The Ark

Toxic Churches - Book Review

Sat November 5th, 2005

Although it is sad to admit there is such a thing as spiritual abuse, this book explores aspects of this phenomenon in the church. The author, Marc Dupont, is part of the leadership team at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship and has travelled the world in a ministry capacity.
The book starts with the crux of the matter, asking "Why do abusive churches exist?" and is extremely open and balanced in its handling of the question. The book is worthwhile purely for this first chapter- because it actually answers the questions it asks! Without being sensational or making excuse, the author takes us through a Biblical parallel and helps us see how through the failure of character, church leaders can abuse their sheep.
Whereas it is clear that the author is not trying to make you question the church you are part of, he does offer a series of tests that you can ask yourself to assess whether the fellowship you are in has the propensity for control. The tendency to discourage relationships with Christians in other churches, little statements that tend to undermine other churches or leaders, the inference that people who leave the church should be cut off and the vilification of 'leavers' are all signs that something may be wrong.
He observes that "the chief reason that many Christians in an abusive church wait such a long time to leave", is that they say " can negative thoughts about that leader be correct when there is such a wonderful anointing?" He also shows how those abusive leaders are "not really ministering out of a shepherd's heart".
Whilst condemning rebellion, Marc helps bring a balance to a view of God's kingdom that says the state of the sheep is vital, and that leaders must be able to serve before they can lead – and not stop serving.
A helpful and timely book on a subject we all wish we didn't need help with.
Toxic Churches is published by Chosen ISBN 0-8007-9362-5
You can buy this book from Eden.