When The Critics Attack

When the Critics Attack

In the last a few posts we have explored some helpful tips to improve preaching.  You can look back at the ideas of keeping your radar on, keeping your bucket handy, and using a marinade for your messages.  In this post, we are going to explore what to do when the critics attack you and/or your preaching.

sign for the criticI have a reputation as an effective preacher.  I know how to put together messages that are interesting, challenging and comforting.  I’ve studied preaching, so that I consider myself something of an expert on the subject, and taught a class for Christian Leaders Institute on the subject.  But that doesn’t mean that I’ve never had people criticize my preaching.  I’ve had to learn about how to handle it when the critics attack my ability to do well in this area.

The Timing of A Critic’s Attack

One of the most painful attacks came from someone I considered a friend.  Our church was going through a relocation project that took six and a half years.  The costs were going up constantly, and our attendance was going down as a result of moving into a temporary warehouse for worship services.  It was a time when I felt some pride in holding the church together, raising money, and leading forward in a positive way.

During that time, there was what I felt was a growing sense of discontent in the congregation.  We had projected that our time in the temporary facility would be 18 months.  It stretched beyond two and a half years.  We changed our name (a far greater challenge than I would have predicted).  Asking for more money became a regular feature of our ministry

We had several meetings of the congregation to talk and pray over future plans, and during those meetings some dissatisfaction was expressed.

The Mild Critique

I was relieved when a man that I had been friendly with became chairman of our board.  He would be a good person, I felt, to share some of the burden of church leadership.  Imagine my shock, then, when he said after a Sunday morning worship service, “You know, I think one of the best things we could do would be to get a younger preacher in here who can really preach and inspire people.”

What?  Does this mean I’m not doing that?  Does this mean that I’m inadequate?  Am I getting thrown under the bus (an American slang expression), getting the blame for peoples’ discontent here?

I was so shocked that I couldn’t even reply.

That was, comparatively, a mild critique, yet I felt very vulnerable at the time, and it hurt.  Others of my colleagues, I know, receive scathing evaluations of their leadership and preaching.  One preacher that I know was told by a member that he was leaving the church because he, the pastor, was a poor preacher.

What to do When the Critics Attack

So what do you do when the critics attack?  What do you do with the pain?

Look for the Kernal of Truth

Robert SchullerRobert Schuller said that his critics were his quality control.  When criticized, he said he would look for the kernel of truth in the critique.  Was there something he could learn from it?  This is not easy to do.  However, when I reflected on my friend’s suggestion that we get a new preacher, I had to admit that my preaching was not quite up to my own standards.  The distractions of the relocation resulted in too little time for sermon preparation.  So, his critique led to my improvement.


There are some critics that we are just simply going to have to forgive.  To forgive someone involves three steps:

  • See them with new eyes.  In other words, ask God for the ability to see them aside from the hurt that they have given you.  I have found it helpful to look at what else is going on in their lives at the time.  Often the critic is experiencing frustration in various areas of his or her life, and the attack on you is just another manifestation of their underlying unhappiness.  This step helps you separate the person from your hurt, and you will find that they are human beings, as flawed as you are.
  • Release, with God’s help, your desire for revenge.  Our pain often makes us want to hurt our attacker.  In forgiveness, we release that desire or “right”.  This will, as I said, take God’s help.  If the attack on you was very personal, hitting you in one of your weak spots, this could take some time.
  • With the person well.  Again, this will require God’s help.  However, this is the way to freedom for our spirit.

quote from Lew SmedesA good resource for learning forgiveness is Lew Smedes’ book, Forgive and Forget; healing the hurts you don’t deserve.  Here’s a summary of the book for your attention.

No matter how good you are as a preacher, at some point criticism will come.  When the critics attack you don’t have to shrivel.  It can be a time of growth for you as a preacher and as a follower of Jesus Christ.