Excerpt from Exposing Spiritual Abuse: How to rediscover God's love when the church has let you down by Mike Fehlauer
If you have been abused in one church, it would be a very easy thing to isolate yourself from a local body for fear of being hurt again...
Allow me to make a statement that might help you be willing to take the risk of being a part of a healthy local church: I believe a healthy church is off track about 80 percent of the time. That may initially seem like a bizarre statement. You may ask, "Mike, if a healthy church is indeed off track about 80 percent of the time, then what makes it healthy?"
Allow me to explain further. A healthy church knows when it is off track and is willing to make the necessary course corrections to get "back on track" fulfilling its purpose and mission. Therefore, as soon as it realizes that it needs to make a course correction, it does so. Making those necessary corrections 80 percent of the time equals a healthy church--but failing to make course corrections can lead quickly to an unhealthy church environment.
There are far more healthy churches out there than there are unhealthy churches. There are churches allover this country that are led by honest pastors who love God with all their hearts. In my travels I have been encouraged to see that most pastors simply want to build God's kingdom, love the people and lead them to a strong relationship with Jesus. Unfortunately, the pastors who have had ulterior motives have left thousands of wounded believers in the wake of their steamboat ambitions.
You may be one of those. I want you to know that Jesus is still anointed to heal the brokenhearted. I pray that these words of the prophet Jeremiah bring you hope and comfort:
"I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking," says the Lord. --Jeremiah 23:4
For further reading, Mr. Fehlauer's book, Exposing Spiritual Abuse: How to rediscover God's love when the church has let you down, has a chapter on "Toxic Love," about the excessive devotion of people looking for a father-figure, and two good chapters on positive and negative characteristics to look for in a pastor. Also see Dave Sable's article, A Healthy Assembly Afterlife.