Posts Tagged ‘complaining about a pastor’

What’s the Number One Sin among churchgoers today?

Missing your quiet time?

Failing to attend worship services?

Neglecting to tithe?

Let me offer a candidate: complaining.

While re-reading the Book of Exodus, I’ve been struck by the never-ending parade of griping, whining, and grumbling that the Israelites did.

*They complained when Pharaoh’s slave drivers made Israel gather straw to make bricks (Exodus 5:19-21).

*They complained right before God miraculously delivered them from Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:10-12).

*They complained when they came to Marah and the waters were bitter (Exodus 15:22-24).

*They complained in the Desert of Sin because they didn’t have any food (Exodus 16:1-3).

*They complained at Rephidim because they had no water (Exodus 17:1-3).

And that doesn’t count all the complaining they did in the Book of Numbers … chapter after chapter of angry, discontented, ungrateful people.

And God hates complaining.


Let me offer three reasons:

First, complaining demonstrates a lack of faith in God.

Even though God:

*delivered Israel from the Egyptians, Israel still wanted to return there.

*purified the waters at Marah, the people later complained they lacked food.

*gave them food, they then claimed they didn’t have water.

God listened to their cries and continually met their needs, but they didn’t learn anything, constantly blaming God every time life didn’t go perfectly.

Sound familiar?

The Lord recently surprised me with something I’ve been praying for a long time.

Yet barely a week later, I find myself upset that the Lord hasn’t immediately solved another problem.

I need to remember: since the Lord solved that first issue in His time and way, He’ll solve this current issue as well.

That’s true in our personal lives, as well as in our church lives.

Second, complaining denigrates God and the leaders He’s chosen.

Just one month this side of Egypt, we’re told, “… the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron” (Exodus 16:2).

After telling Israel that God would provide food for them, Moses and Aaron said:

“… the Lord … has heard your grumbling against him” (verse 7).

They then ask, “Who are we, that you should grumble against us?”

Then Moses concludes in verse 8, “You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”

Translation: grumbling against God’s leaders is really grumbling against God.

Moses and Aaron weren’t perfect; they made mistakes.

But they were God’s chosen leaders … and God identified Himself with them.

How many times have you complained about your pastor … or a staff member … or the church board?

If God chose them … fallible as they are … then isn’t grumbling against them really complaining against God?

Isn’t whining a way of saying, “If God assigned me to lead this church, then I’d do a much better job?”

For example, think about what you’ve said about your pastor recently.

Does your attitude and language indicate that you support his leadership … or that you’re sabotaging it?

Finally, complaining usually becomes infectious.

Congregational consultant Peter Steinke claims that complaining operates as an unchecked virus in a church.

Churchgoers complain in the parking lot after worship … at restaurants with friends … via phone calls and emails and text messages during the week … and even while the pastor is preaching.

Discernment and critical thinking are good things, and believers need to be able to evaluate what’s happening in their church.

But Steinke says that when someone at church comes to you and starts to gripe about a leader, the complaining virus is seeking a host cell.

If you listen to the complainer and agree with their issue, the complaining virus enters your spirit … replicates itself … and then gets passed on to others.

Ever hear someone say, “There’s a cancer in our church?”

The cancer spreads because professing Christians listen to and absorb complaints that they have no business hearing.

Why not?

Because the complaints are often about church leaders … and the leaders have no idea what people are saying about them.

This is how conflicts start in churches … and there’s only way to stop them.

What has been your experience with complaining churchgoers?

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Imagine that someone approaches you at church and says, “I’m upset with the pastor.”  This individual then proceeds to tell you exactly why they’re angry.

What should you do about their complaint?




Walk away?

I recently shared a meal with a friend who once served as board chairman in a church where I served as pastor.

He reminded me that whenever churchgoers approached him to complain about me, he told them:

“Let’s go see the pastor.”

My friend was seeking to carry out Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18:15 by bringing the complainer directly to me.

I asked him, “How did people respond?”

He replied, “They said, “No, no, we don’t want to see him.'”

I asked, “Did this happen during my entire tenure or just at the end?”

He said, “No, it happened at the end.”  (That church went through some stressful times that were beyond our control.)

Over the course of my 36-year pastoral career, I estimate that less than a dozen people ever sat down with me in a loving, biblical fashion and shared a grievance with me.

Some complained through letters and emails … others through response cards and phone calls … and a few accosted me before or after a worship service.

But very few ever made an appointment … met with me one-on-one … and then shared their heart with me.

So when someone did that, I commended them for their courage … and listened very carefully.

But the more common approach in churches is for someone to bypass the pastor and broadcast their feelings/complaints/grievances about him to their network.

I wonder how many did just that over the years?  50?  125?  250?  Only God knows.

Why don’t most people speak directly to their pastor about their concerns?

*They don’t know the pastor personally.

*They can’t predict the pastor’s reactions.

*They don’t want to be labeled as complainers.

*They don’t want to take up the pastor’s valuable time.

*They aren’t sure the pastor will take them seriously or make any changes.

One time, a new couple made an appointment to see me.  They didn’t like our small group format and wanted it overhauled to their liking.

I listened.  I understood what they were saying.  But I didn’t agree with them … so they left the church … but at least they came to me with their suggestion.

But a long-time member used to stop by my office every year and ask me, “Pastor, would it be all right if I made a couple of suggestions?”

Great approach, by the way.

When I assented, he’d make several observations … and I almost always agreed with them.  I valued his views.

If you’re upset about a church policy, speak to any of the policy makers …  usually members of the governing board.  You don’t have to share policy concerns exclusively with the pastor.

If you’re upset with someone personally, though, you need to speak directly with them in a loving fashion … even if that someone is your pastor … or let it go.

Above all, avoid spreading any discontent to others.  Those kinds of complaints are infectious and divisive … and have been known to destroy both pastoral careers and entire congregations.   Churches that permit verbal assaults on their pastor sow the seeds of their own destruction.

Remember the words of James 3:5 in relation to the tongue: “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”

But if someone walks up to you and says, “I want to complain about the pastor,” there’s an effective, biblical way to handle that.

Simply tell that individual:

“Let’s go see the pastor.”

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