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January 19th, 2010

by Craig Groeschel

16 comments (+ Add)

Don’t Fight Back

Some criticism of our ministries will be valid. Others will come from partially informed people who will not likely ever understand or like our philosophy of ministry.

With the explosion of online critics, it is tempting to jump into a conversation to tell your side of the story. While there might be an appropriate time, usually, defending your ministry only pours gas on the fire.

Some ministry leaders seem to lead and preach from a defensive stance. They’ll rally their crowd in support of what they are doing in the face of criticism. While this may occasionally be wise, if it becomes a habit, it will build a defensive ministry rather than an offensive one.

If you’re confident in what God has called you to do, you won’t need to spend more time defending it rather than just doing it.

I am hopeful that the people in our ministry are confident and secure in what God is calling us to do. With training, they’ll acknowledge that many won’t understand our style or philosophy of ministry. We can be okay with that.

Rather than being distracted by other battles, we’ll try to keep focused on the most important one.

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  1. Jan 19, 2010 at 7:55 am

    I like this. My first year as a network church pastor I would find myself trying to defend or define our church, especially during the announcement time on Sunday morning. Several months back I realized that I was being defensive and made change. When a service begins I announce “we are part of the network and your about to experience what that looks like”

    On the personal side there are pastors who make fun of me for not preaching every week. They call me the “pastor who pushes the play button on Sunday” I have learned to stop trying to explain and defend our church model to everyone. I am doing exactly what God has called me to do and they don’t have to understand it.

  2. Jan 19, 2010 at 8:28 am

    I can totally relate. About two years ago we took over the children’s department at our church. We felt like God wanted more than the sterotypical coloring pictures and singing “Pharoah, Pharoah.” That stuff is great, but we believed that God wanted us to start a children’s worship serice. It was a trying time and we had to deal with a lot of criticism because it was “different” from what had been done for the past 50 years. I have to be honest. At first it really bothered us, but then as we began to seek God, we believed that we were doing what He wanted us to do. I hope this offers encouragement to those who are facing this.

  3. 3Jesiah
    Jan 19, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Wow Jerris that’s really insperational… It’s amazing that you can handle critizism in such a great way… Thanks Craig for that Wisdom I hope you keep talking about this topic all week!!!

  4. Jan 19, 2010 at 10:42 am

    First reaction: fight back. Second reaction: (if the first doesn’t work) fight back. Third reaction: (if the first two don’t work) fight some more. Immaturity at its finest and guilty as charged. Until you realize that beating a dead horse isn’t going to make it more dead and certainly won’t bring it to life. Best reaction: do what you have suggested and then consider what Jesus did. Good thoughts Craig. Thanks.

  5. Jan 19, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Having spent many years in a mainline demonination I have seen how defensiveness becomes such a habit. Rather than truly building God’s kingdom we easily find ourselves defending our position and actions.

    Great perspective - let’s know God, know His plans and march forward.

  6. Jan 19, 2010 at 11:28 am

    I’ve watched my dad in his 30+ years in ministry be criticized and rarely ever defend his position or ministry. He recently gave me an older book “A Tale of Three Kings” to read to help me with my own desire to return spears. I think it’s a must read for leaders. Gene Edwards explains that David’s torture by Saul occurred in his pre-king days. But, he didn’t know he would be king one day. Not at this time. Edwards writes, “These were David’s darkest hours. We know them as his pre-king days, but he didn’t. He may have assumed this was his lot forever.”

    It wasn’t his lot. I’ve learned a lot from this story in how I handle criticism.

  7. Jan 19, 2010 at 11:40 am

    I have a deep passion for justice that too often takes hold of me and causes me to pursue justice in areas that are just not important. I have to keep this in check. I have to prayerfully give over the words, the actions and the wrongful accusations of others to God. I need God to help me stay focused on the “one thing”.

  8. Jan 19, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    If someone is committed to the vision of what you believe God has called you to do, seeking God, bringing the unchurched and faithful in their giving, I will listen to their criticism or complaint. If they do not demonstrate the above qualities, I tend not to pay attention. If they are off God’s mission for their own lives, I believe they have forfeited their right to be heard. Each case is taken individually, but these are the guidelines I follow and they have served me well.

  9. Jan 19, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Recently God gave me about 5-6 chances to keep my mouth shut about ministry criticism…I finally caught on at about chance 5.

    Jesus set the example for us…He was without sin yet in the face of His accusers remained silent and confident in His calling. A man who can zip it in the face of undue attack is a humble, secure and powerful man.

  10. 10ME
    Jan 19, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    As a church member who has had questions that are misinterpreted as criticism, a pastor answering them defensively from the pulpit sends a very negative message - primarily that this is not a place where people can simply ask questions and share differences in private. It also is intimidating and comes off as threatening - like you’re trying to convince me that you have all these people behind you and I dare not express any concern about anything. I need a pastor, not a dictator.

  11. Jan 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    I really don’t understand why some Christians criticize other ministries. What sense does that make? We all have the same goal of spreading the Gospel. I am happy when I see ministries innovate and do things differently.

    There is nothing wrong with a pastor that “pushes play” on Sunday. There are tons of other pastoral duties that are still being done. Pastoral ministry goes far beyond Sunday morning.

    There is no point in fighting back. God’s opinion is the only one that matters.

  12. Jan 19, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    On the other hand, refusing to “defend” may also result in a church continuing in error and being permitted to hide behind a spiritual-sounding, “This is what God has called me to.”

    Not saying has done this, but I’m beginning to see unhealthy pastors and churches being able to hide behind these otherwise good admonitions.

    We cannot assume that every church is healthy enough to be able to not defend.

  13. 13Scott
    Jan 19, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    I truly wish leaders would understand that asking a question or expressing a differing opinion is not criticizing. If your vision so has the backing of God, why are you so threatened by my question? And the intimidation that comes with addressing me from the pulpit with your allies Amen-ing your every word is not a good look for your ministry. A church where the pastor comes off as a dictator is not a healthy church.

  14. Jan 19, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    I struggle with the desire to look and feel like a “winner” all the time. Way too often, my self-confidence is subconsciously based upon how many people are happy with what I’m doing. I tend to initially react to people questioning my ministry by assuming that they’re attacking it and then I feel the need to best them in a duel of words. After years of ministry and years of reacting the wrong way, I feel like God is finally getting through my thick skull and leading me to react in better ways. I love Scott’s question… “If your vision has the backing of God, why are you so threatened by my question?” Sometimes, people question something because they simply want to understand it better so they can be more supportive.

    (It’s still hard to bite my tongue sometimes though…)

  15. Jan 25, 2010 at 11:57 am

    I needed this today Craig. Thank you for these words. I am new at my church and sometimes I feel the need to defend myself and ministry. It is discouraging at times, but I know God has called and equipped. Sometimes it is refreshing to hear these words from others.