When Your Church Disappoints

Reposted with permission from The Cripplegate.

by Eric Davis

Let’s face it. Church is not always as exciting as we would like. Sometimes it’s boring and disappointing. It’s possible that there are good reasons for that. But it’s possible that there are not.

Being bored is not the worst thing that can happen to us in our churches. In fact, it may be the best thing since it can present opportunity for personal change. Though not always, our personal boredom can often be symptomatic of a needed soul adjustment.

Consider a few shifts before submitting to disappointment’s demands:

Turn complaining about your church into praying for your church.

If there’s one thing we know about complaining, it is fundamentally (whether intentional or not) a disapproving commentary on the perfect sovereignty of the One running things. God decreed everything about which we complain. He reigns. So, it’s possible that our complaints are really sovereignty-protests.

Even so, there are likely things about your church which need improvement or attention. Prayer harnesses your observations and makes them productive work-horses for your church instead of finicky commentators about your church.

A productive alternative to complaining about your church is praying for it.

Turn worrying about your church’s imperfection into trusting God’s perfection.

Worrying about our church often is symptomatic of a trust sickness. God is in competent control of our churches. Christ is not wearing a worry-path in the carpet of heaven’s throne room. He is seated, relaxed, and building his church.

Worry doubts his capabilities while trusting in itself. It assumes that its activity of fretting is more industrious than trusting God. It’s possible that our disappointment in our church is rooted here.

A productive alternative to worrying about your church is trusting God’s perfection.

Turn gossiping to others about the disappointment in your church into thanking God for the good in it.

Blunders can be found in every church if you look for them. And, often, even if you don’t. But they are normal, especially since the church is filled with people like you and me.

Re-channel the fleshly thrill of gossip elsewhere, however. While changes probably need to be made, worship God with the fruit of lips that give thanks to his name (Heb 13:5).

A productive alternative to gossiping about your church is thanking God for the good in it.

Turn being a part of the problem with your church into being part of the solution.

Just about every church has that guy who is skilled in simultaneously seeing and being part of the problem. But the most painful thing to church leadership is when they take the time to seriously hear his concerns, but he subsequently stiff-arms tangible suggestions to become part of the solution.

As you think about the problems in your church, ask yourself honestly, “How might I be contributing to the problem(s) in my church?” “What log might Ihave protruding from my eye?” Do not move past that question too quickly.

Then ask, “What can I do to confess my contribution and turn from being the problem, to please Christ so as to contribute to the solution?” Ask your church leadership the same question. Listen. Learn. Pray. Serve. Contribute. Help. Give. Get equipped.

And do more than simply avoid being part of the problem. That may, in fact, be how you are part of the problem.

Participate in a way that your church leaders can look back and see how you were useful in solving problems in the church.

A productive alternative to being a part of the problem in your church is to be a part of the solution.

Turn resisting your imperfect church leaders into getting united with them.

Most church leadership are well-acquainted with their inadequacies for the work in which they find themselves. If they are biblically qualified, they see the many, many ways that they need to grow.

If you choose to point those out, do so in a way that obeys the commands in Scripture to submit to, obey, esteem, and demonstrate accountability to your church leaders (1 Thess 5:12-13, Heb 13:17, 1 Pet 5:2-3). In most cases, contrary to propagating their imperfections, your efforts to unite will humble them, making them more competent for the Lord’s work.

Pray for them. Thank God for them. Consider ways to come alongside them.

A productive alternative to resisting your imperfect church leaders is to unite with them.

Turn passively attending the worship services into actively participating.

The Sunday gathering is the high point of the week for God’s people. Our disappointment might be eradicated by getting ourselves prepared to treat it as such.

Pray for it. And pray for yourself to be teachable, awake, humble, and transformed. Bring your Bible. Take notes. Study things afterwards which you do not understand. Assuming the Scripture is being faithfully exposited, our souls will be nurtured when the word is preached. Pray for ways to live out the sermon.

Meditate on the words of the songs. Sing heartily. Ask God to help you make them sincere praise and prayer as you sing. Be on time. Listen carefully to announcements, readings, and anything else in the service. Reach out to visitors instead of coming in late and leaving quickly. Get their contact info. Invite them to a weekly home group. Help with set up or take down.

Be a part of what God is doing by being prayerfully attentive to every moment of the worship gathering.

A productive alternative to passively attending church is to actively participate.

Turn the desire to redo your church’s ministries into trying to benefit from what is already going on.

