Can a to-do list make you a better preacher?

The most effective preachers and teachers have an ability to make the profound simple.

But how?

Tony Schwartz says that such “deceptive simplicity” is the result of:

  • Rigorous thinking
  • Skillful synthesizing
  • A commitment to clarity

And Schwartz persuasively argues that one of the keys to achieving this is a to-do list.

If that doesn’t entice you to click through, then try this:

To manage the storm around us, we need to quiet the storm inside ourselves. By doing that effectively, we can devote more attention to whatever we decide matters most.

4 ways to benefit from criticism

So, you’ve prepared for the criticism, you’ve distinguished the nature of the critic and their criticism, but now you have to respond. Will you be gored, injured, or with a flourish of your cape will you let the bull pass by and learn from the experience? How you deal with criticism will determine the whole course of your ministry.

Four steps to avoid
Reject: without a moment’s thought you simply dismiss the criticism, minimize it, and move on

Retaliate: again, often without even a pause, you attack the attacker or criticize the critic

Resent: while you may seem to accept what was said, you inwardly seethe and bitterly brood

Resign: you just give in, give up and run away

Four steps to follow
1. Receive the criticism
Whether it comes in verbal or written form, the first thing to do is pray for grace to listen to what is being said. If the person is in front of you, pray inwardly, look them in the eye, project calm, avoid hostile body language or facial expressions, and ask for time to think and pray about what is being said.

You may want to clarify the complaint by re-stating or re-phrasing it just to make sure you both understand the problem. Give a rough idea of when you plan to respond (within a week, say), and ask him/her what action they would like to see in response to their complaint.

End by thanking the person for coming to you in person and pray together. In your prayer set the specific complaint in the context of a wider relationship and experience of the Lord’s blessing.

2. Reflect on the criticism
Questions to prayerfully ask include:

  • Is it true? Is it even slightly true? Try to find the grain of truth in it if you can.
  • Is it proportionate? Is this making a mountain out of a molehill? Is it in the context of previous appropriate appreciation for the pastor?  Does the criticism extend beyond one sermon/incident? Is it balanced in its expression or does it become hostile and exaggerated?
  • Who is making the criticism? If it is a godly and faithful Christian, then you will pay much more
attention to it than to someone who is not professing to be a
Christian. If a particular Christian has an imbalanced theology or
some particular “theological hobby horse” then this too should be
taken into account when weighing the criticism’s validity.
  • Is there something else behind the criticism? Could there be stress or trouble at home or at work?
  • How many times have you heard this criticism? If it is coming from a number of independent sources, then it is time to sit up and take close note.

Sometimes it might be worth seeking advice, getting a second opinion from a trusted elder, fellow pastor, or friend, someone a bit more objective than yourself. Maybe also ask them to hold you to account as you respond to the person and relate to them in the future.

3. Respond to the Criticism
In your response, try to think of building a long-term relationship. It is easy to win a short-term victory but lose a long-term opportunity to do a person spiritual good.

If at all possible, meet in person rather than respond by email or telephone. Pray together then calmly explain what aspects of the criticism you accept (for which you thank him), and what you don’t. If you have admitted that you were wrong, explain how you plan to apologize to offended parties and put things right. In very extreme circumstances it may be appropriate to offer your resignation. Ask if your response is satisfactory. Close with prayer, asking the Lord to bless your relationship, not let the devil in, and grow in mutual love and respect. 

4. Repent of your error/sin
When a matador is injured, he will review film of the incident, learn from his mistake, and put things right for the future. Likewise the pastor should respond not just by accepting he said or did something wrong, but also by putting things right for the future. Repentance does not just include sorrow for sin, but turning from it to new obedience in dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

Cross Reference: Called Wonderful

Here's the eighth in our preview series of ten films on the Old Testament appearances of Christ in the Old Testament. This week we look at Christ's appearance to Samson's parents in Judges 13.

The first two videos will be permanently available online. (Episode 1, Episode 2). The remaining episodes will be released once a week for the next seven  weeks. Each of them will be available for online viewing for seven days.

DVD, HD download, and Study Guide available now from HeadHeartHand Media. DVD and Study Guide also available from Ligonier, and RHB.

CK2:11 What I’ve learned through my illness

Download here.

In our first podcast since my health problems, Tim and I talk about the massive lessons the Lord has begun to teach me through these tumultuous weeks.

If you want to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. You will always be able to find the most recent episode here on the blog. If you would like to subscribe via iTunes, you can do that here or if you want to subscribe with another audio player, you can try this RSS link.

In the pastoral bullring

Just as the matador prepares for the bullring, so the pastor must prepare for criticism. But the matador also has to distinguish between different bulls. He observes them from a distance and close up. He sees how they interact with other bulls and how they react to other matadors. He analyzes their character and anticipates their attacks. Some bulls are very aggressive and determined to kill, others treat it like more of a game, while still others treat the matador with the utmost respect. The matador’s strategy will be determined by the nature of the bulls and the nature of their “attacks.”

Likewise the pastor has to carefully distinguish between different kinds of critics and different elements of their criticism.

  • Invited criticism: Scheduled or regular evaluation and review by one or more people in one or more area of ministry
  • Uninvited criticism: Regular or one-off by people whose opinion you did not ask for
  • Justified criticism: Accurate reflection of the truth
  • Unjustified criticism: Inaccurate, false, untrue, imbalanced
  • Constructive criticism: For my good and to help me to become better at what I do
  • Destructive criticism: To discourage, damage, dishearten, demoralize, and diminish me
  • Sensitive criticism: Expressed with love, wisdom, balance
  • Insensitive criticism: Insensitive tone, content, situation
  • Backstabbing criticism: Cowardly undermining of you and your ministry in your absence (although probably intended to get back to you via “carriers”)

If you have prepared for the criticism and analyzed its various elements, you are then in a position to respond. Click back tomorrow for that.