If you search on the internet for a particular well-known minister, you may find links to their ministry and books, congregants eager to invite others to the minister’s church, and perhaps even news articles detailing the church’s upcoming community involvement. But sadly, many times, you will find page after page of criticism. Sometimes, it is based on scriptural concerns but often, it is simply people not liking a minister’s personality. I’d like to address this in more detail.
The critics may argue that they have a “spiritual responsibility” to point out error. I don’t disagree entirely. We must warn fellow believers if we see God’s Word being violated. But there is a proper way to handle it that both protects God’s people and maintains our good Christian witness. The world mocks as it sees us tearing each other down. These things must be handled wisely. I see five key things to remember when dealing with error.
1. Ask God if you are the one to deal with it. Just because I see Pastor Jones across the country “messing up” doesn’t mean I necessarily drop everything I’m doing and start an anti-Pastor Jones YouTube channel. God sees Pastor Jones better than you. If you are a pastor and worry your congregation is at risk of being deceived, talk to your other staff members about best ways to talk to your congregation without losing sight of the vision God has for your church and without stirring up too much strife. If you’re not a pastor, commit the matter to prayer and if it still bothers you, quietly seek wise counsel.
2. Make sure that it truly is error. If a pastor preaches from an unfamiliar text, it is easy to draw quick assumptions of right and wrong based on past experience. While it is good to be cautious of pastors claiming new revelations, God may have very well spoken. Check the teaching against the Word of God in context. If it lines up, praise God for revealing more of Himself to you.
3. Focus on the positive aspects of the pastor or teacher. Each faith group or denomination brings something to the table. We are all on the same team. Incorporate good aspects of each into your Christian walk. I grew up in Baptist churches and appreciate their stand for the Word of God. I fellowship with Pentecostals who show me the beauty of free-flowing worship and dependence on the Holy Spirit. My Anglican friends display the heart of a servant as they embrace social justice. My Methodist colleagues have a rich heritage I would be foolish not to appreciate. The Presbyterians and Lutherans keep traditional hymns alive as they also seek to reach modern and post-modern society. And the list goes on. These are my brothers and sisters. Do I agree with every doctrine they follow? No, but at least I should understand why they might believe the way they do.
4. Approach the pastor quietly. It should not be our goal to ever embarrass anyone; we are to lovingly point out (as we are led) areas of growth discreetly. And never make a huge deal over style. If a pastor teaches error that’s one thing; whether or not they wear a tie is trivial.
5. And finally, examine your own heart. Learn to listen to what God is saying to you. Focus on your own spiritual walk. If we all did that, how much more would the Church be growing as God would have it grow?