When you step into ministry and into leadership, you paint a target upon your back. The only way to avoid criticism is to do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing, because for every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism. Here is a simple rule of thumb: if you are a leader, you will be criticized, Period.
Criticism hurts when it questions our motives. It has a way of striking you right in the heart. “It will never work, we’ve never done it that way before, and we’re doing fine without it.” Sound familiar? Understand this; as you become more effective in what you do, you become a bigger target for criticism. The danger of being criticized is that it can cause you to develop a wrong attitude and cause you to react with a wrong spirit toward the criticizer. Many aspects define your ministry and your leadership, however, one of the main ways your leadership will be defined is by how you respond to criticism.
A critic is one who points out how imperfectly other people do what the critic does not do at all! In the Gospel of Luke Chapter 7 Jesus is invited into the home of a Pharisee to sit down to meat. And behold, a woman, which was a sinner, brought an alabaster box of ointment and began to wash his feet with her tears, and wipe them with the hairs of her head, and anointed his feet with the perfume.
Immediately the Pharisee developed a critical spirit, and within himself questioned Jesus ministry. The problem in this situation was that it was the Pharisee’s responsibility to wash the feet of a guest, to kiss him, and to anoint his head with oil when he entered into his house.
This Pharisee criticized the woman for doing what he was supposed to do. How did Jesus respond? He forgave her sins. He never allowed the criticism to deter him from his destiny. He always fulfilled his purpose regardless of what “the crowd” said about him. He healed the sick, he raised the dead, and he preached the gospel regardless of criticism and false accusations. Jesus was willing to be misjudged, misrepresented and misunderstood to reach those that hungered and thirsted after righteousness.
How do you deal with criticism? Do you lash out? Do you defend yourself? Do you quit? If you respond with defensiveness, you become mean spirited, and if you return the criticism, you will start a verbal and spiritual war. St Augustine prayed, “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.” George Eliot said, “The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.” Your ministry will be a result of the choices that you make along the way. Your response to criticism will help determine your destiny.
Sometimes the best response to criticism is no response, at least not verbally. If you keep doing what God has ordained you to do he will validate your ministry. When you seek man’s validation you are simply looking for applause, and you are not committed to the cause. If the situation demands a response, always respond with Love.
The Right Response to Criticism – Stay Focused on the Positive Results: Remember your ministry and its impact is worth staying the course. Stay Focused on the Principles of Ministry: If you know the principles of God’s word, remember them well and never forget whom you represent and whom you truly belong to. Stay Focused on Your Purpose: Don’t lose sight of your purpose and the reason for your ministry. God did not call you to please people; He called you to please Him.
Jesus said to love your enemies, to bless them that curse you, to do good unto them that hate you, and to pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. Why? “That ye may be the children of your Father, which is in heaven.”
In the throes of struggling with a burning desire to increase the effectiveness of ministry where more souls are saved, where saints receive greater light and where they are better equipped to tackle the unique problems of our society, God has led me to seven principles in scripture that have literally revolutionized the results when I preach.
You must understand that God is more interested in a prepared vessel than in a prepared message. In God’s economy, the most important factor is the condition of one’s heart. Ministry is a matter of both the renewed spirit and the renewed mind, working together to produce God’s purpose.
Consistency of God
From the example of Benaniah’s (one of David’s mighty men) victory over the lion in a pit (his lowest) on a snowy day (his coldest), I discovered that you can be at your lowest or at your coldest and God will still give you the victory.
You must learn to master your emotions. Whether you feel high or low does not change the power of God to deliver His people. Faith is not a feeling; it is an acceptance of truth in the face of adverse circumstances. Whether you are on the mountain or in the valley or even in the pit – you will find repeatedly in scripture that God’s power proved to be equal to the task at hand.
This means you must learn to create your own atmosphere. You do this by having the right attitude about your crisis. Your motives have to be reexamined and you must align them with God’s values. When you determine that you will no longer preach just to do a good job but you will minister to help save someone else from the destructive jaws of the lion (even when you are having a bad day), you will not stop believing that God is able to deliver. This type of perseverance will pay off in the long run.
Everyone has their pits in life that contain roaring lions ready to devour their breakfast, their lunch, their dinner, and have them for dessert. Opposition to one’s ministry should be expected from both the human and demon world. As you know, both evil spirits and the flesh war against God’s purpose. Our God is consistent, He is faithful and you should never judge what God can do by how you feel emotionally, but by what you know the Bible says is true.
Joy In The Battle
Brother T. W. Barnes pointed his bony finger in my face one day and said, “Brian, you don’t enjoy the battle any more. You must make up in your mind that every morning when you wake up you will have to unsheathe your sword and prepare yourself for war for Satan will never give up.
He will never cease to try and take you down, and if you make it to heaven and walk through the pearly gates, listen carefully as they close behind you because you will hear the rat-tat-tat of the arrows as he makes his last ditch effort to stop you from realizing God’s perfect will. However, remember this, for every new level of power you achieve, you must also face a new set of devils more sophisticated than the last. Also, remember that the same thing that defeated him before will defeat him again and again. The same name, the same blood and the same word works over and over again.”
