Encouragement & Criticism

Dear Members & Attenders, 

When was the last time someone criticized your work?  And what is that like?  Surely we learn from feedback; it helps to know how we can improve, even as it can sting.  To learn how to work better is a good thing.  So why can criticism be so hard?

Ministry is conducted in a fishbowl where everyone can see what’s done, and almost everyone has an opinion.  And our culture trains you from the earliest age to share your opinion.  But clearly criticism in the church is getting harder.  An article I read this last week (that you can read here) was very insightful to identify 1) many people in ministry are getting weary because of the constant stream of criticism, and 2) it is hard to wisely handle criticism either offering it or receiving it.  So how can we stay teachable and not grow hard-hearted?  How can we not just complain but constructively encourage others?

First, what do you do when you have a legitimate concern?  Are we supposed to do or say nothing?  Certainly not.  But Jesus guides us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  If you don’t enjoy getting an acid bath, then don’t offer them to others.  If you appreciate encouragement then offer it.  If you don’t find blunt critiques helpful, then don’t be blunt.  God’s Word guides us to be truthful AND gracious; to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Second, the Gospel anchors our perspective.  Jesus did not come to save us because we were right.  We were terribly, tragically wrong.  Yet in love, He came to speak the truth to us, atone for all our wrongs, and plant His Spirit in us to grow us back into His likeness.  So I am sure that being loved while I am wrong is life-saving!  My best friend has said some of the hardest things ever said to me, but those rebukes have been in the context of amazing loyalty, love, support and encouragement.  Like Jesus, I know that he is for me, even when he challenges me with the most pointed corrections.

And just in case you wonder, “Is Tim trying to tell me to not criticize the church?”  Absolutely not!  I want to guide you to do it well when you need to do so.  Just give it like you would like to receive it.  Ask yourself, “Is the first thing this person hears from me love and gratitude?”  It is great to learn how we can work better.  Please communicate your concerns.  Just include your encouragement also.

Things to pray for:

–  Humility.  Consider just how wrong you’ve been before your all-knowing, perfect Maker.  And consider how gracious and merciful, how patient and compassionate He has been to you.  And give thanks for His work to save you rather than destroy you.

–  Gratitude.  Give thought to just how good the LORD has treated you, when you never deserved it.  Give thanks to Jesus for His grace.

–  Wisdom.  Ask the Lord to grow you in wisdom, especially in the craft of encouragement and exhortation.

–  Love.  Ask the Holy Spirit to bear in you the fruit of love, especially for your fellow believers.

Tim Rice, Lead Pastor & Director of Church Planting
Trinity Presbyterian Church
301 N. Florida Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33801