As a classic perfectionist, it’s easy for me to highlight and obsess over flaws. Church and church life are no exception.
The preaching is weak. Worship is too emotional. The community is too cliquey or unwelcoming.
All fair points, actually. And depending on your values, there may be legitimate reason to either leave that church or talk to the leadership about change.
Me? I can’t remember the last time I heard a pastor preach on sex. This is despite the fact that sex is talked about all over the Bible and that sexual ethics are such a relevant issue in our day. While I know what I believe about it, I’m convinced a lot of people in our congregations could use solid teaching. It’s frustrating to see pastors avoid it.
But hold up. When do we cross the threshold from legitimate critiques to complaining or blame-shifting or gossipping? When are we counter-productive? This is a question we should always be asking ourselves: is what I’m doing or saying helpful? (1 Corinthians 6:12).
We are the Church
Here’s the thing, friends: we complain about “the Church,” when we should realize that we ARE the church! If we want the church to take certain steps or talk about certain topics, we can’t just blog about it (note the irony). Nor should we just bottle it up.
“The church needs to be more service oriented.” Then serve more! Start a serving ministry at your church.
“We don’t talk enough about *blank*.” Talk about it with your small group! Bring it up during coffee time.
“I wish there was something more for young adults.” Organize a young adult event!
Our pastors are busy and some lay people don’t always think of these things. Or, maybe, they’re waiting for someone like you to start doing something so they can follow you!
A quick aside: I understand there may be legitimate, grand scale church culture problems. I’m open to that. I don’t want to silence you; I want to empower you! But mere complaining has rarely helped. If we want to see change, we must know our biblical obligation to be the good, biblical change as members of the Body of Christ.
Have a positive outlook
I bet you there are lots of people in your church that would LOVE to talk about the same things as you. They’d LOVE to hear Pastor Joe talk about gender issues, or have an elder or resident-expert talk about mental health at Adult Sunday School. I bet you some of these people (pastors included) actually want to talk about these things, but they don’t have a clue that it matters to you! Maybe you coming by the office to share your heart would help them have a better idea what people need help with.
You might face some resistance. That’s normal! Resistance is healthy for two reasons:
- You might actually be wrong. Hopefully, those who resist you have a good head on their shoulders, and perhaps some legitimate arguments. It’s time for you to revisit your thinking. Am I really right on this?
- Change wasn’t meant to happen overnight. Culture shifts take time. Too much all at once can actually be unhealthy— even if the change is the right one. Oswald J. Sanders tells us that leadership sometimes means waiting until the people are ready for certain changes. That doesn’t mean you’re wrong or should stop, but you might have to be patient, and above all, prayerful. May God himself bring the change, if it is his will.
I’m all for thinking of ways you can better the church (especially your own local church). But that’s just it: I think we should all personally take responsibility for what we want to see. Don’t just tweet or blog about it, or even worse, keep it to yourself and become bitter.
Speak up, and step up.