Before You Criticize Your Pastor

The longer I’m a pastor I’ve realized something about churched people. When I say a churched person, I mean someone who has been attending church for any length of time and is a follower of Jesus (pretty broad definition). Many people in this category, while they love their church and want to see God do incredible things in their city, they also have the idea that they are smarter than their pastor or at least could do his job better than he’s doing it.

Now, they may be smarter than their pastor. There are lots of people at Revolution more educated than I am and smarter in a variety of disciplines than I am. There are people who may be able to do my job better than I can, but aren’t called to it.

I’ve written about criticism and how to handle it as a leader in other posts that you can read here and here. What I want to focus on here is before you criticize your pastor,

Here are some questions you should ask yourself before criticizing your pastor (or anyone):

  1. Why does this matter? At the end of the day, some of the things that bother us simply are not that important. In marriage, your spouse does all kinds of things that drive you nuts (Katie doesn’t do anything that drives me nuts but I’ve heard other people complain about their spouses). Sometimes it isn’t that big of a deal. It might be a situation where you just need to let it go.
  2. What do I hope to gain from this? What is the end result? Do you hope your pastor will say you are right and they are wrong? Do you hope to help your pastor grow or simply point out his faults? Do you want any recognition in this process?
  3. How would you feel if you didn’t criticize your pastor? What if you didn’t say anything? How would that affect your heart? Would it drive you nuts or would you forget about it?
  4. What if nothing changes? This gets to the heart for many, what if your pastor doesn’t do anything with what you say? What if they disagree with you and tell you nothing will change? How will handle that? Your answer to this question will reveal a lot of your heart and if there is sin there.
  5. Is your criticism actually from the Bible? Pastors hear all kinds of things they are doing wrong or that their church can do better. Most of the time those criticisms simply come from people who would rather things were done differently. Is your problem actually in the Bible? Is your pastor sinning?
  6. Have you talked to anyone else? If you have, you’ve already sinned and you need to repent to God and to your pastor. Don’t bounce it off someone else, don’t do a veiled prayer request.
  7. Is this consistent with my pastor’s character? Could he have just been having an off day? Many times criticism comes from things that are not who your pastor is. If your pastor consistently does the thing or sin that you see, then talk with them. It may just be that something is going on in your pastor’s life that is tough, he maybe didn’t mean anything by what he said or you may have misheard him.
  8. Am I jealous of my pastor? Maybe you want his job, the upfront attention he gets. Many people think being a pastor is easy, glamorous and fun. At times, it can be those things, but it is usually hard work. Often, criticism comes from a place of jealousy, either for their pastors job, attention, status, relationship with God, or marriage. When I meet with someone who is upset at me or Revolution, half of the meeting will be the person venting about their spouse or another area of their life that they are taking out on me or our church.

At the end of the day, disagreeing with your pastor is okay. Pushing back on something you think is a sin, wrong or don’t like is okay. The problem is in how it is often done. In veiled prayer requests at a missional community, a blog post, gossiping without talking to the source. Sometimes though, you need to not say anything. Sometimes it isn’t a big deal. Sometimes you need to give your pastor the feedback you are holding on to.

You also need to be prepared for your pastor to disagree with you and do nothing about it. This is when the heart issues will pop up for you. What if you believe something is wrong or should change and your pastor does nothing with it? If it is a sin, you should talk to other elders, but let your pastor know that you think this should happen. If it isn’t a sin but is just a difference in theology or how things are done at the church, if it is a big deal for you, you should leave and find another church. Here are some things to work through and keep in mind if it gets to that point.

If you’re a pastor, what questions do you think someone should think through before criticizing you?

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10 thoughts on “Before You Criticize Your Pastor

  1. As I was reading this, I could not help but associate this problem with the discipline of Submission. I have personally experienced the greatest spiritual growth in times where I have submitted, especially in the times when I had the greatest desire to battle for my position. In most cases, my position could not be supported from a biblical foundation. By remaining silent and seeking what God desires, I was given wisdom regarding my own character in the situation.

    On rare occasion, where I was able to support my position from scripture, I would speak to the pastor directly and alone. If it was an Open Handed issue, where scripture is not 100% clear and open to various theological perspectives, I would have to submit to the authority of the pastor I have freely placed myself under.

    I find a couple of words in the Bible to be synonymous with submission; Honor, respect, giving, love and humility. I find if a person understands submission to authority, they are more likely to have a character that reflects humility, love, unselfishness, accountability, and be more personally and spiritually responsible. In contrast, a person who does not understand the discipline of submission to authority may suffer from sinful character attributes, such as: pride, full of criticism, selfishness, self ruled, and spiritual irresponsibility.

    I try to live a life where I trust that my identity is found in Christ (thank you for a great sermon last week about identity). If Christ, who is the author and perfecter of my faith, submits to the Father, and I find my identity in Him… submission must be part of my DNA.

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