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preaching article When People Criticize Your Preaching

When People Criticize Your Preaching

based on 2 ratings
Feb 19, 2016
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Preaching is bittersweet.  On the one hand we get the privilege or communicating the timeless truths of God.  We have the incredible privilege and high calling of representing God to our congregation.  But on the other hand we are vulnerable and exposed in our preaching.  Every week every pastor is put under the microscope and scrutinized.  Is he (or she) interesting, doctrinally sound, funny, long-winded, practical, deep, relevant?  And what makes this doubly challenging is that our people can go online every week and listen to the uber-gifted communicators.  
Every week as a pastor you feel the pressure to “bring it”.  I remember walking out on the platform to preach recently and a church staff member kiddingly said “just don’t stink”.  I know he was kidding, but that is a pressure I often feel when I preach.
What takes the scrutiny to another level of intensity is when the scrutiny turns into criticism. I know what it is like to have someone on their way out of church challenge what I just said in my sermon.  I know what it is like to open my e-mail and find a caustic note from a disgruntled church member.  It just comes with the territory.  But what do you do when someone criticizes your preaching?
Maybe there are a few pastors who are healthy enough to just blow it off.  But I think most of us have enough people-pleasing in us that the criticism grinds on us.
Someone once said that 
Compliments are written in the sand and 
criticism is written in wet cement
That statement captures really well how criticism has affected me through the years.  So, let me give you 4 steps you can take to handle criticism in a healthy way.
1. Listen for the nugget truth that you need to hear.
This assumes that you have the mindset of a learner.  No matter how long you’ve been preaching and leading, there are still things you can learn and areas where you need to grow.
Sometimes in a harsh e-mail or in the words of a frustrated congregant, there is something I need to hear.  So, rather than reacting or becoming defensive, I try to ask “what is it I need to hear in their criticism?”
But I would also say to you… “don’t own more than you need to”.  Listen for the nugget you might need to hear, but then discard the rest like last week’s trash.  I know, that’s way easier said than done.  The truth is, some people are just angry, crotchety, mean-spirited and don’t deserve to hijack my week.  
2. Remind yourself of your identity.
When I am emotionally healthy, I am anchored in the unconditional and unchanging love of God for me.  And I don’t find my worth in what someone thinks of last week’s sermon.
Criticism stirs our insecurities and brings to the surface feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.  When someone criticizes me, it is like they hand me a magnifying glass with their criticism.  And, I take their criticism and blow it out of proportion.
The lie I have often believed is that my worth is tied to what people think of me or think of my preaching.  In those moments when I start down the path of self-condemnation, I try to be self-aware enough to change my self-talk.  I start reminding myself that I am a beloved child of God.  I remind myself that there is no condemnation in Christ.  I remind myself that God delights in me completely apart from my performance.  
3. Remember who you serve
I have found it very helpful to remind myself that my calling doesn’t come from that person and at the end of the day I don’t live to please them.
One day a journalist asked a very insightful question of a woman who played in the Boston Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra.  The journalist asked “How does it feel to get a standing ovation from the crowd and then the next morning, get a negative review in the newspaper?”  She said that over time she had learned not to listen to the applause or the critics.  She only looked to the conductor for his approval.  He was the only person who really knew how she was supposed to perform.
So, when it comes to your preaching, don’t pay too much attention to the compliments or the complaints.  Just look to the conductor.
4.  Extend grace to yourself
I have found that many of us as pastors have two different theologies.  We have one for everybody else in the world and one for us.  All the time as pastors we extend grace to imperfect people.  Why not do the same for yourself?
So, even if their criticism was completely founded and your sermon was a complete dud (I’ve preached a few of those)… let me remind you, it’s just a sermon.  Your identity and your significance and the worth of your ministry are not tied to a 30 minute message.  
This week when you stand to preach, do so unapologetically.  Accurately teach the truth of Scripture. Preach with authority and boldness.  And, when you are done, keep your eyes on the conductor.

