What You Don’t Like About Your Church (And why that’s good)

I have this conversation quite often with members of my church and with believers outside of my church. It is usually sparked by a discussion of something this person doesn’t like about our church or about the church they attend.

Now, let’s assume the disagreement is not related to doctrinal purity, moral integrity, authoritarian abuse (issues I believe are grounds for leaving a church). Let’s also assume this is a gospel-preaching, Word-saturated, bible-believing church. Let’s also assume the disagreement is not over a 2nd-tier issue that is not orthodoxy, but valid reason when choosing a church (mode of baptism, denomination, etc). So we’re dealing with issues of preference.

This is what I tell people who tell me there is something about our church they don’t like or about their church they don’t like: “Good.”

It’s good that you’re involved with a local body of believers with whom you have disagreements and varying preferences. Why? Because that is the whole idea of God calling out and gathering together His local body. We come together, not because we agree on everything and have the same preferences, but because, despite our disagreements, we are united in Christ.

I often say to people and have preached in messages before this statement, “I don’t like everything in our church. And this is good, because if everything here was geared to what I like, it would be great for me, but not-so-great for the other members.” And so it is with you.

Chances are there is something on Sunday mornings you’d like to see differently. Perhaps you like danishes instead of donuts. Or you’d rather sing hymns than songs written since 1990. Perhaps you’re more of an organ person than a guitar person. Or you really hate the color of the lobby walls.

Good! A resounding, spirit-filled good! You’re continued presence at this church indicates you’re willing to lay aside your preferences, sacrifices your pet peeves for the good of Christ’s body. And it proves that you’re not simply going to church to have all of your senses tickled, but to use your gifts to serve God’s people.

When leadership structures a church in such a way that it meets all the pastor’s preferences, it creates a personality-driven church. But when the pastor is willing to lay aside some of his preferences for the good of the people he serves, God is glorified and the people are blessed.

When the people who attend a church stomp their feet and demand certain things at church be their way, it sows division in the church, hurts the pastor, and ultimately undermines the gospel mission to the community. But when people come to church and get involved, even though there are very real things at church they don’t like, they are making a profound statement that God’s work and God’s people are more important than their preferences.

This must be an intentional attitude, because we live in a culture of American consumerism. We can pick and choose churches, not based on anything important but our own pet likes and dislikes. I’m not discounting the importance of church culture, family atmosphere, etc. But ultimately, our role as a Christian is to participate in the local body of believers, to serve with our gifts, and to glorify Christ corporately. When we make our church choices based on personal preferences, we idolize what is unimportant and marginalize gospel witness.

It strikes me that these choices would be irrelevant in many places around the world. I was in Eastern Europe this year where there are very few, gospel-preaching evangelical churches. So if you are a missionary or a Christian in that area, you’re choices are few and you suddenly aren’t as concerned about the coffee and the guitar and the color of the walls. You’re just happy to find people of faith nearby with whom you can fellowship and serve.

So, if there is something about your church you dislike, consider it an opportunity to sacrifice for the greater good of the body.

Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He previously served five years as Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church. He is a contributor to Leadership Journal, Homelife, Crosswalk.com, Stand Firm,” and a variety of other evangelical publications. He has written several books, including his latest, Activist Faith.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

10 thoughts on “What You Don’t Like About Your Church (And why that’s good)

  1. I am a member of a good bible believing church with solid doctrine. However our numbers are dwindling and my opinion is that we have a Paster who is very good at pasturing but his "preaching" is more like talking with no conviction so it is very boring. His praying is much the same. I am beginning to think he may not really be a Christian but someone just doing a job. Visitors mostly never return and I have had visiting friends tell me my church is dead! This is frustrating and I am thinking of going elsewhere although being 75 I really do not want to change churches. Any advice would be appreciated.


    • Mel,
      That's a tough question. I don't know your church. I don't know the pastor. I don't know the environment. So anything I'm saying is based on a far-away view. However, I might suggest this course of action: a) pray hard about where God wants you to serve and to be b) also consider that God may have called you to this church for this purpose. c) Pray for your pastor d) Perhaps cultivate a relationship with him and offer honest, but encouraging feedback on his sermons e) Examine your heart to see if the problem is not with you–because it could be that your pastor is faithfully delivering the Word of God in a powerful way and you don't know it f) If you really care about your church and your pastor, pay for him to go to a good conference like The Gospel Coalition or T4G or some other excellent preaching places. But do this in a way that is a gift, not with a demand or a threat or in a negative way.

      That's my advice. Hope it helps.

  2. What would you say about a church who has problems organizationally meaning the Pastor wants to establish elders but a clear vision and belief statements arent listed?

    • I don't know your church, your pastor, your elders or anything. So all of this is advice given from many miles away. However, I would say first a) pray for your pastor b) pray for your church c) offer constructive advice where accepted. d) perhaps suggest some resources from 9 Marks or other places.

      Hope that helps

  3. Great post. I'm trying to think of ways of communicating this to my college kids who either love everything about a church or don't go at all. This is helpful.

  4. Good article and good reminder.
    My wife and I are a member (for 20+ years) of a good, independent Bible church of the Dallas Seminary persuasion. The church is very mission oriented, has a high view of the Scriptures, and a stable leadership structure. However, about 10 years ago our Sunday morning worship gatherings started a morphing process to where we have ended up with what I like to call a two-legged liturgy of singing and sermon. The music is loud and rousing with all of the accompanying swirling lights and special effects. The preaching is topical and "relevant", slanted toward the seekers among us. All of it very spectator oriented and non-participative. Well and good…I guess.
    Since that time we have visited some other churches (PCA, Emergent) and discovered that what we have been missing is a well-rounded liturgy that honors not only music and preaching but the Eucharist, contemplation (what is that??), and congregational participation as well. We have loved it!
    Back to our church, where does that leave us? We honestly don't want to leave our church but the way we do worship has left us very wanting. Advice?
    Peace to you, and thank you for your ministry.

    • Chad

      Not being at your church or in your environment I can\’t render a good judgement.

      However, I would say a few things in response.

      First, I would strongly urge you to check your own heart. I hear what you are saying regarding worship. And I think churches can be so focused on relevance instead of biblical worship. However you really need to check your heart here. Have you considered that perhaps you are wanting the worship experience to tickle your own preferences? Perhaps a new style of worship is an opportunity for you to grow and change, recognizing that worship is not primarily about what you like but about gathering collectively with God\’s people to offer sacrifice and praise to God.

      Secondly, I\’d consider how important unity is in the church. Are you willing to die to your preferences and agenda to advance the kingdom and love the brothers and sisters in The Lord.

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