There has been a lot of criticism leveled at the church over the years. Criticism can become a hobby if we are not careful. It seems to me our culture is becoming a lot more overtly critical and now has the platforms to leverage that to a wider audience. Or maybe the criticism level hasn’t changed, it is just more visible now than it was before.
What is the place of criticism in the church?
Matthew 18 sets the standard for resolving conflict with individuals. I don’t think that applies to all systemic issues.
Paul addressed congregational issues but he was inspired and had apostolic authority.
I believe we can critique the church in a way that does not distract from her beauty. There are two categories that the critique can fall into:
1 – Critique of local issues in a specific congregation
2 – Critique of general issues that are common to congregations
The first should be dealt with in person and not through a megaphone to the world. It involves actual relationships that need to be maintained and are not hypothetical. The second, I believe, is fair game for both public and private discourse. In both instances the goal of the critique should be to find a path to improvement rather than to vent or rant with no eye for improvement.
A followup question is this – How does one effectively critique a network of loosely connected autonomous churches? Is there a way to offer a better path forward for church leaders who have little to no incentive to make things better through change? And who gets to decide what is actually “better” for one church vs another? I don’t claim to have good answers to these questions. Maybe you do!
In all of these situations the person doing the critique needs to do some soul searching to make sure they are not doing this out of pride or spite. One can grow a following faster through talking about what is wrong over talking about what is right…bad news catches on quicker than good news (Bob Goff aside!). This is of the flesh and the critiquer needs to process this internally before moving forward.
Here are four questions you can ask yourself to make sure your heart is in the right place:
1 – Do I want to see this church (these churches) succeed or fail? If it is the second, don’t do it.
2 – Do I get any pleasure out of seeing the problems? If yes, don’t do it.
3 – Do I have any feelings of superiority in pointing out issues in others? If yes, don’t do it.
4 – Have I addressed these same issues in my own life and ministry successfully? Often we are most sensitive in others what we struggle with most ourselves.