Pastors do their work in public, are not perfect, and can benefit from critique. But they will be most benefited when it comes with the right motives and in the right manner. Iron sharpens iron, but only if it comes at the right angle.
Here are some things I have learned from being on the receiving end of comments and criticisms that have made the experience helpful:
1) Consider Your Actual Motive: Are you upset or even mad and want some kind of retribution? Are you really mad about other things and are using this opportunity to vent? Are you sincerely asking about something or do you already know “the truth” and want to show it to him? Are you trying to change him? Are you sincerely attempting to help him? Are you positive your perspective is right?
The key here is to seek out your true motives, and then ask the Lord to keep your heart on the right track. If you are mad, then admit it, and be sure you are in a frame of mind that will allow you to address the issues righteously and in a way that allows for discussion rather than argument.
The bottom line here is this: Are you for the pastor or against him? It will matter to him, and it will be evident in your approach. It is fine to be upset, mad, discouraged or disappointed in him, but if you want to help him get better, come in a way that will help rather than enflame.
2) Spend time in meaningful prayer before determining how to proceed: Sometimes things hit us sideways but after consideration don’t need to be considered further. But some things do need to be dealt with. Spend time searching your own heart and the will of God, and then proceed carefully, but courageously, to follow his guidance.
3) Consider Your Timing: In comedy or critique, timing is everything. If your intent is to gain understanding or resolve differences, it is best to choose a time where you both will be at your best. I appreciate it when folks set up appointments with me and even give me an idea of the concern so I can be prepared with all the information and have my heart ready to respond righteously.
Criticism that comes “on the fly” usually ends with neither party being satisfied. So, here are a few thoughts on timing:
—Don’t expect a pastor to be able to explain himself fully or respond in the best way if you hit him right after he finishes speaking. Chances are he is emotionally drained and often has a line of others waiting to shake his hand or express themselves.
—For most pastors, Monday mornings are already filled with regret and self-doubt. Wait until Tuesday!
The best idea is to make an appointment or set a time for a phone call. That way you can both be prayed up and ready to dialogue in a way that is worthy of those in the family of God. Also, doing things over a cup of coffee, away from the church office, can help keep the conversation where it should be … between family members.