How Pastors Should Deal With Unfair Criticism

Anyone who cannot handle unfair criticism should find another calling. (Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash)

"Your sermon was too long, too short, had too many stories, not enough stories, too deep and too shallow."

Ask any pastor.

They're criticized because their wives do not play the piano, but if she does, "It looks like she is running the show." Pastors are criticized for wearing the same suits, but if they have a variety, they get slammed for spending too much times on clothes. Their kids are either too unruly or too something. The critics will always think of something to focus on.

Anyone who cannot handle unfair criticism should find another calling.

Recently, Dr. Thom Rainer invited ministers to post unfair or ridiculous criticism they had received in their ministries. The responses flew in, and when I reposted on Facebook, my friends chimed in with theirs. It made me think of a few of my own.

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I was criticized for leading the church to spend almost a million dollars on renovating the ancient sanctuary. In truth, I was supporting the building committee, but it was their idea, and they took the lead in getting it done.

All I did was rally the church to raise the funds and lead the congregation to make the adjustments during the time we were out of the building. I loved the result and did not mind taking the heat, although there wasn't a lot of it.

I was criticized for trying to integrate the church. In truth, I was trying to get our people to act like Christians toward all minorities everywhere, but no way was I pushing integration, which would have torn our little congregation apart. This was the late 1960s in the Mississippi Delta, ground zero for racial tension in those days.

I was criticized for ... hold on ...

Wait just a minute here.

I've hardly been criticized at all over this half-century-plus of ministry.

I have no complaints. Compared to what some of my friends have endured, I've had a cakewalk.

They hardly laid a hand on me.

This all reminds me of the cancer business. Last Sunday I saw an old friend whose multiple myeloma has required stem cell transplants and such. He has had rounds of chemo and suffered the loss of hair and other side effects.

Compared to what he has endured and still deals with, my cancer was hardly worth mentioning. And my little bout with cancer was 15 years ago. Did the surgery, had six weeks of radiation, recovered from the side effects and done. Nothing since. It's hardly worth mentioning.

So it is with harassment from the congregation. I've had almost none. My churches have been loving and kind, with only the occasional rogue member.

But the Lord told us to expect them (Matt. 10:16-42 for instance). And even they did me good in the long run. The unfair critics motivated a stronger prayer life, drove me to take special care with my preaching and deepened my spiritual life.

I'm thankful for my critics. I almost wish there had been more of them.

Well, OK. Maybe not.

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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