Every leader deals with criticism. It often comes at the wrong time, in the wrong way, from the wrong person, for the wrong reason (see Part 1). David gives us a Biblical pattern for handling criticism in the ancient story of his feud with his son Absalom. A man named Shimei took the opportunity of David’s misfortune to heap abuse upon him in a public way. What David did, I pray that I can do as well, WHEN, not if, criticism comes my way.
When Criticism comes, exercise SELF CONTROL (2 Samuel 16:9-10).
When Shimei criticized David, his friend Abishai was ready with a solution, “Let me go over and remove his head!” 2 Samuel 16:9. David dismissed this rash recommendation and demonstrated self-control instead. Abishai’s solution may have been within his power and maybe even his right, but it would have been sinful before God and would have added more guilt and emotional baggage to his heavy burden. That’s always what rash reactions that lack self-control will produce. Self-control always trumps retaliation and hostility. Proverbs 16:32 says, “Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.”
When Criticism comes, think deeply about the SOURCE and SUBSTANCE (2 Samuel 16:10).
David did not automatically demonize Shimei, but considered that God might be using him in some way. He ask in a sense, “Was God trying to tell me something through this hostile Benjamite?” In listening to critics, we must take time and in wisdom consider any truth in the message so that we can learn and grow and adjust in our leadership. Doing this toward a harsh critic will demonstrate our patience and desire for growth to everyone around us.
When Criticism comes, do not get DISTRACTED from your purpose (2 Samuel 16:11).
David’s primary concern was not Shimei, but Absalom. In verse 11, he reminds his men of the real danger, “My son… is trying to take my life…!” David’s main objective was to get himself and his company to safety. He did not allow this criticism to distract him in this moment.
Criticism has the power to knock us off course. The best defense system against criticisms distracting power is a sure sense of God’s calling and confidence of your place in His mission.
When Criticism comes, trust God to bring good out of the situation (2 Samuel 16:12).
David demonstrated that his trust was in God to hear and respond by bringing good out of the hostility of Shimei and Absalom. He did not assume it to be so, but he hoped in God’s goodness. This hope gave him the strength and desire to ignore the criticism and carry on with his mission.
Whether it be a hostile critic, the darkness of a sick loved one, the death of a family member, or an unfulfilled dream; we can know that God is always there and that he will at some point, in this life or the next, bring good out of the cursing.
Jesus himself exemplified this kind of self-control and trust in God as he faced a hostile crowd that hurled more than just words at him. 1 Peter 2:23 – “when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.”
Criticism is part of leadership. Our response can make it a foe that creates greater conflict, distracts us, keeps us discouraged; or a friend that makes us stronger, more dependent on God, and an example of Christ-likeness to the world.
- Small Group life is better than small group meetings.
- Doing life together is better than eating together.
- Growing Spiritually together is better than studying the lesson together.
- All of life discipleship is better than a Sunday morning Bible Study.
Most of the small group questions I hear about what happens DURING THE MEETING. “What are you studying?” “When do you meet?” “Who’s the teacher?” Necessary but not primary elements.
The real gold for small groups is in life together. I’ve walked with a few small groups for 5+ years. These people are like family. We experience each others lives through the ordinary and difficult moments. We can see life change happening over time and think about how far people have come over years. More than just getting through a lesson or a study, it’s journeying through all of life. Gatherings are simply opportunities to catch up, be encouraged, grow deeper in relationship with God and each other, and apply the scripture to our lives specifically and directly. Life together also allows you to serve one another in special ways as life happens. Seeing and experiencing Jesus in the life of another happens as we walk this worlds ups and down with one another. Love, joy, peace, patience, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, carrying burdens. All of these happen best in family like relationships that small group life provide.
Grateful for my Small Group. Can’t wait to gather together again this week!
Mine the gold of life together by focusing on group life and not just a group meeting.
If the elements of God’s mission can be compared to a football game, we might say that the focus has become the huddle instead of the line of scrimmage. The line of scrimmage is where the action happens. We have prioritized huddling over playing our part on the line of scrimmage by purchasing fancier uniforms for the huddle, composing cooler songs for the huddle, writing more speeches to inspire the huddle, positioning every person in the perfect spot for the huddle, holding conferences on how to build a better huddle, even getting the perfect brew to pass around the huddle.
But Jesus’ commission for the church was about going, not huddling. The huddle is vital, but it’s only a brief moment to receive the playing directions from the quarterback. If you stay in the huddle too long, you get penalized and moved backward. The church is getting shoved backward on the mission field… the problem is an overemphasis on the huddle. The church must be mobilized, it must be sent to the scrimmage line.
