Part 1 of Series: Dealing With Criticism

by Dr. Steve Dunn

Lately I have been reading countless posts on leadership blogs and our ministry sites giving counsel to pastors and others on how to deal with the critics in their midst. The proliferation of such articles is validation that the contemporary American church has a problem, too often unaddressed.  In my role as a consultant dealing with church health, I am finding that there exists a toxicity that quickly invades the Body of Christ, diverting its spiritual and leadership resources from the disciple-making mandate handed down by Jesus in Matthew 28.

Decades ago I had a pastoral colleague who as a denominational leader carried with him a sermon entitled, “The Sin of the Negative Spirit.”  I believe that this sin; and yes, it is a sin, is the specific source of this unhealthy reality in our churches.  It quickly multiplies into other sins—one of which is the critical spirit.

Please note that I am NOT saying that criticism is evil but the SPIRIT that gives birth to it too often is.  My definition of sin comes from the Greek word for sin hamartia (“missing the mark”).  A critical spirit took often is growing from a personal perspective that gives the little room for vision and rarely operates out of a perspective of faith.  A critical spirit often quietly celebrates pointing out flaws (or imagining flaws) instead keeping their eyes on what God is doing in and through their church.  A critical spirit often simply speaks its mind (which is not necessarily the mind of Christ) with regard to whether it has spoken the truth in love.  A critical spirit is often quick to anger, quick to speak, slow to listen and as a result it bombards others jabs and stabs that discourage rather than encourage.  A critical spirit often encourages leaders to avoid them or stop listening to any wisdom they have because they grow tired and drained by the incessant critic.

I could go on with the impact.

In my next post I will share some thoughts on self-evaluation (“Is Your Criticism Kingdom-Focused?” and a subsequent one to leaders on handling criticism constructively.

© 2018  by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to For all other uses, contact Steve at


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