Thursday, March 19, 2009

How to Criticize

Justin Taylor has posted a link to a very helpful article by Alfred Poirier a PCA pastor and Board Chairman for Peacemakers.

The title of the article is "The Cross and Criticism." It originally appeared ten years ago in the Journal of Biblical Counseling.

I live and pastor in a culture of confident, well-educated high achievers. That is not a bad thing. In fact there are many positive goods to be derived in such a milieu. However, because we are fallen creatures even the good things with which God has blessed us can become occassions for sin.

One example I have noticed is a tendency toward a critical spirit. Certainly this can be said about most people in most places. Nevertheless, in my first visits to the mainline last summer I was prepared (or warned) by some thougtful folks about the active willingness among many to offer direct and frequent criticisms.

While I have been blessed with a wonderful "honeymoon" as pastor in this particular field of ministry I have nevertheless seen glimers of this tendency toward criticism. To be fair, however, I must add that I have not experienced it to be worse than any other place I have been blessed to serve. Also, in the interest of fairness, I am as likely as anyone to grumble and criticize.

We know from God's Word that we have a responsibility to correct and even rebuke our brothers and sisters when they are in error or pursuing a sinful path. The key is to correct or rebuke in a way that is truly redemptive and not merely an excuse to "vent."

The article mentioned above has some wonderful insights on how to offer criticism in a godly way. They are:

  • I see my brother/sister as one for whom Christ died (1 Cor. 8:11; Heb. 13:1)
  • I come as an equal, who also is a sinner (Rom. 3:9, 23).
  • I prepare my heart lest I speak out of wrong motives (Prov. 16:2; 15:28; 16:23).
  • I examine my own life and confess my sin first (Matt. 7:3-5).
  • I am always patient, in it for the long haul (Eph. 4:2; 1 Cor. 13:4).
  • My goal is not to condemn by debating points, but to build up through constructive criticism (Eph. 4:29).
  • I correct and rebuke my brother gently, in the hope that God will grant him the grace of repentance even as I myself repent only through His grace (2 Tim. 2:24-25).


Mainline Mom said...

Great post! I guess it never occurred to me that the mainline would be a breeding ground for critical people because of the population of confident, intelligent high-acheivers (I belong squarely in that group). It makes perfect sense when you put it that way. I grew up in a fairly critical family and have a STRONG tendency towards that, although I have been fighting it tooth and nail of late. I have a reputation as a "know-it-all" which I would like to shed. I have seen the error of my ways and am trying to be an utterly postive person to be around...never complaining UNLESS something valuable will be changed by it. Life is too short for bitterness.

On a side note, the Lord was totally glorified the other night when I had a wonderful conversation about faith with my grandfather...who I don't know if he is truly saved or not. My grandparents have been in and out of the hospital and I have been driving them to see each other a lot. I saw an opening in the conversation, prayed for courage and words and lept into sharing my testimony full on. It was a GREAT conversation. God is so good.

threegirldad said...

Echoes of John Newton...

Todd Pruitt said...


Thanks for sharing your good news with us.

Good call on the John Newton letter. I would encourage everyone to read it.