Pastors: no cheap shots

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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?



Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • JR. Forasteros

    Who wouldn’t want a keytar?!

    I agree with you. Rhetorically, there’s much to be gained from publicly criticizing someone else: you consolidate your own power base, establish clearer lines of Us vs. Them.

    But spiritually it’s toxic. It’s weak, cheap leadership. If you really don’t like how someone else does things, if you really think it’s wrong? Fine, good. But prove them wrong with your example. If it’s really spiritually bankrupt, it’ll die out on its own (per Gamaliel in Acts 5).

    • Ben Reed

      I know, right? Keytars are amazing!

      Spiritually, it’s toxic. You’re 100% right.

  • sscvillemom

    I used to feel the same way at the church I attended. It always created a very uncomfortable atmosphere for me each time it happened. But – in hindsight that led me to Grace – one of ‘those feel good churches’ we were so often warned about. :)

    • Ben Reed

      And we’re so happy you’re at Grace!

  • Tess Recer

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen an heard about this type of thing before. This is also the type of judgement that keeps people away from churches altogether. The sad part about disseminating this type of judgement towards others in a setting that is suppose to be filled with love and acceptance…is leaders of a church lead by example. Therefore, a congregation taught to judge others brings these thoughts and behaviors back into the community already watching closely because Chiristians are suppose to be better people. (not that I agree with this stereotype but it is what it is) Furthermore, this type of judgement from a leader can make a dedicated church memeber feel less inclined to share openly about their struggles or even suggestions for fear of being judged. It’s not always easy but to walk with God means to make different choices because that is what is asked of us and concurrently because others are watching and waiting to see what they should do also.

    • Ben Reed

      As the leader goes, so goes the congregation. You’re right on point, Tess.

  • Tyketto

    I never understand pastors like this. Whatever works for each person works for each person. These are small details. Are we all believers in Christ? Then we are all one body. Start acting like it!  I go to one of the churches that would be considered “the other church.” Different in style, flashy, what have you. Here’s the thing: it reaches people who aren’t being reached by more traditional churches. In fact, we’re often told that as a church, we view ourselves as pulling people into the life boat. We’re not creating an environment comfy for members and making a  cocoon. We’re out in life boats pulling people in who need it. You can be wherever you are in your walk. You can have mohawks and tattoos and piercings. It doesn’t matter. You’re welcome because not one of us deserves grace. I can see why that seems like “the other church” to more traditional folks. But the thing is,  it’s totally cool that other people are comfortable in more traditional churches and go to those. It’s not a competition. All that matters is Christ is reaching people. People aren’t stupid. They know where they’re accepted and respected. The pastors who belittle other believers and churches are saying “THOSE people aren’t welcome here.” And it’s a shame. There are millions of people crying out to be saved. Who cares who gets them, as long as Jesus does? As a sidenote:  “the other church” I go to attracts more than 12,000 people weekly at four sites. I sometimes wonder if the jealousy and ego get in the way of some pastors, which is sad. But they are human, so you never know. 

  • Larry Carter

    Absolutely. I had a pastor who did it with black and white issues and gray issues. It made no difference. Denominations. Praise music. Everyine and every thing he didn’t like was fair game.

    • Ben Reed

      Wow. Sad, Larry.

  • Hal Baird

    Perhaps this pastor is a politician on the side.  It seems to be their way of campaigning these days, take cheap shots at your opponent instead of telling the public what you have to offer.  Hello, out there.  We Christians believe basically in the same things.  We just choose a different path to the conclusion ( in the areas of ritual, order of service, music, language).  I am a United Methodist.  Pastor Reed, I believe your background is Baptist (?)  But shouldn’t we take each other’s hand in unity and love as “Christians”?

    • Ben Reed

      My background is that I’m a Southern Baptist. And yes, Hal, there’s much that the two of us can unite on!

  • tracy

    Uh, what is a keytar?

    • Ben Reed

      A keytar is when a keyboard meets a guitar…and have offspring. :)

      It’s basically a keyboard that you throw over your shoulder, like a guitar.

      In a word…it’s amazing.

  • Zane Whorton

    So I have to ask? Did you talk to this Pastor before blogging this? I only ask because I have had the same thing lovingly pointed out to me. 

    It was the realization that the person I was talking about would never read my post. And therefore never had room for conversation.

    That being said I don’t disagree with you at all in what was being said.

    • Ben Reed

      No, unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to. He left immediately after the sermon.