Criticism and Responding for Unity in Worship

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”  (Colossians 3:14)

Many years ago, I remember a conversation with my pastor wasn’t especially a joyous one.  Some members of the congregation were complaining, and the pastor felt it necessary to talk over “some things” with me in order to address some of their concerns.  I sat and listened, we talked.

I knew at the time I should be cautious in my response.  I’ve had other pastors and ministry leaders “share” with me in this way before.  I’d like to say that my response was appropriate and constructive each and every time, but it wasn’t.  So, by this time I had learned to temper my response.

At the proper points within our conversation, I admitted to some oversights on my part.  I apologized to the pastor, since some of my decisions had put him in a defensive mode with certain people that could have been avoided if I had communicated more openly and in a timelier manner.  In spite of my first response to defend myself and prove why I was right, the Spirit worked in me to be submissive to this spiritual leader and seek to mend the damage that had been caused.

There were also some issues that were raised that I didn’t feel were on target at all.  My actions had been completely misinterpreted and, in spite of previous explanations of why I was doing what I was doing, misunderstandings arose.  In these things I sought to be apologetic for the conflict that was caused, while also seeking ways to help those affected understand more clearly the reasoning behind what was happening.

In both of my responses – whether admitting to a wrong, or in seeking to re-explain a proper action or decision – I have learned that responsibility for a proper response lies on my shoulders.  As Colossians 3:14 points out, I must respond in love with the purpose of a perfect bond of unity.  Unity is the goal and love is the vehicle to get us there.

I could have easily been quite defensive at what I was being told.  In fact, I’ve tried that in the past – with miserable results.  Feelings would get hurt (more so than they already were), I wouldn’t hear what was actually being said (what was there for me to hear, I was right!?), and the other person would feel belittled and worthless.  Overall, that defensive response was a losing scenario.

Or, I could have responded in hurt myself.  Hurt feelings (Can’t they see how hard I try?), damaged pride (Well, maybe I should go find somewhere else to serve!), or just selfish protectionism (I’ll take my toys and go home!).  This kind of response didn’t work either.

This time, I made a conscious choice to listen well, temper my initial response, take what I heard and spend time in prayer about it.  I also wanted to talk the particular issues over with others that knew me well to help put it into proper perspective.  This time would be different, not because the criticism was different, but because I was focused for love and unity.

In the end, each of us as leaders will experience similar situations.  And each of us will have a choice to make.  Each of us will have to decide how to handle the responsibility of leadership in times of criticism and assessment – whether it’s planned (quarterly or yearly) or comes to us unannounced.

We must make it a conscious, deliberate effort to seek unity and respond in love.  I think, for the most part, our pastors and co-workers, the elders and deacons of our churches, and others around us who might speak to us about difficulties do so out of a genuine desire to see things improve and to see us grow.  You can’t control how they approach you, but you can control how you respond.  An initial even-tempered response and an ongoing prayerful consideration of their concerns will help get to the heart of what should and can change.

Father God, it’s hard for us to hear criticism – even from those we know who care about us.  Give us hearts of love and a purpose toward unity as we work together as a body.  May Christ’s love shine through us as we respond to one another from day to day in the midst of ministry.  Amen.

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Posted on June 2, 2015, in Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology, Worship Leader and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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