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Posts Tagged ‘how pastors respond to criticism’

A pastor I don’t know recently posted something on Facebook that caught my attention.

With the heading, “Pray for Your Pastor,” a large photo cited 9 statistics about pastors.

The first statistic stated: “97% of pastors have been betrayed, falsely accused or hurt by their trusted friends.”

Some people … I presume laymen, not pastors … disputed these statistics in their comments, implying that these numbers are exaggerated or even made up.

Let’s look at the stat I quoted above once more:

97% of pastors have been betrayed, falsely accused or hurt by their trusted friends.

We can argue about whether the number is 97% or 63% or less than 50%, but I can tell you from personal experience … and from talking to many other pastors … that statistics like these are more than accurate.

There is nothing in church ministry that hurts a pastor more than being betrayed or falsely accused by those who once supported you and counted you as a friend.

I have some theories as to why people turn on a pastor, and I’ve shared some of them over the years in this blog.

For example, some people believe that they are so special that they have earned 24/7 access to the pastor.

They believe when they email him, he should email them right back.  When they call the pastor, he should return their call quickly.  When they want to see him, he should drop everything to assist them.

But when the pastor doesn’t contact them as soon as they expect, they become anxious that their relationship status has changed, and they may slowly start to turn against him … or speak negatively about him to others.  They take the pastor’s slow replies personally.

But I’m more interested in how a pastor should respond when he’s been treated unfairly.

While reading through 1 Corinthians 4 a few days ago, I came upon three little phrases that describe how Paul handled himself when he was under attack.  These phrases are found in verses 12 and 13:

When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly.

We might use the acronym BEAK to summarize these responses: bless, endure, and answer kindly.  (Or BAKE if you prefer: bless, answer kindly, endure.)

Under normal circumstances in church ministry, it’s relatively easy to carry out BEAK.

When attendance is increasing … when the baptistry is full … when ministries are thriving … when giving exceeds the budget … when people are singing the pastor’s praises … it’s not that hard to bless, endure, and answer kindly, even when some people forcefully disagree with you.

But when you’re under attack … when people threaten to leave the church en masse … when you’re feeling intense pressure … when your wife is severely wounded … when a petition is passed around calling for your removal … when you don’t know who to trust anymore … it’s extremely difficult for the pastor to bless, endure, and answer kindly.

During the current presidential nomination process in our country, there are candidates who have been engaging in ad hominem attacks against rivals from within their own party.

They insult their fellow candidates … bash them on Twitter … throw temper tantrums … threaten journalists who ask them hard questions … and only speak with those who “treat them fairly.”

Shouldn’t we expect more from someone who wants to become the Leader of the Free World?

By the same token, we should expect more from our pastors … but they should never react like some presidential candidates … although I have seen it done.

Months ago, someone sent me a video of a church service where a pastor verbally berated someone by name who was sitting in the pews.  That pastor’s action could only be termed abusive.  (The pastor called him out for irregular church attendance and for failing to serve faithfully.)

But pastors should never stand in the pulpit and insult their detractors … or smash them on social media … or engage in personal attacks.

Instead, pastors have to learn how to bless, endure, and answer kindly … even when they don’t feel like it.

Why?

Because responding with BEAK lessens tensions and stops the cycle of action/reaction that causes conflicts to escalate.

How can a pastor learn to BEAK their opponents?

*Be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit.  Let Him control your life and speech.

*Practice the art of BEAK with your wife … children … neighbors … relatives … board members … staffers … and church crazies.  When you’ve gained success with some parties, you’re more likely to be successful with your detractors.

*Ask your wife to monitor you and tell you when you’ve messed up.

*Pray for your detractors and let God deal with them.

*Expand your list of responses when people wrong you.

*Admit when you’ve erred and make things right as soon as possible.

Yesterday morning, I was sitting in my car waiting to pick up someone.  My vehicle was parked against a curb.  The car in front of me took off, so I started my car and decided to move up a space.  As I started forward, another car tried to swing into that empty space.

My face demonstrated surprise, and I visibly held out my hand as if to say to the driver, “Go ahead.  Take that space.”  But when I emerged from my car, the driver rolled down his window and asked me, “Over a parking space?”

After I picked up the person I was waiting for, I sought out that man and told him, “You know, I didn’t see you when I started forward.”  He told me, “And I didn’t know anybody was in your car.”  We shook hands … twice … and laughed about what happened.

That situation was providential … because I need the practice.

I Peter 2:23 has always been a favorite of mine.  Peter refers to the innocence of Jesus and then describes how He responded to unfair treatment:

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

God asks of His servants that we emulate both the apostle and our Savior by blessing, enduring, and answering kindly anyone … including believers … who seeks to mistreat us.

It’s not easy … and definitely unnatural … but it is necessary if we want to defuse and resolve conflicts.

How well are you carrying out these instructions?

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