Ever noticed that some people relish the criticism of pastors? Like kids and candy—they addict themselves even though it’s rotting something in them. While choosing voluntarily to stay under his leadership, they commit themselves to finding and exploiting every possible imperfection.
I’ve never understood this thinking. Selecting a pastor, only to proceed to condemn the selection doesn’t make sense. It’s a strange, sad little game that brings some bizarre satisfaction.
The Bible often equated complaints against the spiritual leader as a complaint against the Lord. “…the Lord heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord” (Exodus 16:8).
The next time you are tempted to join this crowd and participate in “roasting the pastor” after Sunday services, take a moment to remember this list…
Remember the sacrifice he makes to be in the ministry. Good pastors would be good at a lot of other things, and most of them could make a lot more money in secular employment. He stays in the ministry because he loves you. “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (2 Corinthians 12:15).
Remember the biblical nurture he provides for your life and family. His study and prayer time have proven effective in feeding and nurturing your spiritual life. He labors in the Word so that your Christian life can be stronger. “And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house” (Acts 20:20).
Remember the qualities that caused you to appreciate his leadership. At some point you voluntarily placed yourself under his leadership and influence. Take a moment and remember the good qualities that originally led you to this decision.
Remember the victories he has led you towards in life.Because of his leadership you’ve probably had a part in some personal and ministry victories—some joyful, abundant moments. Delight in those memories. Remember the spiritual decisions you have made because of his influence.
Because of his preaching, you’ve probably avoided some traps, been spared some bad decisions, and seen some real spiritual growth. Take a moment to reflect on those decisions.
Remember that plenty of others are criticizing him. Anybody can be a critic, because everybody is imperfect. Look long enough and you’ll find fault with everybody. Too many people join “the dark side.” There’s nothing virtuous or valiant about finding fault and pointing it out—any unspiritual nitwit can do it. It takes a lot more spiritual maturity and depth to be steadfastly committed to a perfect cause with an imperfect church family.
Remember he’s probably bearing burdens in the care of the church that he cannot tell you about. Outside of my petty little world, my pastor is probably dealing with big things—a man whose life is falling a part, a family on the brink of destruction, a dying loved one, a personal spiritual attack, a church member facing a trial, a child who’s been sexually abused, a wife whose husband just left. He can’t tell you about it all, but it’s still there and it’s all very, very real.
Remember he probably has information you don’t have. Critics never have the full story, and usually they grossly distort the few details they do have. It’s their modus operandi. They don’t want the full story because it removes their ability to imagine and distort it in their favor with their troll-ish followers. I used to believe everybody wanted the truth. Boy was that naive! The few times I’ve tried to approach a dedicated critic with the truth, they either ignored it, didn’t believe it, or refused to hear it. When you don’t understand a decision, just remember, the pastor probably sees a part of the picture that you can’t see.
Remember he would be by your bedside praying if you were sick. Yes, even the critics are loved by the pastor. He would drop what he’s doing, leave the dinner table, or change a day off just to be there to visit and pray with you.
Remember he would be standing by you if you faced a hard trial. He would pray, support, and strengthen you during a difficult time, even if he couldn’t know the details.
Remember he would be waiting with you if a family member was hanging between life and death. He would be sitting there, probably weeping with you, and praying for God to intervene with a miracle.
Remember he would be sitting beside you in a lonely courtroom. Innocent or guilty, your pastor would be there to pray for the best and encourage you through the worst.
Remember he would give you counsel during a difficult decision. He would help you see through the fog of your own surroundings, sort through the options, and apply biblical principles for a wise decision.
Remember he would still love and support you if you completely failed. If you came to him with the worst news, right now, he would still love you and help you do the right thing in response. He would graciously sit down with you, your family, and those involved and help rebuild what is broken, restore what is damaged, and recover what is lost.
Remember the Lord said to acknowledge and remember him. This is really all God’s idea. Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”
Remember he is God’s shepherding gift to your life. God says it this way in Ephesians 4:11, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.”
Remember your critical spirit makes you and your family vulnerable. Resisting God’s structure of authority is wrong for you just as it’s wrong for your children. Criticism of your spiritual authority opens the door for spiritual attack and it messes up your kids.
Remember no pastor on earth is perfect. This is a no brainer. Your next church will have just as imperfect a pastor as your present church. Even the Apostle Paul called himself the chief sinner (1 Timothy 1:15).
Remember he doesn’t have to be a pastor. He could walk away tomorrow. Many do. Many finally reach an end—tired, weary, and wounded. Many finally have enough. They realize they don’t have to put up with the public criticism. They can return to private life and live according to their own concerns. Don’t push your pastor that direction—plenty of others already do. Pull him the other direction with your encouragement.
Remember your criticism is more a reflection of your spirit than his faults. Wrong-spirited criticism is a product of an impure heart, not an imperfect pastor. If your heart was pure, your criticism would not be criticism. It would be concern and it would be shared one on one with the person of concern. Critics don’t seek to resolve concerns and restore relationships—they seek to fester, stir up, and exaggerate issues. They relish turmoil—even if they have to fabricate it.
Remember your criticism ultimately hurts you. The spirit that drives criticism is like a festering cancerous sore of the soul. “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15). It robs joy, clouds vision, skews perspective, and destroys your ability to live joyfully and abundantly. Beyond the internal damage, criticism always damages your testimony. Wise people start avoiding you.
Having a biblical love and respect for a godly, servant-hearted, growing pastor is just right—from God’s Word. It is not man-worship. It isn’t blind. It isn’t mindless. It doesn’t violate the priesthood of every believer, the authority of every father, or the individual soul liberty of every person. It’s just wise.
The next time you want to criticize the sincere, godly man you call “Pastor,” remember this list. Stop and think about it. Someone wisely said, “Nobody ever erected a monument to a critic.” Take the high road of spiritual maturity and keep a right spirit. Over the long term, you’ll be glad you didn’t throw away your joy to such mindless, base behavior.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain—and most do.”
Teddy Roosevelt said, “It’s not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doers of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who was actually in the arena, whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood, who knows at best the triumph of high achievement and who if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”