A few weeks ago someone pointed me to a blog that is built upon the premise of tearing down fellow Christians. The entire website seemed dedicated to the proposition of disparaging and destroying people who love God and Christian institutions. You would think this type of thing would be produced by an unbeliever who merely misunderstands Christianity. However, you’d be wrong. The creator of the website and blog claims to be a fellow Christian.
The site made me angry because I personally know some of the people that are being criticized and condemned. I immediately pulled up a word document and began a counterattack. The sarcastic jabs, the backhanded complements, and the accusations of hypocrisy were flowing from my mind and into my critique of their critique. I had been bit! The virus of a critical spirit had jumped right into my bloodstream and I was transforming into a critical person.
I believe a critical spirit is contagious. (I will be writing about this topic in a later blog) This is why we as church leaders need to be extremely careful to guard our hearts in this area. I have made the decision to never again criticize another church leader. Here are my reasons:
1. We’re On the Same Team
If you view Christianity in terms of networks, tribes and denominations then you will likely not agree with this point. Let me be clear. I stand with Christ. All those who stand with Christ, stand with me. Why would I fight, discourage and criticize those who are on my team? I don’t care what denominational name you prefer. I don’t care what tribe you associate with. It matters not what college you graduated from. You could be so conservative that you have a horse and buggy and that horse is a registered gun owner. You could be so progressive that even your dog has a tattoo. Either way, I’m for you not against you.
I believe the inerrant Scriptures teach that the virgin born Jesus Christ, who performed many historical miracles, sacrificed His life upon the cross as the only atonement for sin and rose from the grave in three days. These are the things that are important to me. If you’re on board with these things, I’m on board with you. (Mark 9:38-40)
2. People Follow Our Example
Pastors and other Christian leaders often wonder why so many of their people are so very critical and divisive. It may be that they are simply following our example. If people are used to hearing their pastor tear down another church or another pastor does it not stand to reason that the people will in turn criticize fellow Christians. Many pastors have reaped the whirlwind of a critical spirit as they battle angry member after member. Many parents have seen their critical spirit mirrored back as they look into the eyes of their children. Where did these fine people learn to be so critical of spiritual authority? (I Tim. 4:12)
3. I Don’t Know the Whole Story
We assume we know. We pretend we know. We don’t really know. Years ago Heather and I visited a famous church in So. California. I went into the service skeptical because he didn’t really fit my favorite brand of Christianity. He preached the entire service without walking through the “Roman’s Road.” I walked out of that church convinced that he was not a gospel preacher. I told others. “I’ve been there. He doesn’t even give the gospel.” Now that I’ve been pastoring for nine years I wonder how many sermons I have preached without giving the gospel in the way I expected him to do those many years ago. We judge actions, but we also judge motives. “Oh, I know why they did that. They did that merely to get more people. All they care about is numbers.” Or, “Oh, I know why they did that. All they want to do is control people. All they care about is power.” Or, “Oh, they’re such legalists. They only have those standards to make others feel inadequate or unspiritual.” As if we have the ability or the right to enter the heart and judge another. Here is the truth. If it’s not your ministry, you don’t know the whole story. Leave them alone and go do something for God.
4. I’m Not The Master
One of the greatest things about the book of Romans is chapter fourteen. Romans 14:4 says, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth.” Let God be God and you be you. If there is a pastor that is leading others from truth, God will deal with it. If there is an institution that being spiritually abusive, they will answer to God. God gives us this commandment to save us from our own skewed perspectives. Just because you think a place is evil or a preacher is false does not mean God does. Every person in ministry has fans and foes. If your foes, knowing the depths of your incompetence and wickedness, were able to silence you – they would. However, you don’t answer to them, you answer to God. Isn’t it nice to know that you don’t have to be the Christian world’s policeman?
5. It Leaves You Sad & Empty
Negativity drains you! Some of the saddest people I come across are those who are critical of everything. Sadly these dear ones are more critical of themselves than of anyone else. Yes they see the faults in others but they also see their own. Glaring at them, these faults seem all too bright. The only way to get the attention off of themselves is to point out the problems of others. This works temporarily. They are able to find others who are discouraged and obsessed with their own perceived inadequacies and refocus their sadness upon a common enemy. They have forgotten that they are absolutely loved by a gracious heavenly father and accepted in His sight. God holds no ill will toward them or those they despise.
I’m not perfect and I have a lot that can be justly criticized. I’m not afraid of a good critique. It’s through such criticism that I have grown and seen the incremental progress that I have seen in my spiritual walk. What I am afraid of is becoming a critical person who is not known for what I have accomplished but what I have criticized.
How have you seen the spirit of Criticism effect your heart? Do you struggle with this as I do? Have you seen a Critical Spirit hurt a Christian Leader or Christian Ministry?