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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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What is Preaching

The most simple, and biblical, answer is found, by example, in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah:

They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. Neh 8:8

The ESV translators note that “clearly” = with interpretation, or paragraph by paragraph.

Adrian Warnock provides the following, based on notes from a T4G conference.

1.Expository preaching should be defined as preaching that seeks to explain the main point of the portion of the Scripture selected.

2.Expository preaching does not always have to take place as part of a long series working slowly through a book. Series can be helpful, but they need not last a decade. One-off sermons on specific verses, a chapter, or even a whole book can also be expository.

3.We must not have an overly-narrow definition of expository preaching — thinking that there is only one way to preach. Instead we must encompass the many different styles of preaching which are helpful and biblically directed. We must also understand that whilst the message of a specific verse is, of course, unified rather than divided or contradictory, its meaning is usually rich and many faceted. Because of this, different themes may be drawn out of the same passage, giving rise to very different sermons from the very same portion of the Bible.

4.Any definition of expository preaching which is too narrow and excludes the style of such men as C. H. Spurgeon, who was probably the greatest ever preacher — just has to be wrong. To criticize CHS on these grounds and fail to hold his preaching up as a model worthy of emulation today is, in my view, inexcusable. (See for example this post on Pyromaniacs.)

5.Expository preaching is not without its dangers, one of the chief of which is sounding too much like a Bible commentary read aloud.

6.Preaching needs to skillfully draw modern people into the Bible, explain the text, induce wonder, then drive the point home with a clear sense of how the people need to think, feel, believe, and act differently here in the 21st century.

7.Preaching is entirely dependent on the supernatural and sovereign activity of the Spirit, who equips both preacher and hearers for what is an impossible task and makes the words of the Bible live in its hearers hearts. Preaching needs to be passionate, emotive (though not necessarily emotional), and bring about a holy moment of experiencing the presence and voice of God through His Word.

8.Preaching God’s Word is the primary way He has ordained for people to be saved, taught, equipped, matured, and encounter God. It is the hope of the church, and a restoration of true preaching has always accompanied true revival.

9.Our preaching should be targeted at and have something relevant for each of our different audiences — the unbelieving visitor, the backslidden, the new Christian, the mature Christian, and other church leaders in the congregation. But, ultimately we are accountable to an audience of One before whom we must give an account.

10.Given the impossibility of this task, is it any wonder we need to be devoted to the study of the Word and to prayer, expressing our utter uselessness and unworthiness to proclaim God’s Word? Surely we do well to conclude that we need the help of God in our preparation, personal lives, and delivery to make us instruments that He can use. When I read about preaching I do feel that we have barely scratched the surface, and that sadly a generation exists today that has mostly never heard preaching as it should be.

 
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Posted by on 08/07/2011 in church, ministry

 

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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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How to Help Your Pastor

Here’s some great practical info from John Catanzaro at The Resurgence:
  1. Understand. The first way to help your pastor is to develop understanding and sensitivity to the stress and demands of a pastor’s work.
  2. Pray. Secondly, pray for your pastor. A very active prayer ministry to support the pastors in their evangelical work is fundamental to the health of pastors and the church at large.
  3. Grow. Thirdly, mature in the faith. Grow and work to preserve the work of God in your sphere. Do not contribute to confusion, gossip and bitter attitudes. Get involved in action, service, and financial contribution, which are all vital to the health of the Christian mission of proclaiming Christ in your community and the world.
  4. Lead. Finally, faith in action is serving others above what you want in support of the ministry of the church. Don’t just get involved in ministry; actively work with the leadership to provide healthy momentum in ministry and to become a personal preacher of the ways of Christ!
 
 

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Leading or Serving

There is no paradox or contradiction:

shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – 1 Peter 5:1-5

The shepherd leads by choosing to serve, regardless of the reward, through a humble example to other members of God’s flock.

 
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Posted by on 22/06/2009 in church, ministry

 

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The undeserved privilege

Ligon Duncan on 1 Timothy 1:12

A true gospel minister is thankful for the undeserved privilege of serving Christ and His people, and Paul, as he reflects on the fact that he’s not only been saved, but he’s been called to be an apostle, a preacher of the unsearchable riches of Christ, he is staggered by the thought that God would have allowed him, of all people, to be someone who preaches the gospel, who cares for God’s people.

 
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Posted by on 21/06/2009 in ministry

 

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