For most leaders, including me, that moment when a complaint or criticism arises is like a cloud moving in and potential storm rising. Many church leaders have post-traumatic stress that paralyze us whenever complaints and criticism arise. While complaining is condemned in scripture (1 Corinthians 10:10; Philippians 2:14-15; 1 Peter 4:9) and many complaints are selfish and from power seeking, disgruntled, hurting people; leaders must learn to see the opportunity in every complaint. That’s what the early church did in Acts 6. When “there arose a complaint,” they mobilized people to meet the legitimate need. The result was “the word of God spread”! Conflict is inevitable in relationships, on teams, and in churches. Don’t miss the opportunity!
- Mobilize gifted people to meet the legitimate needs that complaints may reveal.
- Sharpen the mission of sharing with your community through re-prioritizing ministry resources and gifts.
- Make room for new people that God will add as more people are mobilized for ministry and more needs are met.
- Correct, rebuke, teach, and train if complaints reveal prideful, competitive, divisive spirits in the church. 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 2:15
- Say goodbye gracefully to disgruntled, negative influences that refuse to work for unity and solutions and may hold back the mission of the church. Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10. It’s not about who you keep, but who you reach.
- Be thick skinned. Listen to criticism. Learn from it. Don’t get distracted from the mission of spreading the message of Jesus. Proverbs 15:31-32
- Don’t try to do everything or feel like you must answer everyone’s complaints or try to make everyone happy. Gospel first – Acts 6:2. A clear conscience before God is our first responsibility – Acts 24:16.
- What Louisiana city was first named Tiger Island?
- What Louisiana Parish is home to an ancient people group that still resides on its aboriginal lands?
- What Bayou was formed by a 10 mile long snake?
If you know the answers to these questions, you might be from St. Mary Parish. St. Mary Parish includes the cities of Morgan City (formerly known as Tiger Island because of rare cats spotted there by the first surveyors in the late 1700’s), Franklin (the Parish Seat), Patterson, Berwick, and the Chitimacha Indian Reservation (home of the Chitimacha Indian, who were once one of the strongest tribes in North America). Chitimacha legend has it that the ancient tribe fought a war with a 10-mile long snake and on its defeat it squirmed to its death and its remains formed Bayou Teche. Today Bayou Teche is 125 miles long and includes the beautiful Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge in St. Mary Parish.
St. Mary Parish is also home to the Gulf-Coast Baptist Association. A group of 15 southern baptist churches that partner together for the gospel in this coastal community. Today, they are in need of our partnership and prayers as economic downturn and declining church attendance has greatly impacted this association. Here are some fast facts about Gulf Coast Association:
12 Quick Facts about St. Mary Parish:
- It is located “right in the middle of everywhere” – about 50 miles from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette.
- It is part of the Gulf Coast Baptist Associaton. Associational Missions Strategist is Steven Kelly. He is also the Pastor of Bayou Vista Baptist Church near Morgan City.
- 54,650 residents. 59% White, 33% Black, 5% Hispanic, 3% other.
- 14 Southern Baptist Churches. 1 church for every 3,904 residents. (Our state ratio and goal for each association is 1 church for every 2,850. Gulf Coast Association needs 5 more churches to get to that ratio).
- Only 1 African-American church and only 1 Hispanic church.
- Gulf Coast churches have averaged between 900 and 1100 in total worship attendance for the last 10 years, with a total of 1,019 in 2018. That’s only 1.9% of the total population.
- Bible Study or Sunday School attendance was at less than 1% in 2018 with 506 attendees.
- “Well, most people are Catholic in South Louisiana.” Not so fast. The ARDA reports that there are 24,662 nones in the parish, or religiously unaffiliated. That’s 45% of the population. 17,834 are Roman Catholic, or 33%. 9,885 evangelicals, or 18%.
- Crime is 26% higher that the state average and 48% higher than the U.S. average.
- Poverty is at 21%, which is 1% higher than the state and 6% higher than the U.S.
- Greatest needs according to Associational Missions Strategist Steven Kelly, are for an African-American congregation in Morgan City. A new Hispanic congregation may be needed. RePlanting and Revitalization partnerships are needed across the Gulf Coast.
- Also needed are Bivocational or Covocational Pastors and Planter who will plant their lives in these communities and see them reached for the gospel.
Pray for Tiger Island and the surrounding communities of St. Mary Parish.
Recently I was with a group of church leaders and the issue of reaching the lost came up. One of the leaders asserted that it seems the churches are all going after the same people, while the truly lost in our communities have little outreach to them. He’s absolutely right. Many of our standard church outreach activities are white noise to the growing number of NEVER churched in our communities. Maybe its time to Start Something new to reach the lost in your city.
- When was the last time you assessed your community for the real needs of people?
- When was the last time you thought about the unchurched in your town and how to bring the gospel to them?
- When was the last time you asked hard questions about the effectiveness of your churches ministry in making contact with the lost?
- When was the last time you looked at the demographics around your church?
