Every Pastor who has ever lived has had to deal with criticism at one point or another in their ministry. If you have been in the ministry for any length of time at all, I am certain that you’ve gotten a taste of the painful experience of being criticized for something you did. After nearly twenty years of experience in the ministry, I have come to the conclusion that criticism is a normal part of the ministry and can actually help us to grow if we will learn to deal with our critics in a positive and redemptive way. Let me share with you a few of the critics that we all have and how to deal with them:
1.) The Unfair Critic
There are some critics that simply are unfair and mean. I have placed this group of critics first because they seem to be the ones that we get fixated and obsessed with. They are out to destroy you by any means necessary. Every faithful Pastor will have to deal with this kind of critic at come point in their ministry. The unfair critic has been placed in the church by Satan to discourage, intimidate, and destroy Pastors if they can. As Pastors we should never be surprised when these kinds of critics show up in the church. Often they will even been within leadership positions within the church and you will be forced to deal with them. These kind of critics will try to occupy an inordinate amount of your time and will constantly try to distract you from the most important aspects of your ministry. In my ministry, I have found that if I give these kinds of critics too much space or attention in my life I will start majoring on minor issues and not staying focused on what is most important. When dealing with these kinds of critics is best to just let their words roll off your back. Don’t take their criticism personally and always respond with love and compassion.
2.) The Selfish Critic
This is the person who throws a temper tantrum because they did not get their way or do not feel they are being recognized. He or she doesn’t like the way you preached Sunday morning, or that you did no visit them when they had their in-grown toe nail removed, or the music was too loud. So they start going around behind your back and criticizing you. What they ultimately want is for you to give them what they want and to custom the ministry after their own personal preferences. It is common in a church to have a half-dozen or more of these kinds of critics all with a different agenda trying to vie for your attention.
3.) The Injured Critic
Some critics arise simply because they have been hurt and are lashing out in frustration. Often the Pastor becomes the target of these attacks and doesn’t even know why. What I have observed is that often we miss ministry opportunities to help hurting people because we cannot see past their initial criticism. When I was Pastoring in West Virginia there was a man who started criticizing me very heavily and I labeled him as being an unfair critic— actually I would have said he was an “instrument of the devil.” I hate to admit it but I demonized him and simply refused to reach out to him. It was not until after he died that I discovered that he actually was struggling with a great deal of pain and discouragement in his life. As it turned out, he didn’t hate me nor was he sent by the devil to discourage me, he was simply a hurting person who lashed out in a desperate plea for help. Don’t be too quick to label your critics as being unfair or selfish. They may simply be injured and need your help.
4.) The Helpful Critic
The last type of critic that I will mention is the “helpful critic.” We forget as Pastors sometimes that we are not infallible. We sometimes make mistakes and have blinders on that keep us from seeing reality. Therefore we need people in our lives who will be honest with us and tell us where we are messing up. In other words, we need helpful critics who will give us an honest evaluation of our lives and ministries. These men and women can help us to grow in our spiritual lives and ministry but sadly we often shut them out because we are too quick to label every critic as being unfair or selfish. Here is the bottom line, you can always learn from your critics and if you shut them off too quickly you will get stunted in your growth. Don’t obsess over them, but don’t ignore them either. Below are some helpful articles that I have found dealing with this issue:
- Church Critics (Thom Rainer) (pastorron7.wordpress.com)
- How do you take Criticism of Your Views? (Tim Keller, thegospelcoalition.org)
- How to deal with Anonymous Critics in Your Church (churchleaderinsights.com)
- 5 Right and Wrong Ways to Deal with Criticism (Ron Edmondson, sermoncentral.com)