In a Re:Train class back in January, Mark Driscoll talked about six kinds of critics. You don’t react to each critic in the same way, but each kind of critic deserves the appropriate response:
1. Theological. There are some people who have serious theological disagreement with you, and that’s probably ok, but they need to find a home church where they can be free to worship and serve and not be criticizing the leaders all the time.
2. Success Jealousy. If God moves in such a way that your ministry grows, someone will be jealous. Serve those people and be generous with them. Love them so they have to deal with their own jealous heart.
3. Misinformed. Some critics hear you wrong and they criticize you for things you don’t really believe or teach. Gently and simply clarify your position.
4. Personal Dislike. Some critics are personally offended by your style or personality. Check yourself, if you’re in sin, repent, but if someone just doesn’t like you, just be you and carry on.
5. Legitimate. As hard as it is to admit, some critics are right. The appropriate response is to own it and repent. Tell others and the church that you blew it. Not only will you grow in godliness, but this will go a long way to creating trust and building a culture of authenticity, accountability and repentance.
6. Take Up an Offense for Another Person. Some critics see themselves as advocates for others. They are busybodies and meddlers. When they don’t get their way they begin to take hostages and make threats. These people are harmful and need to be rebuked and sent away if possible.
The key is to discern what kind of critic you are dealing with. A week or two ago I was heading into a meeting with someone and I fully believed that I was facing a theological critic that needed to be sent away. It seemed he disagreed about a core theological value of our church that we couldn’t budge on. I assumed I needed to tell him he need to be quiet on that issue or find a new church, as his public disagreement was harmful to our mission and unity. But as I met with him and listened, it became obvious that he was actually a misinformed critic. What he thought I believed and what I actually believed were so far apart that he was actually criticizing a caricature. With some teaching and clarification, he came around to both understand my position and agree with it. If I didn’t realize what kind of critic I was dealing with, I would have sent someone packing simply for being confused.
So, what kind of critics do you have? And how do you need to respond?