Dale Carnegie once said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” This is solid advice when dealing with someone who finds it easy to be critical.
In his epistle to the Roman church the apostle Paul addresses the conflicts that arise from differing opinions about such issues as:
- What is a Christian to eat or not to eat? (Romans 14:1-4)
- What days are holy days? (Romans 14:5-6)
- How to give thanks correctly? (Roman 14:6)
How do you behave as a Christian believer?
When Paul writes his epistle to the new and growing congregations he give this advice:
10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:
“As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.”
12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. 13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”
Although the issues the first century church was dealing with may differ from modern congregations conflict within the church organization has always shown itself to be a subject to be addressed.
Many congregations will not engage in conflict and disagreement. Some fellowships will avoid conflict of any kind at any cost. These types of fellowships would rather see their ministry go through a slow and agonizing death than to deal with a stressful situation.
Carl George sees conflict and disagreement as unavoidable. In fact, George believes that conflict developing within the church can be a catalyst for growth. He says that conflict is “inevitably to arise.”1 Every organization, volunteer group, business and church should expect conflict to be introduced into the organization. It simply is part of a group’s development.
Criticism which arises from “how things are to be done” often cause the birthing of new fellowships. An example of congregations being born out of “how things are to be done” can be seen in something as simple as the observance of the Lord’s Supper.
Many fellowships have evolved due to disagreements about “how often” or “how little” communion should be observed. “Do you use wine or grape juice?” “Who is allowed to take communion?” “Who is allowed to serve communion?” For those who do not have an active church experience this may not sound silly but these types of questions have led to disagreements that have created not only the establishment of new congregations but entire denominations.
Criticism that leads to conflict is not always destructive. It can create a map for a new direction. This can be a new idea, concept or conviction that no one else had embraced before. Criticism is not bad.
Norman Vincent Peale said, “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” For many people criticism has grown into an extremely negative behavior and it is something that no one wants to come their way. If criticism is handled in a healthy fashion it can produce many positive results as long as the one being criticized does not become offended and the one criticizing does not take joy in being an offender.
“Court not the critic’s smile nor dread his frown.” Sir Walter Scott