and ask if you’d be better off finding better pasture.
1. No accountability. There is safety in the multitude of counselors (see Prov. 11:14). There is much less safety—perhaps even danger—when a leader does not bother to seek counsel from a diverse group of his peers, as well as from gray-haired men and women who have the wisdom that comes with experience. If a pastor or church leader isn't open to correction or financial oversight, he is headed for a train wreck. If you stay in that church, you may crash with him.
2. Spiritual elitism. Healthy leaders love the entire body of Christ. Beware of any church that claims “exclusive” revelation or suggests they are superior to other Christians. This is how cults start. There is a large charismatic church in Hungary that began in revival, but the founder began teaching that their church was the only place people could truly be saved. If a pastor ever makes such claims it is time to shake the dust off your feet and move on.
3. Entrenched immorality. The apostle Paul commanded leaders to enforce biblical discipline. This must be handled with gentleness (see Gal. 6:1) but nevertheless with firm resolve, because the enemy wants to infiltrate the church with moral compromise. If a pastor has been involved in adultery or perversion and continues preaching, meanwhile refusing discipline, his unrepentant spirit will infect the entire congregation—and you can expect to see immorality spread throughout the church. Don’t be defiled.
4. An authoritarian spirit. Some leaders develop a dictatorial style and try to control people through manipulation, threats and legalistic demands. I’m amazed at how much spiritual abuse is tolerated in churches today. No pastor is perfect, and we are called to be patient with each other’s faults. But if a church leader is verbally abusive toward his staff or members of his congregation, he is in direct violation of Scripture. The Apostle Paul taught that church leaders should not be "violent" or "quarrelsome" but "self-controlled" and "gentle" (see 1 Tim. 3:2-3). It’s best to find another pastor if yours cannot control his anger.