Be Careful Offering Criticism To Your Pastor

Mondays are probably the worst day of the week for pastors and preachers. I don’t even do it full time, and I’ve experienced the roughness of Monday. Whenever I’m in the pulpit, I tend to experience an interesting combination of being energized and completely exhausted. Preaching the Word and seeing people “get” it is awesome—but by the time I get home, I’m ready for a roughly 100 hour nap. For me, it usually takes until mid-day Tuesday before I’m feeling back to normal.

Because I’m not in vocational pastoral ministry, one of the things I don’t have to deal too much with is criticism. I parachute in and out, so I don’t get criticized (at least, I don’t get to hear it in my inbox). But I’ve no doubt that many pastors dread looking at theirs on Monday.

It’s easy for us when we leave on Sunday morning to start picking apart the message. As we consider, it and weigh the pros and cons, sometimes the things that stick out as a negative start eating at us. And so maybe we fire off an email and feel a lot better, having got it off our chests.

Now, I’m not against criticism, obviously, but I’d be careful sending that email. As Mark Dever & Greg Gilbert point out in their book, Preach, your criticism of your pastor’s message “should always be gentle, even if they are firm.” Speak well, speak clearly if there’s something legitimate, but don’t fire off a long list of problems and fail to leave any room for encouragement.

Your pastor doesn’t need to hear how you don’t care for the Bible translation he used; he probably doesn’t need to be engaged on a lengthy debate on a nuance of a difficult to interpret text. You can probably cut him some slack if he preached a right message but made an unusual choice of text for his launch point.

If you must offer critique (and it is an “if”—many churches have an established sermon review process in place, so you may not need to worry about it), do so carefully, charitably and out of a desire to see your pastor improve. Tell him what you appreciated about the message, what God is teaching you through it and, if there’s something that is bothering you, ask about it in an open-ended way.

And… maybe wait until Tuesday to send that email. It might make Monday a little easier to get through.

  • http://www.housewifetheologian.com/ Aimee Byrd

    Thanks for the useful advice. I really like the idea of a sermon review process–our church does not do that.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      I’ve seen a few of the sheets from our’s and they’re pretty good. The book I briefly mentioned in the post (Preach by Dever & Gilbert) has a great chapter on the necessity of it and what it can look like.

  • http://www.praybuddy.com/blog Chris Gagner

    We as the congregation (I’m not a pastor) do have a tendency to be overly critical of a sermon. As you said, we might not like the choice of bible translation, or might not like the references/illustrations in a sermon. We need to keep in mind that not all sermons will relate to us completely, sometimes they are actually meant to relate to someone else. Because we’re all different, we won’t always “get” each sermon.

    I agree with critique if a pastor is obviously preaching something that goes against the Bible and the cross of Christ. But when it comes down to picking out the lesser things, we need to let those things go in the name of unity.  that’s how divisions in the church get started.

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  • Me

    This article can be summed up thus: “Be an obedient slave to your pastor, instead of a servant of God.”

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      That’s an interesting summary. Not at all what I said, though. I wrote it more as an application of Hebrews 13:17:

      “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”