Curbing Criticism

getthatjob_handle_criticismCriticism can be such a destructive force in any kind of relationship. Even amongst Christians who should be known for love, mercy and grace, there are plenty of examples of sniping and self-righteousness. Some of the worst examples involve gossip, Facebook rants and anonymous online posts which can quickly spread malicious rumours that unfairly question people’s motives and hide behind self-entitled offences. Of course, the best way forward may be with deliberate positivity, but there is also a need for people to help stamp out unhealthy criticism when their friends and family practise it.

Here are a few suggestions to handling this problem.

  1. Think ‘private’. Jesus Himself said to speak to others first. I once told a public critic who said his ‘target’ wouldn’t return calls, that this didn’t warrant escalation by denigration! To his credit, he tried to call, but with an apologetic tone; he got through and they reconciled! Most times, our issues are not other people’s business; sometimes, they’re not even ours.
  2. When you need others, keep it objective. A solution-focused response doesn’t just need sympathisers, but people who can ask objective questions, even of us; people who don’t gossip and who have some bridges with the person concerned. If you can’t gain a private audience with or without such friends or mediators, it’s time to leave it to the powers that be. Keep short accounts, life is too precious.
  3. Don’t believe everything you read or hear. Good people seldom lie, but they will present a slant on facts and present partial facts. They can also mishear and misunderstand and then relay this as ‘truth’. Glossy publications and fancy webpages can look convincing and well-researched, too, but what is actually quoted and what extra questions should be asked to qualify the information?
  4. Resist the temptation to be Jesus’ defendant. Hillsong haters, Bethel bashers, Lakewood loathers… critics tend to believe that they are protectors of truth and then marshal sympathisers and Scriptures to back their efforts. Any justification in their concern is undone by their methods and by overlooking the good in the people and organisations they smear. Often, critics misapply the Bible and have little understanding of the organisations or the motives they rail against.

As a Christian, I feel obligated to keep my frustrations to a small circle and to preserve unity, to see the good in others. I am not God’s umpire! This perspective actually keeps me healthy and positive, focusing on what is within my sphere of influence. When the sky is falling, we can be all too easily distracted from what we should be doing by picking or entering fights over which aren’t our concern and in we don’t have all the information. In a shrinking globe with myriad problems, we so often just need to… let go and live!


23 thoughts on “Curbing Criticism

  1. Hi there, I don’t know if this directly relates but only a few days ago my daily verse on my mobile showed Matt. 7:1-6 basically do not judge others and don’t be a hypocrite. I then remembered another verse when I read that which was 2 Tim. 3:16-17 highlighting the part about the word of God being good for teaching, rebuking and correcting etc.

    I know they are both verses that connect with the entirety of their chapters but I would still like to know what is your opinion on a fine balance of these two verses and were they meant for the same group/type of people eg. for the church to church, church to non-church etc. Because I often wander when and where and how should I help those who i know need help, knowing that I am not perfect.


    • Thanks Rebekah, good question. I think Matthew 18:15-20, Ephesians 4:15 and 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 also offer advice, especially in dealing with Christians’ attitudes toward each other. The Bible is the standard for behaviour and comments but the truth that it addresses must be spoken in love, e.g. when a person is perhaps unaware of their own adverse effect on others. When this is done privately, in a solution-focused way, the emphasis is on preserving relationship. When this can’t happen, it should involve others (unless we are OK to let it go) but still in a solution-focused and loving way. When the issue risks becoming a public source of disunity, especially through people who have no authority to discipline or correct, Paul says we should ‘rather be wronged’. Church discipline should hopefully be gracious and mature, with the checks and balances of leadership teams, a heart for restoration of the individual, and protection of the majority.

    • Matthew 7:1-6 must be taken in context with the whole counsel of the Word. It is NOT a prohibition against judging, but rather an admonition to look first to one’s own shortcoming.

      The Sermon on the Mount is about our motives and our sin. In Matthew 6:5, the hypocrite is called out for making a public spectacle out of prayer. Jesus’ sermon contains warnings against anger (Matthew 5:22), lust (Matthew 5:28), and he commanded us to to love our enemies, (Matthew 5:44), warning us not to love money. (Matthew 6:24). He let us all know that in our carnal state, we are sinners in need of salvation. In His words, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). Clearly, none of us can live up to this standard on our own. ONLY the righteousness of Jesus, our robe after salvation, would meet this standard.

      Matthew 7:1-5 tells us not to judge the righteousness of others by comparing them to ourselves. And we are not to be self-righteous, minimizing our own shortcomings and viewing others’ shortcomings as greater. We cannot SEE into the minds and hearts of others. Only God can do that. (I Samuel 16:7.) So we do not judge those. BUT, this passage does not preclude judgment, it merely begins the process. Jesus said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” Matthew 7:24. How do we judge righteously? By holding actions (not motives) up to the Word of God to see if it passes muster. God has made clear what is right and what is sin. He is the One who judges us all.

