There’s one way for a matador to avoid confrontations with bulls, and that’s never to get into the ring!
There’s only one way to avoid criticism in the ministry, and that’s never to become a minister!
But that’s not just true of the ministry. That’s true of all walks of life – sport, politics, entertainment, business, etc. You will never achieve anything in any walk of life if you are unwilling to receive criticism or are easily defeated by it. John Wesley once questioned in his journal if he was truly right with God since had had received no criticism for an entire day!
So, if criticism is inevitable, can we prepare for it? Yes we can. Just as no matador steps into the ring without thorough preparation, so the pastor should also prepare – spiritually and physically – for the inevitable “charge.”
1. Walk humbly with God. Pride comes before a fall. If we are over-confident or self-confident, we are going to stumble, make some big mistakes, and receive just criticism. Seek a deep sense of your own spiritual vulnerability. Pray to be kept from sin and foolishness. You will be criticized even if you never sin or do anything foolish (remember Jesus!). However, you will be criticized even more if you do. So why give extra ammo?
2. Develop and deepen love for your critics. Matadors may not love bulls, and in fact usually end up killing them. However, the pastor must love his “bulls” to life, even though they are maybe trying to gore him to “death.” You will eventually realize that there are a few people in your congregation who are going to criticize you no matter what you say or do. Instead of developing resentment and bitterness towards such people, ask God to give you a Christ-like love for them. It may give you an insight into how “hard” it was for Christ to love you!
3. Practice tongue-control. Ideally you will work at a deeper heart-level in quelling and quenching anger that leads to bad-tempered retaliation. However, in the meantime, practice simply saying little or nothing in response to criticism. Perhaps think of a stock phrase to use like: “Thank you for taking the time to speak to me about that. Please give me some time to prayerfully think about what you said, and let me get back to you on it.” I’ve never regretted saying that. I’ve often regretted saying anything else.
4. Get enough sleep. The matador’s preparation involves the mental, the emotional, and even the spiritual at some levels. However, he must also prepare physically if he is to be sharp and agile in his art. Likewise, the pastor has to prepare physically for verbal attacks. A lack of sleep and exercise will leave us physically run down, which has a knock on effect on our emotions and thinking patterns. If we are fresh and fit, it is so much easier to react in the right way to those who charge at us!