How to Better Understand and React to Complainers in Church

by: Rev. Ed Schneider

“Why are there people in every church that have the seemingly endless ability to complain about anything and everything?”

That’s a great question, don’t you think? Let me voice that question from a Christian perspective.

Haven’t any of you wondered, ever so slightly, why people claiming to be faithful, loving, and full of the joy-of-Jesus find it just short of effortless to complain over an endless variety of things?

Well, I Do.

My hypothesis is these “complainers” inhabit not only every Christian church but also are ingrained within every other setting known to humanity.

OK. OK. OK! Maybe that was a “slight” exaggeration. However, churches, just like most organizations, are comprised of people from many segments of our society. Some of the people attach themselves an individual congregation have bad personal habits of showing up late, fidgeting in their seats, letting their small children run around completely unsupervised, or talking during a favorite piece of music instead of singing along with the rest of the congregation present. Complaining, for the most part, is just another bad habit to address in a Christ-like fashion.

I’m not saying that there aren’t people who, in the most inappropriate fashion intentionally, and with malicious intent, stir up mess. They do. There is no doubt about that. However, most “church complainers” seem to fall into the “bad habit” category of personal communications.

Here’s something to remember…not everyone communicates in the same way. Some folks have an unfortunate habit of communicating in an unpleasant way. Yet we are called to initially accept people as they come in to our midst without a condemning spirit. Even though this may be hard at times, it is important that the Christian church reflect an accepting nature while gently dealing with issues of change at all times.

All people of faith are in a constant series of changing…or transforming…events. Some of these changing events are small, and some are not. Some are easily acceptable from the individual, and some are not. For most people, the act of complaining, or as the Bible refers to it, “murmuring”, has been a learned trait and as such should be treated as any other bad habit to be addressed.

That is the good news. Now for the not-so-good news.

There are some people – I’m sure nobody that you know personally, who seem to complain merely to hear their own voice. They complain about “everything” and “nothing” all at the same time. They complain to provide themselves with a false sense of personal validation. Sadly, they have a desperate need to feel important because they have failed at other essential parts of their lives. Most of the time these sad individuals complain to other folks who are silly enough to participate with the “mess” they are stirring up and thereby empower their negative actions.

It is an unfortunate fact that those who do most of the complaining will do nothing to practically help what they contend was actually bothering them in the beginning. It is most frustrating when someone’s false sense of importance meets their need for attention in an act of purposeful irritation; and yet they too were made by the same God that made the rest of us.

It is imperative that we as a Christian community of faith do all we can to provide a loving and safe environment so that those who wish to learn new habits can do so in a non-condemning way. But it is also true that people who claim to be Christian must be willing to periodically look at themselves in the spiritual mirror with honesty. Without an authentic review of where you are currently and where you may need to be traveling on the road to faithful maturity, there will be little opportunity for actual and reliable change.

I think it also needs to be shared that not every complaint is unwarranted. Some complaints need to be heard and dealt with. Some complaining provides important conversation that will lead to a corrective environment.

Truth be told, it is not so much the act of complaining that becomes the problem, it is the intention of the complaining that can very easily tear an organization down to its foundations.

Now, even though l have said all of this, it is absolutely essential to understand that those who continue to complain for the sole purpose of stirring up “mess” need to be held accountable and need not be enabled or rewarded for their negative and destructive behavior. As long as we do this in a loving way, Christ would be most satisfied and we will have effectively demonstrated our willingness to follow a gracious God while standing up for the true character of the church we are called to represent.


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