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2/22/13 at 11:45 AM 0 Comments

My Least Favorite Things in Church

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By Joe McKeever

Let’s consider what follows as simply an honest admission, a confession-is-good-for-the-soul, that sort of thing. Having highlighted our preferred events at church, it makes sense to give the dark side and say what we don’t like. So, for better or for worse, here goes…

I dislike church fights and arguments.

“Who does?” you say. Apparently, there are people who thrive on them. I’m not a member of that fraternity.

The church fights I have experienced are some of the most painful memories of my half-century of ministry. How do I hate thee, O church fights? Let me count the ways….

–That church business meeting on whether to cancel the Sunday night radio broadcast to save a few dollars, I was merely a spectator, but it was painful to see. The pastor and one group wanted to keep the program as it was drawing people to church; the finance committee and their group insisted the church could not afford it.

–One fight focused on “opening the doors of the church” to members of minority races. I still grieve at the ugliness some good people demonstrated.

–Another fight centered around whether to construct a building, whether we could afford it, was it needed, was this a good time for it. Why reasonable people cannot discuss this sort of thing calmly remains a mystery to me.

–The last big fight I refereed as pastor concerned a recommendation from the deacons (against my counsel) that no divorced person or any man married to a divorcee could become a deacon. I recall the ugliness to this day, and that was a long time ago.

I don’t care for mean-spirited comments in a business meeting.

Sometimes, there is no actual fight or division, but a few angry people spill their venom in the public discussions and taint the fellowship for everyone. That’s so unnecessary and so painful.

Church members who cannot say their piece in love should be quiet. There is no exception to this iron-clad rule.

Cliquishness is one of the ugliest aspects of some churches.

A Sunday School class develops a great camaraderie, the members learn to love getting together, the fellowship is incredible, and then something terrible happens to threaten this beautiful thing they have going: someone new walks in.

I can hear them now. We don’t really need anyone else. Isn’t our room comfortably filled as it is? And what if this new individual doesn’t “fit” with us? Let them go to another class.

Cliquishness is such a subtle thing. But make no mistake, it’s a monster and antithetical to the spirit of Christian love.

As a seventh-grader, newly arrived at the county-seat junior/senior high school from small rural schools, I knew only one or two people. However, the town kids had known each other all their lives and been in class together from kindergarten. It took several years for those of us from outlying areas to break into their clique and be accepted as an equal. (Bear in mind, they were just children and were not being intentionally ‘mean.’ This is the way children act. Adults should know better.)

Moses and I do not like murmuring.  (smiley-face goes there.) All through the wilderness travels, Moses had to endure the constant griping and “murmuring” (the KJV term) of the Israelites. He did not enjoy it any more than the rest of us do now.

This kind of quiet complaining is usually in the background, not spoken in church business meetings, and likes to remain anonymouse. However, it quietly goes about its destructive work of undercutting the confidence and joy of the membership and the leaders, and thus should be dealt with promptly.

I don’t care for unnecessary noise in church. I’ve been in some services where the drums and horns and organ so overpower the voices that no one felt like singing, no voices could be heard, and to the worship leaders, whether anyone sang at all seemed irrelevant.

Now, there is such a thing as a joyful noise, but that ain’t it.

It’s not my age, I assure you. But I do love a little silence occasionally. And there is a place for a quiet, softly-sung hymn of praise.

I love children, but unrestrained brats running wild following a worship service, banging on the piano, hopping pews–nosiree and no-ma’am.

“Would you please do something about your children, sir?”

I don’t voice that, but I think it. Now, when I was the pastor, I might speak directly to the children. Nowadays, as a guest preacher–usually sitting on the front pew sketching people–I keep my mouth shut. Sometimes, the noise-makers are the preachers’ kids!

One of my pet peeves is the custodian or chairman of the finance committee flicking the lights after the benediction, telling the members to quit visiting with one another and go home. No church needs such fellowship killers.

I don’t care for the church greeters to be huddled inside the warm building.

First-timers are arriving outside and aren’t sure of a lot of things: which door to enter, if the service has already begun, if they will be welcome, or there is room for them. By standing outside in front of the building (with some kind of identifying something–badge, vest, or maybe a stack of church bulletins in one’s hand) signals to the guests that this is the right entrance, you are expecting them, and they will be welcome.

In bad weather particularly, greeters must get outside and stay there. When rain is fallling, they would have umbrellas.

A no-no for greeters is to forget the arriving worshipers and carry on conversations among themselves. I’ve known of them to block the entrance so that those arriving could not get inside because they were too involved in their own little meeting. Sheesh! Not good at all. (This is why churches with ushers and greeters must always–not occasionally, always!have someone to circulate and see that they are on the job.)

I dislike making such a list. So, I’ll stop. Thank you for your attention.


Joe McKeever is retired missions director for the New Orleans Baptist Association. Before that Mr. McKeever pastored churches in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and North Carolina.

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