At Sackville United Baptist Church we have been working through Paul’s letter to the Philippians each Sunday morning for the past few weeks. Yesterday we took time to reflection on this little gem,
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure
I like that the word used here is grumbling instead of complaining. Most people I know don’t want to be known as a complainer, but I have never heard anyone worry about being a grumblier. There is a big difference between grumbling and complaining.
Grumbling happens when two or more people get together and talk about all of the things they are making them unhappy. However none of the people involved in the conversation are directly related to the problems being discussed. This means nothing can happen. The problem is not brought to light, and there is no way for the issue to be addressed or corrected.
Complaining on the other hand is also between two or more people but the people involved in the conversation are directly related to the problem at hand. Someone is unhappy with something and they are taking their concern to the person they are unhappy with, with the hope that their concerns can be fixed.
I think in a lot of ways complaining gets a bad reputation. I have no qualms complaining when I feel that something has gone wrong.
For example about a year ago Meghan and I compared cell phone bills and I realized I was paying about $25 a month more than she was and I was getting less service. In fact I quickly added it up and realized if I were to pay for everything she was getting I would be paying about $70 a month compared to her $30 a month. This made me unhappy so I called my cell phone provider and complained. I explained to them that if I canceled today and started with this other company even if I paid their contract cancellation fee I would save enough money each month that after 6 months that I would be even. They saw it my way and surprise, surprise they were in fact able to find a number of cost saving solutions to retain my ‘valued business’.
When a person feels something is not going right they can either voice their concerns to the people involved (complaining), or they can voice their concerns with people who are not involved (grumbling). Grumbling is toxic to the church.
Grumbling is toxic because it is hidden. People grumble off the grid because they don’t want to be seen as complaining. This means their concern cannot be addressed because the right people don’t know there is a problem.
Grumbling is toxic because it is contagious. When people get together to grumble they will slowly draw in their entire circle of influence into their grumbling. What may have begun as a relatively small problem that could have been easily addressed with a conversation has become a major issue affecting many in the congregation.
Grumbling is toxic because it intensifies issues. The more people grumble the more serious the problem seems and the more they wonder why the leadership of the church isn’t doing something about it. The truth is no action is being taken because no one has yet voiced their concerns outside of their grumble circle. When the concern is finally voiced often people are doing so with their preverbal torches and pitchforks in hand.
Don’t worry about being a complainer. Worry about being a grumbler. Complaints can be met, addressed and hopefully fixed. Grumbling just damages the church. You could even say that when you grumble you can make the church crumble. But you probably don’t want to say that around people, it is a pretty lame joke.
***This blog is based on the sermon I gave on Sunday November 3rd. You can listen to the full sermon here***