In a recent article, LifeWay President Thom Rainer notes that destructive criticism of pastors is on the rise, and this trend requires action on the part of church leaders. He writes:
“The first seven verses of Acts 6 tell the story of complaining by a group in the early church. In this case, the concern was warranted because a group of widows was being neglected. The Twelve appointed seven men to take care of the widows and thus, stopped the criticisms.
“Though it may not be the central thrust of the text, we see clearly that a divided and critical congregation was a serious concern for early church leaders. The ministry had to continue, and the divisiveness had to stop. We also see that the entire congregation had a stake in this issue (verse 5, “The proposal pleased the whole company”). There was no sinful and silent majority unwilling to tackle this issue.
“At least in principle, the solutions are simple. The standards of church membership must be held high, and the benefits are numerous beyond just dealing with critics. We can’t expect unregenerate church members to act like Christians. Undoubtedly, many of the worst critics are not true followers of Christ.
“Second, church members must be willing to confront the sinful behavior of the perpetual and ill-intentioned critics. While no church leader should be above legitimate criticisms, the tide has turned too far in the other direction. Criticisms are paralyzing too many good leaders.”
I’ve witnessed this kind of critical spirit in action, and it is not of Christ. Yet I’ve also watched otherwise faithful lay leaders simply look the other way, hoping that the problem will go away. Too many pastors will have their lives and families devastated and too many churches will be sidelined for Kingdom service until we address this issue and act.
(To read Rainers’s full article, go to http://www.thomrainer.com/2011/01/responding-to-the-great-distraction.php)
Michael Duduit is founding Dean of the College of Christian Studies and the Clamp Divinity School at Anderson University. He also serves as Professor of Christian Ministry. He is the founder and still serves as Executive Editor of Preaching magazine, one of the nation’s premier publications for pastors. His email newsletter, Preaching Now, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences. He is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching, Joy in Ministry: Messages from Second Corinthians, Preaching with Power: Dynamic Insights from Twenty Top Communicators and Communicate With Power.