You can read Rainer's blog posts here and here where he discusses the curse of criticism. One of them was published at Baptist Press here. Some excellent analysis of Rainer's post has been written by SBC pastor William Thornton here.
Rainer says criticism leaves pastors with "little energy to do anything else" when they have to suffer through criticism. Poor babies. One commentor on Rainer's blog, an anonymous pastor named "Bob Smith", says he is ready to quit the ministry because: "Well, I average one criticism a day, over 300 a year. It's wearing me out." I did the math, and he's right, one criticism a day is over 300 in a year. How DO they bear such a heavy burden? I think I passed the 300 mark on January 5th, and that's just from my teenagers.
According to Rainer what makes a good church member - and one who is a true Christian - is one who doesn't ask questions and doesn't ever complain. In Rainer's view, "undoubtedly many of the worst critics are not true followers of Christ." He gives no criteria as to what makes a "worst critic" - but he knows enough of the mind of God to say that they are not true Christians. How arrogant. How cultish.
Who are the good church members, according to Rainer? Well, they obviously don't complain, and if you want to be a really good soldier for the Lord, Rainer says you will help to silence these critics. Says Rainer: "The time has come for church members to speak up. Too much is at stake. It is truly a sin to remain silent when it is our God-given responsibility to confront those who ultimately would hinder the spread of the gospel with the poison of their words."
Rainer is out in leftfield on this - anyone that has spent time in Southern Baptist churches knows the level of opposition they will face if they ever call into question the actions or decisions of their pastor. Even when it comes to serious charges like sexual abuse - the pastor is often defended and protected by those around him while those who raise the charges are shunned and berated or slandered. The culture in most SBC churches is that asking questions and rocking the boat is a sign of spiritual immaturity and rebellion.
It is somewhat ironic to hear a preacher like Rainer complaining about critical church members, because pastors themselves are pretty good at criticizing from the pulpit other preachers they disagree with. And it is well-known how poorly some senior pastors treat ministers they have no use for in their ministry, firing them and forcing them to sign a non-disclosure agreement while telling the church "God called them somewhere else" - and yet they have thin-skin themselves when it comes to criticisms cast their way.
And unbelievably, Rainer is calling for church members to rise up and "confront" complainers. He says that there must be a formal or informal system in the churches to "confront the nagging naysayers." Notice the terminology. Rainer moves from "worst critic" to now it is the "naysayers" who must be confronted. A "naysayer" is one who doesn't go along, who rocks the boat, who doesn't get on board with the pastor's vision. This is what Rainer's beef is really about. Specially-anointed pastors sent by God Himself as God's gift to the church, who don't want their leadership, their "vision" for the church, to be questioned by some pipsqueak church member.
And when Rainer urges church members to "confront" complainers, I just couldn't help but think of Mac Brunson's infamous "shut 'em down" quote in the pulpit just a few days before the President of the Trustees stood in a special business meeting on 2/25/09 to read his "Deacon's Resolution 2009-1", which included this quote:
"And whereas it is the belief and expression of the deacons herein that division, strife, and discord caused to church members and unjust criticism and ridicule of the ministry, staff, leadership, pastor, and people expressed to the general public at large in any form and by any means by any member of the church should be viewed as an attack against the Lord's church contrary to scriptural truth and confronted aggressively in accordance with Scripture and the disciplinary provisions of the bylaws of the church."
See, you're a little late to the game, Thom. FBC Jax is "cutting edge", and they already laid out the path you are suggesting and they executed it masterfully in 2008 and 2009.
Stay tuned Wednesday for Part 2: A naysayer's advice to crybaby pastors.