When your pastor faces legitimate criticism or inquiry into the practices of the church, does he respond with a sermon against "murmuring"? Are the "murmurers" (or relatives of the "murmurers") disciplined, ignored or driven out? In abusive churches, it often works this way.
Today, I was reading Acts 6, and I found it interesting how the early church dealt with murmurers. Acts 6:1 says this:
And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
The Greeks were complaining about what seemed like unfair practices, and they felt the leadership should stop preaching and start serving more, something like that. Who else could the murmuring be against?
So here is an early church example of murmuring and what to do about it. Notice the response of the apostles.
Do the apostles preach against the murmurers? Do they get angry at the Greek widows? Do they get all huffy about their own authority and start kicking people out for touching God's annointed apostles? No. They look into the matter. Acts 6:2-5
Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
And the saying pleased the whole multitude:
Several things to notice here. First, the apostles appeal to reason. There is nothing wrong with reason! Human reason is given for a reason:) The apostles disagree with the criticism. They know that whatever the criticism, whatever the urgency, whatever the need, they still need to be in the word. It isn't reasonable that they should leave the word of God to serve tables. Probably, the critics didn't state things that way, but using reason, the apostles restate the problem in such a way that the critics could see why their own viewpoint and criticism is somewhat faulty.
Second, instead of getting all upset that their authority is under attack, they actually set about seeing what they can do about the problem. They take the problem seriously. They don't leave what they know is right for them to do (preaching the word) BUT they don't ignore or attack their critics either.
Third, they don't preach against criticism, or castigate the widows for slander or gossip. They come up with a very good plan on how to deal with the problems that arise. The result? Everyone was pleased.