What leader is there that has never been criticized? It goes with the territory. Harry Truman reportedly said, if you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen. If you want to be free from criticism, don’t become a leader--especially a church leader. Criticism is not bad. In fact, in many (if not most) cases it can be one of the better things that happens to you. It gives you the opportunity to practice patience, kindness, understanding, forgiveness, teachability, and the list goes on.
Here are three groups of potential critics.
- Loyal friends. These people really love you and want what’s best for you and your ministry. Thankfully, they are willing to speak truth into your life and ministry. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Yes, some times friends wound us, but it is for our good, not to intentionally bring us harm. They really do love and care about you, your family and your ministry...really they do!
- Helpful observers. These are people in your ministry world who have significant disagreements. At times they can be confrontational and feel the need to go public with their discontent. They are not out to “get you” or “destroy you.” They simply don’t agree with the direction you’re headed, a position you’ve taken, or a decision you’ve made. Let them talk, thank them, ask them questions to better understand their issue and listen with an open mind and heart. You might, for example, learn something about the way you make decisions and how you communicate those decisions. We need to engage these individuals and not make every disagreement a personal me-verses-them issue. Always ask if there is any truth to what they are saying. Check with your “loyal friends” to see what they think about the criticism offered by the “helpful observer.”
- Hurtful observers. These people do have an agenda and are out to get you, cause you pain, torpedo the ministry. They can be wolves in sheep clothing. They want to draw you into a fight, use you and your ministry for their own ends. They are the people who are trying to get Nehemiah to come down from the wall and have discussions with evil intent. The best thing you can do is ignore them. Giving them time or fighting them only makes them stronger; they are getting attention. You will never satisfy them or keep them happy. When you have discussed one issue, there are a lot more where that one came from.
- Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all critics are in the third group.
- Be willing to listen to anyone to learn if there is any sin for you to own and repent of
- Pray for lots of wisdom to know whom to listen to and how much of your precious time you should invest with your critics...they can keep you pretty busy.