People are funny. We love to complain. About stupid things, pointless things, even about things we don’t care enough to actually do something about. There’s something about complaining that makes us feel better. We are like teapots releasing our steam of complaints to help us deal with the pressure and frustration of everyday life.
If you’ve ever tried to do anything, especially with a group, you’ve probably experienced it. There is no way to make everyone happy. No matter what you do, someone is going to complain about it. Try running a worship service. Every week the music is too loud and not loud enough. There are too many songs and too few songs. There aren’t enough old classic hymns and there are too many old, overplayed songs.
For some, complaining comes so naturally we don’t even think about it. We call it “sarcasm” or claim we were just joking when someone calls us out. More often than not, we are simultaneously demonstrating negativity and apathy. We aren’t involved. We aren’t invested. We throw around our complaints and criticisms like Oprah giving away gifts to her live studio audience. We can say we don’t care but if we truly don’t care, then we have no place calling ourselves Christians.
Jesus loved people. Especially the messed up ones. He didn’t come to earth and whine about all the sin and imperfection, though He’d have had more right to than any of us ever would. Jesus was characterized by love, grace, and patience. He stood out from all other religious teachers BECAUSE He cared. Apathy is inconsistent with the Christian heart. If that’s our excuse to justify our behavior, we are revealing a deeper seated problem that needs to be addressed.
There are two types of people: those who complain that rose bushes have thorns and those who rejoice that thorn bushes have roses. We can talk all day about optimists versus pessimists but that doesn’t change anything. The problem is not with how we see the world. We can all agree the world is broken. Everywhere we look there is pain and suffering, hatred and violence, heartache and disappointment. There is more than enough evil in the world for even a relentless optimist to find reasons to complain.
One of the impressive things about the millennial generation is our ability to see things for what they are. It’s like we are an entire generation of critical/analytical thinkers who’ve been jaded by the status quo. We don’t pretend everything is good or okay just to save face because we value authenticity. However, one of the things we have lost is a willingness or drive to do more than complain.
We might cry out against injustice, but crying out is about all we are willing to do. We might scorn those in power, but we’d never dare to walk a mile in their shoes. We are masters of criticizing what we do not take the time to fully understand. We tend to view things through idealistic lenses that are not practically possible to live up to. As a people we get so focused on one facet of an issue that we fail to really wrap our minds around the whole concept.
Complaining about the world around us doesn’t change it. Pointing out all the imperfections in the church doesn’t fix them. Talking about all the things Christians should do if they really loved Jesus doesn’t get us any closer to following Him. We may think because we are honest about the problems around us and willing to point them out, that somehow makes us better. It doesn’t. Complaining is about as useful as scuba gear for a fish.
It’s easy to find fault in how leaders use their power, especially when we aren’t burdened in the slightest with the weight of that leadership. How often do we hear people in an uproar about a decision a President made? None of those people are responsible for the lives of millions. None of those people do or even could carry the mantle of responsibility that comes with leading others.
Yet across the board we chastise those in positions of authority. We spout our idealistic frustrations with culture from positions of safety. We don’t risk anything. We don’t lead anything. We just sit back and trash talk what others have done. We have enough courage to assail the ideas of others but not enough to champion our own.
To criticize the work of others without a willingness to do something of our own is the lowest form of cowardice. All the time I hear and read people talking about what’s wrong with the church: “We don’t really need the church,” “This isn’t what the church is supposed to be,” “I’m not being fed,” “It’s full of hypocrites and fakes,” yet the biggest problem is the people who care enough to complain but not enough to act. That attitude is a blight on Godly community.
Culture is not shaped by complaining. It’s shaped by men and women who have the courage to step up and do something. I get that some churches really are unhealthy. Some churches really do have bad leadership. There are times to leave a church. There are also a lot of people who abandon God-loving, Bible-teaching communities because the community isn’t perfect or good enough for them. They are lazy cowards. If you don’t like the culture of your church, roll up your sleeves and get to work.
The church is the bride of Christ. God selected that imagery for a reason. Marriage is a sacred bond not meant to be cast aside. It’s not a coincidence that God draws a connection between our relationship with the church and the covenant bond of marriage. The church is not something we complain about and criticize. It’s not something we take lightly and walk away from. The church is the bride; our relationship with her is a spiritual marriage. We should stand and fight. We should be a force for change.
It’s time we stopped. Stopped with our petty complaints and shallow criticisms. It’s time those who were frustrated with what’s missing did something about it. Community doesn’t come from waiting for others to do the work to give us what they want. The church doesn’t need more leaches sucking the life out of those who are trying to make a difference. It needs more workers, more leaders, and more champions to help make the community into the force it should be.
When those who feel the church lacks a strong sense of community sit around and complain or leave the church, how will the church ever develop that community? Perhaps the reason God gave us this ability to recognize weaknesses and missing components of a community was not so we could apathetically address them but so we could do something to change them.
Stop complaining and engage. Stop talking about what’s wrong with the church and do something to fix it. Your church doesn’t have community? Start a group. Your church doesn’t engage in outreach? Build a team and serve together. Engage. We are the church. Us. The people. Which means the problems we see in “the church” are really problems with us. It’s our role, our job, our place, our responsibility to be the church. Pastors may lead it as shepherds, but they are not the owners. They are not the only ones who will be held responsible for the condition of the church. That’s on us all.
We may not be perfect but I’d rather answer to God for mistakes that I made trying to serve Him than for failing to engage in His community. From the parable of the talents, the faithful servants were the ones that worked. The wicked servant was the lazy one who didn’t do anything with what he was given. When we look at our engagement in shaping and strengthening the church, which one looks more like us?