Help for Unhealthy Churches Looking for a Pastor

Dr. Matt Sanders
Executive Pastor, Beth-El Fellowship

The search for a new pastor should begin with churches examining themselves. But how can an unhealthy church take an honest look at itself. People at most risk are those who think they are healthy when they are not. Whatever information they are looking at is interpreted as “No problems here” or even worse “I look good.” The same is true for churches.

I am a pretty healthy guy. I exercise regularly, eat healthy food as much as possible, and try not to over-indulge the bad food. Here’s what I have learned over the years. Healthy people never assume that they are healthy. They do not base their health on how they look, how they feel, or what they are doing or not doing. Instead, healthy people get regular check ups.

All churches need regular check ups whether they think they are healthy or not. This is difficult to do, because there are no “church doctors” to give check ups. While some associational and denominational groups provide consulting help for churches, most churches will have to rely on self examination. How then can unhealthy churches realize their problems?

  • Churches should regularly examine who they are in light of Scripture. Is the church united as the Father is one with the Son? Is the church marked by God’s love? Is it meeting the needs of its members? Is it reaching out to its community with the gospel?
    Churches should have at least one independent, qualified voice to participate in the examination.

Understand that there is a risk involved when engaging a church in self assessment, especially an unhealthy one. Honesty in dysfunctional relationships always leads to painful revelations, but it is only by “speaking the truth in love” that unhealthy churches have any hope of becoming healthy. Once the truth is revealed, the work has just begun, but at least it can begin.

When unhealthy churches hire new pastors, three things typically happen. The wrong pastor is hired. The right pastor is hired, but he cannot deal with the dysfunction. The right pastor is hired, and he changes the dynamics of the church so that it becomes healthier. The first two are bad. The third is unlikely.

That is why it is so important for the healthy Christians in an unhealthy church do as much as possible to get the church to self assess with the help of an independent voice.