7. Know there is more than one way to serve! I have written this series of thoughts from the perspective that you should be preaching. Maybe you shouldn’t. There is no shame in that. Perhaps the hassle of critique undermines too much and indicates a lack of gifting. We have made this option very difficult by uniting vocational ministry with Sunday preaching and salaries, resulting in people feeling like there is no way out, no way to stop preaching without resigning from church leadership. Recognizing the complexity of that, the truth still remains, there are other ministries to serve in apart from preaching. I have known some wonderful church leaders who had lifelong effective ministry, but weren’t preachers.
If, in your honest moments, you recognize that repeated critique is lovingly offered and actually on target, then prayerfully consider swallowing your pride and serving in an area of strength. You will be a better steward of your life, God will be pleased, and the church will be strengthened. Maybe cut and paste this point to start the conversation with a trusted friend in your church.
8. Know your own inner landscape. We all have emotional baggage buried inside us. Criticism has a unique ability to slip through, stir up a deep wound and create inner turmoil. It is good to prayerfully ask God to help you evaluate and understand your own inner workings so that you don’t face a never ending attack from external and internal foes. What does criticism do inside you? Why?
9. Pursue helpful feedback and support. We cannot have a growing and effective preaching ministry alone. We need to find those who will give honest, gracious, constructive input, and who will encourage us when we feel discouraged in our ministry. This may be a friend or two within the church. It may be a fellow leader from another church. It may also be (although not exclusively) a hero from the past – biblical heroes and church history heroes typically all endured incredible misunderstanding, devastating personal circumstances, a torrent of abuse and even martyrdom as they served God. Spending time with the Apostle Paul or Martin Luther or Jonathan Edwards or whoever will be a real help.
10. Whatever the justification for criticism, be sure it improves your preaching! While it may not have been stated well, or perhaps it was more of an attack on you than a piece of constructive criticism, there may well be a kernel of truth in there that can help you! If you shrug off all criticism then your imperviousness will undermine your ability to minister with any sensitivity. A cast iron shell is not what you need for ministry. What you need is a tender heart, but with a life-giving God who can pick you up and keep you pressing on to growth and effectiveness. By all means think through how to protect yourself from an enemy that will work through people in your church to wipe you out, but know that God doesn’t typically call us to be the reverend Rambo.
That’s it for this series, but please comment freely and add your thoughts (here or on Twitter – @PeterMead, #ListenerSatisfaction)