The Unexpected Benefit of Criticism

A while ago Thom Ranier (President and CEO of Lifeway) wrote concerning when pastors should not respond to criticism. (Click here for a link to the article) As he pointed out,

“If you are a leader, you will be criticized. If you are not being criticized, you are probably not a leader.”

I find that when criticism is rightly received, it gives a leader an opportunity to think through and evaluate his leadership.

There is an unexpected value for leaders in receiving criticism.

I have benefitted greatly from the criticisms that have come my way as a pastor. (Because many of my church members will read this, I want to say that I don’t face ill-intentioned criticism on a regular basis.) When I do face criticism, I am grateful for the Christ-like manner in which the members of New Union Baptist Church handle their differences and their concerns. Because of our growth we have made decisions leading to changes in the shape and weekly routine of New Union. Each of these decisions has brought an anticipated criticism with an unexpected benefit. As we continue to follow the Lord’s leadership, I anticipate that there will be more changes in our future, and with each of these decisions there will likely be more criticisms.

Thom Ranier is right… leadership comes with both support and criticism. Leaders are typically prepared to receive criticism, but many who give criticism have not prepared themselves to share it. For criticism to bear an unexpected benefit both the giver and the receiver must be prepared.

First, If you are giving consistent criticism consider this:

“Consistent petty personal criticisms from the same person cause leaders to ignore what might be valid. It results in you losing your voice with your leaders.”

Second, here are some questions to consider in an effort to be beneficial:
1. “Will my comments lead to a more Christ-like result in the life of my friend/leader/or the church?”
2. “Are my criticisms the result of my desire to see God honored in the life of my church?”
3. “Are my criticisms going to benefit the congregation and my pastor after I give them?”
4. “Why do I feel this way, and what am I really concerned about?”

If you decide to bring criticism to your pastor:

  • Pray About It!
  • Ask questions to make sure that you rightly understand the issue before sharing your concern.
  • Give them a heads up that you want to talk about something you are concerned about.
  • Schedule a time to talk so that you don’t blindside your pastor in the hallway or sanctuary right before or after the service.

In the same way that receiving criticism can be beneficial for those in leadership, these thoughts and many like them provide a sanctifying and unexpected benefit for the one bringing the criticism. God uses criticism to sanctify pastors, and He can use our critical thoughts and comments to reveal our own need for grace. May God continue to sanctify us through unexpected means as we pray through and think through our thoughts and feelings towards others within our churches. Remember… “He who does not kill sin in his way takes no steps toward his journey’s end.” (John Owen)

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