On Tuesday, Nathan wrote a post on how he has learned to be thankful, rather than jealous and grouchy, about other churches in his city.
But what about when we feel we have cause to be grouchy? Maybe we hear that those churches are watering down the gospel, obscuring it by majoring on preferences/tradition, or are outright denying core biblical truths. Perhaps someone comes to us with disparaging stories about how they were treated. What then?
Proverbs 18:17 tells us that when we first hear a report, everything seems right until further evidence comes that gets us closer to the truth. More biting is Proverbs 17:4: “A wicked person listens to malicious talk; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.”
These Proverbs encourage us not to take complaints about another at face value without investigation. They instruct us not to delight in hearing someone tear down another.
Often we want to listen to those juicy bits of gossip about other churches because deep down we are envious of their success and we want something to be fishy about their ministry. We want them to have some sinister flaw so that we can brush aside their success. Our grouchiness is not a pure desire to see the gospel preached but rather the fumes emanating from the ugliness of our pride. So we gladly join in hearing and passing on the destructive words.
Instead of joining our voice to the destructive gossip, what should we do instead?
1. Pray for them
Wouldn’t it be glorious if every pulpit in your city preached the gospel with power? Isn’t that something worth making a regular part of your prayer life?
But don’t just pray privately; pray publicly! Make prayer for other churches in the community a part of your Sunday gathering. Pray for every church that claims Christ in such a way that everyone hearing you is absolutely convinced that you want to see God work there. Pray for revival to break out. Pray for them to outgrow their space with people coming to faith in Christ. Pray for their pastor to preach God’s truth with passion and effectiveness.
2. Become better acquainted with them
It is easy to criticize what we do not know or understand. You’ve heard the report about the church, but how do you know if it’s true?
Get to know their pastor, if he is available. Take him to lunch, ask him about he came there, and what is exciting to him about their ministry. Hear his heart for Christ and his ministry.
Second, experience what worship is like in their church. Try to attend a special service that occurs at a different time than when your church gathers. Listen to the songs they sing. Take a couple weeks and listen to their most recent sermon series and hear what they have to say. Turn generic gossip into real knowledge.
3. Be gracious in how you talk about them
In doing all this, you may find that the rumors you heard were untrue or an uncharitable twist on their ministry. You may find you have more similarity with them than you thought!
But sometimes the rumors will be true. They believe the Bible has errors. They preach psychology and self-help rather than Christ. Their songs are loud but have no gospel content. The pastor is prideful and caught up in his own hype.
How do you respond then?
Remember to be gracious. Unless they are preaching outright heresy, don’t publicly criticize. In fact, the only time you should talk about the flaws in a church to someone else is if that person is considering attending there. You can share your concerns but they won’t be generic criticisms that have no meat. You have taken the time to learn about the church and can offer concrete reasons they should not attend there. Share the information in a genuine desire to see that person in a healthy church, not as a sinful tearing down of another church.
We shouldn’t be grouchy about other churches in our area. But even when we have cause to be, our words should be full of grace and seasoned with salt to build up those who hear.