9 Types of Cowards You May Have in Your Church

by Thom Rainer

Many pastors and church leaders are miserable because of fewer than five percent of the church members.

Let me state if positively. Over 95 percent of church members are supportive and encouraging.

So pastors and other church leaders need to learn and deal with the reality of church cowards. They are few in number but, like a few bee stings from a hive of hundreds, they can be painful.

Before I suggest a path forward with church cowards, let me identify nine of the most common detractors.

  1. The business meeting aggressor. This person is largely silent until there is a business meeting in the church. At that point, he or she begins to speak with either passive-aggressive language or outright venom. They take comfort and security by speaking in a crowd.
  2. The social media attacker. This coward hides behind the shield of a keyboard. They will not come to the church leader directly, but will gladly make their positions and criticism known digitally.
  3. The “I-love-you-but” hypocrite. This church member prefaces criticisms and diatribes with a disingenuous comment of love and support for the church leader.
  4. The anonymous letter writer. He or she who does not have the courage to identify himself or herself does not deserve an audience.
  5. The absent but critical commanders. These church members have a lot of opinions about the church and the church’s leadership, most of it critical. But they are rarely involved in ministry or showing their support for the church in tangible ways.
  6. The financial withholding hoard. You know these church members. When things do not go their way, they stop giving to the church. After all. It’s not God’s money; it’s theirs.
  7. The nothing good gossiper. This member is happy to spread news about the church, its leaders, and its members – as long as the news is negative, salacious, or false.
  8. The delegating demanders. Their pattern is consistent. If they have a problem or criticism, they go to someone else to communicate the problem. They then expect the receiver of the message to address the situation.
  9. The “silence-is-golden” groupies. Unfortunately in many churches, these members are often the exception to the 95 percent statement I made above. Too many members, far beyond the five percent problem members, remain silent when they see unfair criticisms, bullying, and other toxic behavior. Their silence is a complicit act of cowardice.

So how do pastors deal with church cowards? First, you pray for them. As difficult as it may seem, you do pray for them. Second, you stay vigilant for these members so you can be aware of what is taking place. Third, you remember you are their pastor. Finally, you focus your emotional energies on the members who really want to make a positive difference for the Kingdom.

Church cowards will always be with you.

It’s up to you, in God’s strength, to determine how you will respond.

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.