Our church members complain about everything and everyone. Their gripes eclipse the core values of the gospel—peace, joy, love and hope. How can we get back on track?
The issue of griping and complaining in church is a problem that has existed since the first century. This condition reflects our sinful nature in pointed and illuminating ways. While this is an old and continuing problem, 21st century technology and social media have helped give rise to a culture of complaining unparalleled in church history. The problem is ferocious and nearly universal. Yet although the issue is significant and unpleasant, it is not hopeless.
Twelve-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous learned years ago the first step to overcoming a problem is to admit one exists. Churches and individual members must admit they have a problem with griping and complaining. They must recognize and admit this behavior is in opposition to the gospel. Too often, the church ignores or dismisses such behavior as something other than the grievous sin it is.
Fruit of the Spirit
According to Galatians 5:22, the fruit of the spirit includes peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Griping and complaining are in direct conflict with these fruits.
The Apostle James warns believers of the dangers into which their tongues can get them. He warns we cannot use the same tongue to praise God and curse people. Jesus’ commands to love one another, even our enemies, and to pray for them cannot exist in tandem with complaining about them. These attitudes and actions are evil, and we must confront them.
Having admitted the problem, the next stage is to repent. Those guilty must confess their sin, seek forgiveness from God and in the power of the Holy Spirit stop what they have been doing. Confession and forgiveness also must include the people harmed by the griping and complaining. Observing the Greatest Commandment allows for no less.
This step is difficult, to say the least. Griping and complaining have become so central to our lives, they have become our nature. The good news of the gospel is our nature can change. There is perhaps no greater example of a new creation in Christ than a person who stops griping and complaining. This change is a marvelous testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit.
Committing to change
Third, the repentant must commit to continuing the change through the power of Christ. Much as an alcoholic struggles with alcohol every day, people soon will realize their struggle with griping and complaining will be a constant ordeal. Only by committing daily to a change in their lifestyle will such a change become a pattern of their life.
This change must start with you. Admit and repent of your own griping and complaining, and commit to change. Stop giving explicit approval by joining in with the complaint. Stop giving implicit approval even by listening. Make it clear you will not participate in or accept griping and complaining. Lead by example. You will be surprised how quickly a change can occur.
Van Christian, pastor
First Baptist Church
If you have a comment about this column or wish to ask a question for a future column, contact Bill Tillman, consulting ethicist for “Right or Wrong?” at firstname.lastname@example.org.