Category Archives: Criticism

Taking anonymous criticism to a new low

I’ve received a variety of anonymous notes criticizing me over the years. The package that arrived in today’s mail with $.42 due for postage takes the cake!

I guess I’m doing something right when the enemy uses others to try to discourage me.

Definitely an odd sense of timing that this arrives at the end of “Pastor Appreciation Month.” Pardon my sarcasm.


Posted by on October 30, 2017 in Criticism


Why am I not surprised?

One week ago, I met with our church leaders to talk about vision and direction. I shared my perception that we were a busy church, but not necessarily effective or fruitful. I spoke of my concern that we were too inwardly focused and overemphasized fellowship. I believe we need to be more purposeful and intentional in making disciples and reaching the lost.

On Sunday, I preached on Exodus 19 and how to prepare to meet with God. (It’s part of a series on the life of Moses.) I emphasized that before entering God’s presence, we should ask ourselves four questions—Am I willing to obey? Am I ready to listen? Have I prepared my heart? and, Do I respect God’s presence? Several mentioned how much the message challenged them. One said it was the best message they heard me preach in the five years I’ve been at the church. Several gave me hugs. One said as long as I keep preaching like that, I was their pastor. I continued to hear affirming comments a few days later.

On Monday evening, I began a new class, the Character & Habits of a Leader, part of a strategy for church-based leadership development. 17 people were present for the first session with two more who will join us for the second lesson.

On Wednesday evening, we launched our fall ministries with Awana, youth group, adult Bible studies, and a prayer group. We had 90 children in Awana with 30 in the youth group. A significant number came from the surrounding neighborhood. The building was hopping!

In addition, we also started two new adult Sunday School classes with a third one coming next month, as well as our women’s Bible studies starting again for the fall.

God is on the move at First Central Bible Church. So much good ministry is taking place.

So, why was I surprised when an individual wanted to meet with me to share what they perceived were my weaknesses as a pastor? Namely, that I was a “good to great teacher, but don’t exhort,” and that I was not outgoing enough and don’t work the room to greet every person (not their exact words but my takeaway.) I responded in two ways. First, I thanked them for what they shared and said I would have to think and pray about what they said. Second, I said that I have been told all my life that I don’t have what it takes to be a pastor and I am tired of hearing it because it is wrong. (For more on that topic, read my blog post on October 26, 2012, “Learning it’s ok to be me.”)

Why am I not surprised … whenever we take a step of faith … whenever we share the gospel … whenever we begin to be successful … whenever we challenge people to serve or share their faith … whenever we begin to make progress and move forward … the enemy seeks to discourage, distract, and sideline us.

On the one hand, I know that criticism comes with the territory. In the words of Rachel Dawes to Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, “You’re Gotham’s D.A. If you’re not getting shot at, you’re not doing your job.” On a more spiritual side, the apostle Paul said that we have “conflicts without; fears within” (2 Corinthians 7:5). Criticism is one of the occupational hazards of ministry, even more so in today’s culture.

On the other hand, I am human and freely admit that criticism stings, especially from those within the body who really don’t know me. To be honest, I briefly contemplated walking away into the sunset. Rather than quitting, however, I simply decided to take the day to work at home.

I am reminded once again that this is a spiritual battle. I know that I need to stand firm and resist the temptation to feel sorry for myself and/or flee the battlefield (James 4:7). Like King David, I need to find my strength in God (1 Samuel 23:16). As a steward of God’s ministry, I need to stay faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2). If I want to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant,” then I need to be faithful to serve God with whatever he has entrusted to me (Matthew 25:14-30). As my mentor Kent Hughes used to say, “I need to believe what I believe.”

Time to put my soap box away, armor up, and get back to work.


Handling Criticism – Lessons from Jesus

Last night, First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, held a joint meeting of our elders, deacons, and deaconesses. We meet together 3-4 times a year to touch base on shepherding issues. Towards the end of the meeting, I distributed two handouts on the subject of handling criticism. I explained that as we touch base with people, we may hear criticism and/or complaints about an individual, ministry, or other concern. I wanted to guide the folks in how to respond biblically.

One handout was “Handling Criticism: Lessons from Nehemiah.” (It was posted on my blog on May 5, 2016.) Rather than read the entire handout, I said the short version was that sometimes Nehemiah responded to criticism and sometimes he ignored it. Not every need is a mandate. Sometimes a need or a criticism is a distraction to ignore. We need discernment to know which ones to address and which ones to ignore.

