Luke 15:2—And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!”
Our pastor recently received an anonymous email that was highly critical of himself and his executive pastor. As an elder, I can honestly share that this kind of message serves only to discourage leaders. The person criticizing picks apart whatever he or she disagrees with, is not part of a solution and hides behind a cloak of anonymity rather than come and personally share what is misunderstood. It is too easy to be critical. It is also immature to lob rocks from the other side of the hill.
I’ve written this reveration to encourage all those who are involved in the frontlines of ministry. Don’t quit! Don’t let criticism get the better of you. After all, if Jesus was living today I suspect He might get an email like the following:
First let me just say that I’m a longtime admirer and what You have done to help the church is certainly appreciated. I know You work hard and that You truly care. However, I feel it is only right to share with You that many of us are talking and are deeply concerned by many of Your words and actions—which appear to lack mature judgment. In fact, while we would hope that Your intentions are noble, it feels to many of us like You can be harsh at times, attention-seeking and perhaps not willing to make the corrections we feel are warranted if You are to be successful here.
In an effort to help our church, please consider the following nine items:
1. Your team selection is a source of great concern. You chose only men—no women or minorities are represented on the team You seem intent on developing. Furthermore, many of these men do not have college degrees and have engaged in behavior that is a poor reflection on our church—more on this later. Did You take the time to do background checks? Before choosing who didYou vet your reasons with? While we commend You for praying all night before choosing, it seems only wise that You would have sought approval from the religious community. Particularly alarming is that You would ask a tax collector to be part of Your team. Are You not aware of how bad Matthew’s reputation is in our community? We suggest in the future that any selections be made through approved committees.
2. Your teaching while often brilliant and eloquent can also at times seem very poorly thought out: For example, in Your Sermon on the Mount You say that we are blessed when people insult and persecute us because of You—this seems to set You up to do whatever You want and we just have to go along with it and take questionable criticism which by the way does not make us feel blessed.
3. You seem to have a lack of social awareness. You commended a Roman Centurion as having more faith than any of us! This was very offensive. This man is a foreigner and member of a despised occupying military. Then we heard You spent half a day with an immoral woman in an off-limits town while Your disciples were away. Do You not understand the gossip that elicits? You act at times as if You despise Your own people but love foreigners—this is very twisted and alarming to us.
4. You appear to often be very insensitive. When a prospective follower simply asked to bury his father You wouldn’t let him. That seems very callous and uncompassionate. You set our family ministry back years by insulting Your mother and brothers by calling those around You Your family and ignoring them. Please don’t do this again. By the way, it doesn’t help to have Your own brothers criticizing You, You know they don’t believe in You? Please spend more time with them as they are part of what You should consider as ministry. If they don’t believe You and they are Your own family why should anyone else believe You? And while we are on this topic, You askusto deny ourselves to follow You—shouldn’t You be denying Yourself to serve us? Why are weexpected to make all the changes?
5. Why is it necessary to antagonize other religious leaders? You don’t follow our established religious rules and this just serves to offend them and You lose credibility. Now Your own disciples have no problem breaking the rules. More egregious, You go on the offensive and call other religious leaders hypocrites and embarrass them publicly. You even said they were blind. How is this building unity in the church? Don’t You realize that a house divided cannot stand? And a word of knowledge—only criticize in private not in public if You want to gain any respect.
6. Clearly You may need to enroll in anger managementfor several reasons. It has come to our attention that You called Peter “Satan.” How outrageous! How could You do this—equate one of Your most loyal followers with the Devil himself? Some of Your team informed us that You criticized them for not having enough faith. That seems very belittling and judgmental on Your part. Do You think You have the corner on faith?
7. Why are You so obsessed with dying? You talk about it all the time? It appears You may have some kind of martyr complex. This is not healthy and we suggest You get counseling.
8. You often spend time with people of questionable character and we wonder if You even care about Your reputation. We’ve seen You with crooks, cheaters, prostitutes and people that pander to the enemy. Letting a prostitute waste expensive perfume on You seems like narcissist behavior. That money could have gone to buying clothing and food for the poor. What a waste!
9. Finally, we question how You determine to use Your power. For example, You turned water into wine—do You really think it is wise to promote alcohol given its abuse in the community? When You fed the 5000 and the 4000 do You see the harmful precedent You set? Now the people expect us to provide food every time there is a major event. On occasion You have healed every person brought to You from whatever is wrong—demon possession, sickness, etc. Don’t You think You should exercise discretion? Some of those people no doubt deserve the problems they have and You are seemingly letting them off the hook.
Now Jesus, there are many more things we could bring up but in the spirit of love and prudence we didn’t want to throw You under the bus. We recognize that You are the best at drawing big crowds, that overall people seem to love You and certainly many of us have directly benefited from Your ministry. So please take this as constructive criticism and make the necessary adjustments. We will gladly help You select an accountability team of the most respected elders.
The average Christian is the most penetratingly critical individual. Criticism is a part of the ordinary faculty of man; but in the spiritual domain nothing is accomplished by criticism.—Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest
©2019 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)