Toxic or Healthy

We have all heard the saying: “You are what you eat.” This is also true: “You are what you breathe.” One’s health is determined by what the body takes in. Whether a home, a place of work, or any place you gather, it is important to be aware of the air quality. If you are thinking about your own home, you can make it a practice to regularly check the air quality. You can get the ducts cleaned every year, you can wash furnace filters periodically, and you can clean the screens on the outside windows.

When it comes to air quality in churches, then that is a slightly different situation. How often is there a plan in place for the building maintenance to check on the air quality in places of worship? The old saying is: “More people fall asleep in church due to poor air quality than to poor preaching!” With many people gathering weekly, there may be maintenance issues that need to be tightened up in order for the air quality in public gatherings to be checked, monitored, and improved.

How much more would that apply to the spiritual atmosphere in certain places of worship? Many Christians attend churches that have moderate to high toxicity levels. Though certain church cultures have an appeal for people to be involved in the beginning, often over time, there is an awareness that something doesn’t seem right. Maybe the spiritual air quality is what you are noticing.

If this describes your situation, what can you do about it? The first thing is to recognize what you are sensing. Do not simply brush these feelings aside. Learn to pay attention to your gut feelings and ponder what you are sensing. Ask the Lord for his wisdom in all of this and check with others.

Are you concerned about how certain issues are handled by leadership? Has it come to your attention that a number of people have left over the past while, but nothing much is said about it? No one will talk about it and the details are just not available. You are alarmed and concerned about certain leadership actions.

Maybe you or your spouse have experienced some harsh treatment by the pastor and/or the church board and are at a loss to understand why they reacted in such a damaging way. You are uneasy about what you now are feeling about your church fellowship. You wonder if you still fit in this church.

When churches emphasize performance, appearance, and ‘doing’ rather than love and acceptance the way that Jesus taught, then the spiritual health of a group is something to question and discern. When being is not enough and doing takes precedence, then the spiritual focus becomes blurred. It may be difficult to initially tell if a church is a healing church or a wounding church, but time usually exposes some ‘airborne poisons’ and your senses are exercised to recognize them. Churches that put organizational success ahead of the needs of the members can slide into being toxic.

You need to ask yourself: What is the main emphasis of my church? How is my church treating its members?

What may be happening is that you are reacting to toxicity levels in the spiritual atmosphere. Your unease is telling you something. Your discontent is now beckoning your consideration. The Christian life is a relationship with God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Walking with God because of Jesus has no humanly imposed boundaries with it.

Anything that prevents a healthy loving relationship with the Heavenly Father or with brothers and sisters in Christ, prevents healthy spiritual growth. What your soul needs most is God in the center of your life. Your primary accountability is to Him.

Learning more about spiritual abuse can help you determine if this is what you are dealing with and help you to decide what you should do about it. Though it may be very difficult to leave your church, it comes down to how toxic it may be to your spiritual health.

Sometimes the best and only thing that you can do is to vote with your feet–and leave. The Spirit of Christ will guide you and you will sense his love and care through this difficult step.

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© 2012 Barb Orlowski, D.Min.