Murmuring in the church starts in subtle ways: “I’m not sure about this new building program. Shouldn’t we be giving the money to missions?” As if providing facilities in your community is less spiritual than providing a hut in Africa. This is not either/or; it’s both/and.
“I don’t like the new direction we are going.” Name the area: music, starting a new ministry to the community, actively seeking to integrate the church with people from every tribe and tongue, breaking down social and economic barriers (that always makes rich white people uncomfortable who want church to be a glorified country club).
It can take the form of attacks on other believers. A group gets together and begins to criticize the theology of other believers. They say they love the Lord, but their theological slants are more precious to them than the unity of the body. They may be doctrinally straight, but their hearts are cold. They talk their theology in their little Bible studies, but rarely practice their theology in the real world.
We don’t have to all agree on these things. Wesley and Whitefield were on opposite sides of some doctrinal issues, but God used both of them to bring revival and awakening. Lighten up folks, God didn’t die and make you king. No matter how well versed, well read, or well studied you are, there are mysteries in the Bible. You can’t and won’t know everything. Lighten up. Start acting like Jesus—it will make you more likeable and the Gospel more appealing.
I realize I’m all over the map here. There are hundreds of other areas. A staff change or someone took my seat, my parking space, my clas room. You can fill in your own blank. Here’s the truth: at the end of the day, murmuring begins in the heart of a person who thinks they know better than God. They do not and will not follow Scripture for reconciliation. They do not and will not forgive a brother or sister. They do not and will not believe the best about another person. They question everyone’s motives but their own. They want their agenda their way, and they will start a rumor or begin to murmur in their little circle.
The end result of murmuring is always the same. Good hearts in good people begin to question what’s going on. Why? Because the murmuring person couches everything in spiritual terms. But they are hypocrites at best and even possibly lost religious moralists. Good people don’t have to be naïve. People who murmur have an agenda. It’s always to undermine. It’s always them thinking they know better than those in leadership.
The sins of the tongue are as dangerous as drugs and alcohol. But some say the consequences aren’t as bad. Really? Are you kidding? What planet did you come from? How many families, friendships, churches, and ministries have been destroyed because no one had the nerve to confront the person who constantly questions and seeks to divide? (Just my humble and accurate opinion, which I highly respect.)
The person who whines, gripes, and murmurs about the budget typically isn’t giving. The person who leaves a church during a building program may say they are feeling “led elsewhere”. The reality is they are led to go somewhere where they aren’t asked to give. In the movie Field of Dreams, the famous line is, “If you build it, they will come.” In the average church, the line would better be stated, “If you build it, they will leave and come back when it’s finished.”
The person who says, “There are too many folks in this church,” has no heart for evangelism. The one who says, “We should give that money to the poor,” has the spirit of Judas who cared nothing for the poor. He just didn’t like the way Jesus did His business.
There are other mouthing-off sins. Lying, slander, gossip…you know the list. The reality is a church that allows that kind of spirit can never taste the goodness of God or see revival. Sin must be called sin. Until church members begin to confess sin and stop excusing it, we will not see revival. God will not put truth in a potty mouth. He is not the author of blessing and cursing coming out of the same mouth. He does not smile on a church that screams about abortion, homosexuality, and adultery and sits silently concerning issues of lying, stealing the tithe, gossip, murmuring, causing dissension, and other matters just as sinful. In a revival culture we cannot be the whiney wimp believers who say, “I should have said something,” or, “I almost said something.” If someone is hindering the body, resisting the Spirit, or hindering the work of God, say something. Man up. Get a backbone. Stand on truth. Speak it in love, but speak it.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the church to have the courage to practice a little church discipline. In an environment where there is evidence of the fear of God, mouths will be shut, knees will be bent, altars will be filled, tears will begin to flow, and then maybe God will be able to trust us with a revival.
What is it you need to confess today? What adjustments or apologies do you need to make? Who do you need to ask for forgiveness? In what group or setting do you need to admit you’ve been a hindrance or resistance to revival?
(Copyright, Michael C. Catt)
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.