How does a pastor face criticism from his people?

A helpful way to understand some of the pressures of pastoral ministry is the term “mudslinging.”  This is referring to what can be a consistent flow of harsh words, corrections, and criticisms towards the pastor and his decisions.  When there is mud slung, there is the one that slings the mud and there is the one who now has mud on his face as a result.  How does a pastor deal with not just the mud that is now on his face, but the one who threw the mud?  This could be the topic of many posts in the future.  For now, I would like to leave you with a simple word from the Valley of Vision I read this week.  It did not have pastors in view, but all Christians and how God would seem to want each of us to respond when corrected.  No doubt, it hits the mark in how we as pastors should begin to humbly process what can be an avalanche of criticism.  Pastors, read and consider its application in the criticisms of your life and ministry you face and be helped:

Teach me how to take reproofs from friends,
even though I think I do not deserve them;
Use them to make me tenderly afraid of sin,
more jealous over myself,
more concerned to keep heart and life unblameable;
Cause them to help me reflect on my want of spirituality,
to abhor myself,
to look upon myself as unworthy,
and make them beneficial to my soul.
May all thy people know how little, mean, and vile I am,
that they may see I am nothing,
less than nothing,
to be accounted nothing,
that so they may pray for me aright,
and have not the least dependence upon me…
My God use whatever harsh, painful words might be spoken to us this week to make us tenderly afraid of sin and more concerned to live a blameless life, all the while looking to the cross where Jesus Christ alone is our redemption, sanctification, and righteousness.
Posted in Oversight of Souls, The Pastor's Soul
2 comments on “How does a pastor face criticism from his people?
  1. “May all thy people know how little, mean, and vile I am,
    that they may see I am nothing…”

    Wow. Powerful words. I’ve always appreciated the very practical nature of your blog, Bro. Croft, and have been helped in many ways. This touches on what is, in my opinion, one of the most deadly of temptations facing pastors: the need for man’s approval. Or, to put it in your words, the fear of walking around with mud on one’s face!

    I’ve found that a verse like Prov. 26.2 can be helpful in reminding me baseless criticism won’t be listened to for long. On the other hand, if I understand what you’re saying, even if criticism is groundless, we may receive it as from God’s hand to continue our sanctification even if it only means we face – once again – our proud tendency to defend our own opinions of ourselves. If we’re humble enough to know our real defects, the petty personal attacks that come from our enemies shouldn’t count for much. Even though, too often, they do. Perhaps you might write a post about what happens when a pastor finds he cannot sincerely pray the words you have quoted above.

  2. Gabriel says:

    I’ve been profoundly helped by this message on “Persevering in the Face of Criticism” by Dr. Joel Beeke:

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