Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Why You Should Criticize Your Pastor

Jared Wilson is refreshing.  This past month has been Pastor Appreciation Month.  Usually what most pastors get is criticism, often times unrealistic expectations one has with their shepherd.   Here is some sage advice on how to criticize your shepherd and when not to criticize your shepherd!

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.  James 3:1

No, your church leaders are not above criticism. Sometimes they deserve it and need it. Here are some reasons you should criticize your pastor(s):
1. They don’t preach the gospel.
As in, they actually don’t preach Christ’s finished work. Not that they don’t emphasize the points you would or they don’t present the gospel the way you prefer or they don’t give an altar call or they miss this angle of the good news or that one or they don’t preach like Carson or Keller or Piper or Chandler — but that they actually don’t preach the gospel.
(Titus 1:9Galatians 2:11-14)
2. They are regularly engaging in sins or unhealthy habits that would disqualify them from the office.
He’s cheating on his wife or engaging in other sexual immorality. He’s a drunk. He has no self-control. His reputation in the community is terrible. He’s inhospitable. He doesn’t know how to teach. He’s violent. He’s domineering or emotionally, verbally, or otherwise psychologically abusive. He’s argumentative. He’s greedy. He doesn’t take care of his wife and kids. He got saved recently. He does not submit to his authorities. He’s arrogant. He’s undisciplined or lazy. He doesn’t rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine, won’t correct heresy or protect the flock from wolves. He himself teaches doctrine in contradiction to the tenets of the historic Christian faith.
(1 Timothy 3:1-7Titus 1:5-91 Peter 5:1-8)
Well, that’s pretty much it. But that’s a lot and can be applied in a variety of ways.
Now, just because you are allowed to criticize your pastor doesn’t mean you are allowed to do it any way that seems right to you. So when criticism is merited, how should you criticize your pastor?
1. Gently.
2. Personally and privately, first. If necessary, personally and with witnesses, second.
3. Humbly.
4. Respectfully.
5. Graciously and lovingly.
And it bears mentioning that there are ways to have conversations with your pastor that sharpen him and encourage him toward improvements of various sorts without criticizing him. And there are ways to make suggestions without criticizing or complaining (but be sure you’re actually doing that, not being passive aggressive).
And it bears going the other way, too. Why should you not criticize your pastor?
1. He just kind of annoys you.
2. He’s not your best friend. (Or, for the ladies, his wife isn’t yours.)
3. He knows how to teach but he’s not as dynamic or animated or interesting as you’d prefer.
4. He makes decisions that aren’t the result of sin or unhealthy habits but are simply decisions that you wouldn’t make if you were in his shoes.
5. You think every critical thought needs to be expressed or that being the “loyal opposition” or “devil’s advocate” is normal.
6. You don’t understand something he’s done or said. (This would be cause to ask questions, not lodge complaints.)
7. He’s not ____________ enough. (See: political, creative, extroverted, entrepreneurial, rich, poor, outdoorsy, indoorsy, scholarly, etc.)
8. A bunch of other stuff the Bible doesn’t condemn or forbid.
This may all seem a little burdensome when you feel like you ought to be able to say whatever you feel however you feel whenever you feel it. But your pastor bears similar burdens. Keep in mind that he likely has multiple people with “helpful suggestions” speaking to him every week. Measure your thoughts out appropriately, choose the right hills to die on, and pray for your pastor. He needs it.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
– Hebrews 13:17
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
– Galatians 6:1-2

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