If the Stuff Christians Like book sells well I’m probably going to fund an event called “The Church Olympics.” The competitions will range from VBS scissor skills to prayer shot blocking to palm branch sword fighting. There will be dozens of events but the one that I think will draw the most spectators?
“The complain off.”
In this thrilling bout of athletic prowess, each church that enters the Olympics will put forth their greatest grumbler. They will find their best complainer, the person who is never happy, never tired of whining and forever spreading verbal vinegar or paragraphs of poison and then put them on top of a platform. The platform will be ten feet high and will be sticking out of a pool of Miracle Whip and Cinnabons. (Miracle Whip is like mayonnaise’s underachieving cousin and Cinnabons smell roughly 900% better than they actually taste. So as they’re falling the loser will briefly think they’re about to land in a delicious cinnamon roll. Nope. Just a Cinnabon slathered with Miracle Whip.)
Each person will yell their best church-flavored complaints at the other person until only one is left standing.
I try to be a pretty positive person most days but I could probably win this event. Know why? Because I know the greatest church complaint ever – “I’m not being fed right now.”
That is the worst because it’s one of those complaints designed to inflict hurt while at the same time making you look super spiritual. And every time I hear someone say it, I want to ask three things:
1. Are you doing the simple things right now?
When people say, “I’m not being fed,” what they’re really saying is, “This church is too surface for me. These sermons are too simple. I want to dig into the meat of the Scriptures. I want to explore the deeper mysteries of God.” And at the heart of it, desiring to explore God and dive deeper into who He is can be a wonderful thing. But when we get drunk on the idea of “not being fed,” we often skip right over the “simple things” and focus instead on the “complex things.” We lose sight of the simple things like “loving our neighbors” and “being salt and light.” So when someone tells you, “I’m not being fed,” ask them how they’re doing on the simple things. Ask them if they feel like they’ve completed the “easy things” like loving God and loving others and are therefore ready to move on to the meatier topics.
2. Who are YOU feeding?
“I’m not being fed” is such a “take” statement. It’s about me making sure my needs are met in my life and taking what you’re giving to do that. But if the desire to get fed is truly from God, there should be a large degree of giving present in the person’s life. If feeding is important to them, there should be evidence of them feeding other people. Even if you feel like the sermons are too simple, have you shared that simplicity with people at work who don’t go to church? Are you feeding people further down the line from you? Are you taking the small seed of knowledge you feel like you received and scattering that in your neighborhood, your community, your workplace? If the answer is no, then you’re not really into feeding. You’re into devouring. Devouring things for yourself, and that’s completely different than feeding.
3. Is this something the Pharisees would do?
I think this is a litmus question we should ask ourselves constantly. If I took the complaint, “I’m not being fed,” and placed it in the New Testament, who would be saying it? Is that something Jesus and the disciples would say to each other, or is that something the Pharisees (old school religious law zealots) would say? If the little Pharisee on your shoulder ever chimes in, “Great point. Thanks for letting everyone know how we feel,” about something you’ve said, you’ve got a problem.
Ultimately, a member of your church might blow off all three questions and still beat the “I’m not being fed” drum loudly and proudly through the halls. These are not silver bullets, and depending on how deeply someone is in a complaining funk, they might ignore a thousand questions you ask them.
But if they refuse to listen to you, the least you can do is make sure they enter the Stuff Christians Like Church Olympics. Who knows, you might think they’re an amazing complainer but maybe there’s a dude in Ohio whose complaints are so solid your friend will end up waste deep in a pool of Miracle Whip. Which in a weird way is win-win for you.