One of the grim realities of being a pastor is that you will experience criticism. I have known many pastors through the years, and each one has undergone criticism. Criticism is inescapable in the life of a pastor.
Few things challenge a pastor more than criticism. Personally, there have been times when criticism has absolutely devastated me. It is especially difficult to receive when given by someone you respect deeply or by someone who has completely misunderstood a situation. Criticism can sideline or paralyze a leader, or it can help a leader be better in the future. I have personally experienced each of these situations.
Without question, many times criticism is unfair; at other times, it is right on, with 100 percent accuracy! So, how should a pastor respond to criticism?
1. Receive it.
When someone criticizes you as a pastor, receive it. In fact, receive it with grace, not letting your body language demonstrate defensiveness or disapproval. Assure the person criticizing you that you will receive what they say, consider it, pray about it and determine the direction God wants you to go in the future.
2. Learn from it.
Criticism can be a great teacher. Pastors should be teachable, even teachable through criticism. We are not perfect. We are not sinless. We make mistakes. Own them. Confess them as sin. Make it right with the person. Those who are spiritually mature are able to learn from criticism. Pastors, always take the high road; you will never face a traffic jam there.
3. Outlive it.
If a person criticizes you unfairly, outlive it! Through the course of time, a life of integrity and honesty can overcome the criticism of others. Sooner or later, their criticism of you will fall on deaf ears because time proves it all in life. Nothing is more powerful than a consistent, Christ-centered life, lived out over the course of time by a local church pastor. Therefore, outlive your criticism!
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd