Church of the Highlands Exposed 

Church of the Highlands Exposed 

Church of the Highlands Exposed

The Church of the Highlands Exposed , based in Birmingham, Alabama, is one of the largest churches in the United States, with an average weekly attendance of over 70,000 people across multiple campuses. However, some former members and observers have levelled criticisms against the church regarding its leadership structure, treatment of pastors, fiscal policies, and political involvement. This informative article will explore some of the key criticisms that have been made about the Church of the Highlands.

Controlled Leadership Structure

Critics argue that the Church of the Highlands practices an authoritarian leadership style centred around its founding pastor, Chris Hodges. The church does not have a traditional elder board or system of church governance, instead vesting most decision-making power in Hodges. Former members have claimed that dissent is not tolerated and that pastoral staff are expected to demonstrate almost unquestioning loyalty to Hodges. Some say this level of control imposed from the top has created a culture where honest feedback is not welcomed, and accountability needs to be improved. Supporters counter that Hodges’s leadership has enabled incredible growth for the church.

Treatment and Compensation of Pastors 

A major criticism levelled at the Church of the Highlands relates to how it treats and compensates its pastors. Ex-pastors and observers claim the unrealistic expectations placed on pastoral staff, including 80-hour work weeks and an intense focus on numeric metrics like attendance, have led to low morale and burnout. In several publicized cases, pastors resigned or were dismissed after clashes with Hodges. Furthermore, the church does not disclose detailed salary information for its pastoral staff, fueling criticism that large amounts may be going to a small executive team rather than to support ministry work. Church leadership maintains that they want pastors to be well-supported as they serve.

Long Paragraph: In addition, some former members have voiced concerns about the church’s emphasis on financial giving from congregants. Church of the Highlands Exposed  a “first fruits” doctrine where attendees are encouraged to donate a set percentage of their income regularly. However, the church does not make its full financial records public despite its massive multi-campus operation and ownership of other businesses. While tithing is a common Biblical principle, critics argue that the church applies pressure on those who do not donate heavily or regularly. The exact salaries of Hodges and other top leaders also remain undisclosed despite the substantial financial resources of the congregation. Supporters counter that the church provides services to the community through its campuses, schools, and other ministries that require steady funding to sustain.

Political Involvement 

Church of the Highlands Exposed  and Pastor Hodges have, at times, waded deeply into political issues, which critics argue go beyond a church’s appropriate role. Hodges has endorsed candidates from the pulpit and organized voter registration drives. The church also hosted then-Vice President Mike Pence for an Easter Sunday service in 2016. While Christians have varying views on some political topics, observers contend Church of the Highlands at times seems to promote partisan politics instead of exclusively focusing on spiritual matters. Supporters counter that as American citizens, church leadership has a right to weigh in on civic issues that affect the community. 

Expectation of Perfection

Former members have said that CHoH expects perfection from its congregants and pastoral staff. Any mistakes or flaws are not tolerated. This has created an environment where people feel they must hide struggles or shortcomings for fear of reprimand from leadership. While striving for excellence, a church should allow humanity to offer genuine help, hope, and healing to those in need.

Lack of Diversity 

CHoH is widely seen as needing to embrace diversity in its leadership, programming, or theological messages. Most senior leaders and those featured prominently are Anglo. The church’s growth has not reflected the growing diversity of the Birmingham area. A broad, multicultural community may feel invisible or unwelcome at CoH. A genuinely inclusive church celebrates and brings together the whole body of Christ across ethnic, social, and political lines.  

Closed Communication

Some former members say they experienced difficulty contacting leadership to lodge genuine concerns or ask questions. According to these accounts, internal criticism is only sometimes well-received. While large churches face communication challenges, transparency and approachability help maintain accountability to those served. Healthy feedback fosters improvement and prevents minor issues from growing.

Legal Issues

CHoH and Pastor Hodges have also drawn attention for their involvement in legal issues. The church sued a father and son who were critical of the church’s financial practices. Additionally, Pastor Hodges faced lawsuits regarding improper use of church funds for personal expenses like vacations. Though lawsuits are sometimes unavoidable, they can create distrust and appear as attempts to silence opposition or avoid scrutiny. 

Campus Model Criticism 

The massive multi-campus model that CHoH employs has its critics. Some argue it is difficult to maintain true community and pastoral care at such a large scale. They say the campus approach can also over-emphasize real estate and facilities over one-on-one care and discipleship. However, supporters counter that it enables the church to reach more people and be more accessible across a broad region. 

Social Issues Stances  

CHoH’s stances on social and theological issues like homosexuality and women in leadership are also problematic for some. Critics argue the church sometimes gives a platform to speakers with disrespectful views that do more harm than good. A genuinely inclusive church embraces diversity of thought and people and approaches sensitive topics with nuance, empathy, and care for all involved.


While the Church of the Highlands has seen tremendous numerical growth, these critiques from former members and observers raise legitimate questions about accountability, pastoral treatment, financial openness, and the scope of political involvement for a church of its size. Both sides can find positive and negative examples of how the Church of the Highlands Exposed . As with any large and successful ministry, ongoing evaluation and reform remain important aspects of faithfully serving its broad congregation over the long term.

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