“Pettiness is the tendency of people without large purposes.”
Charlie Pender was the Mayor of Corner Brook, a quiet little town in Canada. It’s the kind of place where nothing much happens. Recently, Charlie was up for re-election but for some reason someone thought it’d be funny to vandalize his political signs. It wasn’t major, just a bit of odd humor. They cut a flap in his signs and placed hotdogs in them so it appeared that the hot dogs were coming out of Mayor Pender’s mouth. His political foe, of course, distanced himself from the Corner Brook Wiener Bandit. But the cold hot dogs made Mayor Pender very hot over what was a silly prank…and it cost him. Voters decided they didn’t need a Mayor who lacked perspective and made such a big deal over something so trivial.
Did you know that October is Pastor Appreciation Month? We’ve all met those people who want a gift and leave subtle hints. I decided to not be so subtle. I want a GIFT! But you can’t buy it in a store. And it’s really not for me, it’s for our whole church. In the end, it’s also for you. Every pastor would love it if their church would give them this same gift. Here it is: Please don’t be petty. Please don’t complain about the insignificant.
It’s true that it’s probably not insignificant to you, but it really is. The mission of the church is not about making you or me happy. It’s not about making you or me comfortable. The mission of the Church is about glorifying God. It’s about believers growing in grace and becoming more like Jesus. It’s about reaching with the Gospel those who don’t know Jesus.
It’s very noteworthy that the most infamous petty complainers in the Bible were always referred to as the “children” of Israel. Obviously, God was making a point. When believers whine about the petty, they reveal their spiritual immaturity. They divulge that they don’t understand the Gospel, or what it means to be like Jesus, or even what discipleship is all about. That’s both sad and anything but insignificant.
The Bible commands us to not complain, “Do all things without grumbling” (Phil. 2:14). Sadly, that doesn’t stop most of us. God’s Word commands us instead to speak words that are edifying and encouraging (Ephesians 4:29) “only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
Many of the trivial complaints and arguments people have in churches are shocking and even funny. Here’s a small sampling compiled by ministry blogger, Thom Ranier: One church had a 45-minute heated argument over the type of filing cabinet to purchase: black or brown; 2, 3, or 4 drawers. Another had folk upset over what type of green beans the church should serve. Someone made an issue over whether the church should allow people to wear black t-shirts, since black is the color of the devil. Someone got upset when they discovered that the church budget was off $0.10. There have been church wars over the type of coffee served. In one, they simply moved to a stronger blend and members left the church over it.
We may chuckle yet some of our “big issues” are just as silly. This has been on my heart lately. Because as we make decisions for our new building, there will be strong opinions. The reality is that the vast majority of them simply don’t matter. They’re just opinions and subjective. For example, there is no right or wrong color for the walls or the carpeting (though most of us would prefer that they not be hot pink.) So how should we handle it when something bothers us at church?
First, we need to ask, “Is this something that takes away from God’s glory?” If it’s something that’s truly biblical, then that’s obviously the case. Most things aren’t. If they were, because leaders are usually biblically focused, they would have already known it was a problem.
Second, “Have I prayed about it and examined my own heart?” Problem-solving must always begin with suspecting the person I know best – ME. Satan loves to use our ego against us. It’s not necessarily important or big just because WE think it is. Yet, little can make us angrier than feeling that we aren’t important BUT we’re not. Only God is important.
Third, “Is this a problem that hinders us in accomplishing our mission?” In nearly four decades of ministry, rarely has anyone ever come to me about a concern that needed addressing because it was a barrier to lost folk accepting the Gospel or it was hindering Christians from growing.
Fourth, “Do I want to problem-solve or only gripe?” Some are just gripers. They’re never happy. It’s poor stewardship to even listen to them.
Fifth, “If I honestly want to problem-solve, have I brought the issue to the attention of a leader in the church?” Some will seek to develop a coalition of supporters by sowing discord and causing disunity in the Body. When they finally go to a leader, they package it with something like, “other people are saying…” If the leader asks, “Who?” It’s “I don’t want to say.” They’re the self-appointed ambassador for the disgruntled.
Sixth, “Am I willing to invest (time, money, effort) to be part of the solution?” If I’m not willing to put skin in the game, it’s unlikely that it’s important. It’s very easy to complain or be part of the problem. God wants us to grow in our faith and learn to practice biblical problem solving.Seventh, “Am I willing to humbly and graciously accept things if my wishes are not followed?” That’s a Christlike heart, a servant’s heart. A church family like a biological one is to be a place of giving and taking for the greater purpose. Our common goal must be to always please King Jesus, even if it isn’t our preference. Godly Christians are committed to Jesus first, the local church family second, and our own personal wishes last.
Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.