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afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted

A Repost from 2011

“Criticism is normal” says Michael Hyatt in his post titled ‘Friends, Critics and Trolls‘.

Every leader will attract criticism. As C. J. Mahaney notes in his latest post about ‘The Pastor and Criticism‘, this reality is probably what lies behind Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:19:

Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

Much criticism is unsubstantiated, unfounded, jealous and petty. It can still damage the soul of the one criticised. Hyatt, in his article, goes on to talk about the way criticism affects him:

emotionally, it kills me. It always knocks me off-kilter. You might think I would be past that. But I am not. I obsess about it, spending way more time thinking about it than I should. I wish this wasn’t true, but it is. (Just ask my wife!)

I think Michael has read my mind – or spoken to my wife! Either way, he is smack on target with my vulnerabilities. He provides a bit of a matrix or model to filter the criticism that is helpful.

One of the things that has helped me in the past few years is to distinguish between three kinds of critics:

  1. True friends. Not all criticism is bad. God forbid that we should turn a deaf ear to everyone who disagrees with us. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). Some people are in our lives to save us from ourselves. As a leader, the trick is to create an environment that is safe for dissension, so these people can speak up.
  2. Honest critics. Some people decide that they disagree with you and go public. They aren’t malicious. They aren’t out to destroy you. They simply disagree with you. That’s okay. We need to allow for a diversity of opinion. Besides, we might learn something from it. It enriches the conversation. We need to engage these people and refrain from making it personal. Not everyone has to agree with us.
  3. Unhealthy trolls. These people have an agenda. They are out to hurt you—or at least use you for their own ends. They want to lure you into a fight. I have had three this week. They taunt and mock you. They are unreasonable. If you engage them, they will only distract you and deplete your resources. The best thing you can do is ignore them. As someone once said, “resistance only makes them stronger.” You will never satisfy them. Just keep doing what you know you are called to do.

As a leader, you must learn to distinguish between these three. I personally assume that everyone is a friend or an honest critic until they prove other otherwise. I may be naive, but I would rather give people the benefit of the doubt than live a life of paranoia. What about you?

So, just keep on keeping on, following God’s will and vision for your ministry and let the Word direct you, not the whims of a whiner :)
As my own Senior Pastor said recently, “Push through and push ahead, God will do the rest.”

Mahaney adds an important qualifier, quoting Tim Keller. If you dismiss a criticism, beware you don’t also become the critic.

Keller writes,

If the criticism comes from someone who doesn’t know you at all (and often this is the case on the internet) it is possible that the criticism is completely unwarranted and profoundly mistaken. I am often pilloried not only for views I do have, but also even more often for views (and motives) that I do not hold at all. When that happens it is even easier to fall into a smugness and perhaps be tempted to laugh at how mistaken your critics are. “Pathetic…” you may be tempted to say.

Don’t do it.

Even if there is not the slightest kernel of truth in what the critic says, you should not mock them in your thoughts. First, remind yourself of examples of your own mistakes, foolishness, and cluelessness in the past, times in which you really got something wrong. Second, pray for the critic, that he or she grows in grace.

 

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Humility is … celebrating when the other guy wins

Have you applied for a job or internal promotion recently? You probably had to update or refresh your résumé as part of that process. How did you go? Did you market yourself well? Did you convince the interviewer or hiring manager that you are the best person for the job? If you’re going to do that successfully, many times, an important leadership quality will be left outside the interview room.

Humility!

When you walk into that interview room you are competing with all other applicants. You don’t have to be good, you don’t even have to be great. You must be the best! That means, somehow you’ve got to elevate your skills, attributes, features, etc above everyone else. Done that? Got the job / pay rise / promotion? Fantastic! What happens when you take that dynamic wow factor for leadership and try to serve in a Church or Christian ministry?

In Philippians 2:3 Paul says, “In humility consider others better than yourselves.” But how does that work? If I have a vision / dream / goal to carry out something great in ministry – should I be jostling others out-of-the-way so my idea gets traction before theirs?

The way a cycling team works gives us an idea of the text here. Not everyone on the team can or will win the race. But the team will work together to protect one another. That means things like drafting the guy behind so he can conserve energy for the final break to the finish line. Team members have to, in that instance, consider the guy behind them “better than themselves.”

In following Jesus, you will enter a Twilight Zone of sorts – where opposites become truisms. Up is down. Weak is strong. To carry out the greatest demonstration of power – destroying the power sin – Jesus humbled himself. He set aside the rights and privileges he had as the best guy in the room and endured the punishment intended for us. But, that is precisely how he won the day.

A Christian is called to follow Jesus, and take up their cross, deny themselves and lose their life to the cause of the gospel. When they do, they gain their life. The gospel tells me that I am not deserving of any of God’s goodness or mercy and I don’t have anything to show that could earn it. Neither does the other guy. But, if he gets it before I do, it’s not because he’s out performed me because grace isn’t a reward or payment.

 
 

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Pastor Fired by Church

Charles Stone introduces his book, ‘Five Ministry Killers and How to Kill Them‘ with an account of how a Church fired their Pastor. As I started the first paragraph, I thought it was a fictional parable used to kick off the main topic of the book. Wrong!

I read a little further and started to feel a little uncomfortable with the issues being mentioned. Then comes the surprise (for me anyway). The pastor in question is a real person and he is talking about real struggles that defeat many men and women who are in Christian Ministry.

The pastor in question, faced difficulties with power struggles, salary controversies, questions about his leadership style. His visitation policy was considered questionable and he was accused of “not loving the people.” Why? Because he made a decision to concentrate on the strengths and gifts of his ministry and prioritize his time on preaching and teaching instead of following a routine visiting program.

After some time, one particular man lead a factional revolt that would eventually see the pastor fired from his job. The pastor, unhindered by this, then made a decision to introduce changes in the Church policy regarding the expectations of the character of those that wanted to become Church members. He was called to question for this stance and the other matters. He was threatened with losing his job. He stood his ground and they fired him.

Stone closes off this account of the pastor, called “Jonathan”, as follows:

Ten years later, because Jonathan had so graciously responded to his critics and his dismissal, one of his main detractors admitted that pride, self-sufficiency, ambition, and vanity had caused the contention. The pastor’s handling of his ministry crisis left such and impression that eventually the church publicly repented of their actions, exactly 150 years after they sent him packing.

Who was Jonathan? Jonathan Edwards, arguably America’s greatest theologian.

Rev. Jonathan Edwards, a leader of the Great A...

Image via Wikipedia

Dear Pastor friend, if it happened to Edwards, chances are you will face similar challenges. Are you ready to meet them with a godly, gospel oriented approach?

Dear Church Member friend, if you have a Pastor that has different ideas about leadership style and ministry emphasis are you able to model gospel oriented flexibility and serve alongside him for God’s glory?

Related Article:

Ed Stetzer – Church Leadership Book Interview: Charles Stone on 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them

Also (post-edit) check out this recent post by Don – a supplement to the comment he made below.
Firing Your Pastor

 
 

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afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted

“Criticism is normal” says Michael Hyatt in his post titled ‘Friends, Critics and Trolls‘.

Every leader will attract criticism. As C. J. Mahaney notes in his latest post about ‘The Pastor and Criticism‘, this reality is probably what lies behind Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:19:

Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

Much criticism is unsubstantiated, unfounded, jealous and petty. It can still damage the soul of the one criticised. Hyatt, in his article, goes on to talk about the way criticism affects him:

emotionally, it kills me. It always knocks me off-kilter. You might think I would be past that. But I am not. I obsess about it, spending way more time thinking about it than I should. I wish this wasn’t true, but it is. (Just ask my wife!)

I think Michael has read my mind – or spoken to my wife! Either way, he is smack on target with my vulnerabilities. He provides a bit of a matrix or model to filter the criticism that is helpful.

One of the things that has helped me in the past few years is to distinguish between three kinds of critics:

  1. True friends. Not all criticism is bad. God forbid that we should turn a deaf ear to everyone who disagrees with us. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). Some people are in our lives to save us from ourselves. As a leader, the trick is to create an environment that is safe for dissension, so these people can speak up.
  2. Honest critics. Some people decide that they disagree with you and go public. They aren’t malicious. They aren’t out to destroy you. They simply disagree with you. That’s okay. We need to allow for a diversity of opinion. Besides, we might learn something from it. It enriches the conversation. We need to engage these people and refrain from making it personal. Not everyone has to agree with us.
  3. Unhealthy trolls. These people have an agenda. They are out to hurt you—or at least use you for their own ends. They want to lure you into a fight. I have had three this week. They taunt and mock you. They are unreasonable. If you engage them, they will only distract you and deplete your resources. The best thing you can do is ignore them. As someone once said, “resistance only makes them stronger.” You will never satisfy them. Just keep doing what you know you are called to do.

As a leader, you must learn to distinguish between these three. I personally assume that everyone is a friend or an honest critic until they prove other otherwise. I may be naive, but I would rather give people the benefit of the doubt than live a life of paranoia. What about you?

So, just keep on keeping on, following God’s will and vision for your ministry and let the Word direct you, not the whims of a whiner :)
As my own Senior Pastor said recently, “Push through and push ahead, God will do the rest.”

