Please Stop Telling Me I Can't Criticize The Church


To those who sold doves in the temple courts Jesus said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”  His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.  John 2:16-17

This week some Christian friends of mine passed around a blog post advising Millennial followers of Jesus on what they “need to stop doing”.

The piece was that delightfully condescending mix of intellectual superiority, intolerance to dissension, Truth monopolizing, and moral high-grounding that has come to typify the young Evangelical positioning himself or herself as the last bastions of true “Biblical Christianity”.

It also perfectly crystalized the very reasons so many people are leaving the Church, passing on organized religion altogether, and seeking alternative spiritual community.

Central to the writer (and like-minded folks), is the Big Idea that you simply can’t criticize (or “bash”) the Church; that it’s somehow a spiritual character flaw to question anything done in the name of Jesus, as this somehow constitutes an attack on Christ himself or on God’s very people. (Violent Christian-on-Christian crime, if you will).


Spiritually speaking, yes Scripture speaks of the Church as the “Body of Christ”, a global community composed of living, breathing sanctuaries; those flawed and failing people where God’s beautiful Spirit dwells. Get all get that.

The only problem is, it is far other things too.

In a very real and tangible way The Church also now exists as local congregations, as faith communities, as actual buildings where people gather and give and serve and learn and live life. It is a worldwide institution wielding unparalleled power and political sway. The Christian Church is a global collection of locally operated religious franchises operating under the Jesus name. For better or for worse, it is a bona-fide multi billion dollar faith-based business that impacts the lives of more people on the planet than any other entity.

And if you’re going to tell me as a committed, passionate, conscientious, faithful follower of Jesus that I can’t speak into that—I’m going to politely call B.S. every single time.

The writer of this piece and so many Evangelicals like him, would have you feel guilty for everything;
for your challenges to Church practices,
for your demands of pastors and leaders,
for your differing theological positions other than the ones they consent to,
for your questions of creeds or Scriptures or doctrine,
for having a Christianity that in any way deviates from their own,
for the way the Holy Spirit of God personally moves you to push back or call-out or seek justice in the Church or in any local congregation.

I’m tired of it. Many people are. We’re smarter than that.

We know intrinsically that as members of the global community, the very treasure of our shared humanity often demands that we boldly speak truth to power; 
to corrupt governments,
to maniacal political leaders,
to immoral business practices,
to human rights violations,
and to greed, inequality, and abuse of power wherever we see it.

If we stay silent in the face of these things, History teaches us that horrible stuff is allowed to fester and spread and grow stronger. We understand that silence equals participation; that the clear voices of good people can be a brilliant light streaking into the darkness and exposing all that is sick and sinister.

The Church as much as any other place, both deserves and needs this same continual, honest critique, and often from its own. As participants in the entity that visibly and practically represents Jesus in the world, it should be something we welcome and demand from one another.

So my friends of faith: you seek and pray and study and watch and listen—and then you speak when you are compelled to do so. It is as sacred an act as you can ever perform. Done in love and compassion, it is a beautiful, God honoring act of worship and it is exactly how you affirm and express your faith.

You can be the Church and love the Church and participate in the Church and still criticize the Church.

The idea that you can’t or shouldn’t, is a myth designed to ensure silence and wield control and stifle healthy confrontation—and it dishonors Jesus.

If there’s one thing Christians should stop doing altogether, it’s telling other Christians to stop criticizing the Church.

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70 thoughts on “Please Stop Telling Me I Can't Criticize The Church

  1. Yes John. The key problem is how to do it in the right and loving way. I am still struggling with that and probably failing in some…perhaps many…ways. Rolling over and playing dead for most of the 20th century and all of this century has only led to a world of more injustice, hurt, and tragedy inflicted by people who claim to be Christians. I am often hesitant to say “by Christians” because it is often hard for me to believe that many of them really are—but they no doubt feel the same about me.

