“Pastor, we’ve decided to move on.” These are some of the most difficult words that you, as a ministry leader, will ever hear—especially when they come from people you have lived, laughed and dreamed with.
It’s painful when we hear that people no longer want to be a part of our ministries. It’s additionally painful when they leave and don’t take the time to tell us why they’re leaving, where they’re going, or what we could possibly do to repair any damage in the relationship.
I wish that no one had ever left my congregation. I wish that everyone who has visited our church had fallen in love with us, gotten pumped up about our vision, found their niche in relationships and service, grown spiritually and stayed with us throughout their entire lifetime. That hasn’t been the case.
Criticism hurts. It hurts to have our motives unfairly called into question. It hurts to diligently prepare and deliver heartfelt sermons, only to be met with skeptical people who nitpick our interpretations of a particular Scripture. And it hurts when we do our best to love and serve our people, only to be misunderstood, unappreciated and questioned in our integrity.
Now granted, this doesn't happen very often; but it doesn't need to happen often—just one or two criticisms can wipe us out and take us from the peak of Mount Hermon to the valley of the Jordan.
So how do we deal with it—at least how do we deal with the unjust criticism? We know how to deal with legitimate criticisms: We humble ourselves, we repair any damage we may have caused, we ask forgiveness, we repent, and then we pick ourselves up and move on. That's not too difficult to deal with. It's the other kind, the unfair, unnecessary kind that takes the wind out of our sails and causes us to question why we ever signed up to serve as pastors. Fortunately for us, Jesus, the Pattern Son, modeled five ways of handling criticism.
We recently had the “Bennett Boys” over while their parents David and Heather went out for a birthday dinner. We love those boys! Austin is 12, Hudson is 8 and Jackson is 7.
They are great kids. They’re smart, love Jesus, and are lots of fun! One thing they all have in common is energy. Lots of energy!
Our little dog Nacho is a play machine. He never tires of playing with anyone who will give him attention. Well, he met his match that evening. The boys wore that pup out! Nacho slept great that night!
I’m a high-energy and long-endurance guy, but when I see kids play I think, “Wow I’d love some of that energy!” Like the Energizer Bunny! (My favorite one… with Darth Vader!)
“Encourage one another daily … so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13, NIV)
A church family will help keep you from backsliding.
None of us are immune to temptation. Given the right situation, you and I are capable of any sin. God knows this, so he has assigned us as individuals the responsibility of keeping each other on track.
The Bible says, “Encourage one another daily … so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13, NIV).
We are called and commanded to be involved in each other’s lives. If you know someone who is wavering spiritually right now, it is your responsibility to go after that person and bring him or her back into the fellowship.
The recent chaos in Egypt has the raised eyebrows of most of us. President Mohammed Mursi’s decision to grant himself sweeping powers and place himself above the courts has triggered sweeping negative reactions.
Mursi’s grab for power has left Egypt destabilized; some have been killed and many wounded. His new nickname is “The Pharaoh President,” after the manner in which the Pharaohs claimed they were the incarnation of the ancient Egyptian gods.
I don’t know Mursi’s motives for desiring absolute authority. He may be but a pawn in a larger plot, having been coerced by his advisors so that the Egypt would shift its alignment from being a U.S. ally to a U.S. enemy. He may have even caught the Pharaoh spirit of believing his own press to the point of dictatorship.
Have you ever wondered what is happening to churches today? Many have lost their sense of purpose, floundering for identity, in a sea of hundreds of other churches competing for the same people. Approximately 80 percent of “church growth” numbers can be attributed to people transferring from one church to another rather than new converts. As many as 3,000-4,000 churches close their doors every year—unable to stay open due to financial burdens, infrastructural turmoil and apathy.
In this discouraging environment, day in and day out, pastors and church leaders toil for the kingdom of God. Often overworked, underpaid and unappreciated, they deny themselves the luxury of time for rest and spiritual renewal. Is it any wonder that more than 1,500 pastors leave their churches every month due to spiritual burn-out, moral failure or contention within their congregation?