Listening to the gripes of the Lord’s people is standard fare for ministers. They ought to teach courses on it in seminary. Someone please tell the newly ordained to get ready.
The primary nerve center for griping and complaining in the church house has always been the carnal and the worldly. This includes two groups of people: the unsaved (represented by the infamous mixed multitude of unbelievers and hangers-on who went up from Egypt with Moses and Israel) and the unspiritual. The latter group is saved but has taken a seat just inside the front gate and gone no deeper into the spiritual things.
Here is my personal list of the worst things I’ve heard said in church.
- “The pastor is not meeting my needs”
He’s not there to meet your needs. Jesus does that. The pastor is there as a shepherd to watch over the entire flock and to see that healthy food is available and safe procedures are in place. He’s there to make you holy, not happy.
- “I’m not being spiritually fed”
Babies have to be spoon-fed. Adults can feed themselves. Since I’ve been able to read the Bible for myself and study God’s Word independently, I’ve not depended on the pastor to burp me.
- “I have a right…”
The Christian faith is about the grace and mercy of God. We thank God He does not give us what we desire. Faithful believers show the same kind of dedication and love to one another. But at no point is a child of God to insist on his rights.
If we got what we desire, we would all be in hell.
- “I’m not one to gossip, but…”
Stifling the urge to pass along the latest trash on someone in the church is one of the hardest skills to acquire. Only the mature can pull it off.
- “Now, I’m not saying who, but some people are unhappy about…”
Anonymous criticism is one of the most cowardly things ever concocted in hell. When the pastor asks, “Who exactly is this you say is unhappy?” his critic answers, “Well, I’m not at liberty to say.” (At that point, the preacher should then get up and show his visitor the door. “This conversation is over, friend.” And if they don’t leave, the pastor should.)
Lay leaders should teach the membership never ever to bring anonymous criticism to them or to their ministers.
- “I gave the money for that, so I’ll make the decision as to how it’s to be used”
Once our gifts are in the offering plate, they belong to the Lord and His church. The donor relinquishes all control and is entitled to nothing as a result. Money given to a mission program or to benevolence cannot be dictated by the donor. Church procedure decides how it will be used.
- “Sorry. I don’t have a gift for that”
Every believer can serve in a hundred ways, whether we are “gifted” in a particular area or not. No one requires a specific anointing of God to share their faith or make a gift or pray a prayer or teach a class.
- “Why don’t ‘they’ do something?”
A friend says three groups of people can be found in every congregation. There are consumers: “Just browsing.” There are customers: “We come to this church because of the music program” (or children’s, missions, Bible teaching, etc). If you cancel that program, they leave. And there are the shareholders: Announce a work day and these are the ones who show up. You build a church with the shareholders, not with the other two groups, although most of the latter were one of the former previously.
- “The preacher is a dictator”
Now, some preachers have been known to tyrannize congregations, so let us admit that up front. There is no place for that in the household of God. However, Acts 20:28 says the Holy Spirit makes the pastors the overseers of the church, and Hebrews 13:17 calls on us to submit to those who are over us in the Lord.
- “I don’t know what the Bible says, but I know what I believe”
Each believer should bring our convictions and beliefs under the Lordship of Jesus and the authority of God’s Word. If we are holding onto a doctrine or belief about which Scripture says otherwise, the spiritually mature will jettison the faulty conviction and stand on the Word. The immature and carnal will insist that being true to his own beliefs, flawed as they are is the highest form of faithfulness.
I suspect that one of the greatest tests of maturity and faithfulness in the Kingdom is the ability to receive correction from the Word of God, even to the point of giving up cherished beliefs and doctrines we have held dear but now see as mistaken.
Let us bring every area of our lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.