Twelve Spark Phrases that Signal Trouble in the Church

Recently I came across this list on an e-mail group of which I am a part (The Woodchuck’s Den – which I find to be a daily encouragement/challenge.  You can join it by sending Dr. Wood and e-mail at  It was attributed to Chuck Lawless and I thought it was worth sharing.  If you’ve caught yourself using one of these phrases in church, its a sign that something is not right and you need to examine your heart.

1. “Let’s meet without him (or her).” Such a statement suggests secrecy that is seldom appropriate— and that often leads to division.

2. “We were here before you came.” The rest of the statement is understood: “and we’ll be here when you’re gone.” The implication is that some group will outlast the leader.

3. “Now, don’t tell anyone …” When you hear these words, it’s usually best to halt the conversation there. What follows is gossip, sometimes deceitfully cloaked as a prayer request.

4. “I don’t know everybody anymore.” It’s an honest response to a church’s growth, but it’s also an ominous hint that somebody thinks no more growth is needed.

5. “We’ll just designate – or withhold – our funds.” Sure, they’re still giving to the church, but they’re designating funds around something they don’t like. They’re trying to make a point that often has nothing to do with dollars.

6. “But if we confront him (or her) …” The apparent need to confront indicates some issue in the church, and the fear to confront suggests the church might tolerate sin. Both sparks signal a problem.

7. “I’ll just stop singing.” This one amazes me, frankly. It’s a response from folks who don’t like the music—and it’s evidence they think worship is more about them than about God.

8. “Where’s my constitution and by-laws?” The only people who ask this question are those who are trying to prove a point. Even when their point is valid, their approach is often contentious.

9. “You can’t tell me what to believe.” This statement is true in some sense, but the church has a right to—and, in fact, must—expect members to stand on the Word of God. Forming Christian doctrine is not intended to be an individual sport.

10. “Pastor, I’m not prejudiced, but …” The disclaimer itself betrays the reality: Somebody in the church doesn’t like the church reaching others who look different. That’s sin.
11. “We’ve never done it that way.” This statement is usually more than an assessment; it’s a challenge to a new approach.

12. “God told me.” I do believe God speaks to us through His Word, His Spirit and His people, but too often these three words precede some wrongly focused personal agenda. It’s dangerous to use God that way.”


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