A couple weeks ago, Thom Rainer blogged Eight Areas Where Many Ministers are Unprepared for Ministry and I made a note to myself to go deeper into the topic. This past Friday, he did a podcast on the same topic. Apparently, many pastors felt hurt and accused Dr. Rainer of piling on the guilt. His podcast was an apology if his words caused hurt, and to explain what he actually intended by writing that blog post.
What the reaction, both positive and negative, shows is the tenderness of the pastoral community.
Many pastors, if not most, are in positions where they are expected to meet hundreds of unexpressed and often unrealistic expectations. Often the people they are called to serve are harsh critics rather than the sheep looking to the shepherd one might expect. Personally, I thank God that I have not been called into the vise of pastoral ministry. It is one of the most demanding and difficult of all vocations.
Speaking Truth in Love
Often Always Hurts
Sunday my teaching included an exhortation to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). As I watched the class members respond, it was easy to see that this too struck a sensitive spot. Truth spoken in love always hurts, but so do shots the doctors give us. Shots may sting and ache for a bit but the intention is to help and heal, not to inflict pain.
That immediate reaction by the class took me right back to some of the hurt I felt as a new Bible school graduate in my first ministry position. My leader was a veteran of 50+ years of ministry and much of it spent in Korea during the war years. He learned the culture of bold and blunt leadership from tough situations he endured there.
But because beneath the hard words were love and good intentions, I accepted the criticism and correction. The words were mixed with a healthy dose of Bible verses which I was ordered to meditate upon for the next few months too.
Through this speaking the truth in love God shaped me for future ministry. Now I am able to look back and praise God for a leader who did not avoid the confrontation that was needed to help me grow in spiritual maturity.
Maybe one of the toughest things we must learn as believers is how to respond to criticism. Really doesn’t make much difference if it is valid or not, all criticism evokes a reaction. Ouch! Learning to keep our emotions and fleshly responses under the control of the spirit is a giant step towards maturity.
Helping one another grow spiritually is a challenging balancing act as we strive to grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus. We may not like shots and criticism, but we do want to grow in spiritual maturity. One of the best ways to learn is hearing truthful words spoken in love. I’m glad there are believers that are anointed to do that. Thank you Dr. Rainer and others who speak truth in love!
Please add your comments of your experience of being shaped by truth in love!