A pastor I’m coaching asked me “Why are there so many dysfunctional, mean-spirited people in the church?” His question is well founded. There are more dysfunctional churches in the U.S. than there are healthy churches. I would guess the percentage of unhealthy churches approaches 60% of all churches. And the smaller the church is, the more likely it is more dysfunctional.

So, why are so many churches dysfunctional?

Before answering that question, I need to make one thing clear. I’ve never seen a totally dysfunctional church. In fact I’ve seldom seen a church with more than two or three of these mean-spirited individuals. You’ve heard the old saying “one rotten apple spoils the barrel?” Well, that is what is happening in our churches. They have one or two people who spread their mean-spirited actions around. They infect their friends and relatives as well as people on the fringe who aren’t part of the inner workings of the church. Before you know it, much of the congregation is upset and some don’t even know why.

Consider this story. Two people want their pastor fired simply because they don’t like him. So they get up a petition by asking everyone in the parking lot after church to sign the petition to have the pastor removed. How do you think that affects people on the fringe who just want to worship and go home? What kind of impression does this leave with first-time visitors? At best it leaves a bad taste; at worst it causes people to look for another church. Conflict always causes a church to decline.

So again, why are so many churches filled with mean-spirited people?

The answer is simple – a lack of leadership over a long period of time. No leader has been willing to stand up to the bully and show them the door. No leader has been willing to execute Matthew 18 and hold them accountable for their actions. And when a leader comes along who is willing to stand up to the bully, no one in the congregation will support him, even though they know the bully is making their lives miserable and destroying the church. All the people want is for everyone to get along.

I hope this doesn’t sound familiar to you. If it does, it’s time to take action and confront the bully before it gets totally out of control.

Question: What can be done to right the wrong of too little leadership (or leadership that is too weak) in a church? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.