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Self-appointed critics in the church

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I read recently about a pastor who was preaching during the chapel hour at a well-known Christian college. He shared that there was nothing wrong with his church that a couple of funerals couldn’t fix.

Seems all too prevalent that in so many churches there are those few individuals who take it upon themselves to perfect the church. It may be their desire to establish a dress code or limit worship to one kind of music. Sometimes they push for a certain décor or even want annual church functions to operate according to their suggested schedule.

Even more exasperating for the pastor are those individuals who take it upon themselves to play the role of the Holy Spirit and tell others, including the pastor, what appropriate Christian behavior looks like in every circumstance.

Okay, so a certain amount of criticism comes with the territory. Public persons will always have to endure some criticism – justified or unjustified. But, understandably, pastors find it difficult to deal with unceasing streams of criticism. Yes, usually, a congregation consists of various levels of spiritual maturity. But a pastor can really encounter trouble when immature critics worm their way into leadership positions in the church. This, of course, can lead to a turn over in the pastoral staff.

One way for the pastor to deal with unceasing and unjustified criticism is to cut out all negative input from his congregation. Have someone weed out those negative emails and letters. Instruct the secretary to learn the names of self-appointed critics and inform them that the pastor is too busy to take their call. This, however, can lead to the rejection of all criticism. Some pastors even make the mistake of surrounding themselves with “yes” men and women. When legitimate criticisms are by-passed, festering wounds are not taken care of. This, too, can lead to a change in the pastoral staff.

So, one of the downsides to the constant flow of criticism from the immature is the immunization of the pastor/pastoral staff to any kind of sensitivity to problems in the church. Sounds like the Enemy’s plan: plant energetic critics in every church and desensitize the pastor so he becomes callused against any and all criticisms, even those that are legitimate. He becomes fed up with whiners and complainers, and even preaches sermons against ungodly criticism.

So what can be done with these complainers who spew forth unjustified streams of criticisms? Stoning doesn’t work in our society. Praying for funerals also seems a bit harsh. How about first trying a grace and mercy approach. When it comes to light that a certain person is way out of line in their “concern” for the pastor, the church surrounds that person with lots of attention (it’s probably what they want, anyway), instead of ostracizing him/her. Making them go away only puts them in another church where they become another Pastor’s problem. Place mature Christians alongside them and begin to explore the real problem. After all, isn’t it true that often “hurt people, hurt people?” So, find out the hurt and put that person on a path to healing. Pastor, don’t dismiss them as unworthy of your time or that you, the busy pastor, can’t afford to give them the necessary time. You can’t afford not to.

And if that doesn’t work, well, then pray for God to do “whatever.” (You can’t actually pray for a funeral.)

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