From Samson’s encounter with the lion on his way to Timnath when he refused to discuss the conflict with his father and mother, I learned that there are some battles you must learn how to fight in secret. Instead of discussing the battle, he decided to extract honey from the carcass of the lion and share that honey with his family.
You don’t have to reveal every battle with the Lion. Just remember to carry plenty of honey with you wherever you go. Learn to celebrate small victories. Learn to celebrate other peoples’ victories – even those you don’t like. That’s a tough one. However, it’s necessary if you are going to continue to grow in the Lord.
If you are going to preach and struggle with the disappointments that come with ministry, then please be sure to carry your honey with you, for it’s through the joy that we draw water from the well, and through joy that we gain strength to overcome.
Power Of Agreement
You don’t have to have a majority to have revival. “Where two agree touching any one thing, God will do it.” All you need is one other person besides yourself to create the proper atmosphere in a church service for effective ministry. One will put a thousand to flight, two shall put ten thousand to flight. That can be your wife, a prayer partner, the pastor, the evangelist or just someone in the congregation that possesses a kindred spirit. It doesn’t make any difference who it is as long as you connect.
I have heard preachers say, “When everyone starts worshipping the Lord and praying around here, we will have revival”. Consequently, they never experience consistent revival. At best, it is sporadic and seasonal. This gospel has a built in provision that it works in season and out of season. When you feel like it and when you don’t, when the atmosphere is right and when it isn’t, God can still work. Andrew and the little lad with his five loaves and two fishes created miracle territory when everyone else was distraught; at the Master’s command, “You give them something to eat.”
Notice they didn’t try to take their meal to the crowd – they gave their lunch to Jesus. Don’t ever try to give what you have to the crowd. It will never be enough. Always give it to Jesus and He will make it enough.
Power of Words
We have underestimated the power of words for too long. The scripture teaches us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. We eventually become exactly what we think and talk about the most.
If you do not have a faith buddy that you can talk to about your dreams, about the word and about faith, then you need to pray that God will connect you with someone who is not intimidated by your desire to do more.
It’s not always good to share your faith with someone who does not have similar goals. It can be counterproductive. You need to always be sure that you link up with people who will help challenge your faith and give you the inspiration you need to continue the journey until you achieve the promised victory.
Prayer and Praise are WORDS! Blessing & Agreement are WORDS. Notice that God wouldn’t allow Israel to say a single word the entire time they encircled Jericho. The reason for this unusual request can be easily understood when you look back on Israel’s history of murmuring and complaining. Forty years earlier, they allowed the 10 spies with an evil report to persuade them to speak against God’s promise. They slandered the land and thereby canceled their ticket to enter into God’s promise that flowed with milk and honey. Therefore, God made sure this time they wouldn’t even get the opportunity to talk their way out of the victory. He, in essence, told them to keep their mouths shut until they heard the ram’s horn and then shout for the Lord has given them the city.
I have never regretted a single word I have not spoken. Unfortunately, we all know how difficult it is to control your tongue. You must learn this early in your ministry. The earlier you gain the mastery of your tongue the easier your life is going to be. Watch how you speak to your wife, to your children and to the people you preach to.
It is said that 90% of all domestic fights are started not by just the words spoken, but by the tone of voice one uses in speaking. Don’t allow your frustrations to master your pulpit presentation. If you have a word from God, then speak it in a spirit of meekness so those who hear it will receive the grace to acknowledge the truth and experience true repentance. Always use your anointing for redemptive purposes and leave the vengeance to God.
Need For Setting Goals
Missionary Bruce Howell to El Salvador made a startling statement during a committee meeting where he was invited to speak. He said, “The only year the El Salvador church did not grow was the year they did not set goals.”
Someone once said, “Destiny cannot be realized without direction; direction cannot be determined without defining what’s important.” We must discover what our focus will be as we move toward the turn of the century and the beginning of a new millennium. What we emphasize and reward will be what we will become.
Our focus must be on evangelism. A sense of destiny can only be developed as we turn outward to the world to change them into what we are. Focus can mean the difference between success and failure – it is the sign of determination and perseverance. People become what they think of themselves.
It is paramount that we affect our generation and define their values from a spiritual perspective, but first, our direction must be determined. Oftentimes we attempt to change others before we ourselves are changed. Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Although Gandhi wasn’t a Christian, he did understand the fundamental principle needed to make a positive impact on the world around him. No other law governs ministry and its effect any more than this one does. One must become the example they anticipate in others. Direction is absolutely vital to your success in God’s kingdom.
You must do more than just use the methods you see that are working for other people. You must also understand the principle behind the method. “Methods always change but principles never do” (Wiersbe). Dream big dreams, set goals for your ministry of what you want the Lord to do for you because He can do it all.
