Part 2 of Series
BY DR. STEVE DUNN
No one likes to be criticized. Pastors are no different on that count, except as public figures they daily face more than their share of criticism. Unless you are not really leading the church anywhere, you will be criticized. Thom Rainer in his excellent book Who Moved My Pulpit? Calls this the Principle of Expected Opposition. He notes, “If you are not being criticized, you are not leading … It’s the price leaders have to pay.”
Nonetheless, we do not like criticism and some of us foolishly go out of our way to avoid it. When we get criticized, we often become defensive and focus on how to justify ourselves or defend our position. It is a natural reaction, but in my experience, not very helpful.
Early on I learned that despite the motivation of the critic, there is often a kernel of truth in what they are saying. As a wise leader I need to discover that kernel and learn from it. The leader also needs to be praying for their own attitude and the open-mindedness of the critic.
This leads to a good question, “Is the criticism Kingdom-focused?” In other words, is the critic one who is committed to the church achieving its Kingdom of God mission? If it is, then the problem is very likely the way you are leading the congregation in fulfilling that mission or your interpretation of that mission. In either scenario, the response to that critic is to use this as a time to learn together how this might be dealt with.
In the former scenario, I might suggest this initial response: “It’s obvious that you want the church to fulfill its kingdom mission. What might I do to provide more productive and God-honoring leadership?” A follow-up might be, “What can you do personally to help improve all of this.” (The last question is important because if at all possible you want the critic to be part of the solution—to invest in it not just inspect it.)
In the latter scenario, this might be your response. “Tell me what you understand God (be sure it’s a reflection on God’s will not the critic’s opinion) wants us to be doing to fulfill our mission from him?” A good follow-up could be, “What do our interpretations have in common that would benefit the church in being faithful and fruitful in serving God’s mission.?”
Three keys here (along with prayer):
- Face and communicate directly with the critic.
- Keep everyone’s focus on God’s will—not personal opinion or preference.
- Work, if at all possible, to make the critic part of the solution.
What are your thoughts and ideas?
In our next post we will discuss Dealing With Critics Publicly and Privately.
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