In a recent article, LifeWay President Thom Rainer notes that destructive criticism of pastors is on the rise, and this trend requires action on the part of church leaders. He writes:
“The first seven verses of Acts 6 tell the story of complaining by a group in the early church. In this case, the concern was warranted because a group of widows was being neglected. The Twelve appointed seven men to take care of the widows and thus, stopped the criticisms.
“Though it may not be the central thrust of the text, we see clearly that a divided and critical congregation was a serious concern for early church leaders. The ministry had to continue, and the divisiveness had to stop. We also see that the entire congregation had a stake in this issue (verse 5, “The proposal pleased the whole company”). There was no sinful and silent majority unwilling to tackle this issue.
“At least in principle, the solutions are simple. The standards of church membership must be held high, and the benefits are numerous beyond just dealing with critics. We can’t expect unregenerate church members to act like Christians. Undoubtedly, many of the worst critics are not true followers of Christ.
“Second, church members must be willing to confront the sinful behavior of the perpetual and ill-intentioned critics. While no church leader should be above legitimate criticisms, the tide has turned too far in the other direction. Criticisms are paralyzing too many good leaders.”
I’ve witnessed this kind of critical spirit in action, and it is not of Christ. Yet I’ve also watched otherwise faithful lay leaders simply look the other way, hoping that the problem will go away. Too many pastors will have their lives and families devastated and too many churches will be sidelined for Kingdom service until we address this issue and act.
(To read Rainers’s full article, go to http://www.thomrainer.com/2011/01/responding-to-the-great-distraction.php)