Sports have analysts, experts and commentators who get paid to talk about how different teams and athletes perform. Movies have critics who make a living writing reviews of how well a movie was made, the performances of the actors, the quality of the writing and so on. We have things like Yelp and Angie’s List for reviewing businesses. Even Netflix and Amazon Prime provide us with the ability to rate movies and write our own reviews.
At every turn, our consumer-based culture has ingrained in us the idea that our opinions are of the highest value. It’s no surprise that we bring this attitude into the Church. In our heads, we rate the worship music set, the length of the sermon, the way the building is set up and decorated. It’s almost like the Church has a lot of people blessed with the spiritual gift of complaining.
What we lack are people who are truly willing to create change.
People are messy. They don’t magically stop being messy just because they gather together in a church building. Churches are all messy, because they all involve people. In makes sense, then, that in our corporate messiness, there are going to be plenty of problems.
And there’s nothing wrong with addressing issues or calling attention to a problem in a church. But if all we do is recognize the problems, how will they ever change? So before you bring that pesky imperfection to light, consider the following:
Is It Helpful?
Is this really a problem that needs to be addressed? Maybe the lack of piano on stage is not really that important. Does addressing this issue somehow help the church or is it just going to be a rainy day on an otherwise nice parade?
What Season Is the Church in?
Churches have seasons that are very busy and stressful. Often times they lack enough leaders, volunteers or funds to make major changes or start new projects. Is the issue urgent, or can it wait until things have settled down? This doesn’t mean the issue shouldn’t be addressed. Just consider the timing carefully.
Is It a Personal Preference?
There is a difference between pointing out problems and creating them. If the church is missing an important opportunity to advance the Gospel, or the staff is not aware of how what they are doing negatively affects their mission, it’s definitely important to share. If it’s really just a style/preference issue, then bringing it up may not be helpful.
Personal preferences are not problems. You may enjoy a long worship set. That doesn’t mean the church is wrong for doing a shorter one. We should be careful not to address personal preferences as if the church is doing something wrong.
Are You Invested?
Nothing is more frustrating than an over-opinionated spectator. We’ve all met them. They act nice. They say they just want to help or they just thought you should know.
But if you don’t care enough to be involved, then you don’t have the right to draw attention to things. This is true with all relationships. We have no right to speak into a person’s life if we choose not to invest in their life. Unsolicited sharing from non-invested people is not helpful; it’s discouraging and unproductive. If you want to speak into an issue, get involved. Demonstrate that you care about the church, not just about sharing your thoughts.
What’s Your Motive?
Are you looking to vent? Are you trying to change things for your benefit? Are you addressing an issue because you care about the person, church and mission of Jesus?
Before you address a problem you should consider why you feel compelled to address it in the first place. Motive matters. If you can’t say with confidence that the reason you want to bring it up is for the glory of God and the good of His people, then maybe you should consider if it’s really worth sharing.
What Are You Willing to Do About It?
If the answer is nothing, then you might not be the person to bring this issue to light. I worked for a company a few years back. They had a rule: you cannot address a problem within the company without offering some type of solution.
The world doesn’t need more immobile critics offering complaints and criticisms from the stands. The harvest is plentiful. The workers are few. Critics aren’t workers. Church is not a spectator sport. If you want to address a problem, get in the game. Or at least, be on the team.
Consider this: you may be the solution. You may be the one who can do something about it. Perhaps the reason you see a problem and feel compelled to address it is that God has placed it on your heart. He is calling you to be the agent of change. As we follow Jesus, we should all move from consumers to producers.
Most churches desire to grow. They want to see people get involved and plugged in. Their hearts are in the right place. They just need help.
When we get off the bench and into the game, the people around us take notice. Some will follow us on to the field. Some will follow those who followed us. It’s like when the crowd does the wave. Somebody started it. It caught on. Another person followed them. Then another. Before you know it, thousands of people are doing it without any planning or organization, without a script or a calendar. Maybe you’re the first person to stand up to get the whole stadium on their feet.
Don’t just see the problem, be the change that fixes it.
Tyler Edwards is a pastor, author, and husband. He currently works as the Discipleship Pastor of Carolina Forest Community Church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He is passionate about introducing people to and helping them grow in the Gospel. He is the author of Zombie Church: breathing life back into the body of Christ. You can find more of his work on Facebook or you can follow him on Twitter @tedwardsccc.