home > Pastor’s Desk > 2016 > February 19th > Complaining, A Step By Step Guide


Keep Calm And ComplainA man wanted to become a monk so he went to the monastery and talked to the head monk. The head monk said, “You must take a vow of silence and can only say two words every three years.” The man agreed and after the first 3 years, the head monk came to him and said, “What are your two words?” “Food cold!” the man replied. Three more years went by and the head monk came to him and said “What are your two words?” “Robe dirty!” the man exclaimed. Three more years went by and the head monk came to him and said, “What are your two words?” “I quit!” said the man. “Well,” the head monk replied, “I am not surprised. You have done nothing but complain ever since you got here!”

Most of us complain but too few of us complain enough or do it particularly well. Literally hundreds of thousands of lives and thousands of marriages have been ruined but could have been saved if there was more and better complaining! One of the essential skills every person – and especially every leader – must have is the ability to complain. Learning how to do this well could save your life, your marriage, your business, and open up amazing opportunities for you.

Complaining For DummiesOne of life’s great injustices is that we often learn its most valuable lessons too late! Many of us can look back over our lives and see how we could have done things so much better if we had only known then what we know now. The Christian band, Mercy Me, capture this sentiment beautifully in their song – Dear Younger Me.

Dear younger me
Where do I start
If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far
Then you could be
One step ahead
Of all the painful memories still running thru my head
I wonder how much different things would be
Dear younger me, dear younger me

Dear younger me
I cannot decide
Do I give some speech about how to get the most out of your life
Or do I go deep
And try to change
The choices that you’ll make cuz they’re choices that made me
Even though I love this crazy life
Sometimes I wish it was a smoother ride
Dear younger me, dear younger me

One of the most painful examples of this late-in-life-lessons is the rate of Christians who divorce and remarry. According to Gallop, some 40% of Christian marriages in America are ending in divorce (this of course means that 60% last a life-time). Curiously though, 70% of these divorced Christians who have remarried have coincidentally deepened their spiritual life and consequently their commitment to their local church. Perhaps many of these people would, with a sigh of regret, tell us that during their first marriage they made some big mistakes. Among the biggest, they would say, was that they neglected to put God first in their relationship (Matthew 6:33). It’s easy to do of course. Married life is an adjustment. Then children come along and those things that make for an Acts 2 type of Christianity get put off for a day, then a week, then a month. Prayer, Home Group, Bible reading/study, and attending Church worship become too inconvenient and less of a priority and an all-too obvious indicator of where they are at spiritually. Yet all of this damage could be avoided if someone had complained.

“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth;
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”
Job 7:11


An expert complainer is not necessarily someone who does a lot of complaining (although most expert complainers do a lot of complaining). Rather, an expert complainer is someone who avoids the common mistakes of lower-ranked complainers and has learned how to use positively use complaining to bring about helpful change. Expert complainers complain because they care. Lower-ranked complainers usually complain because they are frustrated, hurt, angry, and want to let others know how upset they are. People rarely listen to lower-ranked complainers. They sound like whiners, whingers, moaners. Whereas a higher-ranked complainer sounds like they are trying to help.

Shortly after I arrived in Tasmania in 1995, our little church grew rather rapidly. You would think that everyone in our church would have been happy about that. But I received a lot of complaints from many (not most and certainly not all) of the 17 members who were in the church when I arrived. One of them took it upon themselves to write a letter to me telling me how arrogant I was, how all I wanted to do was to bring fancy “mainland” ideas to our church, and how everyone in our church was so unhappy with me. It was (un)signed ‘anonymous’. Top-ranked complainers don’t do things like that. They’ve learned that the best complaints happen eye-to-eye.

Kim is a great complainer. The other day as we were hosting our guest from Missouri, Kim and the girls took him into our city to buy some souvenirs. She got into town just after 4PM and went to one of the major souvenir gift shops but the lady had just shut and locked the door. Kim thought this rather strange especially since their closing time was 5:30PM. The lady yelled out from behind the locked glass door that she had to have a restroom break and that there was no one to mind the shop. “Come back in ten minutes” she told Kim and our guest. Kim did. But this time not only was the door still locked now the lights were turned off. Kim knocked at the door and the lady behind the counter yelled back, “We’re closed and I’m just counting up the till so I can’t let you in.” In our attempts to show off our city to our American visitor this small-mindedness was extremely embarrassing for us. The next day Kim went back to complain and the rest is now history.

I remembered God, and was troubled;
I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.
Psalm 77:3

If you want to be a better complainer you have to learn to become a better carer. The reason many lower ranked complainers don’t get heard much is because they moan rather than care. They make their complaint more about them and their feelings than the other person and how they can be helped.


We see both types of complainers in the pages of Scripture. The children of Israel complained in a moaning fashion when they came out of Egypt into the Sinai Wilderness.

¶ And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.
Numbers 11:1

But we also read of King David complaining to the Lord in prayer and seeking God’s help for his predicament (Psalm 5:1-12). And in the closing book of the Bible, we read of King Jesus declaring His complaints against several churches.

I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
Revelation 2:3-4

A careful reading of the Lord’s complaints in the second and third chapters of The Revelation will reveal a First Class Complainer – because He cares like none other. His complaints were not mere criticisms. His complaints contained hope, and a positive remedy. Ours can too.


STEP 1 – Start to ask for permission from the one you want to complain to before making your complaint.

STEP 2 – Start to make your complaints about the behaviour or action of a person, rather than the person (distinguish the behaviour of the person from the person themselves). Don’t ever say, “The problem with you is … !” Rather say, “When you do this [insert particular behaviour here] it irritates me because …. “

STEP 3 – Be more selective in who you complain to. First Class Complainers don’t complain to everyone, rather they complain to the one who needs to hear it and could make the necessary changes.

STEP 4 – Before you complain, be open to the fact that you just might be mistaken. Therefore, ask some clarifying questions to determine whether you have the whole story and have it correct so that your complaint is at least justified.

STEP 5 – Be prepared to help the one your complaining to. As followers of Christ, this at least means that we pray for this person to be blessed before and after we make our complaint.

Follow these steps and it just might save your marriage, your job, your business, and maybe even your life. When I worked for Kmart we were always taught that our best customer was our complaining customer, because they could help us improve our business, whereas the dissatisfied customer who didn’t complain not only didn’t continue shopping with us, but usually told seven other potential customers to stop shopping with us as well.


But what if someone complains about you or to you? A wise person will listen to their critics and treat constructive criticism as a gift.

Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
Proverbs 9:8

A lot more marriages could be saved if more husbands understood that when their wife complains to them, it has the potential to make them a better husband and give them a better marriage. And perhaps more churches could avoid splits and schisms if everyone put Philippians 2:14-15 into a practice, which would ultimately make our world a better place.

¶ Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.
Philippians 2:14-15


Your Pastor,


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This is not for everyone. If you are already a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my other more abstract Pastor’s Desk articles. If you are not a parent and have no intention of ever being a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my more weighty articles on FindingTruthMatters.org. If you are not yet a parent and one day hope to become a parent, this is for you. Find a quiet place, take the next six minutes thirteen seconds and use the reading of this article as an investment into your future parenting strategies. I did not invent these guidelines. Like many parents who have also discovered the value of these guidelines, once discovered, they seem obvious. These successful parents probably grew up with own parents who inculcated these guidelines almost intuitively. However, my suspicion is that this is becoming increasingly rarer. As with all true guidelines they are adaptable, flexible, and are not a guarantee of parental success — but if ignored they become the point in the mathematical problem solving where you can see you made an error in your working out. In other words, while these guidelines may not guarantee success, if ignored their neglect almost certainly leads to frustration and disappointment. Here are five indispensable guidelines for every prospective new parent.


