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Dealing with Criticism

A minister's reaction to criticism can make him or break him.
"Let all bitterness, and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you
along with all malice.
Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you
."
(Ephesians 4: 31-32)

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Proverbs 15: 1)
"Through presumption comes nothing but strife, but with those who receive counsel is wisdom."
(Proverbs 13: 10)

It probably could be said that there are two classes of preachers – those who have not been criticized,
and those who will be criticized.

What shall the pastor do when he is criticized?
Don't!

Don't criticize the critics.
This will only cause more attention and may trap the pastor into saying what should not be said.
Don't say anything about the criticism in sermons or in any other public gathering.
It is always tempting for the criticized pastor to use the power of the pulpit to get back at the critics
or to gain sympathy from other people in the congregation.

The pastor has an advantage from the pulpit during a conflict.
It is unfair to use that advantage in this manner.
The pastor must remember that visitors are often in the congregation.
What an impression this makes on visitors.
People have come to hear the Word of God – not the problems of a pastor.

Don't ask the critics to leave their church.
It is unacceptable for a pastor to ask the critics to leave the church.
For instance, the pastor might be tempted to say to a critic, "Why don't you find the pastor
you can support?"

Pastor, what if the Lord is allowing the criticism for a purpose?
Remember what David said to Shimei,
"Because the Lord hath said unto him curse David." (2 Samuel 16: 10)

Criticism should be properly considered and can be revealing and helpful.
Don't resign prematurely or impetuously.
It is tempting to look for greener pastures when you feel unappreciated.
Many pastors have felt like resigning on Monday morning.
There are and will always be trying times.
These times are opportunities to be more vigilant in ministry.
These are times when it is possible to do your very best pastoral work.

During the time of criticism, trust your people to deal and negotiate with the critics.
This is the time for you to get closer to your Lord and be more attentive to the needs of your congregation.
It is true that some pastors invite criticism by their attitudes and behavior in overreacting to situations,
to groups or to individuals.

When criticism comes, seek good counsel from trusted Christians, preferably in the church.
There will be wise fellow pastors who will help you to find God's will in the midst of the storm.
Develop ministry support friendships within the ministry.
There should be people you can turn to and talk openly with about the needs in your life and ministry.
Such people should be people who will be kind but also brutally honest with you.

Do!

Here are some proper responses to criticism:
Fulfill your pastoral responsibilities – only do them better!
Preach better sermons.
Study more in the Word!
Be better prepared!
Visit more – take more interest in those you visit.
Truly care for them!
If you have been active in the association – and you should be – continue to be faithful
and serve as needed.

Do not withdraw when receiving criticism.
If you do withdraw, you may be tempted to pout, brood, and drown in self-pity.
Do stay active.
Criticism should be an incentive to growth.

Do spend more time in the Bible.
God's word will distract you from the things that have been said about you.
It will put you in touch with those who might have been treated with more harshness than you.

Do keep your patterns of visitation with shut-ins, with hospital visits, with troubled people,
and witness to those who need Jesus.
The most important visit can be the unneeded visit.

There are times when a pastor should call on his members with nothing other in mind
than to let them know that they are cared for.
During these visits – it is important – that no mention be made of your troubles
or the problems of the church.
If you mention these things, some might infer that you are recruiting them to take sides.
This would be tragic!
This is sinful!

Do organize your time and activities better than you ever have.
Take care of priorities.
There will not be time and energy to do all of the things mentioned here if this is done.
An unorganized pastor will stare at the wall too much – drive around aimlessly
in the community – take too many coffee breaks – have too many idle and profitless talks
with special friends – make excuses for not working steadily – just plain wasting precious
hours in trivia.

When criticism is about to pull you down, and when criticism has put you in the valley
of discouragement – remember, the Lord is ready to listen and provide the needed help.

Read Psalm 46 over and over again.
Read other relevant chapters.
Feel God's presence – speak to Him constantly – listen for His instruction and wisdom.
You do not have to go on a retreat to be spiritually renewed.
This should happen daily in our private devotions.
If we are not spending enough time with God, then we are not prepared to minister to a needy
and lost world.

Remember, you are not the first to be criticized.
"For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself,
lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds
." (Hebrews 12: 3)

Criticism can ruin you or mature you!
This will depend on your attitude and your relationship to the Lord.

This article has been adapted from several contributors.