How to Deal With the Most Difficult Person in Your Church

Some people are just chronically ungrateful. (

Why should I be grateful when things aren't going to suit me?

The woman "stood behind Him at His feet, weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment" (Luke 7:38).

There is the picture of a grateful person. She is worshipping, humble, thankful, fully yielded to the Master.

Want to see a photo of an ungrateful individual? Find any reference to a Pharisee and you have it. For instance:

"The Pharisee stood and prayed these things about himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men: extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I tithe of all that I earn" (Luke 18:11-12).

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Without knowing any more, you find your spirit recoiling from this guy. He's proud of his righteousness and will be harsh and judgmental toward anyone less committed. He addresses God as an equal. He is unteachable, unleadable, incorrigible.

Pity the pastor with pharisaical leaders. They are ungrateful, self-righteous, demanding and a pain to live with.

The ungrateful person in any church is a problem. He/she is focused on the negative and feels entitled to:

Criticize. They are quick to point out the shortcomings of the leadership (pastors, teachers, worship leaders). One pastor friend had a member who sent him a full three-page letter every Monday detailing the faults of his Sunday sermon and making suggestions on how to improve it.

Gripe. I expected more, I deserve more. As hard as it is to believe, there actually are people in some churches who feel their spiritual gift is pointing out the shortcomings of others.

Not participate. Why should I? I get nothing from it. They judge everything by that standard: "What will I get out of it?" The selfishness is mind-boggling.

Spread the unhappiness among others. Negativism is as contagious as any flu virus ever.

Resist any attempts from the pastor to change. Because this individual sees himself/herself as the standard for others, they have no further use for lessons to be learned, studies to be taken up.

The main problem with the chronically, seriously ungrateful in the church:

Such an individual probably is not saved. They give every evidence of being lost. Spiritually blind. Someone who has never met Jesus Christ.

Obviously, such a statement needs clarifying.

The negative, never-happy, always complaining member has clearly never been to the cross. Has never had his/her sins forgiven. Has never seen himself/herself as a sinner in dire need of mercy and then experienced the joy of receiving that mercy as a free gift.

The flush of first-joy that floods the soul when you realize "I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see" changes everything. The newborn child of God is like the man previously known as the Gadarene demoniac of Mark 5. After the Lord saves him, we get two glimpses of him:

—In verse 15, people were fascinated to see the formerly crazy man now fully clothed, seated near Jesus and in his right mind.

—In verse 18, when Jesus got into the boat to leave, "he who had been possessed with the demons prayed Him that he might be with Him." Jesus told him to return home and "tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you" (v. 19).

Question: Does anyone think that when that guy returned home, he began to boast of his righteousness and scoff at the sinners among him? He would not have! He would have been humble and grateful, teachable and sweet-spirited. The kind of guy every pastor wants in his church.

The kind of person I want to be.

Psalm 40:1-3 might be a good test to give ourselves.

An ungrateful person should look over the first three verses of Psalm 40 and decide at what point he/she could not participate, or which of these steps they have not experienced.

"I waited patiently for the Lord, and He turned to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet on a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth, even praise to our God; many will see it, and fear, and will trust in the Lord" (Ps. 40:1-3).

(1) You were crying to God. (2) You waited on Him. (3) He heard you. (4) He brought you up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay. (5) He set your feet on a solid rock and made your footsteps firm. (6) He put a new song in your mouth. (7) Others will see what He has done in you and turn to Him.

To one degree or the other, in one way or the other, those seven steps describe the experience of every born-again child of God. It's the standard new birth. This is what happened when the Lord saved you.

So, what's going on with the chronically, habitually ungrateful one? Answer: He/she is on the outside looking in and cannot figure out what all the excitement is about.

He/she is carnal-minded. "For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace." Why? "The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

That's Romans 8:6-8 (ESV).

Nothing tells the story about our Christian faith like our gratitude. Let us give thanks to Him and be grateful to one another.

Joe McKeever is retired from the pastorate but still active in preaching, writing and cartooning for Christian publications. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.

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