    Right now—over on the blog you cited—some of them in the comments are arguing over whether “evangelism” should be what the church is all about—and insisting that the Christian faith consists of nothing else but evangelism. The crux of their argument (paraphrased) is an old one:

    “This life here on Earth is so short, and the flames of Hell are for all eternity. Surely, a little physical or emotional discomfort here on Earth is so small and inconsequential in the face of the Lake of Fire that lasts forever. Therefore, does it not make sense that we should avoid wasting our precious money on loving and helping people in this live—and spend it ALL instead on evangelism alone to give everyone a fire insurance policy so they will be covered when the final day comes—which may be tomorrow—or even tonight because Israel has been restored as a nation in the Middle East?”

    Well, yeah…that is…if you want to ignore about half of what the Bible says on a variety of subjects to get there. I see no place where Jesus or the Bible authorizes us to forget that 50 percent nor any place where they say that we can just forget that part and not do that part because some uneducated, half-wit preacher wants to avoid it. Black lives matter. Evangelism matters too—but so does that 50 percent of the Bible that Christian fundamentalists give lip service to but otherwise try to forget—and they certainly avoid doing it in any way except on the microscopic, most token level.

  2. As everybody has the right to choose their own religion, everyone should also have the right to criticize something or even have a difference of opinion about anything.

  3. Thank you for expressing this so well. Myself raised in evangelical community and family, I first really began to awaken and recognize much of the discomfort and feelings of just not fitting in were originating in so much of what I had been taught was neither actually “Biblical,” or actually “true,” about 20 yrs ago. I became intensely interesting in reading the Bible, really reading it, all of it, and with an open mind, to comprehend what it really “said.”

    I was then not sure what to make of a common response to my telling very churchly involved family and friends of my intended project. It seemed odd at the time that their reaction was not exactly positive, but more often expressing caution that in doing so, I don’t start criticizing the Church. When I was puzzled at why they would respond that way, the answer was usually along the line of, “Well, that’s what most people mean when they say that.”

    It didn’t take long to figure out why that was their initial reaction.

  4. Sure, we need to critique ourselves first and the church in which we are a part. But gently. Many of us are just people struggling with life’s challenges, trying to serve Christ, hurting a little bit, but we need a word of encouragement too. Surely, balance is needed between criticism and encouragement. There are many very gentle people in the churches I know who try to be loving and thoughtful of others.

  5. And YOU are not using a “condescending mix of intellectual superiority, intolerance to dissension, Truth monopolizing, and moral high-grounding” that has come to typify the new age pastor positioning himself as the “last bastion of true” (in as much as YOU think it’s true) “Biblical Christianity”? You are one arrogant pastor shouting at traditional Christians for having the gall to stand up to the bastardizing (YES! YOU are bastardizing the true meaning of the word) of God’s word (YES! It’s HIS word) and calling those out for doing it. I just read an article stating that some California elementary schools are going to do away with boys and girls bathrooms and have one bathroom for all students. But, of course, the new age pastors and so-called new age Christians are bowing to the god of political correctness and tolerance and are whole heartedly accepting this. I do NOT want my little grand daughter to be washing her hands next to a little boy who FEELS like a girl wagging his penis around at the urinal. This is pure, far-left liberal BS. Next wall to fall: non-gender showers and dressing rooms for MS and HS students. Heck! It’s already happened in some liberal colleges. Whatever happened to decency? Oh, I know, “tolerant” (for those who think like them anyway), PC Christians failed to speak up as this Pandora’s box of idiotic decisions knocked down those walls. Where will it end? Will America eventually be like Rome in the days of the Roman bath houses and orgies? Oh, heck, it’s already like that too, in some circles! But, we Christians are not to dissent in any way shape or form. That’s the new age message. Welcome to liberal America. I don’t care if you see this as poorly written and rambling. The message is clear.

    • I thought your message was hilarious.

      Commandment 11:

      “Thou shalt not simultaneously pee and poop in a restroom used by both sexes. Neither shalt thou allow a boy child’s weenie to be unzipped in the same restroom with a girl child’s unzipped cave. For the moment that thou dost do this, they may learn that I have created weenies and caves in human anatomy. Even so, makest thou also sure that no copy of Gray’s Anatomy or any similar medical volume sittest anywhere on thy bookshelf at home or in the library. Thus sayeth the Lord.”

