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Dissension, Criticism, and the Church

Posted by on Oct 3, 2012 in blog links | 14 comments

Dissension, Criticism, and the Church

In the last week or so, I’ve read several good posts on the idea of dissenters or critics among the church.

Aussie John from “Caesura” wrote a post called “Honorable Dissenters.” He discusses two different types of dissenters.

Dan at “Cerulean Sanctum” wrote “A Response to ‘Five Types of Critics in the Church’.” He struggles with the top down approach often taken with critics and criticism.

Arthur from “The Voice of One Crying out in Suburbia” gives us “Not a Pastor? Shut yer pie hole! Part Deux!” He suggests that labeling critics is a way to dismiss their criticism.

(By the way, Dan’s post and Arthur’s post are responses to the article “Five Types of Critics in the Church.”)

I think these are all good posts, with some very valuable discussions about dissension and criticism.

But, I wonder, why do we dislike criticism so much? Would you be willing to answer that question, from your own perspective, not about other people.

When you struggle with dissension and criticism that is leveled at you, why do you think you struggle?


14 Comments

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  1. 10-3-2012

    Because being wrong sucks. I say that in utmost sincerity. I never want to be wrong, I never want you to tell me that I am wrong, and I definitely don’t want to admit that I am wrong when you tell me I’m wrong. It hurts my pride. It sucks.

  2. 10-3-2012

    Ditto Dan! However, there are times when the problem isn’t criticism but with people who are critical. There is a difference.

  3. 10-3-2012

    I would draw a distinction between critics and skeptics.

    Critics are those who, as their name implies, think critically. They examine what is said (or written), and they test it to see if it is true. They hold to it if so, and they reject if not. This is a Biblical pattern. What sets critics apart is that they are unwilling to blindly accept what they hear (or read).

    Skeptics, on the other hand, have a disruptive desire to disbelieve. They go beyond a healthy criticism, demanding absolute proof of everything before than can believe anything.

    I love critics! I believe I can honestly say that even enjoy it when people are critical of what I say (though their tone can affect that enjoyment). If I am wrong about something, I truly do want to know.

    I’m not so fond of skeptics. Their motive is not to elucidate truth but to obfuscate it.

    Critics and skeptics are both in the business of tearing down, but critics do so with the intent of building back up better.

  4. 10-3-2012

    @Chuck,

    You wisely said:
    “Critics are those who, as their name implies, think critically. They examine what is said (or written), and they test it to see if it is true. They hold to it if so, and they reject if not. This is a Biblical pattern. What sets critics apart is that they are unwilling to blindly accept what they hear (or read).”

    You have caused my spirit to smile and my heart to sigh with those words. Thank you, brother.

  5. 10-3-2012

    Dan,

    Exactly.

    Scott,

    Ditto.

    Chuck,

    How do you determine the difference between critics and skeptics?

    Donald,

    It’s good to see you around here again. That caused my spirit to smile.

    -Alan

  6. 10-3-2012

    Alan, I’m not sure that we always can. The outward actions may at times seem the same, but it comes down to a heart issue. Only they and God can know for sure what their intent is.

    I post the difference primarily so that we may personally strive to be critics but not skeptics.

    That said, you can get a pretty good idea after interacting with a person long enough. The longer you talk with someone who disagrees, the more evident it will typically become whether they are seeking to correct or just scoff.

  7. 10-3-2012

    @Chuck,

    Consider that there wouldn’t be a need for correction or a need to challenge someone’s actions if they (meaning the other person being spoken to) knew what God’s intentions were to begin with.

    In other words, when God tells someone to take out the trash, they shouldn’t wash the car instead, thinking they are still serving Him by washing the car, so He’ll be happy with whatever they do.

    You then come along and tell them that God told them to take out the trash, and not to wash the car, and then they become childishly indignant and huff and clamor about how you are now judging them, when all you did was tell them what they already knew, but were refusing, to do.

    A critic points to what our Father has said; a skeptic takes what our Father says and reworks it to please themselves.

  8. 10-3-2012

    That can often be the case. However, we must also remember that critics are not perfect either. The critic must be humble enough to acknowledge that it is possible his interpretation is wrong.

    Perhaps the Father really did tell this person to finish washing the car before taking out the trash? It can be easy for the well-meaning critic to overstep his bounds at times.

    There are some commands that the Father has made universally clear to all his children. On these issues, we are to hold each other accountable.

    But there are other directives given specifically to individuals to carry out, and we need to be careful about judging motives in those cases.

    “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4, NASB)

  9. 10-3-2012

    Alan,

    “When you struggle with dissension and criticism that is leveled at you, why do you think you struggle?”

    In the first place, Dan hit the nail on the head!

    Speaking for myself, as part of a leadership team, and as the sole leader (big mistake) pride was wounded every time questions or criticism was directed towards me, especially regarding what I had said.

    We have been taught, by the conventions that represent a group,and especially old or newly developing traditions that to dissent or critique (no matter what the intent)is an unacceptably negative action.

    As Christians, our acceptance of the potential positive value of such, and our response to it is an indelible mark of development in maturity.

  10. 10-3-2012

    Chuck,

    Right. Even when we think we understand who is a critic and who is a skeptic (using your definitions), we may find that we were wrong in discerning the other person. That can cause us to struggle in dealing with criticism.

    Aussie John,

    I love what you said about viewing criticism/dissent as a potential positive and the importance of our response. That changes the problem from the “critic” to us.

    -Alan

  11. 10-5-2012

    I struggle only when a critic is not open and leaves no room for response or dialogue. The strategy of the clergyman in L M Montgomery’s Blue Castle fits…the response to something he didn’t understand was quite simple…he condemned it!

  12. 10-6-2012

    Thanks for your post. Great topic!

    Most Christians, including myself, need instruction and equipping along the way regarding edification — what it is and how to do it.

    Most churches need to welcome edifying input, including constructive criticism. Other aspects should be consciously pursued and practiced too: e.g., contrite confession, thanksgiving, praise, encouragement, forgiveness, humble service, appreciation and gratitude.

    Most leaders need to remember that they, like their brethren, are followers of one Lord. They should be marked not only by the ability to teach but the ability to learn (teachability).

  13. 10-7-2012

    I have never been able to receive criticism without some level of pain or discomfort. Because of this, I lived most of my life with a laissez-faire practice … not an attitude, but a practice. I think this was a wrong practice. The assumption was that if I did not criticize, I would not be criticized. The ministry was certainly not a viable venue for this philosophy. For me, the criticism that hurts the most is the criticism that is most true. It reveals the truth that I have gone to elaborate lengths to conceal. It is my weakness that I most try to mask.

    Karl

  14. 10-8-2012

    Tom,

    That’s a great point. Good criticism (positive or negative criticism) should lead to conversation that should lead toward mutual understanding (if not agreement) between brothers and sisters in Christ. Condemnation on either side should be an extreme and last resort… not a first resort.

    Rick,

    You said, “Most leaders need to remember that they, like their brethren, are followers of one Lord. They should be marked not only by the ability to teach but the ability to learn (teachability).” That is a powerfully true statement! What a different community we would be if we all remembered this and acted on it.

    Karl,

    Yes! Thanks so much for adding that to our discussion. Criticism is painful. The question we must ask ourselves is how we are going to respond to that pain.

    -Alan

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