Lance is the founder of Replenish ministries and is often referred to as a Pastor’s Pastor.  He is also the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live and lead from a healthy soul.  Before launching Replenish, Lance served 20 years as a senior pastor and 6 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. 

Talk about it...

Juanita Thomas  avatar
Juanita Thomas
0 days ago
Good Stuff!
Rocky Racoma avatar
Rocky Racoma
0 days ago
Thank you pastor Lance: I really needed this encouragement. Being a pastor for an Internationsl church at times I get people saying comments that make feel incompetent. I knoe I preach the truth according to Timothy and I know All my sermons are inspired by Him. God Bless,
Ronald  Babel avatar
Ronald Babel
0 days ago
I also want to say thank you pastor Lance. It is very easy to get puffed up with compliments and that makes it even harder to handle critics. Thank you for reminding us to look up to the conductor. Blessings in your ministry. ,
Veron Cain avatar
Veron Cain
0 days ago
Thank you Pastor Witt, I so needed this I'm a newly ordained pastor and just standing to face the congregation gets intimidating, the looking. Pastor thank you for your words of wisdom.
Tina Kay avatar
Tina Kay
0 days ago
Thank you Pastor Lance. Will now start looking up to what the 'conductor' says. God bless.
Dave Tredway avatar
Dave Tredway
0 days ago
Lawrence Dejo Olesin avatar
Lawrence Dejo Olesin
0 days ago
Thank you very much Pastor, I am blessed by this message. God bless you, more anointing to you in Jesus name.
Cameron Madsen avatar
Cameron Madsen
0 days ago
Thank you Lance for the post, loved all 4 points. Number three reminded me of the hymn, "I serve a risen Savour". Wonderful!
Rosemberg Nascimento avatar
Rosemberg Nascimento
0 days ago
Thanks pastor Lance! I was needing this encouragement. I am Brazilian pastor. Sometimes think in give up. Help me!
Ted Martens avatar
Ted Martens
0 days ago
The criticisms of preaching today are probably more accurate than most would like to face.
Mike Brenneman avatar
Mike Brenneman
0 days ago
Lance, you put preaching in its proper perspective. Its easy to lose sight and to despair. Yes, preaching the truth is highly valuable, but rarely will everyone always like our sermons or always be kind. May God open my heart to the criticisms I need to hear and help me to respond appropriately. Perhaps our responses give us an opportunity to glorify God by being humble and receptive to others thoughts. Blessings to you!
Nelly Taffur avatar
Nelly Taffur
0 days ago
Muy Bueno! Realmente es bueno saber que muchos de nosotros pasamos por el sabor amargo del criticismo a la predicacion, pero los 4 puntos realmente me ayudaron a no dejarme llevar por lo que un congregante frustrado como comienza diciendo, me dane cuando le estamos sirviendo a Dios con todo nuestro corazon! Bendiciones pr. Lance
Robert Mcclinton avatar
Robert Mcclinton
0 days ago
This is great stuff, thank you for an encouraging word.
Steven Nash avatar
Steven Nash
0 days ago
I recently have received some criticism from one individual about my preaching in general (which is even more painful than being guilty of an occasional poor message!). God gave me the grace to look for the "nugget of truth" in the criticism and I really needed to face how prideful I had become about my preaching. I needed to realize that I wasn't as good as I thought, which has really helped me to realize that His strength is made perfect in my weakness.
Steven Javed avatar
Steven Javed
0 days ago
It is to hear complicated things is simple words, very helpful insight. Thanks.
Lonnie Bennett Jr.  avatar
Lonnie Bennett Jr.
0 days ago
Good Stuff that we all as pro-claimers of the Gospel can use and grow with because we all have or will encounter this during our missions work, God bless you all.
Lonnie Bennett Jr.  avatar
Lonnie Bennett Jr.
0 days ago
God Stuff each of us Preachers can use because either we have already experienced this situation or will encounter it, thanks and God Bless

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