Yesterday, I talked about an offending experience I had with my digi-Bible. I was directly offended, being the only person in the audience with an iPad…hearing the pastor theologically hammer my iPad as an illegitimate Bible.

This time, from a different preacher, I found myself offended in a different way.

In fact, I wasn’t personally offended. I was offended on behalf of someone else.

I guess you could say I was proxy offended. (or I was proxily offended? Can I get away with that grammatically? Is proxily even a word?)

image via Creation Swap user Daniel Romero

During his sermon, the pastor made an off-handed remark. Though off-handed, it had the desired effect.

It went like this:

The way we do things is…umm…not like other churches here in our community do things…”

He said this while rolling his eyes and shaking his head from side to side, pausing between the words “other” and “churches” for emphasis.

Everybody in the audience knew exactly which other church he was referring to. A handful chuckled. I winced in pain. The guy beside me whispered, “Are they talking about _____?”

He was pointing out a way of doing church services that he didn’t like. A personal preference that he didn’t care for. A programming difference that he had decided not to do in his context.

Instead of simply advocating for his method, he chose to rake another church (and their pastor) through the mud for a quick laugh and a longer-lasting insult.

Truth: It’s never okay to publicly criticize another ministry over a gray area. Never. (I even struggle with the idea of publicly criticizing another church over black-and-white issues. Seems like Matthew 18 would, instead, prompt me to have a redemption-minded conversation with them instead of public condemnation)

Not from the stage. Not in staff meeting. Not in a blog post.

Just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should.

Do what you’re called to do. Do it well. And when you have an opinion about another church…stuff it. Let it motivate you to do what you do even better.

You’d rather not be as “flashy”? Then don’t.

You’d rather not have as many programs? Then don’t.

You’d rather not have a keytar? Then don’t.

You’d rather focus more heavily on the homeless community? Then do.

You’d rather preach for 75 minutes? Then do.

You’d rather sing from hymnals? Then do.

When it’s a gray issue, leave it between that local congregation and God. Public condemnation tears the Kingdom apart.

Question: have you ever heard a pastor publicly criticize another local church?