In many cases, our churches do need to rethink and redo certain ministries. However, be slow about taking that route.

Instead, intentionally seek out what is already happening. Participate in them humbly, faithfully, and enthusiastically. Give it time. Ask God to bless and use the ministry leader. Ask him to grow you from it. Find ways to help. Do not eject from a ministry before at least several attempts to grow from it.

A productive alternative to redoing various church ministries may be to benefit from what is already happening.

Turn restlessness and frustration into seeking out opportunities for evangelism.

Sometimes things in the church can get pretty frustrating. Committees seem to get nothing done. Projects remain unfinished. People disappoint. It can be discouraging.

While those things may need to be addressed, stay busy in kingdom work. Be sure to center on, and speak about, Christ crucified in the place of sinners. Pray for and seek out opportunities to share the news that is far more thrilling than your church is frustrating. Be so tired from disciple-making that you have little time for frustrated restlessness.

A productive alternative to restless frustration over your church is to use your energy for disciple-making.

Turn needing quick answers to the problems you see to serving the God who is sovereign over those problems.

Things probably are wrong in your church. We see the issues and often we demand answers. We must know now what is going on. But there is no Bible verse on our right to be in the know. However, there are several on our responsibility to be about serving.

As much as we may need answers, let’s devote at least that much energy to resting in God patiently, helping the church enthusiastically, and praying for her fervently.

A productive alternative to fixating on problems is to focus on serving our sovereign God.

Turn thinking about your disappointment and boredom into knowing and pleasing God.

Let’s ask ourselves, “Who cares if we are bored? Why might we even be bored or disappointed in the first place? What might that say about our understanding of the church and God?”

It’s possible that our boredom demonstrates that our feelings are more sacred to us than our God. Perhaps our boredom and disappointment have become more captivating to us than the God of Scripture.

But God is the most thrilling and awe-inspiring subject in the universe. Nothing and no one is more captivating, fulfilling, and motivating than the true God. As God’s people, we get to plug into his kind of churches for the great purpose and thrill of knowing and worshiping him. And God’s kind of church exists to worship God. If this is not the case, disappointment and boredom should be present and we may need to find a new church.

A productive alternative to caring about boredom is deepening in knowing and pleasing God.

Even as we do these things, however, there are those times when the church is disappointing for legitimate reasons. In those cases, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Do I trust in the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ for right standing with God?
    If I am not converted to Christ, a New Testament kind of church is certainly going to be disappointing and boring (cf. 1 Cor 2:14-16).
  2. Does the church exist to worship God above all things?
  3. Does the church labor to unpack the glory and majesty of God through the exposition of Scripture?
  4. Is biblical doctrine affirmed and systematically taught?
  5. Is meaningful membership, biblical discipline, and discipleship practiced?

Except for #1, if the answers are “no” to the above questions, then a church is legitimately disappointing because it is not God-glorifying. Perhaps you need to leave and find a more faithful church. But approach that route carefully.

Church has a much higher purpose for existence than not being boring or disappointing. The most important thing is not that we are bored or disappointed, but that our lives and churches exist for the glory of God.

Eric is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Jackson Hole, WY. He and his team planted the church in 2008. He has been married for 15 years and has 3 children.

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There are 2 Comments

Jim's picture

For some reason, I was irritated at my wife on Sunday:

  • As we are in the foyer and ready to go she said "oh I have to talk to [fade away as she darted off leaving me standing] (You probably know I am handicapped and she is very healthy and fast ... When I say "standing there" I mean hanging on my crutches which gets tiresome quickly). I waited for a bit and then went to my truck to wait for her. (She holds a ministry position with the women's ministry and it turns out it was related to that.) As I was sitting in my truck stewing just a bit, I was preparing my rebuke for her. [I did not deliver it]
  • At home we had a nice turkey dinner: turkey breast with all the thanksgiving-style sides. But no gravy. Honestly I was a bit peaved.


A good church is like a good wife - not perfect but best for the marriage if one focuses on the "what's good and right"!

Aaron Blumer's picture


With churches and so many other things, the struggle for me is focus. Am I going to look at what isn't what I expected/how I want things or look at where the blessing is and what's going well?

Duties sometimes require looking at the problems, but there's a temptation to get stuck there.

It's a bit like Adam and Eve in the garden... everything's perfect except this one tree we can't have. But like A & E I really get stuck on the downside sometimes. (And maybe, like A & E it isn't actually a downside at all)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

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