God Rejoices In Relationship
“I AM THAT I AM,” is a term referring to the redemptive name of God, “Jehovah.” God revealed this name to Moses in order to empower him to deliver His people Israel from Egyptian bondage. It was in the authority of this new revelation that Moses was able to demand of Pharaoh the release of God’s people. Unfortunately, the name meant nothing to Pharaoh at the time. Not until the plagues and miracles were performed in that name was he convinced that there might be a little more to this God than he had originally thought. When the release of the Israelites was demanded by Moses, Pharaoh asked the question, who is the Lord that I should obey him? That was the wrong thing to say. Now God proved by the power of the use of his new name that Israel would be delivered and that meant bad news for the Egyptians.
Note that Moses was the first to receive this redemptive name. It clearly states this truth in Exodus 6:3. The name was a new revelation. But then God surprised Moses with his use of the word, “moreover.” “Better yet” or “more importantly”, “Tell them that I am the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
In essence, God was telling Moses that He would rather be known as the God of those with whom He had a relationship. These three men built a relationship with God so special that He was not at all hesitant to be named as their God.
A special covenant relationship involves commitment. Commitment is important.
These three men illustrate the principles and testimonies that God desires to be identified with. God’s ultimate purpose is to bring men and women into fellowship with Himself, a daily walk that is established similar to what Adam and Eve experienced in the cool of the evening. It is a fact that every major character in both the Old and New Testaments who has ever been used of God has employed these attributes. To be sure, these principles are most prevalent in the life of Jesus Christ who is the supreme role model for all Christian behavior.
Isn’t it ironic that in the daily walk of Christ as seen in the report of the gospels He accomplishes everything God ever asked of any Old Testament character? It’s no surprise to the people who know Him as Lord and Savior.
In Deuteronomy 6:23 Moses told the people that God’s purpose for deliverance from Egypt was, he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers. We have already covered what it takes to be delivered from sin. Now what does it take to get into God’s purpose?
First, we must learn that before we can experience the glory of God, we must learn the ways of God. God has a plan for our lives but He also has a certain path we must take in order to see it. I learned this truth from Ephesians 1:8, Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence. Wisdom is the eternal purpose of God and prudence is the daily discipline or knowledge that must be applied to your life if the eternal purpose is going to be realized.
Moses, as a leader, was given greater insight into how God did things than the Israelites. He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel (Psalm 103:7). Therefore, our prayer should be the prayer of the Psalmist David in Psalms 25:4, Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. When we learn the ways of God, the natural result will be the conversion of sinners.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Now we will learn how to step into God’s purpose and walk in harmony and in relationship with Him.
We must learn from Abraham. He was the father of the faithful and a friend of God. This is where we begin our journey into the life that God wants to give us. No one can walk together except they agree. Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3).
It was Abraham who believed God. His faith was strong enough to conquer great enemies. His faith was great enough that he left this testimony, that God is someone you can build your whole life around. Daily devotion can help bring you into agreement with God’s word and plans for your life. Israel was commanded to listen to the Bible read every 7 years. The King was to read through the law every year. We need to proceed further into this journey. Isaac became a willing sacrifice. We must learn to get together. Agreement cannot happen unless there is an open line of communication. Joy cannot happen unless there is willingness. We must go to church and learn to give our encouragement.
Jacob reveals the necessity of desire. This is when you learn to live for God, not based on your feelings, but on your will. Even though Jacob had failures and faults, it did not disqualify him from having a covenant relationship with his God. Jacob illustrates the power of learning to wait on God. He took his spiritual passion and focused his prayer until he prevailed over the angel. He learned how to seek the face of God and determine his place and ministry in the kingdom. God dances over people who seek to know Him as Father.
Attitude & Perspective are Everything
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say, or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home.
The remarkable thing is, we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will react in a certain way; we cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the one thing we do have and that’s our attitude. I am convinced that it is 10% what happens to me and 90% how you react to it. And so it is with you – We are in charge of our attitude” (Swindoll).
One of the greatest aspects of Jesus’ mission was the training of the Twelve. He selected them, then trained them and sent them out. He prepared them to succeed and to accomplish His work; He included them in His PLAN.
The record of the four evangelists declares that Jesus was meticulous about how much time he spent with the three disciples he chose as His inner circle. They were allowed the privilege of becoming the fishers of men, which Jesus had promised them when they left the fishing industry to follow Him.
The gospels are clear as to His intention – to give them authority to operate on His behalf. He gave them the same ministry. Jesus was not interested in producing managers of His business. He was hungry to reproduce Himself in others.
It is definitely hard work, fraught with disappointment but it yields the only fruit worth producing. Seeing Jesus formed in the life of another human being is a reward in and of itself. From His example we can glean four important principles.
1. Leadership is the mission. Jesus poured himself into 12 men with the intention that they would carry on his mission after he was gone. He did not have a back-up plan.
2. Learn to be patient. Patience most of the time does not come naturally. Developing leaders is hard work and a difficult process of growth. If we allow them time to grow they will become much more than they are now.
3. Understand that they will make mistakes. If you develop a growth mentality and you work with them to correct those mistakes they will learn from them and become better.
4. Give trust. Trust is a gift that you give them during the training process. God called them, you are training them; now trust them. It will do wonders for their confidence and for their growth.
Disciples are made and not born. We, as leaders, have a responsibility to train the next generation of Joshua’s to help carry on this great heritage. Jack Welch stated, “Before you’re a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”