A pastor friend and I drifted into conversation about argumentative church members, just as I suspect that church members commiserate with each other about argumentative pastors. Every argument and/or pointed conversation can be beneficial, but some arguments are more helpful to the church than others. Here are some argumentative types I’ve encountered over the years.
THE EXPLOSIVE VENTER: This person, concluding that something is wrong in the church, erupts. It makes him feel better to get it off his chest and once he’s had his rant, alienated the Sunday school class, the official ruling group or a dedicated servant of the church he feels just fine. He doesn’t realize that his toxic behavior makes other people wish he’d follow through on his threat to leave.
THE SANCTIMONIOUS SAINT: This person says he never gets angry since anger is “sinful.” But anger is not intrinsically a sin. Anger is one of many God-given emotions and the Apostle Paul counsels the church at Ephesus that anger is acceptable as long as one resolves it quickly. Nevertheless, this super-pious church member finds others ways to express his dissatisfaction. He might be passive aggressive, sarcastic, arch, or frown a lot. His religiosity casts a pall on the group and is an even greater sin than the anger he so piously avoids.
THE MARCHING UPSTART: This person has usually been absent from the church for a long time. Suddenly he appears on the scene, becomes very involved in church life and seems to be the ideal member. But when the first sign of trouble comes (and there’s always trouble in group life) this idealistic and naïve person bursts out with simplistic and unworkable solutions that the group wisely ignores, prompting this new member to stalk off to seek the perfect group elsewhere. He might as well seek the abominable snowman.
THE WHINING MANIPULATOR: This person knows how to twist the will of a committee, class, or smaller church by playing on the good-hearted nature of many church leaders to avoid conflict or unpleasantness at any cost, thereby providing an opening for this sneak who refuses to compromise but wheedles and whimpers, wearing down the group to succumb to his wishes. Open disagreement would be better.
THE COMMITTED CONTENDER: This person, a long time member of the church, understands that the group process is messy and that nobody prevails all the time. He recognizes that sometimes a person defers to the will of the group (and thus maybe the will of God). He states his views vociferously and recognizes that strong disagreement is a healthy part of the group process but win or lose this person remains a vital part of the group and/or church, becoming subservient to the decision of the body.
Maybe you recognize these types. There are plenty of exhibits out there ... both clergy and laity. People also employ these same tactics in all group dynamics, including the office, marriage and friendship.
Creede Hinshaw,of Macon, is a retired Methodist minister.