Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. for whatever a man sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6:6-9)

Not all churches are unhealthy. Many are vibrant, healthy displays of God’s grace working among people. All churches have some problems because all churches are made up of imperfect people, but the healthy ones are intentionally seeking to follow Christ as he leads them by his Spirit. They are conscious of their weaknesses but have committed themselves to obey and follow Christ.

Healthy churches are led by spiritual people who desire the will of God more than anything else. They are generous, faithful, sincere, gracious, patient, wise, loving, committed, biblical, and knowledgeable about the Bible. Christ is being formed in them (Gal. 4:19). Their goal is the glory of God and they have put aside their own desire to control and dominate others. They are humble and they die daily to their own egos and selfish plans and desires, and live in the reality of the Spirit of God.

Why do some churches miss it? But sadly, not all churches are healthy. Why not? How is it that they missed the way? How is it that they have stifled the work of the Spirit? There can be many reasons on the surface why this is so, but I want to address those deeper problems, because I think that is where the true root of unhealthy churches lies. Here are just a few of the main reasons that churches are unhealthy.

They accept spiritually immature leadership: They have no one who is spiritual enough to truly lead them in the right direction and in the right attitude. Or perhaps they have spiritually qualified leaders among them, but they select instead compromised people who have major problems in their lives. Their leaders have major areas of their lives where they have compromised their Christian witness and testimony.

The common trait of the spiritually immature is that they have rejected the standard of God because they deemed it too costly. They do not get up in the morning and read the Bible and pray because they are too lazy. Their lives are filled with inconsistencies. They do not tithe. They do not pray. They do not witness. They judge, criticize, and gossip about others. Yet they think they should be in charge of leading the church, and the church has let them. They are proud and arrogant, not humble. They seek to be served, not to serve. They are offended when questioned, and do not teach the truth with love, graciousness, and patience.

They do not know how to lead people to be more Christ-like because they themselves are not daily following Christ. They have quenched the Spirit in their own lives. They have allowed significant strongholds of Satan to exist in their lives, and they think this is acceptable. They are either too proud to admit their immaturity, or too blind spiritually to be aware of it, or perhaps a combination of both. Yet somehow they have come into power in the local church.

How will they lead? They will not lead like Jesus. They will lead the wrong direction and by the wrong methods. They will use worldly methods, not God’s methods.

They seek the shortcuts of unbelief rather than the narrow ways of faith: Immature Christians lack faith in God, so they will be stingy in their giving and not generous. They do not trust God to provide for them and they will falsely take too much credit for their own possessions. They will think that the cheapest preacher is the best preacher, the cheapest church program is the best program. They do so not by logic – would you want to be operated on in a hospital that boasted “We have the cheapest doctors in the city!”? They do it because they lack faith and commitment.

They mind the things of men not the things of God: It is a trait of unhealthy churches that the roles are somehow reversed, that the ones with the least biblical knowledge are constantly questioning the the leaders of the church. They are more concerned with setting a pleasing example to the world than maintaining the standard of God.

But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matt. 16:23)

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
(1 Cor. 2:14)

If a church wants to be a worldly church all it needs to do is to simply to complain about every spiritual standard, compromise themselves with selecting worldly leadership, and to ignore all of the urgings of the Spirit to repent and follow Christ.

It should be noted that this standard is often taken up with the excuse that they do not want to appear to be unbending, unkind, or inconsiderate to others. We are commanded to teach the truth in love, and we must do that, but it must be the truth we teach. Where the truth is suppressed and the standards of Christ are deliberately ignored, then the truth is not being presented. Neither love nor the truth should be watered down. A church that does not teach the truth well will not love well either.

A sermon on the Prodigal Son was entitled “How to Ruin Your Life.” The sermon went on to explain to ruin your life all you needed to do was: (1) reject the love of those who truly care for you; (2) spurn the best advice you have ever received; (3) spend energy and resources like the day of reckoning will never come; (4) associate with people as shallow as you are; and (5) get prepared to live with the pigs.

A sermon on the Prodigal Church could make similar points: (1) reject the leadership of the Spirit; (2) ignore the biblical standards of holiness; (3) forget that judgment begins in the house of the Lord; (4) find “Christians” who are shallow and uncommitted; and (5) prepare to exist without the blessings of the Lord.

No church needs to be a prodigal church. People can repent and return to Christ. Christ said: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Rev. 3:19-20). That is the remedy to an unhealthy church.

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