Every pastor and ministry leader must deal with critics. It is part of ministry in the 21st Century. The question is not if, but when. It is impossible to meet everyone's unrealistic expectations.
So, when the critic comes forward, or begins work behind the scenes, what is the leader to do? Consider the following:
#1 - The Explanation Phase
Sit down with the people that are critical of the ministry that the Lord has called you to do, and reason with them and help them to fully understand why you do ministry the way you do it.
However, most critics don’t want an explanation … they want an argument. They want the chance to shame you, to speak down to you, to tell you how right they are … and how inept you are. So, sometimes, the explanation attempt is fruitless and pointless.
#2 - The Argument Phase
Argument can involve the critic, but sometimes involves the critic and all his/her followers -- everyone who has a negative word to say about the ministry.
Be careful not to allow a “us versus them” mentality to develop.
The Apostle Paul warns in II Timothy 2:23 not to have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments. Arguments can be both foolish and stupid.
#3 - The Anger Phase
Even ministers can allow anger to get the best of them. But, anger will control you. It will drive your decisions and will be impossible to hide. You will spend all your time trying to respond to critics rather than really listening to the Lord. Be careful, it will damage you emotionally and spiritually.
Paul warns in Ephesians 4:27 NOT to give the devil a foothold.
If you are not careful, you will end up beating up hundreds of people just because of one e-mail from a negative person. If you are a church leader, please do not allow Satan to control you through your critics. The price is too high. And, you will spend all of your time on defense rather than on offense!
#4 - The Ignore Phase
Don't read their blogs. Don't read their MySpace page. Don’t receive their e-mails. This either does one of two things to them …
First of all – it REALLY ticks them off. But then second of all, they usually go away. Seriously, if you refuse to put fuel on the fire they start, it will eventually go out.
I love what Nehemiah said in Nehemiah 6:1-4 when his critics tried to get him to take his eyes off of the work, “I am doing a great work … and I cannot come down.” That must become your rallying cry.
I will admit that it’s hard at times. But, by not getting into arguments with critics, it will set you free in a major way.
Always listen to those who love the Lord and love you. Never listen to a blogger or MySpace addict/stalker who has no life OR someone who sends you an email with a fake address. I don’t have time for them – and neither do you!
#5 - The Compassion Phase
In Luke 15 when the prodigal son comes home and the older brother doesn’t come in the house to meet him, the Father goes outside and pleads with the older brother to come in.
I think we are called to do the same. Because in that story, it would seem that the oder brother (who was the critic) was just as lost as the younger one.
Jesus dealt with this as well. He did weep over Jerusalem. But, He also turned over temple tables. There IS a time to respond in boldness. But there is also a time to respond with compassion. Because, well, people just don’t understand.
Compassion does not mean trying to explain to them, or even exchanging emails with them. But, it means praying for them (NOT the Psalm 3:7 prayer) and asking God to allow them to come into the house and celebrate what He is doing -- even if it isn’t their style.
[Based on notes from Perry Noble]