Dealing with Murmurers

In a comment to an earlier post, Dell Kimberly asked,

One of our deacons has not come on board. He and his wife are upset with the change of direction. They continue to work just below the surface. They question the authority and effectiveness of the elders. Their complaints and questions are never presented in public. It is always done just below the surface. Actually it must be very similar to the murmuring that Moses must have experienced. How do we deal with this without taking away from the growth and energies of the church?

That’s a tough one. Solutions will vary, depending on why they are unhappy. There comes a point where the church has to move forward despite a few holdouts. You love them, listen to them, try to teach them, treat them with respect, and do not yield to their demands.

My view is that you never empower complainers. It’s bad for the church. Leadership has to come from the most mature, not those with childish attitudes. Don’t go backwards! Therefore, the solution isn’t to stop progress.

It helps to try to understand why they are acting as they do.

In my experience, many murmurers complain as a way of reclaiming lost power. When the church was smaller, they could veto decisions they didn’t like. Now that it’s bigger, no one even asks their opinion. And so they try to regain power through backbiting and gossip.

Or sometimes they have a genuine doctrinal disagreement.

Or they may just be the sort how have trouble with change even though intellectually they know it’s okay.

Or they may find the change embarrassing to their friends and families who attend more conservative churches (quite a common problem, in my experience).

And they are often unaware of their true motivations. They are just unhappy and see murmuring as their only way of dealing with it. Of course, the fact that they are so unhappy means they care deeply about these things, and that’s often the very fact you need to fix the problem.

Elders can often resolve the problem through conversation. Just by getting the complainers to articulate their concerns, they might be encouraged to see their error.

Many will have persuaded themselves that they speak for a silent majority. Everyone feels as they do! And so it helps if you can say, “For every complaint we’ve received, we’ve received 10 compliments” or the like. Sometimes a churchwide survey proves to the malcontents they are in the distinct minority. As this is a deacon, it may be possible to address the issues at a deacon meeting, counting on the other deacons to support the changes, proving to him he’s in the minority. (But, then again, his wife won’t be there, so it may work at all!)

The murmuring is sometimes a cry for attention: “I’m being hurt by these decisions and need someone to pay attention to me.” While they should never be empowered, the fact that the elders care enough to listen, even if they won’t change their minds, is sometimes enough.

Sometimes, it’s sheer selfishness. Normally, it goes better to point the complainers toward higher motives rather than seeking to cow them with threats or scripture. For example, there have been times — at the height of the worship wars — we had to say “Get over it” — but our minister was wise enough to couch it in terms of mutual love: we are here to encourage others because we love them. It’s not about what we get out of worship but what we help others receive.

I know of cases in other churches where complainers had to be gently but firmly confronted with their sin. I mean, how can this man be a leader in the church and undercut the elders? He really needs to get on board or resign as a deacon. He can’t be held up to the congregation as a leader while behaving in this way.

And there may come a time when you have to encourage them to leave. It’s always a last resort, but many a church was launched into growth by the departure of a few negative families. As we like to remind ourselves, when they transfer to another church, they aren’t leaving Jesus, just this congregation.

And, of course, there may come a time when you have to confront them with the numerous commands about not complaining —

(James 5:9) Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

(Heb 13:17 ESV) Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

In short, I don’t know a magic formula. But they need to feel loved, respected, and cherished as members of the church — all while the elders are pressing them to stop undermining God’s work in the church and not yielding to their demands.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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4 Responses to Dealing with Murmurers

  1. Joe Baggett says:

    But isn't complaining part of being a Christian. If you are standing up for the truth then complaining, slandering, and gossiping is ok because you are defending the faith. This most of the brotherhood journals and papers are all about why would we expect any different from our members who read them. A lady was explaining to me the other day that the churches of Christ are non-denom because we have no bishops. I told her she was right we just have editors and Bible professors that tell everyone what to think. What would all the old ladies at church do if they did not mummer, slander, gossip and complain?

  2. Jay Guin says:

    They'd be an example for our preachers, who love to murmur, slander, gossip, and complain to and about each other! (We have a serious gossip problem in the Churches among the preaching class.)

  3. >>“Do you know of any churches where the elders willingly present themselves before the church on a regular basis”

    yes I have met good functioning elders and bad ones as well..

    in love submit one to another…

    According to my reading of the scriptures the term Pastor is always plural, not singular, meaning there are too be many pastors in any local church, and pastors have to submit to the gifted elders, who are the apostles- missionaries and prophets- appointed by God as his spokesman – the NT Greek verb is continually present- meaning God continues to give these men ( or women – such as Junia note worthy amongst the apostles) unto the church now as well , but most pastors tend to deny the extsingnce of these offices cause they are rebels who wrongfully refuse to submit to other's and submission is metal- meaning reciprocal.. and also note this voluntarily, unenforceable..

    Now it was interesting I had met this really crooked head elder and head deacon in a Baptist church, not just in the Pentecostal churches, where there too the elders and deacons, tend to be pretentious ones too ( for when was the last time you saw an elder giving food, money to the poor persons in the church as was done in the book of Acts?) .. even such as the one who was an elder and owned a bar that served alcohol of all things.. and told me if I come to his church he would call the police against me, but the same church I next helped to close down, I had the federal government remove their tax exempt license after I had exposed in writing to news editors, elected officials too their much too many unacceptable abuses, money thefts, slanders, etc.,

    the Baptist pastor had cheated, for he had short circuited the selection process, he had the nominating committee before any selection submit the names to him for his prior approval of their supposedly spiritual qualifications and he elected his bad friends.. one Sunday evening as I was leaving the church and shaking hands with the pastor, he unexpectedly said to me " this is my church and if you do not like it get out".. shocked and surprised I said to the pastor if I have offended you let me meet you this week Tuesday night and you can bring any two witnesses you ant as well and we can discuss the matter. he agreed and I knew that he would bring the head elder and the head deacons.. as I walked into the pastor's office on Tuesday day night, the founding church pastor said immediately to me wipe the smirk of your face.. so I immediately said.. hey pastor let us make this quick, Did you or did you not say to me this is my church and if you do not like it get out? you should have seen the shock on the deacon and elder's face. The pastor seeing this too next said you cannot hear any charges form this man for I am a senior and if you listen to him I will resign. I said pastor if you want to resign, do so, but cut of the emotional black main and answer the question.. he resigned instead, and became a life insurance salesman rather next..

    now I still had a problem with the crooked head elder.. so I tried to first talk to him about his immoral acts and lack of spirituality, he admitted he had no time to read the Bible even.. but it was useless for he laughed me off. So next the elder came to see me and said you know when you told everyone about my lack of spirituality it did not bother me, it was your word against mine, but when you next had put it in writing to all to see it hurt.. and I said back to him.. is that what it takes to cause you to rightfully repent? seems people tend to believe the truth only if it is in wring these days.. and ever since that day I have also next been posting unacceptable, unrepented of sins of many pastors and elder on the net but few repented, less than 5 percent next, some even moved rather out of town instead.. many were rightfully fired next.

    (Gal 6:1 KJV) Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

    (Gal 6:2 KJV) Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

    (Gal 6:3 KJV) For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

    (Gal 6:4 KJV) But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

    (Gal 6:5 KJV) For every man shall bear his own burden.

    (Gal 6:7 KJV) Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

    (Gal 6:8 KJV) For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

    (Gal 6:9 KJV) And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

    (Gal 6:10 KJV) As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

    (Lev 19:17 KJV) Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.

    (Psa 104:7 KJV) At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.

    (Prov 9:8 KJV) Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.

    (Prov 13:1 KJV) A wise son heareth his father's instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.

    (Prov 24:25 KJV) But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them.

    (Prov 27:5 KJV) Open rebuke is better than secret love.

    (Eccl 7:5 KJV) It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.

    (Isa 66:15 KJV) For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.

    (Jer 15:15 KJV) O LORD, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke.

    (Luke 17:3 KJV) Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
    (Phil 2:15 KJV) That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

    (1 Tim 5:1 KJV) Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;

    (1 Tim 5:20 KJV) Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

    (2 Tim 4:2 KJV) Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

    (Titus 1:13 KJV) This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;

    (Titus 2:15 KJV) These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

    (Rev 3:19 KJV) As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

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