When Christians criticize the Church

A few weeks ago, a neighbor (who I will call “Jan”) came by our house and began chatting with my wife, Brianna. They hit it off over coffee and by the end of the day, were laughing hysterically over simple commonalities. Brianna, an avid physical trainer who loved helping others, was paired with Jan, who thoroughly enjoyed the outdoors; it was a potential canvas for friendship. In fact, I watched their relationship coalesce, then soar. It culminated in a season where Jan was a normal part of our meal times. Unfortunately, things changed by mid-summer. Jan grew distant, moody, and increasingly meticulous. Brushing this off as a necessary ingredient to a committed friendship, Brianna made little fuss over the mounting personality change with Jan. During one of their lunch parties, Jan actually stood up in mid-conversation with Brianna to argue over an infinitesimal point regarding rental prices; on another occasion, she stormed out of our house leaving behind her a pile of dirty dishes. This was only the beginning of a nagging discontentment we saw surfacing in a woman who we both esteemed. Brianna worked tirelessly to appease her, but the mood swings only gave way to an incessantly critical attitude towards everything, with most of these attacks directed towards my wife. Jan was simply never happy; in her mind, she was the victim, and was justified in blaming Brianna as the brunt of all her problems. One day, in a furry of irreversible words, Jan lashed out in in anger, leaving my wife in tears. And that’s when I lost control. We never saw Jan again.

By the way, I made all of that up. Unfortunately, it parallels a story that happens every day, when Christians bad mouth the Church of Jesus. It often comes in the form of a complain that is hardly mild, and rarely meaningful, e.g., why doesn’t the church do something about homelessness? Or it can appear as a well intentioned rebuke, e.g., we’re nothing like the Early Church, we need to go back to the Early Church, blah blah blah, the Early Church was so awesome, blah blah blah. The worst are the ones who, like a grumpy neighbor, exist only to point out flaw after flaw after flaw, because no matter what changes, the church will never be as perfect as they would like her to be. In this, there is often a sense of condemnation attached to our words, regardless of how helpful we intend to be.

The Church is made up of broken people who are less than perfect. Yet even this doesn’t matter since the Scriptures portray Christ gathering them into a supernatural union with himself, as his eternally spotless bride, awaiting a future wedding of divine proportions. It’s not the judgements of the unbeliever that bother me, for they are sometimes well-deserved, but I have a waning intolerance for Christians who complain much about the church. For it is the bride of Christ, won by the dowry of his own blood, that we rail against.

How dare we ridicule his lover. Let God have mercy on us.

“We should approach criticism of the church as we’d approach needing to confront a loved one: with extreme care, gentleness, brokenheartedness, and humility.” – Kevin Deutsch (on Facebook)

About Lazo

Lazo is the pastor for preaching and vision at Reality SB where he is committed to challenging Santa Barbara's independence by calling the city to follow Jesus. You might like these blog posts, 5 Wrong Ways To Comfort Hurting Peoples, or Daisy Love and the Magic Eraser. You can follow Chris on twitter at @LazoChris.

Posted on July 9, 2011, in Church. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hey Chris! You are writing the topic of pretty much what my next book is all about. And for those that go back to the early church to think that was the ideal, you only have to read 1 Corinthians and other sections to see the early church had their fair share of the very same messes, power struggles, selfishness etc. that we do today because we are all messy people in need of a Savior and of God’s Spirit to help change us. So whether early church or modern church, people are still messy so there is no perfect or non-messy church. Until the day there is no more sin and the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21)….. Jesus loves His bride and although we are messy folks due to sin, we shouldn’t use that as an excuse to dismiss it, but try to keep the Bride as clean as possible and to criticize the Bride is to criticize ourselves as we are the church. So that is why I love Reality Church and others who are creating the future church and bringing hope.

    One of these days, I hope we get to see each other again and hang out! Say hello to Britt!

    • Yes! I think understanding your point; that we are incorporated into the bride/church of Christ would probably change so much. It would allow us to critique, yet to do so with a humble introspection as well. I can’t wait for your book! It sounds like a great pair for They Like Jesus But Not The Church.

      (I’ll tell Britt hello for you if he ever comes back from surfing)

  2. I try to remind myself that condemnation comes from the enemy, but conviction comes from the Father. It is gentle, and sweet when it comes, because it comes with “a way out.” Our Father doesn’t just show us what we are doing wrong, but He brings with it a vision and a hope for how His Spirit wants to bring change. Oh, that we would take this approach with His Bride. If we are only seeing what is wrong, then we can bring that to the Father, and wait on Him to bring the Holy Spirit’s way of grace in that area! (Ex: instead of: “why don’t we care for the homeless?”, pray for workers to care for the homeless-God may have a job for you!!; or, why aren’t we discipling and mentoring more people?, pray and wait for the Holy Spirit, perhaps He will guide you into discipling and mentoring!!!)
    Quite honestly, it is so easy to fail in this area. It is so much easier to point out faults…. With my kiddos, it is much easier to tell them what they are doing wrong, rather than to stand with them and say, “I know what it’s like to be (selfish, proud, angry….). Let’s pray and ask for Jesus’ help together.
    Sorry for the book.. I really like this post. :) I do think there are personalities that tend toward criticism, but when tempered by the Holy Spirit, they can be very helpful in building up the Bride. So there is hope!!! And I am really glad the story was fictional.

  3. I like your perspective on children with all of this; and I actually love book-length posts!
    Thanks for the comment, Lisa.


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