by James Rasbeary
- Exodus 15:24 And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
- Exodus 16:2 And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:
- Exodus 17:3 And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?
To keep this post short, let us accept at the beginning that not all criticism is harmful, or unwarranted. Sometimes, criticism is constructive, and sometimes it is deserved. For the purpose of this article, let us confine our definition to harmful, negative, destructive, criticism.
Anyone who has been in the ministry for any length of time knows that criticism is part of the job description; it comes with the territory. Moses had to deal with for an entire generation. Nehemiah had to deal with it – one fellow was a real blessing when he said that if a fox jumped on his wall, it would collapse. David’s kingdom was almost stolen through the verbal criticism of his son, Absalom. The Lord Jesus was criticized constantly. Paul was criticized even in the churches he had founded; they said he was a false apostle and preached a false gospel.
So we know that criticism is to be expected. That does not mean that it does not affect the hearts and minds of spiritual leaders and their families, no matter how tough they act or how unperturbed they may seem in public. The evidence is there – pastors resigning every few years, going from church to church; men dropping out of the ministry; pastor’s children wanting nothing to do with the church when grown and on their own; burned out preachers and prematurely ended ministries may at least partly illustrate the effects of constant criticism.
“Well,” says the calloused observer, “that’s the job and you’ve got to be tough enough to handle it.” Yes, and I believe Moses was tough enough – but after burying his sister, the people complained again and Moses lost his temper. That cost him his ticket to the Promised Land. So, I guess that we are all just flesh and blood after all.
This constant criticism usually comes from a few vocal members of the church or ministry. Too often, a leaders supporters are strangely quiet while the critics are very loud. Veiled blog or Facebook/Twitter posts, rude comments, letters, emails, and the favorite – disrespectful body language during the sermon, such as rolling eyes, bored expressions, staring down the entire time, laughing dismissively – are all ways in which the critic makes his or her feelings known.
The following are ten possible ways in which constant criticism affects leaders:
- A critical spirit distracts from the work. Sanballat and Tobiah criticized Nehemiah in order to distract him from his work on the wall. When leaders stop to deal with criticism, it stops the work.
- A critical spirit discourages leaders from leading. When a leader has seen his work end in failure, multiple times, it is often hard to get back up and try again. Criticism does not help; it tells the man to stay on the ground and not to bother trying.
- A critical spirit breeds negativity. Fault-finding, nitpicking, mote-searching – such a spirit of negativity can throw a wet blanket over everything in the church.
- A critical spirit spreads like a contagious disease. People love to complain, and when one person starts it usually does not stay confined to that person.
- A critical spirit squashes enthusiasm. Sometimes a leader will be excited about an idea or a project – only to run headlong into Sister Sourpuss or Deacon No Way.
- A critical spirit re-enforces the feeling of rejection. Spiritual leaders often feel rejected. They are rejected while visiting, rejected by visitors, and sometimes rejected by long-time church members. It is hard not to take it personally. When criticized by those who remain, it re-enforces that feeling.
- A critical spirit can dispels joy and happiness in the ministry. It is great to serve the Lord; but constant criticism is a burden that sucks out some of the happiness and joy that a leader needs (it is his strength).
- A critical spirit leads to health problems.
- A critical spirit may cause unwise reactions from the leader. Psalm 106:33 “Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.”
- A critical spirit sometimes leads to empty pulpits.
I am thankful for the encouraging people of my church, but I often grieve over the way some of the people in many churches chew men up and spit them out simply through the power of constant criticism.
Are you a critic or an encourager? Do you find fault or find solutions? When was the last time you spoke an encouraging word?
Thank you for reading. God bless.
by James Rasbeary