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Coping With Criticism

Addressing the burning issues of the day is sure to bring pastors and church leaders criticism. When people disagree with your latest blog or church web site post, social media provides an easy vehicle for the venting of negativity and anger.

Anyone who dares to speak against today’s secular-progressive agenda has to anticipate venomous attacks. Ironically, the most vocal voices who plead for tolerance are often thuggishly intolerant of anyone who disagrees with them. Those who insist no one has a right to judge others don’t hesitate to judge anyone who verbalizes biblical truth.

Nothing new

This is nothing new. Over 2,500 years ago the prophet Nehemiah was doing an effective job of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. His determined team was on schedule to complete the task in less time than expected. He had the people’s enthusiastic support.

Yet, he was also the target of vicious criticism. Two local residents, Sanballat and Tobiah, despised the Jews and scoffed at the wall, saying, “Even a fox could knock it over.” When Nehemiah refused to be intimidated, they wrote him a letter expressing their displeasure and requesting a meeting to discuss their objections.

Nehemiah’s response was classic. He basically said, “I’m doing an important work and I don’t have time to hear your gripes.” This was smart and an effective use of his time.

Likewise, in the past, disagreement discouraged me and wounded my ego. Eventually, though, experience and Scripture helped me cope with criticism. I saw that, like Nehemiah, trying to constantly answer my critics wasn’t a wise use of my time.

Evaluate the criticism  

Perhaps some younger Christian leaders can benefit from some of the lessons I learned.

*All effective leaders are criticized. If you are on the front lines of battle, you’re probably going to get shot at. It’s that simple. We are involved in an intensifying spiritual war, and the enemy is becoming increasingly malicious and mean-spirited. If you dare to speak God’s truth, or attempt to lead God’s people, you are going to be attacked as a hate-monger, hypocrite or a fool. Expect it and toughen up.

*Consider the source. Is the criticism from a petty, small-minded person, or someone you respect? If it’s from someone you hold in high regard, evaluate it carefully. Maybe the Lord is using them to point out a blind spot in your life or your work. However, if it originates with a puny-minded Sanballat or Tobiah, then it’s not worth the time to answer.

*Evaluate the objection. If it has some validity, receive it with grace and make the necessary adjustment. If it isn’t, then ignore it and move on. I almost never answer a mean-spirited criticism. The critic is too angry to listen; he or she just wants to vent.

*Keep your focus on the ultimate goal. Don’t grumble about the critics or let Satan distract you from what needs to get done. Your assignment is to please Christ, not men. People are so fickle. The same people who criticize you today may sing your praises tomorrow.