The minster of the Gospel has many titles: pastor, preacher, shepherd, and clergyperson. The label not listed in your thesaurus under synonyms, is the one I like least: “church complaint department.” If something is happening in the church (be it good, bad, or indifferent), someone will complain. I would not be surprised that if some of my former parishioners (and maybe one or two current ones) had been in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, one of them would have complained that the noise of the rushing wind was too loud. Someone else would have complained that the tongues of fire made the room temperature rise to a very uncomfortable level. Maybe another grumbler would have even said, “Can you please speak English? All these different languages are very confusing.” Grumble. Grumble. Grumble.
James is pretty straight forward when he wrote: Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! (James 5:9). James is serious. He sounds like when my dad told us for the fifth time to do something. If we didn’t jump to it, fed up with our laziness, he’d start to stand up from his Lazy-boy. I learned quick: dad’s getting up from his chair following a demand for a chore to be done (that wasn’t done in a timely manner), could end with a motivating swat to one’s backside. He was a “spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child” sort of guy. Dear Grumblers and Complainers take it from me, “The Judge is at the door” is code for: BEWARE! Stop doing what you are doing or else…
Please note: I’m not talking about honest, kind, constructive criticism. Constructive criticism implies that one is working for a positive solution. When you are “constructing” a house, you are building something better on the property. “Constructive” is the key word in that phrase. Constructive criticism says, “Let’s look at our current reality and build something better.” That should happen in every church. Just like people, there are no perfect churches. Every church could improve and constructive criticism is the way to get there. It’s saying, “Here’s our reality, together, let’s make it better.” That’s a good thing.
Complaining and grumbling, on the other hand, simply says, “I don’t like it and let me tell you why… grumble, grumble, grumble.” There is no contribution for solving the (perceived?) problem. There’s no offers of help or the desire to have a meaningful discussion. Instead it’s more of a “We’ve-never-done-it-that-way” mindset, and “we-won’t-be-starting-now” bull-headedness. Grumble, grumble, grumble.
Complainers and grumblers inside the church do more damage to the church’s witness than those outside the church. Every time a church insider grumbles on social media, the Enemy wins a battle. When church outsiders see church insiders complaining and grumbling, they conclude, “Why go there? Whatever they are preaching/teaching must not help. The church goers are mean, complainers. I get enough of that nastiness at work and home. No thank you.”
Beware, church complainers, the Judge is standing at the door.