  2. OP, what’s your take on the current ecumenical movement? The “Road to Rome” as it’s often called. Didn’t this movement spring out of the failure to keep objective, biblical Truths as Truth? Scripture is loud and clear regarding the need to mark, avoid, and expose those who decide to preach that which is contrary to Scripture’s central truths.

    “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” (Romans 16:17)

    “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” (2 Corinthians 6:17)

    “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonias 5:21)

    “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” (2 Corinthians 11: 12-15)

    “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:6)

    Don’t mean to Scripture bomb, but the exhortations are clear, dear friend.

    In His love,

    • Hi Jackie, There certainly are many verses promoting careful evaluation and being on guard, as you say. My issue is with the public nature of the criticisms. There needs to be due process to avoid a free-for-all avalanche of critiques by individuals who presume a correct application of Scripture (and who often themselves fall short in areas). Otherwise, we end up with many customised interpretations of churches and ministries that risk pulling people down and discouraging them when they may be doing a power of good that is more deserving of focus, albeit with gracious comment on matters of concern. Even where there are clear errors and when intervention is more greatly warranted, there is still ideally some due process. I’d hate to think that someone would swoop in to judge a church because of the odd badly-worded comment or sermon, a mistake, or a less-than-exemplary person. When I see what I don’t like in others or their churches, I’m not sure it’s generally my place to comment and cannot surely assume the role of public judge; someone perhaps can and should in extreme cases, but I’d be asking why I should really be that person. Regards, Rob

  3. Secondly, we are, absolutely, called to defend the Gospel once delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3.) We know from the repeated admonitions of Jesus and the Apostles that the End Times will be characterized by a falling away of the Church, the Body of Christ.
    “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
    II Timothy 3:1-5.

    “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.”
    II Thessalonians 2:1-6.

    There are several others. The point is that we are seeing this happening all around us. The hour is late and heresy is rampant. As for the “Hillsong haters,” the “Bethel bashers” and “lakewood loathers,” it is time more believers became Bereans and did their due diligence in proving these charlatans. (Acts 17:10-11 and I Thessalonians 5:21.) We are CHARGED, as disciples, to do this, and when we fail to do it, we are deceived. We will stand before Him once day soon and give an account. I want to hear, “Well done, faithful servant,” rather than answer for why I stood by and watched these evils go unchallenged. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”
    Romans 16:17. I’m marking ALL three of those “churches.” They are tools of the enemy.

    • Thanks for the post Kristen. I certainly endorse the Berean example, but just feel its harsh to label these churches as tools of the enemy. There may be varied opinions and concerns over particular teachings, at times. Nevertheless, I prefer to be very gracious when I know that many people in these churches are on a spiritual journey and at various levels of commitment to God and when I know that the pastors demonstrate good character and an honourable passion for discipleship. The churches mentioned are all seeing many people won to Christ and demonstrating many good examples of community work and life transformation and then also upholding the name of Jesus and worshipping God. If we feel that they fall short in some area, I simply can’t see how that entitles individual Christians to play the role of public commentator or judge. Where individuals or churches do fall short, though, some private and gracious correspondence would be best in the first instance, and perhaps some private group discussion in the second, provided of course that an audience is given. Freelance commentary seems to violate 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 and the spirit of Colossians 4:6, etc., maybe making this a complex issue in an era where it is so easy for people to engage with each other electronically. Regards, Rob

      • Rob, you say, regarding these churches, that they’re seeing, “many people won to Christ” and “demonstrating good examples of community work.” The question then becomes, won to WHICH Christ?” Is it the Christ of the Word of God? Is it the Gospel set forth in the Word?

        If we err in presenting the Gospel, it becomes “another gospel,” and is accursed. (Galatians 1:8.) As an example, here is a portion of Hillsong’s statement of faith:
        “We believe that in order to receive forgiveness and the ‘new birth’ we must repent of our sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and submit to His will for our lives.”
        To exercise our due diligence and be Bereans, we must examine this statement against the truth of the Word. It FAILS. Nowhere in Scripture do we find that it is necessary to “repent of our sins.” To the contrary, Jesus taught that all we need to is to believe. See: John 3:16-19; John 5:24; John 6:40, 47; John 7:37-8; John 10:37-38; John 11:25-26; and John 20:31. Did Jesus get it wrong? Did the Apostles?

        And the part about “submit to His will”? Can’t find that, ANYWHERE in the Word.

        So, right from t he “get go,” we know that Hillsong is preaching “another gospel.” As to the community work, is there Bible authority for what they are doing for the “community”? Yes, believers are specifically admonished to provide for widows and orphans, but beyond that, what are we told to do? “Love not the things of the world” comes to mind. Believers are given very singular instructions, and it involves the sharing of the Gospel, the pure Gospel, unaltered by the wisdom of man. By the grace of God the Father, salvation through the finished work of Jesus on the cross, and nothing more of works by man. No “turning from sin,” (works) or submitting our lives. Again, “works.”

        Rob, before you defended them, have you proven the doctrine for Bethel and Lakewood?

