“Critics and Toothbrushes” – Dealing with criticism in the ministry


Early one morning at our home while taking a shower recently, I suddenly heard a loud mechanical “whirring” noise that filled the room.

It was so loud and ominous sounding that I turned the water off and rushed out of the shower, intent on finding the source of all the racket.

The entire bathroom countertop seemed to vibrate, so I quickly located my electric razor, certain that somehow it had turned on and was making the noise. I quickly found that was not the case.

The longer I stood there, the louder the noise seemed to get. Now it seemed to be coming from the fan in the ceiling, so I turned the wall switch to the “off” position. The annoying noise continued.

I stood there growing more anxious by the minute with visions of electricians and expensive repairs bills dancing in my head. But just before calling for help, I went back to the counter, bent my ear close, dug through my travel toiletry bag, and found the source of my problem.

It was a small electric toothbrush.

Tucked away from my last road trip, somehow, some way, while I was in the shower, for some reason it decided to roar to life.

All that noise, all that fear, uncertainty and anxiety, my morning routine completely disrupted – all because of a tiny little toothbrush powered by one tiny  battery!

Criticism is something that every one of us in the ministry must deal with on a regular basis. Here are a few principles to help us handle it when it comes our way:

Listen    No matter if it is delivered in an appropriate manner or not, don’t be quick to dismiss it. Don’t tune out and fantasize  about all the great comebacks you are going to deliver when you get your chance.  Genuinely take the time to calmly process what is being said to you.

Take the good     It would be easy to just completely dismiss the critic and the criticism as unjustified, unwarranted, and way off base. That’s our natural inclination, because no one likes to hear negative things said about us or what we do. However, if we will do some prayerful introspection, we may find that the criticism has merit, and even if it does not, there are life and ministry lessons that can always be learned in any interaction we have. Look for something positive to take from the experience.

Leave the bad    Do not let the critic take your joy, your peace, and certainly don’t let them take your enthusiasm for ministry. At the end of the day, we are serving an audience of ONE – and His praise and affirmation is all that really counts in the light of eternity.

I have had the following quote from President Theodore Roosevelt on my office wall for years:

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of good deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena….who face is marred by dust and sweat and blood….who strives valiantly…….who errs and come short again and again……who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause……who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Let me tell you, old Teddy wasn’t a preacher, but reading that quote, it makes you feel that he sure could have been!

Finally, don’t let one noisy critic make you feel like everything and everybody is against you. Oftentimes, when someone says “Pastor, ‘they’ are talking…, often times “they” ends up being the critic and their spouse! In other words, don’t let the devil make you believe that the roof is caving in, when all it may be is just one noisy little toothbrush!

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