From time to time, leaders in every church likely struggle to appease someone who simply can’t be satisfied, regardless of congregation size, programming or affiliation.
These never-satisfieds church hop in a constant effort to find the “perfect” congregation or in an attempt to “help” that body of believers.
That person or group will never be satisfied, regardless of leaders’ efforts to help, contends Bill Leonard, the James and Marilyn Dunn Professor of Church History and Baptist Studies at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity.
While criticism can be constructive, the never-satisfieds concentrate on their own desires and tend to “have a predisposition to be critical and dissatisfied,” Robert “Bob” Perry, a church health consultant and author, said.
Self-focused, they evaluate church experiences on what they will receive. “They miss seeing that church is first of all about God and worshipping him, and that it is, secondly, about service to others and outreach to outsiders,” Perry said.
“When these focus on having the church meet all of their needs and expectations, they fail to see that their needs and expectations should be less important than proclaiming Christ to and needy world and following his command to love and serve others.”
Human nature plays a role as well, Larry Harvey, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hastings, Neb., believes. Human beings often act in their own best interest and must learn how to curb the tendency.
Those chronically dissatisfied with organized religion tend to be emotionally and spiritually immature, Harvey said.
They leave a particular congregation for immature reasons: So-and-so isn’t “holy enough.” Or “the pastor didn’t contact me” over an issue, he added.
Because membership is voluntary in most Baptist churches, congregations rarely impose specific requirements. “The church is an area where you [members] have the freedom to make a choice without repercussions,” Harvey said.
The challenge is in knowing when to confront the never-satisfieds and when to let them realize on their own when it’s time to hop to another congregation.
When one couple began to complain and suggested they might leave, Harvey said he simply agreed they needed to go. But when a man, a gifted musician, became a “meddler” in the church, the pastor confronted him and the man moved on.
That fine line between the desire to retain members and the cost to appease people who will never be satisfied often keeps church leaders from dealing with them.