Critics are to leaders what mosquitoes are to summer. They seem to appear in droves and can make life miserable. Although no one likes criticism, it’s part of leadership. The only fool-proof way I’m aware of to avoid all criticism is to not do anything meaningful with your life. If you plan to live for something important, expect critics.
Although this topic isn’t unique to church planters, it’s especially practical for them. Here are some helpful thoughts about criticism and what to do with it…
Be encouraged by it.
The only people who get criticized are the people who are doing something. It’s a lot easier to do nothing and criticize those who are than to go out and put work in. So when you are criticized, before you receive it as a punch in the face, let it first be a pat on the back. Good work for going out and doing some work! As my Australian friends would say, “Good on ya, mate!”
Listen to it.
When criticism comes, the natural thing to do is go on the defensive. While they are telling you what they think you’ve done wrong, you’re already formulating your response and building your defense. Here’s the better thing to do: listen. If you’ll listen to your critics, it will accomplish a few things:
1. It will surprise them. They’re probably expecting you to be defensive. If you can resist the urge to argue and choose to listen instead, you’ll have their attention.
2. You might learn something. There’s a lesson packaged inside that ball of criticism. Don’t rob yourself of something you may need to learn simply because you don’t want to learn it from the person delivering it.
3. You might win them over. A person who came in to tell you how poor you are at leading may get a lesson in leadership from you as you sit and patiently listen.
Coffee, water, oil, and air all need to be filtered and so does criticism. When you are criticized, run it through this 3-part filter:
1. God: Pray about it. Ask God to point out any areas of truth or anything He may be trying to point out to you (even if the messenger has plenty of their own flaws!).
2. Spouse: Ask your spouse (or, if you’re not married, the person who knows you best) if there’s truth to anything that was said. This opens the door to helpful truth from the person who knows you best.
3. Trusted friends: This assumes you are surrounded by some people who love you and speak truth into your life. If you’re not, make that top priority. You won’t last long without them. Ask them if there’s truth to what was said, and if so, what to do about it.
Learn from it.
I know, I know. You wish the final step was “shred it” or “let them have it” but it’s not. Like it or not, we all have plenty of areas to grow, and sometimes our weaknesses are highlighted in painful ways by negative people. Generally speaking, people are not out to hurt you, but even if they are, you can still learn from them. In fact, I’ve learned that the people who may be out to hurt you are often some of the most honest people because they don’t care about your feelings. I know that’s not comforting, but it’s reality.
Whether or not you learn from their actual words, you can always learn from the confrontation itself. Embrace it as part of life and ministry, learn and implement what you can, own and repent of any failures, then move forward. Thankfully, God specializes in using flawed people!
K E V I N • M I L L E R
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