      (J.E. Jones Voice/Lightning/Thunder)

      Toilet behavior is, to the best of my knowledge, not addressed anywhere in the Bible. Most toilet behavior is culturally defined. One of the sad things about this American toilet fear is that it was such a white-person-nasty subject to talk about–apparently—that we have next to nothing recorded ethnographically about Historic Period Native American toilet habits, behaviors, and traditions—and the related culture surrounding it.

      Still. I agree with you culturally that I would want to keep them separate. I can lay down some mighty poops, and the last thing I would want is to have the gal I am going to ask to the prom get a strong whiff of my unique perfume. California is a battle ground for craziness sometimes.

    • You do realize they don’t put urinals in the girls room, right? Trans girls sit down just like every other girl. Maybe instead of make a bunch of assumptions about people with a condition you know absolutely nothing about you take the time to educate yourself instead of getting all your information out of a book that was outdated over 2000 years ago.

  6. Look, I may get crap for this, but let me just say this. I am sick and Tired of stuff like this, yes, we can criticize each other, yes people and religions aren’t perfect. But you wanna know something, you can think as critically as you want to but that won’t change who people are, you can tell someone that there’s something wrong with their religion but it’s part of who THEY are and only THEY decide if it remains a part of them or not. All you adults, you are looked up to, kids-teens think you know how to be mature enough to handle yourself, but seeing stuff like this… Look it’s great and all you have an opinion, but.. There’s this cool thing called a diary that I think would be great.. I’m just saying I mean I’m not an adult yet so when I see stuff like this.. I’m not sure if people ever really grow up. Don’t hate me for this, I’m only repeating what all of you where doing, stating my opinion..

    • Hi Junior Jake. Fear plenty. These are the rituals all adults go through in life right before the really fun stuff starts: black eyes, a bullet in the head, wars, concentration camps, torture, genocide. We argue these things to stoke up the level of hatred necessary to confidently advance (always with righteous indignation) to doing these really fun things.

      I think you are onto something kid.

  7. Primarily we are critiquing a system that has moved far from Christ for the most part.There are many lovely people in the system, but the system is not Christ. Occasionally, specific leaders may deserve comment because their actions/speech are public and open for discussion.

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  9. Wait a minute here…

    After reading the original source material this is critical of I have to say this does not seem a fair representation of the spirit of what was said.

    Let’s get this straight, BOTH of you are publicly criticizing the church here…

    And if you wish to disagree, then there is no need to be condescending to someone whom you feel to be condescending.

    I think there needs to be some reflection here and a long look in the mirror. There is something to be said of some basic truths that were highlighted in the blog.

    1. The gospel is offensive by nature. In as much as it is unifying for Christians it is divisive to those who are not. The Bible itself tells us that we shall be persecuted for it. An acknowledgement of this would’ve been more helpful to your argument. When you tell someone you need to believe in Jesus to be saved you’re going to get a reaction…

    2. Theology does matter. Everyone has theology. If you’re saying you don’t have a theology then you’re saying you don’t have a belief or understanding of God.

    3. Relevance matters, but there is a limit. What more bending do you need before the truth you are trying to share along with the joy of Christ is changed to something that doesn’t resemble Christianity? Paul again and again refers to the gospel in his letters for a reason. He’s driving people back to the truth which was preached. He’s going back to the ground of faith in Christ. It’s also the same with Jesus.

    4. This person talked about church-bashing people who can’t take what they dish. I guess the question is, does that apply here? No one likes criticism. If criticism has merit then it should be taken in stride. Just as this critique of that blog should be weighed on the other side. It’s a two way street. That’s why it’s called accountability.

    5. To the heart of your blog… Isn’t there a point when criticism and negativity taking our eyes off the ball? Should we not appreciate the fact that there are good positive things going on in our traditional churches as well as the churches which attract a lot of the readers here?

    This blog solely concentrates on one point mentioned. And in that, it seems like a stretch.

    The other blog isn’t telling you to stop when you think there are course corrections or considerations or critiques which may be helpful to a church. Rather, it’s a precursor to the question that should’ve been asked by both of you… what are you doing about it? And is it helpful?

