They criticized Paul's preaching, if you can believe that. They said, "He writes these fearsome letters, but his preaching is terrible."
Well, OK, what they said was: "His letters ... are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible" (2 Cor. 10:10)
And how did Paul feel about that? The same way you and I do when we learn what some are saying about our preaching.
He didn't care for it much.
He thought it was unfair.
Pastor, if they didn't like Paul's preaching, it's a lead-pipe cinch they're going to criticize your sermonizing and mine.
It goes with the territory.
I find that comforting. A little.
Keep in mind, preacher, you are speaking for God. And if you don't find that scary, you're not paying attention.
It helps a little—not much—but somewhat to keep in mind that even the preaching of our Lord had plenty that would fail to please people today...
- He often sat down to preach while the audience stood.
- The Sermon on the Mount was scattered and not very focused.
- You can't find an introduction or a conclusion to most of His sermons.
- When He preached to His hometown people—the people who knew Him best and the longest—they began looking for stones to throw at Him.
- They said of His preaching, "These are hard sayings; who can understand them?"
So if a critic is looking for things to criticize about the preacher, he has good scriptural precedent. Consider this:
- John the Baptist was rude to the king, wore inappropriate clothing and would not eat what they served at the Wednesday night church supper. The pastor search committee wouldn't have given him a second look.
- The Lord Jesus overate and was even known to imbibe from time to time. Ditto.
- Jesus drew crowds and then ran them off with His preaching (see the end of John 6).
- The Lord taught the disciples how to have great victories in their preaching and when they did, He told them not to rejoice because the devils were subject to them (Luke 10:20).
The question for every pastor is: What to do with the criticism?
- Pay attention to it. It might be dead-on, and you could benefit from it.
- In spite of the adage "consider the source," sometimes the best wisdom comes from the unlikeliest of persons. So, pay attention to it and ask the Father if He is sending a message.
- Go back and read how King David dealt with the fellow Shimei, who twice hurled ugly and mean-spirited things at him (2 Sam. 16, 19). Remember, what you're looking for is the grace David showed him. And, if you're so inclined, the rest of the story about this sad fellow Shimei can be found in 1 Kings 2.
- All the rest of it, ignore.
- If it comes in written forms—anonymous letters, say—drop it into a file with all the other similar stuff. The day will come–not for several years—when you can pull all that out and laugh at it. But make sure the file is protected from easy access; you never know who might seize upon it and use it like a dagger.
- Expect criticism, good and bad. It goes with the territory. When you accepted the Lord's call into the ministry, the world drew a target on your back. You are now finding what it means to suffer for Jesus' sake. Make the most of it.
- Be like Jeremiah. In 1:18a, God said, "I have made you this day a fortified city and an iron pillar and bronze walls" They can throw tomatoes at you all day long, but without effect
God bless you, servant of God. Be strong. Never reply to a critic from the pulpit. Leave that to the Lord.
Joe McKeever is retired from the pastorate but still active in preaching, writing and cartooning for Christian publications. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.
For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.
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