Among the many important things we’ve learned along the way, here’s one you already know but may need to be reminded of:

You can’t please everyone; and if you try, you’ll lose.

This is a vital truth to remember but an easy one to forget, especially when everyone seems to have an opinion, whether you asked for it or not. This one is so important that we included it as one of twelve parts of our Awaken Church Code. We say it this way:

We can’t please everybody.

We encourage input, but our main objective is reaching people with the Gospel. We unite behind the pastoral vision, structure, and leadership set forth by God’s Word, regardless of negative criticism.

It may sound negative, but it’s not. It keeps us focused on our main objective instead of arguing about rabbit trails and theological opinions. Here are a few thoughts about criticism…


Choose your battles.

Not everything is worth going to battle over or even having a meeting over. There are some, but learn to be selective. Make sure the hill you choose is one worth dying on and refuse to take every meeting people want to have to air their complaints. You have ground to take for the gospel. In the words of Nehemiah to his opposition: “…I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3)


Be firm, but gentle.

Paul said, “Speak the truth in love.” The way you say something is as or more important as what you actually say. Gentleness is not a specialty of mine, so I’ve had to work hard on this and apologize about this over the years. Keep working on gentleness. And by the way, when the time comes to be firm, that doesn’t mean you’re not being loving. Love isn’t always flexible; sometimes it has to be firm.


Some people grow better elsewhere and that’s good for everyone.

You may be tempted to try to chase every person down who leaves your team or your church. You can’t possibly put out every fire, so save your energy for the ones you should chase down. I’ve found that it’s healthier for us and sometimes for others when they leave and go bloom somewhere else. Embrace that and find the freedom that comes with it!


Most people would lead differently. You be you.

Except for a few examples of people falling into sin or developing theological differences, many people have left our church throughout the years because they would lead it differently than I do. The feelings are mutual. If they were leading it, I’d probably do it differently too. That’s okay. Different isn’t always right and wrong, it’s just different. Although in most cases I don’t think that’s a valid reason to leave, try to boil the problem down to the main issue. I’ve found this to be the most common one. 90% of the picky opinions translate to, “If I were in charge, I’d do it differently.” If they can’t change their mind and follow your lead, it might be healthy for them to go somewhere where they can receive leadership from the pastor.

Critics are everywhere. People will come and go. As long as you walk in integrity as the leader God has called you to be, keep your head up, eyes on Jesus, and follow Him no matter who goes with you.


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