Thom Rainer, president/CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Lifeway Christian Resources, has roused some controversy with a pair of blog posts [1, 2] which are unenlightened by statistical evidence, by hyperlinks to illustrations of his arguments or by meaningful anecdotes bolstering his arguments.
In his posts, Rainer argues that Southern Baptist ministers are plagued by a rising “level and frequency of criticisms,” which he terms “the great distraction.” And recommends in his second post that churches and their members deal aggressively with “the nagging naysayers.” Rather than, say, give constructive attention to critics’ arguments.
Not everyone in his blog’s audience was charmed.
SBC pastor William Thornton respectfully dissected Rainer’s vacant arguments. The takeaway:
From where I stand and from what I see and read, it is completely understandable that critics, aware that they will never receive a hearing from their leadership, will sometimes take their criticism to alternative channels like blogs and discussion boards. They do this not because they are unregenerate, vicious, or cheapshot critics, but because they have been taught that they will not get a hearing from their pastor or church and that they will be treated badly if they do speak up.
Tom Rich at FBC Jax Watchdog made Rainer’s complaints the launch pad for a series of blogs excoriating “crybaby pastors” [1, 2, 3]. Rich persuasively argues that Rainer and Mac Brunson, pastor of FBC Jacksonville, are on the same team:
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.”
Darlene (Dee) Parsons at The Wartburg Watch argues that if there is an upsurge of criticism, it is well-earned by pastors who have abused their longtime control of the microphone:
However, the tables are turning and the flock is beginning to answer back. Here is the bottom line. Many of the “happening” pastors claim they want people to come to church and listen to them. Some of them appear on talk shows such as Larry King and Fox, pontificating about the faith and, of course, their ministries. They want public access and public attention but then get really bent out of shape when the public takes them up on their offer, pays attention, and then starts asking really, really hard questions. Like, why do you get a salary of close to a million dollars and yet tell us all to gross tithe to the church?
Christa Brown at Stop Baptist Predators doesn’t refer to Rainer’s blog in her analysis of Two Rivers Baptist Church’s recent decision to change its name to “Fellowship at Two Rivers,” thus editing out “Baptist.” But she does detail how the Rainer-recommended response to critics has tarnished the Baptist brand.