How do you handle a complainer?


There is a preacher I have known for at least 20 years. At one time he lived a few hours from where I was and when he started feeling down his wife would talk him into coming and paying my wife and me a visit because she felt that I could get him to calm down and in a better mood.

For as long as I can remember, he has been one of those who when he is in a good mood can be a great guy, very influential at building brethren up, etc..  But, he is also very moody and goes through periods of feeling down and depressed.  When he is in that mood he can get downright mean!  (Speaking from experience!)  One time he said (among other things), "Any man who wants to be a preacher has to have rocks in his head"!    Well, I took exception to his remark and to make a long story short we ended up not communicating for about three years.  I finally broke the ice and wrote to him, he very glad and excitedly responded.

He currently is serving as one of the three elders where he worships.  He preached for the congregation for quite a while and it was agreed that when he retired he and his wife could continue to live in the house that belongs to the church.  He is now quite old.  A year or so ago the other two elders requested that he retire.  (They fired him!  To use his words.)  A few months later they hired a young preacher with a wife and children.  He claims that the young preacher is lazy, his children are unruly, his sermons are boring with no "meat", etc.   Knowing him as I do, he will make life miserable for the young preacher, but to date, the other two elders disagree with him, so he's angry with them as well.

I have advised him to talk to his doctor about his problem but he refuses to do so.  The following is a recent example of what he sent me:

We did the best we could with worship. We got the usual basic lessons with no depth. I am dying on the content each week. Then some song leader after the massacre will say that was a great lesson or something to that effect. We got most of our wayward travelers back for at least a week or two before others go away for a week or two. We are to the point that we have to do one of two things, continue to live in the house and worship elsewhere or number two, move to another state and go back to the rat race of preaching. I am really dismayed about the church and how the brethren act. I want to just forget about the church and live what is left of my life without all of the heartaches of being a Christian. Please pray for us.

I try to encourage him to do what he knows to be right and refuse to say anything about the young preacher one way or another.


I would like you to look at the lesson "The Nature of Criticism," especially the sections on the cause of criticism and the "License to Complain" at the end of the lesson. Next, I would like you to look at "Ten Rules for Improving the Church." These two lessons should give you the Scriptural background needed to handle the problem.

When someone starts complaining, my preferred response is to ask the complainer what he is doing to improve the situation. If this fellow doesn't like the content, then ask him how he is helping the young preacher get better. Has he suggested topics he would like considered? Has he had Bible studies with this young man? Has he offered to help with some of the mundane work so that the young man has more free time to study?

It is one thing to note existing problems, but unless something is done about improving the situation to the profit of everyone involved, it is useless to complain -- more than that, it is sinful to complain.

I commend the tolerance of the other two elders. The attitude expressed by this man doesn't belong in a congregation's leadership. They are being very kind to this elderly couple in their later years.

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