Over the last many weeks we have been celebrating all that God has been doing among us and the growth God has been stirring in a variety of ways. The tempting thought is to think “we are healthy, we are stable, we are growing… everything is ok.” But as we have been sharing, we also recognize that growth brings its own set of challenges. We have been using Carey Nieuwhof’s article “7 Things That Get Harder As Your Church Grows (check out https://careynieuwhof.com/7-things-that-get-harder-as-your-church-grows/ if you want to see the entire article) as a guide to examining these growth challenges.
This week we are looking at an issue that simply “comes with the territory.” It really does not matter if your church (or any organization for that matter) is small, medium, or large—-doing well or doing poorly—this issue is somehow always present. And that is the issue of those with a critical spirit. Criticism is going to come simply because we are human. If the church is small people complain it needs more people and needs to be larger. If the church is large people complain it is not intimate enough to know everyone. Criticism comes because the church is made up of human beings, no matter what size church you have!
As Nieuwhof comments:
Growth attracts critics. It just always does.
So how do you process the criticism?
The best way to process what critics have to say is to understand why they say it.
First, take whatever good there might in what they said and reflect on it. You’re not perfect (none of us are!). You can learn and develop from it.
But then process why the critics are often so mean-spirited.
What usually fuels a critics’ animosity toward success and growth? Three things:
1) Jealousy 2) A need to justify their own lack of progress 3) Sin
Once you understand that a critic’s arguments are often less about you than they are about them, you’re free to show compassion and even concern for them.
Criticism is not unique to church growth. We all face it… every day. But as people of God and believers in Jesus Christ, may we learn to deal with it in a healthy way. This is one more we way we can live a counter-cultural, transformed life… by learning to offer compassion and concern rather than criticism.
First Church I have appreciated your incredibly gracious spirit as we grow together. Thank you for seeking to love Jesus even more than your own personal preferences! What a joy to serve with you.