Complaint Department

The weekend isn’t off to the best start. A new guy came to our Friday night class, which was unexpected, considering he’s been more withdrawn this semester. But glad to have him. Afterwards he wanted to have a word with me. He had some complaints, which are constantly fueled by his friend who I’ve mentioned in past blog entries that used to visit our place mainly as a critic. I don’t think our guy’s complaints though are completely invalid, just with the wrong attitude.  

He told me he’s been crying and praying a lot lately (which makes me kind of glad our church has problems!) because he feels that our church isn’t as good as it was before. He brought a bunch of visitors on Easter, and he didn’t like what one of the guys said while he was preaching (it’s always personal, isn’t it?) He feels like we don’t have the love that we used to have. The closest thing he came to a threat to leave is when he said, “There’s a lot of churches, but I choose to come here because this is where my heart is and where I became a Christian.”   

I passed on my first few reaction-options since they all involved breaking commandments. I did my best to agree with him. Man, we’re not perfect – not even close, or the church would have enough money and sense to fire me. I know we don’t have enough love – fortunately, I had a copy of the message I’m preaching tonight and I read him a paragraph from it about the need to increase in love. What T. said when he was preaching wasn’t wise to say.  

Sometimes (due in part, I suppose, to my incomplete language ability, the cultural gap, the nature of leadership, or plain ol’ wanting to believe that I’m not all that bad), people with complaints have this idea that I’m completely oblivious to all the things that are lacking in the church. When someone wants to complain, they always want “to inform” me. I guess they imagine that if I knew, I’d be just as… whatever as they are. But it’s like the patient telling the doctor what he suspects is wrong with the guy in the next bed over. So I like to tell them that they don’t have a clue about half the problems that we’ve got. I understand the panic though – they’re all just afraid their leaders aren’t trying to handle the situation. 

I tried to remind this guy that there’s two kinds of critics: leaders and complainers – those who sit and complain and those who stand and lead. I told him that though I appreciated his advice, he doesn’t really have the right to complain right now. He’s not nearly as involved this semester as he was last semester. If he wants to help, it’s going to require some time. So he’s planning on coming to some of next week’s time for me, S., and T. to help talk about our church’s plans. Which will be a big step for him – he’s a talker, but Friday night was the first time that I think he’s ever really listened to me before.  

But let’s be honest. Dude isn’t as involved this year, a lot changed over winter break – some people didn’t come back. So when he goes in there, he’s not automatically recognized as a leader or as a closely involved member. Which triggers feelings of nostalgia. I told him he’s got to admit that at least part of this dissatisfaction is coming from something in his heart. I mean, on the whole, the average person in our church is in much better shape then last semester. Like, I think a bunch of them read their Bibles and pray now. I’ve got a better view of the whole than he does, so I tried to console him there. And lastly, our church is a few months old. I invited him to go somewhere else if he thought that he could find a church without problems. I mean, we’re really the only church that he’s been to! (having been on deputation, it gives me a great card to pull out – “I’ve been to more than 300 churches”) The only thing we can strive to do is “get better.”  

Sessions like that are good for me personally. Maybe that’s why I get to enjoy them.

One Comment on “Complaint Department”

  1. Austin March 30, 2008 at 6:59 am #

    I just want you to know that we love you and are praying for you. I know about the complaints and have had to deal with them for years. God is working or there wouldn’t be any people to complain.

    Tell your wife that we send our love. I am excited about what God is doing and read every word and think of you very often

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