In a survey of nearly 600 pastors conducted by Texas Tech University, 28 percent said they have been forced out of a previous congregation due to personal attacks or criticism from a small group of members. David Briggs from the Association of Religion Data Archives describes these "factions" within congregations as "clergy killers"—"a small group of members [who] are so disruptive that no pastor is able to maintain spiritual leadership for long."

Such situations are toxic, damaging relationships, even spurring ugly lawsuits. How should a church respond?

Ken Sande, founder of Peacemaker Ministries and an Editorial Advisor for Church Law & Tax Report, says he saw a 2,500-member, nondenominational church in Tennessee flirt with a potentially disastrous force-out.

A few members began complaining about the senior pastor's sermons, saying his teaching no longer "fed them." In time, some church elders joined the chorus of complaints, ...

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