Roger Olson recently wrote about the different behaviors that he thinks should cause someone to run from a congregation. I think this is a great conversation to have.
So here are my suggestions for “behaviors that should cause people to RUN from a congregation EVEN IF it is perfectly orthodox doctrinally and even though its reputation is evangelical”:
- Condoning (including covering up) sexual abuse or sexual immorality of leaders within itself.
- Silencing honest and constructive dissent.
- Treating leaders as above normal ethical standards, above questioning.
- Implying that “true Christianity” belongs to it alone or churches in its network.
- Using intense methods of “discipleship training” that involve abuse of persons–including, but not limited to, teaching them they must absolutely lose their own individuality and sense of personal identity in order to become part of an “army” (or whatever) of Christ and using methods of sensory deprivation, brainwashing and/or abject obedience to human authority.
- Teaching (often by strong implication) that without the church, especially without the leaders, members lose their spiritual connection to God. (This happens in many, often subtle, ways. For example a church may claim that its “vision” of the kingdom of God is unique and to depart from it is to depart from God’s kingdom, etc.).
- Simply closing itself off from all outside criticism or accountability by implying to its members that the “whole world” outside the church is evil.
- Falling into magical, superstitious beliefs and practices such as “spiritual warfare” with an emphasis on destroying all of a certain kind of object because objects “shaped like that” are often inhabited by demons. (A few years ago some churches were teaching people that if they were having marital problems it was probably because they had owl-shaped objects in their homes. I was told by members of a church that having books about world religions or cults in my library would corrupt my spiritual life. A church held bonfires to burn records and books considered unholy. Etc., etc., etc.).
- The pastor literally owning the church lock, stock and barrel.
Would you add anything?