“No one ever talks to me at church,” says the extrovert who has been attending for a decade.
“There are no programs for singles at my church! They must not love singles,” groans an ambitious 20-something.
“That person took a meal to that widow but not to this other one, that’s not fair,” grumbles a woman with a reputation for remarkable cooking.
Satan wishes to stamp out the light of our churches. He doesn’t want our neighbors to see the joy and peace and unity that should exist among Christians. He doesn’t want to others to see us give up our time, money, and effort to pursue good works. He doesn’t want them to see us living in peace with all men. If we are consumed with discontent, disunity, and discord, why would anyone want what we have? And how can we even begin to do the work of ministry? There are few better ways for the devil to do this than to tempt us to complain.
Our complaints do more than just hold our churches back from effectively serving the Lord; they also reveal our hearts. At the heart of complaining within the church is a twisting of God’s design for the church.
When We Complain About What Isn't Being Done For Us
Sometimes we complain about selfish things. “Why is no one doing x for me?” “Why doesn’t the church offer x to meet my needs?”
These sort of complaints come from a consumeristic mindset about church. The church exists to serve me and take care of me and make me feel good. If my church does not offer a program targeted to my specific demographic (or that program is subpar), they are being negligent in their task and not valuing my demographic highly enough.
Reality: the church behaves out of obedience to God – not out of obligation to its members. A church has a limited amount of resources, time, volunteers, and staff. Each church must find ways to faithfully carry out their purpose – the Great Commission – not worry about how to best keep its members comfy. The best way you can participate in this is by adding to the resources and volunteer pool of the church.
I remember one time after church I came home all bent out of shape over how lonely I was. No one ever invited me to anything. I just really wanted adult interaction. My sweet husband just looked at me patiently and said, “Well, why don’t you invite some girls over?”
All of my passionate indignation left me. How selfish and entitled was I being?! Of course! If I’m lonely, there’s a good chance that many other women at my church are as well. Not only could I take care of a deep need in my heart for interaction, but I could also help other women build community. It was such a simple solution, immediately solved by sending a few texts. Two nights later I sat in my family room surrounded by eight other women who all shared the same story of loneliness; not that you’d know it from their beaming faces, giggles, and the immediate transparency we reached just knowing that we needed each other.
When We Complain About What Isn't Being Done For Others
These complaints break my heart. When I hear complaints in the church about how someone is being overlooked, or how something is being run poorly, or how something needs to be fixed, I generally agree with the diagnosis. But the heartbreaking part is the attitude of the grumbler.
Generally speaking, if God has given you the discernment, insight, and passion to see a need in the church, it is His way of calling you to do something about it! If you examine yourself, often you will find that you are exactly the right person to do something about that need. Instead of complaining and whining about why someone else isn’t doing the thing that you care about, take your passion about that issue as an opportunity to act.
You see, whenever we say, “The church should” or, “Why isn’t the church…” we are mistaking the church for the organization, the building, or the staff. “The church ought to provide a mom’s Bible study!” someone might say. What they are really saying: someone on staff ought to make this happen.
Reality: the church is not the pastors. It’s not the organization and staff. It’s not the building. It’s you. You are the church. You and those you sing hymns with. When you say “The church ought to…” what you should really be saying is, “I ought to see if there is a way to meet the need that I see.”
Is someone dropping the ball or running something poorly? Maybe it’s not because they are lazy or unintelligent. Maybe it’s because they need help! Maybe it’s just me, but I think that no matter how poorly a person is carrying out their task within the church, they ought to get the benefit of the doubt simply because they are trying (assuming of course that they are trying). They need to be given the courtesy of a “thank you” and a helping hand.
Complaining does not just stop you from pursuing good works, it can cause you to neglect your gifts and abdicate your responsibility. It also discourages and falsely condemns those who are serving and using their gifts. When you complain about the way a person is serving, you are doing the devil’s work for him and discouraging those who are doing ministry.
Don’t let yourself be a complainer. These complaints are not just painful to hear, they are destructive to ministry and the going forth of the gospel. If churches are to be bright beacons of light in a lost world, proclaiming the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, then complaining ought never to be heard from amongst its members. Let’s be fixers instead of complainers.