I know. I know. The title of this article sounds offensive. Before you judge me too harshly, please hear me out. First, I’ve been guilty of uttering most of these things at some point in my life. I’m not pointing these phrases out with a crooked finger saying, “You’re bad!” I’m writing from the perspective of one who is growing in these areas myself. Second, let me explain exactly what I mean.
When I was in middle school I had a wonderful shop teacher named Mr. Tawney. He was very respected by the kids he taught. I’m convinced that a great part of that respect came from the fact that Mr. Tawney was blunt. You always knew where Mr. Tawney stood. He said some of the most memorable things like, “Don’t be a ninni-capoop!” or “Look. I have all my fingers.” Another thing he said that will forever be stuck in my memory was, “There’s a difference between dumb and stupid. Dumb is something you can’t help; stupid is a choice. Don’t be stupid!” To Mr. Tawney “stupid” was a decision to do something that would hurt yourself or others.
As a pastor I’ve noticed the difference between dumb and stupid that Mr. Tawney was pointing out. I’ve seen people who may never be classified as smart who exercised tremendous wisdom. I’ve also seen many people who are perfectly intelligent, yet choose to say things that are divisive and damaging. These things harm the church, and as such are stupid. Compared to many places on earth, Christians in America are very educated. We have lots of information and we have easy access to even more. Yet still we have some stupid notions that do more harm than good. Here are the top 5 stupid ideas I’ve heard expressed by American Christians.
“This church isn’t meeting my needs.” // Of all the criticisms people make about church, this one melts my brain the fastest. Why? First of all, God is your provider, not a church. When we expect churches to meet our needs, we set them up for failure. Only the Lord can truly satisfy. Only He can ultimately provide. If you expect a church to do what only God can do, you’ll be disappointed every time. Secondly, while the church can’t meet all your needs I desperately want to know, “What needs?” If you’re in my church, I want to know what you need so we can help you! My point is this, I’ve never heard a truly needy person make the complaint that the church wasn’t meeting their needs. You know why? Because needy people almost always come in two forms: those who ask for help and those who are too embarrassed. If you truly need help, please say so! Someone in your church would probably love to help in some way. Thirdly, what are you doing to meet needs in the church? I’ve never met a person who is a committed servant in their church make this complaint. The people who say this are the people who attend a church only for what they can get out of it. Yet Biblically, we are told that each of us are a part of the body and have something to contribute. Contributors don’t complain about not getting their needs met. Lastly, almost always, what people mean when they say this is, “This church isn’t meeting my wants.” Frankly, that’s not really worth addressing, so let’s move along.
“I’m not being fed at this church.” // This comment is similar to the last, but different enough to make this list. I’m stunned every time I hear this phrase. I always ask people who say this, “What’s wrong? Are you feeling ill?” Here’s my point: hungry people eat. I’ve seen homeless people eat leftovers straight out of a garbage can. I’ve seen college students rejoice over the nastiest, waxy-looking-cheap pizza. I’ve seen starving children gladly eat vegetables that my kids snub their noses at. Hungry people eat…regardless of what’s put before them. This phrase is one of those great church excuses that only people who have been in the church a long time use. People who are new to Christ and new to church don’t say this because they are hungry. And because they’re hungry they find some spiritual food to eat every time they worship at church. Long-time-church-people often become so spiritually flabby and lazy that they expect someone to come along and pour the spiritual truth down their throats for them. How tragic. If you’ve been in the church long enough to utter the phrase, “I’m not being fed” I have this simple reply: “Eat what’s in front of you!” If your complaint is that your church isn’t feeding you, you’re problem isn’t REALLY hunger. Hungry people eat. They grab for every possible morsel and clamor for every calorie. Only over-fed, picky Americans stand in front of a refrigerator filled with food and say, “There’s nothing to eat.” Your church is offering spiritual food every time the Bible is taught. Quit being picky and eat!
