Criticism and suffering are realities in ministry. But they’re essential for those working in one of life’s most stressful jobs: being a useful pastor. In fact, criticism can go a long way toward teaching pastors about redemptive suffering.
That’s a synopsis of a recent message John MacArthur delivered to a group of pastors that he titled, “Criticism: A Pastor’s All-too-Common Companion.”
Pastors and Redemptive Suffering
MacArthur was a good choice to deliver that message. He’s pastored the same church for 50 years and in that time he’s heard plenty of criticism.
He’s heard complaints about doctrine, practice, his sermons, who occupies the pulpit, his notoriety and just about everything in between. Hundreds have left his church over the disagreements, but he happily points out, “most returned.”
In some cases his views were misrepresented only to be documented in a written diatribe that was handed out to people who came to hear him as a guest speaker at Moody Bible Church.
And that was before the internet. He jokes, ”If I believed what they say about me on the internet, I wouldn’t go to my church.”
But a suffering minister is no joke and he points out, “The worst pain is the pain inflicted by those close to you. That’s the life of pastors. That’s where we live.”
Being a pastor is one of the most stressful jobs
MacArthur says he finds comfort in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.
The arrival of false teachers, false apostles, deceivers and those “who masquerade as Satan” had thrown Paul into deep depression.
Their plan was obvious, since there was no Bible yet, they had to destroy the Corinthians’ confidence in Paul.
They accused him of being in ministry for the money, to coerce favors from women, they accused him of hidden shame, falsifying his authority, lying about the blessings and success of his ministry. They even called his speech contemptible and his presence unimpressive. MacArthur’s translation: they said Paul was “ugly and can’t communicate.” MacArthur calls it a classic example of pastor abuse.
And it was working.
Paul was devastated. He cries out in his pain and suffering. His only defense against the attacks is the testimony of his conscience. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:12: “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.”