Responding to a question sent by an employee of a civic organization, evangelist Billy Graham acknowledges that while no pastor is perfect, it's "wrong, and a sin in the eyes of God" for Christians to criticize their pastors.
"Why do some people seem to enjoy criticizing their pastor?" reads the question sent to the 96-year-old evangelist, according to the website of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, now headed by his son, the Rev. Franklin Graham.
"I'm in a civic organization with a couple of friends from another church, and it seems like all they talk about is their pastor's shortcomings. Should I say something to them about this?" adds the question.
"No pastor is perfect, of course — but if God has called someone to be a pastor and has sent them to serve a particular church, then they should be helped and encouraged in every way possible," Billy Graham responds, quoting 1 Samuel 26:9: "Who can lay a hand on the Lord's anointed and be guiltless?"
This doesn't mean "pastors should always be above criticism — even if they neglect their responsibilities or otherwise are at fault," Graham clarifies.
"But most churches have ways of dealing with such matters through their ruling board or denominational structure. Paul reminded the Christians in Corinth that 'everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way,'" he adds, referring to 1 Corinthians 14:40.
"Sadly, I have known of church members who seem to enjoy criticizing their pastor — and sometimes they keep doing it pastor after pastor," Graham goes on to say. "I've never known why; perhaps they do it to just to get attention. But whatever their reason, it is wrong, and it is a sin in the eyes of God. Not only does it cause dissension in the church, but it means their heart and mind are closed to the teaching of God's Word."
Graham concludes by suggesting the inquirer pray for an opportunity to speak with her or his friends about their attitude, "urging them not only to avoid criticizing their pastor but to do all they can to support and help this individual."
"Especially encourage them to pray for their pastor. Pray, too, for your own church and its pastoral staff, that they truly may 'Be shepherds of God's flock … eager to serve' (1 Peter 5:2)."
Billy Graham was hospitalized after his 95th birthday celebration for observation and lung tests in November 2013, and has been very weak since then. However, his mind is still clear, his son, Franklin Graham, said earlier this year.