5 Markers of an Unhealthy Church

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.

6 Responses

  1. overton says:

    Please throw away that NIV translation, it’s an abomination. One that only contributes towards greater confusion, exceptionalism, and negation. Poor Paul truly suffers gross indignities throughout its pages. Conservatives crave an existence defined in absolutes, however, deeper reflection upon scripture tends to belie such notions. Traditionally, I Corinthians 13:1 begins with the word ‘though’; a conditional expression that is inclusive of one, or perhaps many, conditions. ‘If’ is a conditional word of Boolean absolutes; something either is or is not. Subtle points, however, I believe the cumulative effect of many similar translational adjustments results in a potential for drastic deviation of initial premises. That is to say, the core foundational concepts upon which we build our Faith—is it to be one of inclusion, universal acceptance and forgiveness, or rather, one of exclusion, condemnation and judgement?

    By which criteria shall we choose to define the ‘healthy church’? If nothing else, ought not the text be consistent with the message of the faith? So, where do you stand?

    • I really only cited the NIV here because that’s the default on Bible Gateway. I don’t have the hatred for it that you do, but I don’t have any particular love for it either. I don’t have a deep training in the Greek but I know that prepositions are typically the hardest to translate because there are a lot of things which are valid to the original word. Not sure I ever read into the use of “if” at all, though – doesn’t mean you don’t have a point, I’d just never thought to conclude from “if” that there are only two absolutist options.

      To me, “healthy church” primarily means “church that looks like Jesus.” I think Stearns’ five markers of unhealthy churches are all examples of ways that large portions of the Western Church have stopped looking like Jesus.

      • overton says:

        It’s not a matter of hatred. I do have objections derived from rational concern.
        Subtle, seemingly innocuous changes can radically alter or negate meaning.
        By way of example, let’s contrast a brief passage from Micah 4:
        “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and
        no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.
        All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we will walk in the
        name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” — Micah 4:4-5 NIV

        “But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.
        For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” –Micah 4:4-5 King James

        The choice of conjunctions, ‘but’ & ‘and’, in the middle verse 5 illustrate the point.
        ‘, but we will walk…’ makes the passage one of separation and exclusion–a class of people set apart.

        ‘, and we will walk…’ makes the passage one of unity and inclusion–a condition of coexistence
        So, which text ought we choose? Which best conveys the Faith of the living Christ as we perceive it?

        In some ways, this dilemma was touched upon in the Femonite’s recent blog entry, ‘Evangelical?..’
        I found the following from her post most poignant:
        “Truly embracing interreligious life together would mean holding tight to
        my own convictions, and speaking about them widely, while also being
        willing to hear others speak about their own beliefs. It meant that,
        when I spoke, I could still be convincing without expecting conversion.
        We could all still sow small seeds of belief among each other, gleaning
        hope and wisdom from each other’s traditions.”
        [ http://www.femonite.com/2013/08/25/evangelical-what-who-me-huh/ ]

        It speaks of a faith that is secure and respectful, one that embraces and
        invites. Of the two translations above, which best addresses that

        In summation, I am concerned that the NIV, and other translations of its
        ilk, serve more to impede rather than promote Christ’s messages of Faith.

        We are all children of God, Peace to you.


        “Prove All Things, Hold Fast That Which Is Good”

        • Sorry for the unnecessarily strong word “hatred.” I did not mean to imply that you did not have your reasons.

          I see what you mean. Contrary to what some would claim, translation always requires interpretation, and there are a wide range of interpretive philosophies as well as a wide range of biases. I recall from both Greek and Hebrew that but/and are the same word, so it does come down largely to interpretation on which to use. I’m not sure your example is the best one – I see the wording as offering clear distinction but not necessarily exclusivity or judgement either way – but I agree with your point.

          Since you seem to be very knowledgeable about translations, may I ask: what is your preferred translation?

          • overton says:

            Of those on-line versions available on Bible Gateway, my preference tends to favor the American Standard (ASV), the King James (KJV), and the Authorized King James (AKJV). It is interesting, too, as
            a matter of curiosity cross-referencing the 1599 Geneva (GNV) available on that web site.
            Bible Hub offers the Webster’s Bible Translation. Their site seems easier to
            negotiate. The parallel translation interface offered there includes the Aramaic Bible in Plain English.

            I must have a soft spot for those translations more directly connected to the Peshitta for it seems the one version I consult the most in the actual world would have to be the Holy Bible
            From the Ancient Eastern Text, George M. Lamsa’s Translation from the Aramaic of the Peshitta.

          • overton says:

            One is reminded of Hebrews 5:13-14. From milk we graduate to strong meat.