The call came early Monday morning - they always come on Mondays. I could tell in his voice he was uneasy. “Has anyone ever been critical of your preaching?” he asked. “I don’t think there’s ever been a time when someone wasn’t critical of it,” I laughed. “Listen, really, there will almost always be somebody that doesn’t like your preaching. You just have to accept that, try to figure out if what they are saying is legit. If so work on correcting it if you can, if it’s not just do your best to move forward. Sometimes it’s just your style a person won’t like, sometimes the gripe will be petty, and sometimes it will be just mean.” After the call I got to thinking about this talented young brother. It’s hard enough getting and keeping good ministers today...so when one submits (sounds like we had them in a wrestling hold) we sure want to encourage him. So little Johnny announces he is thinking about preaching or going into youth ministry and the gears start turning. It’s all good. He speaks and people shower him with compliments. They brag on their little guy and his decision. His preacher tries to mentor him and show him all the blessings of being in ministry. He goes to college and takes a prep and del class - learns to exegete the text...etc...
Then he gets his first job! The “new” church is excited. A fresh canvas, a fresh face, youth, hope...they clean and remodel, repaint or re-carpet the “preachers house.” They have a welcome potluck. They have their best “team” to lead prayers, introduce, welcome him and his young family Exciting words of hope for the future are spoken.
But there’s a demon in the corner. He or she doesn’t mean to be, but they just can’t seem to help themselves. They use satan’s standard’s to judge him - he mispronounced...he didn’t do/say/wear...he isn’t like ____...he took a different position than _____ (typically a former and respected minister).
Solution? Remix, rewind to Jesus and the disciples. In training the ministers he left behind (the apostles, 2 Corinthians 6:4) He was very clear that mistreatment was part of the package deal. Consider the following:
"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-16).
And as the apostles passed on what they learned they mimicked the Lord’s lessons:
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
In one particularly rough path over 20 years ago, dad directed me to Peter’s writings: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’ But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:14-17).
If you think you will not be hit by the sting of a critic or someone who is "out to get you fired" you are fooling yourself. Accept it. Embrace it. Expect it.
A few notes:
This is meant in no way to provide excuses, ground cover or passes for those who would abuse the servants of the Lord. Let me be clear - it is sinful and if you do not repent and change your ways the Lord will judge you. Even knowing the above passages and striving to embrace them does not minimize in any way the pain felt when you are attacked...it does hurt. In my 4th decade of doing this I still feel the bitter taste of hurt when someone judges - “off with his head.”
Nor is this written to set those in ministry apart: every job has it’s hurts. Fellow ministers remember every field of life has it’s challenges and challengers.
Finally, just because someone might be critical does not mean they are necessarily an enemy.
As much as is in your - try to be at peace with all people. And rejoice in that you get to identify with and serve the Lord.
remember: The Insider's Guide To Church Leadership webinar is tomorrow (Tuesday) at 10:00am CST. If you have not signed up you're going to miss out on some good stuff - it's not too late