This years Missions and Ministry Summer Luncheon tour will focus on these questions. We want to learn about your community and highlight some needs that may be great avenues for sharing the gospel. We want to talk about starting some new fights with modern day issues affecting people in our state. Join the Missions and Ministry Team at one of our Summer Luncheons across Louisiana in June and July.
Register for a luncheon HERE.
My only experience in Terrytown and that of many others I’ve spoken with is driving through on the way to fishing destinations south of New Orleans. Terrytown is currently at the top of our list of places in Louisiana that need a new church.
12 Quick Facts about Terrytown:
- It’s located on the eastern side of Jefferson Parish on the West Bank of the Mississippi River.
- It is a part of New Orleans Baptist Association.
- It’s name came from the original developer of residential homes in communities south of New Orleans. He had a daughter named Terry, so yep, he got to name it. Terrytown!
- Population is listed at 23,319. The zip code of 70056 shows a population of 41,330.
- It is one of the most densely populated areas in Louisiana.
- Poverty rate is high: 26%. Compared to 20% across all of Louisiana and 15% across the U.S.
- Terrytown is very diverse: 36% Black, 32% White, 24% Hispanic, 5% Asian.
- To note the growth in diversity in this area: In 2000, Terrytown was 50% white, 34% black, and only 9% Hispanic.
- Crime is high: Violent crime is 50% higher than the national average and about 40% higher than the state average. Property crime is 37% higher than the national and state averages.
- There is currently no Southern Baptist Church in Terrytown. And relatively few evangelical churches. Pray with me for a new church or three in this diverse community.
- Jefferson Parish is Louisiana’s 2nd largest parish with 439,000 residents. Best numbers show the religious makeup as 15% evangelical, 33% catholic, and 46% nones.
- If these % are true of Terrytown, then there are 3,498 evangelicals, 7,695 Roman Catholics, and 10,727 people unaffiliated with any church.
Let’s pray for Terrytown!
What other interesting facts do you know about Terrytown? Interested in helping reach out and plant a church in this community?
Anxiety, Depression, Opioid addiction, Suicide. These are some of the struggles that have been thrust upon parents and families in our modern era. Here are a few good books I’ve read and recommended over the past few years if you’re walking any these paths yourself or with someone else.
Life’s Healing Choices: Freedom From Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits by John Baker. This book is the foundation for Celebrate Recovery, which is proving to be a great resources for communities and churches. It’s worth reading if just for the personal testimonies of transformation that will give you hope to overcome whatever struggle your are facing.
Hope in the Dark: Believing God is Good When Life is Not by Craig Groeschel. Craig’s personal story of struggling with his daughters illness, along with his decades of pastoral experience.
Love is Oxygen: How God Can Give You Life and Change Your World by Jarrid Wilson. Jarrid’s personal journey through anxiety and depression. Demonstrates the power of love and specifically God’s love in overcoming these today.
Stronger: How Hard Times Reveal God’s Greatest Power by Clayton King. Clayton’s personal story of loss and hardship and the lessons learned in the school of suffering over the course of a believers life.
Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls by Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert. Tough love is tough. This book gives direction in how to advance tough love in relationships with those closest to you. Lots of real life stories throughout as well.
On Pills and Needles: The Relentless Fight to Save My Son from Opioid Addiction by Rick van Warner. Rick’s story is from a faith perspective and the perspective of a restaurant manager, where drug addiction seems to thrive. You can hear his story on Family Life Radio’s Podast Here.
Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy. Good primer on understanding the rise of opioid production and abuse in America. Macy was a reporter in Appalachia and had a front row seat to its devastation over the last few decades.
Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff. Now a major motion picture. And now a series of books that includes two books by his son, Nick, who was a Meth Addict. This book shares the reality of this struggle from a parents perspective. Sheff does not come from a faith perspective. He is a journalist and writer. Well researched and personal.
Not My Child: A Progressive and Proactive Approach for Healing Addicted Teenagers and Their Families by Frank Lawlis. From the clinical perspective. Lots of great tips for families going through the struggle of addiction with teenagers.
Caring for One Another: 8 Ways to Cultivate Meaningful Relationships by Ed Welch. Anything by Ed Welch is worth reading for the believer who wants to know how to cope and what to say to those trying to cope. This short book helps with how to handle difficult conversations and how to talk about difficult things with people who are struggling.
Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide by Frank Page. The real, personal, and raw journey of a family with a child experiencing mental illness and eventual suicide. Page’s pastoral experience makes this a practical guide for what to do and what to say for those wanting to help others.
When Your Teen Is Struggling: Real Hope and Practical Help for Parents Today by Mark Gregston. Anything by Mark Gregston is worth reading. And you can catch his daily podcast and other resources here.
What books or resources do you recommend to those going through life’s wilderness?