When Toxic People Leave the Church
I have been working with church leaders for three decades on the issue of toxicity in the church. Toxic church members grieve the Holy Spirit with “bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander” (Ephesians 4:30-31). They are gossipers, naysayers, bullies, and generally negative people. You can count on them to gossip, spread rumors, and disrupt the unity of the church.
They are the opposite of what God commanded of church members: “And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:32).
Pastors and other church leaders are often hesitant to deal with toxicity in the church. I get it. It’s just more conflict, confrontation, and possible loss of members.
But here is the hard reality: the congregation will not move forward with toxic church members.
I will save the discussion for later on how to deal with toxicity in the church. For now, let’s look at what happens in a church when toxic members leave. Essentially, for the church, it becomes short and mid-term pain for longer-term gain.
1. Stage One: Exodus. The church will definitely lose members. After all, it has already lost the toxic members. And it is more common than not for the toxic members to have a following of other members. They will likely leave too. Some of the followers are toxic themselves; others simply have not heard the full story.
2. Stage Two: Questioning. The majority of church members typically are unaware of the conflict and strife caused by toxic members. So, when there is a point of confrontation and exodus of members, the quiet majority doesn’t fully comprehend what is taking place. Some are dealing with shock and grief; others simply have questions.
3. Stage Three: Lull. During this stage, the congregation continues to deal with the shock of the conflict and departure. The members begin to feel a new reality in the church, and it will take them a while to adjust to it. I sometimes call this stage “adjustment apathy.” The good news is this stage is most often short-term.
4. Stage Four: Healing. The toxicity is gone. Relationships begin to heal. Trust grows. Church leaders and members now have greater emotional resources to focus on others and to focus on their community.
5. Stage Five: Recovery. The good news about this stage is that the period of recovery is usually a time of great opportunity for the church. I worked with a pastor in a church where the attendance dropped from (in round numbers) 400 to 300 as the church moved into stage one. But, by the time the congregation reached stage five, attendance was over 500. While numbers are not the ultimate measure for church health, they were indicative of a greater focus on the Great Commission and the community the church served.
Toxic church members were present in first-century churches. They are still present in twenty-first century churches. They are painful realities for pastors and other church leaders. Such is the bad news.
But the good news is what takes place when toxicity leaves the church. After a painful initial reaction, congregations often rebound and are healthier than they have been for a long time.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on July 30. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer
- Aretha Franklin’s funeral venue announced
- Chinese Christians told to take down the cross, replace it with picture of President
- Willow Creek paid $3.25M to settle lawsuits over child sex abuse by church volunteer
- In Scotland, pro-life group set to appeal DIY abortions ruling
- Bus adverts promoting Franklin Graham’s UK event axed after Facebook outcry
Does the Catholic Church Have a Homosexual Problem?
Due to the sensitive nature of this article, it’s important that I make some preliminary statements. There will be enough controversy if my words...
When we are open-minded to the point of stupidity
I caught up with a beautiful friend and soon-to-be-Mummy of 3. As a Mum of 4 children myself (ranging from 14months through to 14 years), I am often...
California Christians, Prepare for Civil Disobedience
As California appears poised to pass a draconian bill that directly attacks your religious freedoms, it’s time for you to draw a line in the sand....
Queen of Soul and Gospel Great Aretha Franklin Dies
Aretha Franklin, the teenage gospel singer who rose to become the Queen of Soul, selling 75 million records and inspiring generations, has...
It took 1000 coffees, but you've ﬁnished your book...
So where to now?
That's where we come in.
We have a team of publishing professionals ready to help you bring your book from your laptop to the world.
We offer cover design, typeset, eBook conversion, and competitive print prices. Oh and you'll also be on Amazon and thousands of websites worldwide.
Let us help you take the next step.LEARN MORE