Have you ever faced criticism in your ministry? Either you responded with a question like “Is Bill Gates rich?” or a denominational question about the Pope, or you are new to ministry. Not to be a downer here if you haven’t already, in due time, you will face some sort of criticism of your ministry. Criticism comes from a variety of sources: well-meaning parents, mean parents, accidentally by a student, incidentally by a student, consistently by a student, a senior pastor, your senior pastor, various church members, your wife, your kids, yourself…the list goes on.
Well you know who else faced criticism in ministry? I know. I kind of gave it away in the title. Yes, it’s Jesus. One clear example is found in John 11. Let me quickly set this one up for you. He just lost a dear friend. He was so deeply moved, in verse 35, it says he wept. I’ll give you a second to read that verse (just one second). In verse 36, we see people empathize with Jesus. However, in verse 37 is where we find criticism, basically saying, “Why didn’t Jesus do something about this?”
It’s interesting the circumstances. Jesus was suffering from a personal tragedy, yet people voiced their displeasure with his ministry to others. Sound familiar? Isn’t it usually after a long, exhausting overnighter that left you excited at decisions that were made, when you heard from a parent “Where was the youth pastor when these two snuck off together?” Or maybe after a long, intense, spiritually and emotionally charged mission trip, a student that doesn’t attend complained “Why haven’t you planned any fun events this summer?”
How do we respond to these types of pins that let the air out of our ministry balloon? Here are 3 ways to face criticism, Jesus-style:
Don’t Let It Affect Your MOVEMENT
I love the next verse following the criticism in verse 37. It says “Jesus, deeply moved again”. It was almost as if John was taking a shot here. “Did you hear that, critical people, Jesus is hurting here! Hello, do I need to give you more time to read verse 35?” Just in case you didn’t notice the first time he WEPT! It seems like John is sticking up for His friend and Savior here.
But the main point is this: The criticism did not stop Jesus from being moved with compassion. It didn’t stunt his emotions. It didn’t stop his movement towards the cave. How often does criticism stop us in our tracks? Where we forget about the life decisions made at camp or the spiritual impact of an event or lesson, and we focus on the words of a few. Jesus didn’t let it stop Him.
Don’t Let It Affect Your MINISTRY
God has given you a purpose for your ministry. It is important you do what is best for the students that you are shepherding. Sometimes you have to look past the criticism when you know what you are doing is clearly the ministry God-directed. Sure, you have conversations, but your ministry cannot change to please the minority.
Look here. Jesus told them to remove the stone in verse 39. Martha saw this as stupid (actually she saw this as smelly, but you know what I mean). Jesus took the time to explain this was for the glory of God, and he continued.
See what I mean. Some will see what you are doing as foolish. Maybe you cancel a traditional event, or you cut back office hours to spend on campus. As long as it is God-led, you have the support of key leaders and administration; you may just have to tell people, this is being done for God’s glory, and keep moving. That’s what Jesus did.
Don’t Let It Affect Your MISSION
What is our ultimate mission? I would hope it would resemble the great commission, and your mission is to reach students with the gospel and make disciples. Criticism can stop us from completing this mission. “This will cost too much money”. “Students will never listen to this…or come to this”. “The youth pastor looks too much like Mr. Bean” (Okay that last one may just apply to me).
Check this out. According to most of your Bibles, the story of Jesus Raises Lazarus is over. Or is it? In verse 45, because of this miracle, what happens to several of Mary’s friends? They believe! That’s right. Because Jesus didn’t let criticism stop Him from His ultimate mission, the lost saw the power of Jesus, and they believed!
What if you stop short of your mission because of criticism? Would it result in the lost not seeing the power of Jesus and believing? Don’t miss the story in your ministry either, because in the next verse in your story, there may be a teenager that becomes a child of God. Jesus knew the end of the story, and he kept with His mission.
Your movement, ministry, and mission are too important. Maybe criticism is the stone in your way, and you just need Jesus to take away the stone. And, in the end, God will get the glory, and you might see a miracle happen in your ministry…you might see students come to Jesus.