Mahaney adds an important qualifier, quoting Tim Keller. If you dismiss a criticism, beware you don’t also become the critic.

Keller writes,

If the criticism comes from someone who doesn’t know you at all (and often this is the case on the internet) it is possible that the criticism is completely unwarranted and profoundly mistaken. I am often pilloried not only for views I do have, but also even more often for views (and motives) that I do not hold at all. When that happens it is even easier to fall into a smugness and perhaps be tempted to laugh at how mistaken your critics are. “Pathetic…” you may be tempted to say.

Don’t do it.

Even if there is not the slightest kernel of truth in what the critic says, you should not mock them in your thoughts. First, remind yourself of examples of your own mistakes, foolishness, and cluelessness in the past, times in which you really got something wrong. Second, pray for the critic, that he or she grows in grace.

 

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Determined to lead

In his commentary on Nehemiah, ‘Be Determined’, Weirsbe has a supplementary chapter on leadership qualities. He outlines characteristics needed by local Church Pastors as exemplified by Nehemiah. There are 12 points in all, summarised below.

1. He knew he was called of God
Nehemiah started with a burden for Jerusalem, but the burden was not the call. He wept over the sad condition of the city (Neh. 1:4), but his tears were not the call. It was as he prayed to God and sought divine help that he received a call to leave his relatively easy job and go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. Because he knew God had called him, Nehemiah could approach the king and get help; and he could also enlist the help of the Jews in Jerusalem.

Before you quickly move into a place of ministry, be sure God has called you and equipped you for the job. You may not think you can do it, and others may have their doubts; but if God calls you, have no fear: He will see you through.

2. He depended on prayer
One mark of true spiritual leaders is their honest acknowledgment of their own inadequacy and their humble trust in the power of God.

3. He had vision and saw the greatness of the work
Leaders must see what others don’t see and then challenge others to follow until they do see.

4. He submitted to authority
Nehemiah is a man whose work prospered because he submitted to God, the Word, and the king.

5. He was organized in his work
He planned his work and worked his plan, and God blessed him.

6. He was able to discern the tactics of the enemy
Leaders must spot the enemy before anybody else does and be ready to meet him quickly and efficiently.

7. He worked hard
Charles Spurgeon: “Do not be afraid of hard work for Christ; a terrible reckoning awaits those who have an easy time in the ministry, but a great reward is in reserve for those who endure all things for the elect’s sake.” (An All Round Ministry, p. 197).

8. He lived an exemplary life
You can face any enemy, listen to any accusation, or confront any misunderstanding if you have integrity and a good conscience.

9. He sought to glorify God alone
There is nothing good that God will not do for the worker who humbly serves and lets Him have the glory.

10. He had courage
There is no place for timidity in leadership. … As Harry Truman said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

11. He enlisted others to work
Leaders don’t feel intimidated by the excellence of others; in fact, they encourage it.

12. He was determined
Lech Walesa, Polish labor leader who became President of his country: “To be a leader means to have determination. It means to be resolute inside and outside, with ourselves and with others.

The church today needs leaders, men and women and young people who will determine under God to acomplish the will of God, come what may.

~ Wiersbe, W. W. 1996. Be determined (148–159). Victor Books: Wheaton, Ill.

 
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Posted by on 10/03/2011 in leadership, ministry

 

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Leadership Capacity

Each leader is an individual and has differing gifts and varying capacities to faithfully exercise those gifts. It helps though to have a guideline on where the middle ground might be so you can measure and monitor your capacity.

Pride will often get in the way and trick you into thinking you can handle more than you’re capable of – this will result in either stagnancy or sterilisation. i.e. you’ll stop growing or you’ll die.

Ed Stetzer discusses some of the considerations a Church Planter should consider when developing his leadership team.

The senior pastor of the average U.S. church (about 85 people) is at staff capacity. If a church waits until they can afford a second staff person they face the prospect of losing momentum due to a senior pastor working beyond capacity.

The goal is to ensure you don’t reach your capacity – otherwise you will become inflexible and will set yourself up for failure (be that physical burn out, developing a sinful enslaving habit or much worse).

There are other factors (finances, maturity of the core group, demographics and availability of skilled workers), however in this instance, by the time the “average” church reaches 85 they should have already hired their 2nd full time worker and be preparing for the 3rd.

In Australia, in my observation and experience you should aim for, on average, a ratio of 1:40 of Pastoral Staff : Congregants. This is both a strategic and preventative ministry. Strategic in that the senior/lead/teaching pastor can focus on leadership development and preventative in that the church is caring for their pastor(s) by mitigating against burn out.

 
 

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