4 Members Who Tear Down the Church
Healthy churches are a powerful and attractive witness. In a recent article, I described six kinds of members who build up the church. Unfortunately, even in a healthy church, not every member pursues unity.
What kind of members wound our witness? What kind of members do not build up the body of Christ? Consider these four:
1. The member who loves to be an armchair critic.
These days, cynicism seems cool. In a world dominated by social media and self-expression, cynicism is easily mistaken for wisdom and enlightenment. In Christian circles, people build entire ministries on cynicism; their purpose is to tell you what’s wrong with everyone else. And in our self-deception we manage to veil our critical spirits as wisdom.
Armchair critics are bent on finding fault with what others are doing while doing nothing themselves. They’re apathetic to things that are going on and are disappointed when you succeed. They’re quick to condemn and slow to commend. They falsely place themselves as judge, and you never hear them admit wrong. Cynics can never be pleased nor satisfied.
More often than not, cynicism hides the wounds of bitterness and even hatred. This type of member can destroy the unity and joy of the church.
2. The member who never attends.
It’s amazing how many people are eager to be “members” of a local church without also being eager to faithfully attend. It’s far too common for churches to have vast discrepancies between the membership roll and actual attendance on Sunday. Most churches have far more members on paper than in reality.
The New Testament encourages believers to gather weekly to worship God and serve one another (1 Cor. 11; 16:2); it even warns believers about the dangers of non-attendance (Heb. 10:23–25). This invariably means that non-attending members are willfully disregarding the Lord’s command to fellowship with other believers and pursue discipling relationships. Granted, there are some valid reasons for not attending.
Non-attending members are an oxymoron. They don’t want to serve and use their gifts to edify other believers, and by not attending they actually remove themselves from the platform where they can minister and be ministered to. Over time, they harm the unity and mission of the church.
3. The member with a divisive spirit.
Divisive people are often driven by a desire to be in charge. They want their opinions heard and implemented—with near total agreement from everyone else. Divisive people expect you to consult them about an issue, and if you don’t not consult them in particular, they rise lash out.
The ironic thing about people with a divisive spirit is that they sometimes have a sincere concern about the church’s well-being. Jamie Dunlop sums it up perfectly: “We rally support to get people to see things our way. Behavior like that, no matter the virtue of the original concern, quickly causes factions and dissension within the church, something Paul lists alongside idolatry, witchcraft, and fits of rage (Gal. 5:20). We must address discontentment carefully because it so often bears the fruit of discord.”
4. The member who loves to meddle and gossip (a.k.a., the busy-body).
Meddlers often gossip. They’re in the business of gathering information about people and their affairs with the purpose of sharing it with others. They have an inquisitiveness masked as care and concern, when in actual fact they simply cannot mind their own business.
Such people make healthy discipling relationships very difficult because you have to be guarded around them for fear of your issues being shared with someone else. Busy-bodies cause strife between saints, and always find themselves in the middle of conflict between others.
The arm chair critic, the non-attending member, the divisive member, and the busy-body. They all have a common thread: self-centeredness. They’ve missed the very essence of salvation; they’ve failed to love God and love people with every ounce of their being.
Furthermore, they forget that the church of God doesn’t exist for their comfort and happiness but for the glory of God. And in God’s design, that means loving people with diverse preferences and opinions—and yet still loving like Christ loved us.
What’s the result of this kind of love? A unity that displays the power, wisdom, and glory of God, a oneness that becomes a powerful witness to the world.