Criticism

How to be an effective critic

To begin with, I need to emphasize that this article is not intended for the person who has set himself up as the “church critic.” I have had it up to here with people who carp and point fingers, who hobble elders and discourage preachers, while, of course, contributing nothing themselves to the success of the church. Except, of course, for the manner in which they spew derision and harm.

This article is about the Christian who decides that the time has come to sit a brother or sister down and say in the clearest, yet most loving way: “When you said/did that, you were wrong, and you can’t keep doing it that way and be successful in your ministry.”

Being an “effective” critic means that your friend has seen the truth of your words, and has begun to change. Being ineffective means you have hurt or discouraged him. Surely the second is not what you have been aiming for. The question is, how do I keep this brother where he is, serving God and people, how do I help him in this quest?

  • Do this sparingly. Make sure that your words of encouragement over time vastly outnumber your words of criticism.
  • First, go speak to him. Don’t speak to your friends, the local ABC affiliate, other church members or his elders. The Bible says you are to first go to him (Matthew 18:15).
  • Pray before you speak.
  • Check your motives. This is much, much harder than most people imagine it is. We try to justify ourselves. “Oh I just wanted to help.” Well, just make sure that’s all you wanted.
  • Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
  • Look after yourself first. If you criticize him, and he knows your own life is vastly lacking in some moral way, your credibility crumbles, and your crusade has been for nothing (Galatians 6:1).
  • Bear his burdens first (Galatians 6:2). If you are going to be effective, he must know that you care for him. There is no better way than to be someone who has helped him in his burdens time and time again. When I was a kid I had church members correct me. It hurt and embarrassed me profoundly; the emotional scars are still there. Yet when my parents corrected me, though I was disappointed at first, I understood how deeply they cared for me.
  • Choose your words. Plan what you will say, where you say it, and work on the tone of your voice when you say it (Proverbs 12:18).

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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