    Neither of these blogs would be helpful without an alternative to the reality here… we may be smarter than we are given credit for, but we’re still people who need Jesus because we’re sinners in need of the Good Shepherd to come and cleanse us with His blood.

  10. Criticize by definition is 1) indicate the faults of (someone or something) in a disapproving way; 2) form and express a sophisticated judgment of (a literary or artistic work).

    Would Jesus indicate the faults of someone in a disapproving way? Would Jesus form and express a sophisticated judgement of some one he cares about?

    I’d probably say “no he wouldn’t” on both counts. He would recognize the imperfection. He would not approve of the imperfection. He would say “go and sin no more”. But would he just indicate faults and pass judgement? I would say no.

    Jesus is there to make things right, good, and new. We should have that attitude with his bride. I think that would honor him.

    Would I criticize another man’s wife and have him be pleased about it? Hopefully not if he’s a good husband!

    So there’s a word that describes it, but “criticize” does not seem to be the right one. Tread lightly, especially on social media — where billions of people that are not Christ-followers see how Christ-followers approach and treat this.

  11. And I would add, everyone, Christians and those who are not Christians, please stop telling others how and what they should and shouldn’t believe. Just respect each person’s beliefs and show them love – even if their beliefs are different from yours.

    • I would like to be able to speak the truth in love. currently I only know the way of being triggered, angered, defensive when I encounter ppl who obviously have a religious addiction problem probably bc I am newly in recovery and have to deal w a lot of trauma (cognitive dissonance/mind rape). a mindful , discerning, respectful, creative way of the holy spirit is something I pray for continually as I engage w ppl who are still in the game & have become quite trollish!

  12. There are so many churches and people who need these words. We are the body of Christ and the bride of Christ but are fallen as is every person in the church. Fallen and broken. Our job thru the Holy Spirit is to lift up heal and repair. You can only do that if you use constructive criticism. John has never done anything but that. He is not always right because he is fallen too. But he is making a loud noise in the desert saying make way for The Lord. I hear John in everything he writes saying “Jesus is coming are you ready?”

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  14. Thank you for writing this post, John. Sometimes I find it extremely difficult to voice out differing opinion in the church because everybody just sweeps it under the rug and refuse to acknowledge it. Sometimes if we ever voice out, we would even be pulled aside by the leaders to talk to us. Also, sometimes I would think that it is very wrong of me to do this like I’m feeding poison to my Christian friends when I tell them about it. But luckily I have a group of Christian friends that I can share my thoughts with but yet still love God and the church. When we criticize the church, it does not mean we hate it. We still love it. So thank you John for your post, I have always looked forward to your posts!!

  15. Thanks John for another Great blog. Yes we are the church . Not a buiding. As such we should be following Jesus and that is daily. We should be there for others and not as most fellowships I know nowdays. They use The building and worship the building and what it has for them in this day and age. The amount of money that goes into the ambience of the building. The lighting sound systems and concert appearances that they want to attract people in. Did the early church use tricks to attract. new followers. Did money become a God to those in charge. The bigger the church the more popular. and less personal the church has become… Jesus wants us to fellowship but that fellowship should be people loving one another being there for one another. The church of today as I see it is far from that. We meet on Sunday for one hour or perhaps an hour and a half. Perhaps a community meal once a month. and a few. and I mean a few. meet for prayer perhaps once a week. I know for in the past I was one of them.
    I am now old have lost mode of transport. (due to health). Live a few short miles from my closest fellowship. Yet where is that fellowship.. Have spent a lot of time in hospital . .Only a couple of friends visited while there. Not even a phone call from most. and visits here mainly from a couple of friends on the margin of that fellowship. I have one person that will pick me up to take me to a mens group……. I might seem to be critical of what is happening. I really am not doing this for myself as I am used so much of my amazing God here at my keyboard. I only feel for those out there that could be in the position the same as myself. Are they being looked after by the church. Jesus told us to look after his flock. That means to be there for those hurting and alone. Loneliness can be a big Killer. It can make one bitter. Is that what fellowship is all about. No jesus told us to love one another to good to those needing help. We are not buildings we as the church are flesh and blood. . Let each of us each day Thank our father and ask him if we can be of help to anyone Today. God bless and you are in my prayers

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