Now to be fair, maybe you’re a Christian who is at a church where the sermon content is more like baby food than a gourmet meal. If that’s the case and you aren’t feeling fed, here’s my two-fold response: “Eat what’s in front of you AND feed yourself more later!” There’s SOMETHING in every sermon for you. God’s Word ALWAYS yields fruit in fertile soil. If your pastor’s sermons don’t fully satisfy your hunger, go home and eat some more. My goodness people, there are more sermons on the internet to listen to than any human being on earth could ever devour! You have multiple translations of the Bible on your shelf but you’re complaining about not being fed?!?! Resources for personal Bible study fill multiple shelves even in secular book stores, yet you’re still hungry? That’s not the church’s fault. It’s yours. Get up and feed yourself.
“I only serve where I’m gifted.” // Oh brother. This statement tops the list of elitist-church-phrases. I can’t count the number of times people have made this complaint when asked to serve in the church. Can you imagine the things that will be left undone if people only serve where they’re gifted? I mean, who has the gift of window washing? Who has the gift of scrubbing nasty, sticky, splashed urinals in the youth building? Who has the gift of changing brown-liquid-bomb diapers? Do some people do those things with a joyful heart? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean they’re “gifted”. It means they’re grateful! Grateful people serve where ever they are needed. Why? Because they are thankful for the gift of salvation. They know Jesus died for their sins, and cleaning up poop is a small offering in light of His sacrifice. They do what no one else will do because they are grateful that God has given them the chance to make a difference. Let me ask you a question: why did Jesus willingly serve us by laying down his life? Did he do it because he had the spiritual gift of bleeding? He did it because He loved you. People who truly fall in love with their savior find that nothing is beneath them. NOTHING. And they serve however they can because they know it’s a practical way they can lay down their lives for others. Serving where you’re gifted is wonderful. It’s fun. It’s fulfilling. But serving where you’re needed is even better!
“The music at this church is too ____________.” // Is your church music too loud, quiet, long, short, country, rock, traditional, unprofessional, or over-produced? If you think about it long enough, there’s always something wrong with every musical element in every church every week. Arguments about music always seem to be present in church. Why? Because everyone has their own personal preferences. Here’s my plea: can we just stop?!?! The music isn’t for us! Music in church is a tool for worship and worship is for God! If you’re not pleased it’s because you think it’s for you. Please…just…stop it! Please!!!!
Gripes about music only accomplish three things. First, they divide the church and the Bible is pretty clear that dividing the church is a sin…a serious sin. Second, they waste people’s time. I’ve spent countless hours in deacon and elder meetings enduring arguments about music. When the arguing finally settles down, it comes back again a few weeks or months later. It’s exhausting and it will never be solved on this earth. Third, it breaks the heart of God. The Lord longs for the sweet fragrance of our worship. He wants to hear the joyful noises that we make when we sing. Instead, he finds us huddled with other complainers with our arms folded making awful-screetchy-complaining-noises. Yuck!
“Our church isn’t deep enough.” // People in church like to sound spiritual by saying, “I want to go deeper”. More often than not, it reflects a desire for exhaustive expository teaching. Now please understand I love good expository Bible study. It’s awesome! But the pious complaint that one’s pastor isn’t doing enough “deep teaching” is really kinda silly. You know why? Because Jesus didn’t teach that way. Jesus didn’t own a Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words or a complete set of Bible commentaries. He never once said to his audience, “In the original Hebrew, this is what the prophet meant.” There’s no record of Jesus giving a verse-by-verse expository message anywhere in the New Testament. If Jesus preached the Sermon on The Mount in your church today, I wonder how many people might complain that it wasn’t deep enough. Jesus said to love your neighbor like you love yourself. How deep have you gone with that in your daily life? He said to forgive everyone. How deeply have you forgiven all who have wronged you? Jesus said not to worry. Are you deeply resting in God’s provision all the time, or do you sometimes flounder with worry. Jesus taught us to have the faith of a child. Do you deeply trust God with everything or does your shallow mind sometimes doubt? The fact of the matter is that Jesus was a topical preacher. Going deeper shouldn’t mean understanding more about every detail of a text. Rather it should mean taking the clear meaning of the text and letting it deeply change how we live. Generally speaking, people who make the deeper complaint just want more information. They don’t want deeper life-change. How sad.
So there’s my list of the top 5 stupid things American church people say. What would you add to the list?