“Your sermon SUCKED.”
It’s not an easy phrase to hear – but through a text?! I was blissfully going about my business yesterday, when I received a text that started out with “Your sermon sucked…” I thought it was joke. Heck, I chuckled.
But the author wasn’t kidding. He went on to pick apart the sermon that I delivered the previous Sunday, and then did the same to me personally. All through a text.
I was mad. Then hurt. So, I picked up my phone to defend myself and respond to the accusations of the drive-by texter. I was armed and ready to put a Matthew 18 whoopin’ on. Thankfully, my call went to voicemail.
This then allowed me to process. While I’ve been in full-time ministry for almost a decade now, I’m entering new turf as the lead pastor of a young church plant. I guess that makes me a larger target for the enemy, and for good-meaning Christians, too. I wanted to share what God taught me over the past 12 hours or so, because I suspect you’ve been hurt, too. All of this begs the question:
How do we respond to criticism? Here’s how God led me to respond…
1. RETALIATE with KINDNESS.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1)
Someone once said that Billy Graham always thanked his critics. Unfortunately, I’m not sanctified enough to respond to “you suck” with “thank you.” I’ve learned that a soft answer diffuses drama. It ensures that we’re not guilty of responding in the way we’re being attacked. It teaches our transgressor a better and more Biblical way to handle conflict.
2. Humbly and prayerfully consider what God might want to teach you.
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me” (Psalm 139:1)
I’m far from perfect. I’ll always be far from perfect. But if I’m attentive, God will use just about anything or anyone to teach me something. While leadership requires thick skin, we must guard against hardened hearts. We must stay humble and teachable.
God often uses criticism in my life to protect me from worshipping myself and subconsciously encouraging others to do the same.
3. Let Jesus have the FINAL WORD.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…” (Col. 3:12)
You’ve heard, and probably quoted, the old adage – “Live for an audience of One.” As a pastor, that’s easy to say and difficult to do. I love people and I want to be loved by them. People applaud and criticize us for all the wrong reasons.
Toward the end of His ministry, Jesus was an extremely unpopular leader. Good leadership often requires us to do and say unpopular things. That’s part of the gig. Take your critics’ concerns to Jesus and simply ask, “What do you want to teach or show me through this?”
Then, flush the rest – and salute those turds as they leave for good. (You may need to reflush a few times, some criticisms can stick around and stain).
4. Pray for your critic(s).
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14)
This one’s tough. But here’s what I learned this morning as I was finally at a place where I could pray good things (“blessings” rather than “curses”) for this person…
MY HEART CHANGED.
When we pray for people, God does something supernatural in our hearts. He gives us His heart for them. We no longer have to justify or defend – we simply get to love. And let’s be honest, that’s way more fun anyway.
So…how do you respond when criticized?
Honestly, I was quick to seek validation through others. I moped and felt sorry for myself. I numbed myself by watching Storage Wars and pounded a big bowl of Rocky Road.
Ultimately, God was doing bigger things in my heart over the last 12 hours, as He’s known for doing.
This story uniquely got a bow put on it. The drive by texter sent another message this morning – humbly and graciously apologizing. Either way, I’m grateful for lessons learned and these simple reminders.
This is a repost from September 2013.