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12 warning signs you may be attending a legalistic church

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

This is a fun little post about a pretty serious subject. Rule-obsessed churches stifle the joy of Jesus in our souls by promoting legalism disguised as holiness. But instead of getting the full surrender to Christ they want, they get external compliance and inner misery instead. 

The grace of God produces a joy-filled obedience that erupts from gratefulness to God and not a man-made list. For more on this check out my post How to Spot a Legalist. In the meantime enjoy my (mostly) tongue-in-cheek post about legalistic churches. Through constant vigilance and moment-by-moment dependence on the Holy Spirit let us guard our own hearts from the lure of the flesh that legalism can trigger within us (Colossians 2:20-3:5.)

Without further adieu, here are the 12 signs you may be attending a legalistic church:


1.  The greeting team looks like they’ve been baptized in lemon juice.

2.  There’s a sign above the church that reads, “Abandon hope all ye who enter.”

3.  If the pastor ever met The Apostle Paul he would start by rebuking him for not using The King James Version of the Bible.

4.  Every Gospel invitation ends with “…and now for the bad news….”

5.  Skinny jeans are considered to be part of a Satanic plot to slow us down when we try to run from his temptations.

6.  You would never be caught dead joining with other Christians in a city-wide, multi-church outreach (like Dare 2 Share Live) because some of the participating churches could be those “liberals” who allow guitars in church and let their worship leaders have tattoos. 

7.  Before you can be a member at their church, there is a day long inquisition… followed by a potluck.

8.  To get hired as a custodian you have to have a seminary degree, two years of ministry experience and be willing to mop in a 3 piece suit.

9.  The contemporary service uses a pipe organ (okay, maybe that’s not legalistic, just grossly and culturally “out of tune.”)

10. Taking the youth group swimming includes separate swimming pools and wet suits for everyone, loose ones, covered by T-Shirts, dark ones.

11. Like Lego Batman’s 9th ab, the Sr. Pastor has added another dispensation of his own.

12.  When you go to church there it feels like someone took the “fun” out of fundamentalist.

What are some other signs you could be at a legalistic church?

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