Pastors and Their Critics: Critics

In yesterday's action-packed episode, I presented some ways ministers might deal with criticism. Today, I want to look at those who bring criticism to pastors.

If you've been in a church for any length of time, you know the pastor's critics. Sometimes they are many, other times just a few. The important thing is that, when you come to offer a criticism to your minister, you make it constructive criticism. Once again, simply being a faithful Christian and speaking the truth in love to your neighbor (for that is what your pastor is, first and foremost!), will go a long way in avoiding strife when offering criticism.

With that in mind, here are three things to consider when offering a criticism to your pastor:

1. Do not criticize your pastor on the Lord's Day. If he is a faithful man, he will be under relentless assault from Satan on that day. In fact, a good way to be a choice instrument for the evil one is to go ahead and say exactly what you think as soon as the man steps from the pulpit. These kinds of criticisms are always uncareful, poorly reasoned, and unhelpful. Take time and consider what is your issue. Sit on for at least one day. And never bring it to you pastor on the Lord's Day.

2. Instead, come to your pastor privately and approach him in love. As with our children, so with our fellow Christians: praise in public, punish in private, so to speak. No, I don't mean that you need to praise him for five minutes before you meekly and, with much fear and trembling, suggest that maybe - just maybe - you have an issue with him. Rather, speak plainly and lovingly, seasoning your speech with grace (Cf. Col 4:6). When coming this way, assume the best about your pastor and give him the dignity of a charitable interpretation of whatever he has said or done.

One more matter on this score. I have seen congregants criticize a minister in front of his wife and children. That's a very effective way to end up with a bitter pastor's wife and pastor's children who make the prodigal son look like Ned Flanders. Avoid this at all costs.

3. Pray that you would seek to help your minister and not simply give your opinion. I mean that - really pray before you go meet with your minister. Pray that he would humbly receive the criticism well and that he would be a better minister for it. Pray that your words would make him - and the church - more useful to Jesus Christ. And pray that you would put on a spirit of meekness, humility, and gentleness as you offer your criticisms (cf. 1 Peter 5:5).

Paul gives an apt summary of the attitude one should have when criticisms need to be made. He writes, "We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work." (1 Thess 5:12-13). If we as Christians did what Paul is saying here, criticisms of pastors would be not only received, but they would foster healthy Christian communities. Truly, criticism would then be redeemed under Christ!

As I said at the outset, I've been the beneficiary of some really, really good critics. I never once felt insulted by them and they immediately put me at ease, even while correcting me. Along with every other human being alive, I struggle to receive criticism well. But the beauty of salvation by God's grace alone is that I am now free to receive it for his glory and for my good.