While giving his first sermon, a young preacher mentioned that Jesus’ blood was spilled on the ground at His crucifixion. Following the message an older seasoned saint standing near the rear of the auditorium, with a large Bible under his arm, tersely spoke to the emerging theologian, “I would have you know that Jesus’ blood was shed not spilled to the ground. It was no accident!” The young preacher was taken back by the response, but after a few days of study came to understand that his critic, though abrupt, was correct. Jesus blood was not accidentally spilled to the ground, but purposely shed for every lost soul.
Critics can and do play an important part in our lives. Every man must recognize the importance of being accountable to someone. A man who is never accountable will likely make mistakes that will harm the cause of Christ. As children we were accountable to our parents. In school we were accountable to our teachers. At work men and women are accountable to their employers. But, preachers like to make themselves accountable to no one. We too must recognize the importance of being accountable and accept criticism when it is in order. “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end” (Proverbs 19:20).
I have heard preachers remark to their congregations, “No one tells me what to preach.” Every man of God should preach the Word based on the leading of the Holy Spirit, but we also must remember that we are to be held accountable for our messages. What if we mistakenly say that Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit growing on the tree of life? Following the service our wife says, “Honey, Adam and Eve’s sin was eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, not the tree of life.” Periodically every preacher misspeaks and says things that he never intended to say, but thank God for a wife who can help him from repeating the same mistake.
Occasionally a member may point out that our interpretation of a passage is not accurate. What should a preacher do, defend the indefensible? No. We should humbly realize we are clay and thank God we have members who love the Word of God and are willing to help us and to do it in the right spirit. Perhaps you have an idea that involves spending a lot of the church’s money and the deacons or trustees are not as excited about it? What should you do? You should thank God you have men who may spare you from a serious mistake. Thank God for our critics who sharpen our theology, our plans, and our vision. These souls serve an important mission in our churches.
Our critics may not always come to us in the right spirit, but we should always listen and learn from their criticism. We must either reject criticism or realize that our critics are right. A man’s critics will help him grow and become stronger. If we ignore our critics, we will likely repeat our mistakes again and again. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise” (Proverbs 12:15).
A young man who is new to the ministry may already have feelings of inadequacy, but he must fight the urge to always defend himself as being right. A humble man will soon command more respect as a leader, because people know he is committed to truth more than to his own ego. A wise man will seek the counsel of the wise. Every critic is not wise, but some of them are wise and it is our responsibility to find those who can give us constructive criticism before we face those who may give us criticism that is intended to hurt the work of God.
“Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel” (Proverbs 27:9).
Every young man who starts a new church should make himself accountable to another church and its pastor by allowing them to guide the early decisions of the church. The young men who follow this advice are the ones who are the most successful. Why? They have gained the wisdom and constructive criticism of men with experience. Any man who truly makes himself accountable will have to change some of his poorly planned ideas.
Remember in the early church that the prophets were subject to the prophets. If they said anything in error the other prophets were to point out this error. In a sense every church should work in this manner. No one is above scrutiny. Our critics can be our best resource for personal growth and maturity. Thank God for critics! Not one of us wants to listen to our critics, but they may become our greatest allies.