The Peanuts comic strip taught me the funny-sounding word “fussbudget.” Charles Schulz used the word to describe the perpetually crabby Lucy Van Pelt, the perennial opposite of her amiable brother, Linus. [As an aside, Schulz attended a Church of God (Anderson) congregation when he was a young man; perhaps he knew a few.]
Today we concern ourselves with a church fussbudget, a fussy person: he assumes authority to straighten other church people out―through complaining, griping, critiquing, criticizing, shaming and badgering with unsolicited opinions, advice and views―even though the Bible doesn't give him that authority. Fussbudgetry (or fussbudgetism) is a serious sin in any church. A fussbudget destroys church harmony, church unity, church people and, at times, the church itself. The congregation suffers with horrible dysfunction when a fussbudget spreads his gangrene. The Holy Spirit is grieved and quenched.
A fussbudget tells her pastor his role and job description. She unloads on the church secretary, worship leader, teacher, helper, board of trustees chairperson, etc. her opinions and critique. She feels compelled to tell people off or correct them.
A fussbudget believes that if a person disobeys his correction then the person is disobeying God's will. A fussbudget tries to control his foes through intimidation.
A fussbudget actually withers and drains the objects of her criticism. Enthusiasm for ministry evaporates immediately. Pastors fantasize about resigning or retiring. Ministry leaders get burned out and quit. People refuse to serve on boards and committees for fear of attack.
Church folks loathe encountering a fussbudget. They see him approaching and, filled with dread over a verbal beating, they want to run and hide.
The sad thing? A fussbudget often doesn't know she is one. There's a human quirk where people don't see the beams in their own eyes but, rather, see the specks in others' eyes.
Here is how everyone can avoid being a church fussbudget:
- Never give unsolicited advice, criticism, opinions or preferences to church members who displease you. Don't say it. Don't share it. Don't type it. Keep it to yourself.
- If the Lord wants you gently to talk to someone close to committing imperiling sin then do so but, if not, see #1. But don't confuse this with a personal desire to get back at, talk back to or speak harshly with another. It isn't about your feelings.
- Never gossip personal grievances to others about a person who displeases you.
- If someone actually has sinned against you then follow obey the Bible's steps toward reconciliation. (Matthew 18.15-20)
- However, if it isn't a sin but, rather, anything short of that then see #1. Nobody in the church wants to hear it, neither the pastor nor anyone else. It isn't being helpful.
- Trust the Holy Spirit and the local church's spiritual leadership to deal with people/leaders who aren't following the Bible, such as a Church Council, Board of Elders, etc.
- Never spread anonymous criticism. Treat it like an unsigned letter. Don't pay it any heed and refuse to pass it along. Don't say, “Some people are concerned...” or “I've heard...”
- Remember, the church isn't about what you want. It doesn't exist for you.
- Don't be a Lucy. Be a Linus.