I’ve been praying for Penn Jillette for some time now. It began when I first heard him ridicule the Bible and Christianity. My fascination with Penn (and Teller), and other world-class magicians, has been due to my pursuit to develop my craft of preaching. There are a lot of similarities between preachers and magicians (just as there is also a lot similarities between solo musicians and preachers). I seek to learn from magicians about how to keep an audience’s attention, how to tell a story, and how to make a point by employing the element of surprise. But there are some significant differences between what magicians do and what preachers do though. A magician is deliberately deceptive. A preacher is striving to uphold truth in an honest way.


In Australia, it’s football finals time and the U.S. the last Grand Slam event for the year has just concluded. I find a lot of life lessons from observing elite athletes — including and especially those who play football and those who play tennis. Most people might consider football to be a team sport and tennis to be individual sport. But the distinction is not so clear these days. Often times footballers are individually coached by “position coaches” and a tennis player is often just who the public sees of a team of people responsible for the performance of that player. At the time of writing, there are remaining four Australian Rules Football (AFL) teams about to play off in the Preliminary Finals (including my beloved Geelong Cats). Last weekend, Carlos Alcaraz of Spain defeated Casper Ruud of Norway. Both players have intriguing stories which I will mention shortly. In the AFL, after a disastrous last season, the Collingwood Magpies appointed a new coach for this season, Craig McRae. Even though they got off to a slow start this season, under McRae’s oversight ended up having an 11-straight winning streak toward the end of the season and now look like genuine  Premiership contenders. What do Carlos Alcaraz, Casper Ruud, Craig McRae, and the Collingwood football team, all have in common? All the players at the elite level of their sport make an enormous commitment to train, practice, sleep, hydrate, and eat a regulated diet. Yet at the very highest levels in their respective sporting codes the difference between the elite and the extra-elite is no longer skill or fitness. In fact, the difference between them is so applicable to everyday life that it may be the most relevant and do-able thing you hear for a long time. So, think about this.


As Kim and I enjoyed our weekly coffee-date this morning at Stillwater, she looked out ruminatively across at all of the development that has taken place over the years where the North and South Esks merge to form the Tamar River.

“I wonder if the settlers who came here two hundred years ago” she asked, “could have imagined the silos would have been built over there and then turned into a luxury hotel, or that two bridges would have been built here, or that their tiny village would grow into a large city?”

“What’s more interesting” I responded, “is if anyone today can envision what it will all look like in another two hundred years!”

And my response then got me thinking. Could it be possible to imagine what Launceston will end up looking like in two hundred years—and, what about our church? What will our church will look like in two hundred years?


Tasmanian churches play a vital role in our state as a moral compass and social leader. Our moral compass was given to us 2,000 years ago by Christ  who then commissioned the Church to preach, teach, and care in His Name. The Church’s role as a social leader was instigated by Jesus who embraced the shunned, condemned oppressors of the vulnerable, and upheld the sacredness of every human life and taught His followers to do likewise. Two thousand years later, Tasmanian churches gather weekly and continue proclaim the good news that Jesus taught, care for the poor and homeless, feed the hungry, welcome refugees, and provide thousands of young Tasmanians with an education. This is why the former Examiner deputy editor recently described the Tasmanian Church as “the most fundamental pillar in society” but then described it as being led by “a pious clique of fancy robed hypocrites, with less and less relevance each year to the wider community” (28/8/2022). The basis for his sharp criticism is grounded in his assessment that the Tasmanian Church has not recalibrated its moral compass to align itself with culture’s progressive values. Here’s why I disagree with the esteemed former deputy editor.


WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR? The Jewish leaders had a very strict understanding of who God accepted and who God rejected. Obviously, they taught, God had accepted the Jews as His favourite – particularly Jewish men. Jewish women were sort of accepted, but only as second-class members of God’s people. This obviously also meant that unless a gentile (a non-Jew) converted to Judaism they could not be accepted by God. Therefore, God rejected all gentiles — and He especially rejected Roman gentiles — but He reserved His ultimate rejection for Samaritans! Jesus then tells the Temple-lawyer the story of the Good Samaritan.


 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!


Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.


For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.


Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.