The second handout was “Handling Criticism: Lessons from Jesus.”


Handling Criticism: Lessons from Jesus

When someone wants to complain to you about a person, ministry, etc., follow the guidelines Jesus gave in Matthew 18:15-20.

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Ask the person, “Have you talked to _______ ?” (the person who offended them; the person in charge of the ministry they are concerned about, etc.)

If they say, “No,” then graciously stop the person and tell them to practice Mathew 18:15. Graciously tell them to stop gossiping, complaining, and/or venting to someone else.

If they say, “Yes, but the person didn’t listen,” then you can listen to their concern. Afterwards, go with the person to help them seek reconciliation and/or resolution, the second step in Matthew 18:16.

Remember that your role is not to serve as the complaint department or the problem solvers of the church.


As leaders in the church, I wanted our team to understand that criticism comes with the territory. I shared that every time our church has started to move forward, we’ve been attacked. I’ve been criticized more in the past year than I have in many previous years. Part is due to my position and part to what we’ve been trying to do as a church. When criticism comes, and it will, I want us to respond in a biblical, godly manner.


An Answer to Fault-Finders

As I was going through a file on “Criticism,” I came across a quote by a former colleague. Pastor Owen Hollingsworth was one of the most godly men I’ve had the privilege of serving with. He once distributed a statement to our staff entitled, “An Answer to Fault-Finders.”

“It doesn’t take genius to find faults and failures in me. I know more of my faults than anyone else ever will. There are only two who know more of my faults than I, God and Satan. God is in the business of forgiving me, encouraging me, and helping me grow spiritually. Satan is in the business of pointing out my faults, magnifying my weaknesses and inabilities, and condemning me. Whose side are you on?

It doesn’t take genius to discover my faults, but it does take spiritual maturity to see God’s grace and glory in one as human as I. I am what I am by God’s grace alone.”


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Posted by on May 6, 2016 in Criticism, Quotes


Handling Criticism: Lessons from Nehemiah

Criticism is part of life. If you are in leadership, you will be criticized by some for what you do, while others will criticize you for what you don’t do. The issue is not how to avoid criticism, but how to respond in a godly, Christlike manner. A few years back, I was doing a study of the book of Nehemiah. I noted how Nehemiah responded to his critics. I came across my notes yesterday and decided to share them.


Chapter 2

Any time you step out to do a new thing and/or to express compassion for others—Expect Opposition! (10)

Reasons for criticism—legitimate; displaced; negative spirit; personality conflict; threatened by change

Destructive criticism is meant to: hurt or humiliate and belittle; manipulate or control; blame or create guilt; get attention

Constructive criticism is meant to: help improve or make us aware; express concern or caring; keep communication open; clear the air; motivate us to make positive change

To avoid criticism: say nothing; do nothing; be nothing; avoid risks; please people rather than God. However, if you do these things, you’ll still be criticized.

Chapter 4

Criticism can take on many different forms:

  • Anger (1, 7)
  • Mocking (1, 3)
  • Ridicule (2, 3)
  • Conspiracy (8)
  • Discouragement (10)
  • Intimidation and fear (11-12)

Proverbs 27:5-6 – Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.

The response to criticism can vary:

  • Pray (4, 5, 9)
  • Trust God to settle the score (4, 5)
  • Revise your plan (9, 16-18). Learn from it.
  • Remember God’s provision and protection (14)
  • Stay faithful to the task (15, 21). Move on.

Avoid defensiveness and defenselessness. Discover if there is any truth in the criticism. Pray for your critics (Luke 6:28). Model grace—show others how to respond to criticism. Minister to your critics. Separate the criticism from the critic. Forgive. Silence (Matthew 26:63).

Chapter 6

If criticism fails, the opposition may resort to deception, false accusations, rumors, and intimidation (1-2, 4, 6-7, 10-11, 13), all of which aim at discouraging and distracting us from what’s most important (9).

Nehemiah responded to his critics by:

  • Positive refusal to be distracted (3-4). Sometimes you should meet with critics and sometimes you should ignore them.
  • Confronting their lies (8)
  • Praying for strength (9)
  • Refusing to be intimidated (11)
  • Letting God handle the retribution (14)
  • Staying focused on the task (15)

God is more concerned with our response to criticism than with the criticism itself.


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Posted by on May 5, 2016 in Bible Study, Criticism, Leadership, Scripture