Ministry Monday: Help for Pastors Facing Criticism
On Thom Rainer’s website, Chuck Lawless (Professor of Evangelism), listed responding to criticism as one of the top burdens pastors face.1 This makes sense, because running a church has similarities to leading a company. Within any organized group of people there will always be different personalities and opinions. Not everyone will agree with every leadership decision. Fortunately, the Bible offers leaders many examples on how to deal with criticism and rejection. Let’s focus on Jeremiah.
Help for Pastors Facing Criticism: Biblical Encouragement
Think of when Jeremiah was divinely assigned to give Israel a message of judgment. They blatantly turned their backs on God’s love. God was going to bring destruction upon the city of Jerusalem. But it had been 22 years and nothing happened. God’s inactivity led everyone to believe Jeremiah didn’t know what he was talking about. By that time, Jeremiah was already familiar with lack of results, pain of rejection, and the sting of criticism.
The Lord instructed Jeremiah to once again tell of Jerusalem’s destruction, this time by means of a dramatic visual analogy. He took a very expensive pottery jar, went out to the community dump, and delivered his sermon. He threw the jar down and it shattered into countless pieces. He said, “even so will the Lord break this people and this city….” Jeremiah marched back into town, went to the temple court, and repeated his message of doom.
When Jeremiah finished his message, Pashhur struck him and had his temple police beat him. Jeremiah was put in the stocks. Those stocks were intended not only for restraint but also for torture. In addition, he was placed publically in the city. The area was swarming with people laughing at the helpless prophet. Jeremiah was in the depths of criticism and rejection!
“O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughing stock all the day; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’ For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long,” (Jeremiah 20:7-8, ESV).
Notice that Jeremiah was dealing with his feelings and pouring them out to the Lord. God knows you are human and struggle with your emotions. He wants you to be transparent with Him. As the night wore on, Jeremiah’s thoughts turned from himself to God. Jeremiah encouraged his heart by recalling God’s promises. In his deepest despair, he thought, “He is on my side. He will ultimately vindicate me.” It is these thoughts of the presence of God that often encourage God’s servants.
Jeremiah was so strengthened by remembering God’s presence that he burst into song. With his back raw and body twisted, Jeremiah sang songs of praise. Instead of continuing to dwell in his circumstances, he fastened his thoughts on God and His greatness. That is what you need to do. Change your focus, lift your gaze, and consider God’s presence. Lean on His greatness and His goodness in the face of criticism and discouragement.
- Chuck Lawless, “The Most Frequent Burdens Pastors Face,” ThomRainer.com, June 22, 2015, accessed June 09, 2017, http://thomrainer.com/2015/01/frequent-burdens-pastors-face/.
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