Complaints About Leaders
Q. Some people in our church are complaining against church leadership in social gatherings or on the phone. Is this a sin and considered gossip?
Thanks for your question. We know that just like everyone else, we will stand before the Lord to account for our lives on earth - just like you.
We will account for every "careless word" (Matt. 12:36), every "thought" (Ro. 2:15) and every "good or bad deed" (2 Cor. 5:10).
So we do not answer any questions with arrogance - but according to God's Word as best we can - knowing that we will account for what we write and say.
God Establishes Authorities
Having said that, it appears to us that it is a dangerous thing to complain against the established authorities in church or the government. The reason is that God Himself has established all of those in authority over us.
"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God, and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves" (Romans 13:1-2, NASB).
That does not mean we should never go against church or governmental authorities. For example, the apostle Peter said, "We must obey God rather than men" when confronted about preaching the gospel before the high priest (Acts 5:29). The Council had clearly tried to hinder the early church from spreading the gospel message.
Complaining against God Himself
However, Romans 13:1 clearly spells out that in the majority of cases those who complain against the authorities are actually complaining against God - and they will be punished for it!
Whining Grumblers in Wilderness
A rather serious example of complaining is noted in 1 Corinthians 10:9-11 and Hebrews 3:8-11. This example has to do with the whining, complaining, grumbling spirit of those participating in the Exodus "wilderness wanderings."
But, the apostle Paul clearly applies this example to us - the church - individual Christians! It warns,
"We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction…" (1 Cor. 10:9-11, ESV).
In essence, the Israelites were questioning God's sovereign care over their lives and they were grumbling and complaining about their circumstances.
This was serious because not trusting the Lord's sovereign care is equivalent to unbelief. Grumbling about our circumstances is equivalent to ingratitude. The penalty for their unbelief and ingratitude was rather severe.
The penalty for the Israelites' sin was death! The clear message to Christians is that the penalties for us are severe, too, when we grumble or complain about our circumstances.
- We can lose rewards that might have been available to us at the judgment seat of Christ.
- We could feel "shame." Or we may not receive a full reward. (See 1 Cor. 3:14-15, 1 John 2:28, 2 John 1:8).
Although we will be citizens of heaven, it is possible that we may not receive our full inheritance if we continue to deliberately sin. This is not something that we should take lightly. We have been clearly warned throughout the New Testament of this possibility.
Those who Watch over our Souls
We all need to remember that we are to,
"Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17, NASB).
Church leaders are "those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction." Paul requests that we "esteem them very highly in love because of their work." We are to "Live in peace with one another" (1 Thess. 5:12-13).
No Complaining Spirits Allowed
In addition, we need to remember that a complaining spirit is not supposed to be a part of a Christian's walk in the Lord:
Paul tells us in Philippians 2:14-15:
"Do all things without grumbling or disputing, so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world" (NASB).
James 5:9 agrees: "Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged - behold, the Judge is standing right at the door."
No Gossip Allowed
We should not indulge in gossip, either.
"If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless" (James 1:26).
The apostle Peter states that if we wish to receive our "inheritance blessing," then:
"The one who desires life,
to love and see good days,
must keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking
(1 Peter 3:10, NASB)
A Leader in Sin?
If a church leader has engaged in sin there is a clear procedure to follow in Matthew 18:15-17. Otherwise, complaining against a pastor may be equivalent to gossip and rebellion against leadership - which I know none of us wishes to indulge.
Rebellion is as Witchcraft
The prophet Samuel rebuked Saul when he disobeyed the Lord stating,
"For rebellion is as the sin
And insubordination is as
iniquity and idolatry."
(1 Samuel 15:23 KJV, NASB).
I Will Not touch God's Anointed
Furthermore, even after Saul sinned and attempted murder on David's life, King David refused to retaliate because "Far be it from me because of the LORD that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD'S anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the LORD'S anointed" (1 Samuel 24:6).
Over and over David repeats, "I will not stretch out my hand against my lord (King Saul), for he is the LORD'S anointed" (1 Sam. 24:10).
Anointed as Overseers?
If David showed great respect for a sinning king as "God's anointed," shouldn't we honor our church leaders with the same respect as those whom God has appointed to the office of overseer? Our overseers and pastors are "ordained" or "anointed," too, which means they are set apart for service to God.
The Christian's Bar of Soap
So, yes. Other than directly confronting a church leader for obvious sin, complaining about church leadership and authority can be a sin. But, thankfully those who have joined in this rebellion and sin have the option to apply the Christian's "bar of soap" to themselves (as Dr. Chuck&Nancy Missler call it):
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
Thankful for Much
Finally, we encourage those who are dissatisfied with their church leadership to quickly review persecution church news. Go to www.persecution.com for a quick overview and update. After reading this, one can't help but think we are fortunate indeed to live in America. Think about it:
- We have safe, standing church buildings in which to meet. We don't live under the threat that mobs will burn them down and hack our churches into little pieces.
-We have many well trained pastors who graduate from some of the best seminaries in the world. Some of those schools have produced the finest missionaries, authors, and pastors in church history.
-We live in a country where our pastors and their families dwell safely. They do not have to fear being hunted down and killed like animals!
-We are all allowed to own numerous Bibles in many translations - we do not fear that God's precious Word will be confiscated or burned and kept from us.
-We are free to practice our faith without the threat of persecution or fear for our lives.
Thank you, Lord!
Benware, Paul. 2002. The believer's payday. Chattanooga, TN: AMG.
Missler, Chuck&Nancy. 2008. The kingdom, power&glory: The overcomer's handbook. Coeur d'Alene, ID: The King's High Way Ministries. Available from: www.kingshighway.org.
The Voice of the Martyrs. Available from: www:persecution.com.
Authors Valorie Emilio holds an MA in History from UCLA focusing upon early church history. Ken received the MA in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University and a V.O.M. Certificate in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University.