Dealing With Critics - Five Questions That I Ask

I have been a part of several pastors Q & A sessions in the past year—leading some and participating in others—and in EVERY session that I attended the question, “How do you deal with criticism” surfaced.

I will have to admit that I am NOT an expert in this area…I am still learning; however, I believe in order for a pastor (or church leader) to finish well he has to learn how to deal with this issue.  Jesus dealt with it, so did the Apostle Paul…we all will.  One of the number one factors in pastors leaving the ministry is discouragement…and so here are several questions that I ask when criticism flies my way…

#1 - How Well Does This Person Know Me?

One of the things that we have to learn as pastors is just because someone has a blog or knows how to type an e-mail…that does not make them an expert.  (Yes, I put myself in this category.)

I cannot tell you the number of blog posts I have read and e-mails that I have received from people calling me prideful, a heretic, saying that I am going to hell…and those are the nice ones!!!

Pastors, you’ve got to understand WHO is doing the criticizing.  People will often act before they think (I do) and make snap judgments on your character based on one line you wrote on your blog or something you said in a sermon in which they did not listen to the entire context.

And…to be honest, those are the people I do not listen to.  I can’t!  I don’t have time.

BUT…I do listen to those closest to me.  I have created an open atmosphere among the leaders here at NewSpring…and behind closed doors I have been both encouraged and rebuked.  You’ve got to have people around you who are willing to tell you the truth or this does not work.

AND…I listen to the people in our church, who are neck deep in ministry with us…their opinion matters!  But those who don’t know me—I don’t have time to try to convince them I’m a good person…and if I try then they call me arrogant and say I should be more humble.  :-)

#2 - What Attitude Does The Person Criticizing Have? 

Bottom line, if someone comes at me with a negative, condemning attitude…I write it off.  The Bible says that we are called to speak the truth…but we are called to do so in love.

#3 - Does What The Person Is Saying Pass Through The Filter Of Scripture? 

DANG…I heard Erwin McManus say this once…and it has impacted me ever since.  When someone comes at me with, “I think this,” and, “I think that,” but cannot back up their argument with Scripture…I write them off.

Let me say this—Scripture IN CONTEXT, I have discovered that there are some people out there who can make the Bible say anything they want it to say by misquoting God’s Word.

But Scripture in context…I will listen to that.  For example, a few weeks ago a friend and I had some differences and I did not speak to this person for several days.  Things were tense because we work around one another.  She confronted me on this and said, “The Bible says in Ephesians 4:26 that we are not supposed to let the sun go down on us while we are angry…I would say you have done that.”

I was busted—she was right…she confronted me with a non-judgmental attitude and used Scripture in context…and I repented because I was wrong.

#4 - Is This Criticism Personal Or Shared By Others? 

Pastors…here is the truth.  We can receive hundreds of e-mails telling us how wonderful the sermon was…and one telling us that we are horrible preachers…and we will ignore the one hundred and focus on the one that was negative!

We all do it—I am the world’s worse!!!

OR—we will fall for the line, “I’ve been talking to a lot of people…and everyone is saying…”  And then they will unload their personal agenda on us and say that everyone is saying the exact same thing.  Which in most cases is not true.  In fact, what I have discovered is that a person who usually says things like this don’t really have a lot of people who will talk to them anyway.  Seriously!

And…if it is always the same person saying that “everyone is saying,” but they are the only person who is saying anything…then ask them who “everyone” is—this will usually shut them up!

#5 - Is This Worth My Time? 

I used to try and fight every single ounce of criticism that came my way…and I just can’t do it anymore, and neither can you.

Now, there are some things that are worth my time…and I do address issues on the blog from time to time that I feel are necessary.

BUT…what I have discovered is that the majority of the criticism I get simply isn’t worth my time.  I am NOT going to change the person’s mind…and “friendly debate” is out of the question…so I just move on.

I am JUST getting to where I can do this.  I used to search & see what other bloggers were saying about me…but I don’t do that anymore—and neither should you!  It robs your joy!!!

I don’t know if this helps you—but it has helped me.  Pastors, we will always experience hurt in ministry.  But, if I may use a sports analogy, the players that we most admire are the ones that play hurt and still make things happen.  This rung true with me at C3 this past year when Craig Groeschel said that pastors play hurt every week.

  • Craig plays hurt
  • Ed Young plays hurt
  • Mark Driscoll plays hurt
  • Rob Bell plays hurt
  • Erwin McManus plays hurt
  • Rick Warren plays hurt

We all play hurt…but that is a part of finishing well…knowing that it will all work out in the end.

God bless…