One thing I have learned over the years is that sometimes ministry and criticism go hand in hand. There have been many times when someone in our leadership team has said, “Pastor, did you hear about what this person said about our church?” or “Pastor, do you know what someone said about you?” If I played to every single one of those criticisms, I would have failed in my mission and my calling to the Lord.
Please don’t get me wrong or misunderstand me… I think we have to be humble enough to listen to constructive criticism. In some sense that is how we grow as a Christian and as a person. There are factors on both sides of an issue that the other person does not understand. This is why it is important to have open lines of communication, and to discuss potential problems with a desire to understand rather than criticizing without finding out the other side of the story. God will be glorified in us when our church learns to sharpen one another with a humble and gracious heart. But I am referring to the criticism that spews out of a person’s mouth that neither edifies nor glorifies God.
When we do ministry, we will ALWAYS be criticized about something. Bottom line is that we cannot please everyone. In Scripture, we notice poignant examples of God’s servants who were criticized. Moses was criticized by the very people that he led out of slavery in Egypt. The prophets of God were criticized by people who did not want to hear the message of God. The Apostle Paul was criticized by people who questioned his motive. Even Jesus, who was without sin, was criticized by people.
People will always question your motive, your method, your message and even your mannerism. This is part of the ball game of being a servant of God. The more I interact with critical people, the more I realize that their criticisms stem from other things. I can think of 3 things in particular: 1) Issues in their life – there are unsolved things, grudges or hurts that have been unaddressed 2) Insecurities in their life – due to pride it causes people to prove that they are right and others are wrong 3) Inadequacies in their life –to feel better about themselves they put other people down in order to exalt themselves. The reason why I can be pretty confident of these reasons is because these are the things that I see in my life when I am critical.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines, “criticize” as, “to find fault with: point out the faults of.” I think Jesus addressed this issue in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:1-5. It is important to note that Jesus was not against judging altogether because we need to judge things by the Truth (i.e. false doctrine). But Jesus was specifically referring to making proper judgment. When we judge without mercy and love or even judging when we are blind to our own faults, we notice that Jesus calls them “hypocrites.”
If critical “Christians” can turn their passionate criticism towards a passion for Christ, we will see the world transformed. But then those people would respond by saying, “But because we are passionate about Christ, we have to speak up and criticize.” To that remark I will respond by simply giving a logical conclusion:
1) Christ loves the Church – Eph 5:25-32
2) Christ said that he will build up the Church – Mt 16:18
3) If someone criticizes the Church, they are criticizing something that Christ loves and something that He is building up for His glory
4) Therefore, those who criticize the Church are criticizing Christ
One day, every single one of us will have to stand before Christ and give an account for our life and all our actions. I think it is at that point where all the records will be set straight.
A lesson I learned from a wise person awhile back – “Unless you have walked in that person’s shoes, you have no right to say anything.” I think that goes both ways.