      • Kristen, the point is that, although we can and should be discerning, it is not our place to criticise in public. It is quite harsh to attack Hillsong on the grounds you have when repentance (at Pentecost) and submission to God’s will (the Lord’s Prayer) are New Testament concepts and the church is honouring God, irrespective of whether the right phrasing is found. Serving the community is not prohibited in the Bible and surely helps to bridge people to Christ. I am just asking that we avoid attacking churches and making judgmental statements. I am not a personal supporter of Bethel and Lakewood and do not follow them; I just don’t see anyone is served by jumping on churches, especially when there is no overt heresy. You and I will also be attacked when we seek to serve God and do anything that gets people’s attention, because people find all sorts of angles on what they feel the Bible teaches. The church does itself a great disservice in its attempt to witness when individual people attack others and assume the mantle of public defender.

  4. Dear Rob,

    I assume that you are a Bethel supporter. Would you think it Biblically acceptable for me to adopt their practice of grave sucking in order to receive an annointing? Do you agree with Bill Johnson’s statement?

    ““There are anointings, mantles, revelations and mysteries that have lain unclaimed, literally where they were left because the generation that walked in them never passed them on. I believe it’s possible for us to recover realms of anointing, realms of insight, realms of God that have been untended for decades simply by choosing to reclaim them and perpetuate them for future generations.”

    Do you agree with Kris Vallotton’s from Bethel who states?

    “-so, I was in a prayer chapel and laying on the floor and I said, “God would you give me the mantle of William Branham?” And, He said, “Well, how could I do that? If I did that it would destroy you.” Then, I was layin’ there and it was like, the Lord asked ‘how could I do that’ so then I said – I waited about a few minutes – I was thinking about and I said, “Well, you could put the same mantle on a whole generation then we wouldn’t stand out from one another.” He said, “Alright, I’ll do that.”

    “I don’t think William was a false prophet … I am not sure why it would be disrespectful to God to lay on someone’s grave (I might be missing something here). When the dead man was thrown into the grave of Elisha he came to life. So I imagine that Elisha’s anointing died with him as he didn’t pass his mantel to the next generation as Elijah did for him. So in my OPINION I do think there are times when a person’s mantel/anointing dies with them and is “cry out from the ground” sort of speak.”

    I am wondering if you could give me a credible, biblical explanation of the doctrine of sucking the anointing off of gravesites?

    In Christ,

    • Thanks Lori, I’m not given to ardently following particular churches such as Bethel. My point was that public criticism is an issue where Christians attack other Christians and create a bad witness, Paul’s concern in 1 Corinthians 6:1-7. There have been plenty of examples over the years of less than ideal statements and inferences coming from churches or ministries, but I wouldn’t want to create a new problem by attacking or condemning them. It’s not my place to slander people who are fundamentally advocating discipleship of Christ and devotion to God. I spit out the bones, accept the good and celebrate what places like Bethel are doing that is helpful, so that we can focus on unity. As for this notion of ‘grave sucking’, I’m not sure that it is directly promoted as such and understand that people from Bethel have said as much. The key difference is whether something could be possible, rather than being promoted as normative and the latter would require Scriptural support (as, for example, in the case of Pentecostals promoting Baptism in the Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues). I would personally avoid teaching anything along the lines of the quotes you have mentioned, but I wouldn’t deny the possibility of a miracle occurring.

  5. Rob, you say, “it is not our place to criticise in public.” I would simply, again, put this Scripture in front of you, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.”
    Romans 16:17-19.

    Why are we to “mark” rather than to simply “notice”? This is to publicly name names. “This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme.” (1Timothy 1:18 – 20.)

    We are TOLD to deal with false teaching publicly because the teachings of these “churches” are public. The admonition to take two or three witnesses in a private meeting is not applicable when the teaching is public. Everyone who hears or reads or watches a video of the goings on knows what they believe and teach. The question is whether or not these things are solidly grounded in the Word of God. False teaching undermines the entire Body of Christ and cannot be tolerated.. “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”
    Jude, verse 3.

    Our instructions are clear. We are not taught to make nice and smooth over doctrinal errors. We are to arm ourselves with the TRUTH and fight for it.

    • Kristen, your many verses cited reflect the problem I have been alluding to. It is right to appeal to Scripture because it is foundational to our beliefs, but it is also easy to use the Bible selectively. I have been arguing not against marking error or fighting for truth, per se, but against the tone and manner in individuals presuming the right to do this, often alarmingly ungraciously. Such responses place us in a dangerous position of presumption, based on personal interpretations. They also overlook the need for unity and for humility in regard to our own flaws. Others will attack you, too, if you are in leadership; some of that won’t even be justified but the attackers will cite Scripture against heresy or feel entitled to hold offence. The fact that we have such a diverse spread of denominations and leaders today who are not accountable outside their own churches is sometimes good and sometimes not. A lack of accountability for error is problematic in ways perhaps foreign to the biblical authors, but the solution is not to have individuals presume to act for God in judgment as if to be some source of authority upholding the cause. Someone may need to act, but it is not our personal right to act as vigilantes. The more we focus on God’s Kingdom and on His mission for us and on our accountability to others in leadership over us, the more we will all do good for God and the less we will destroy Christ’s body with the sort of unwarranted infighting that is a little like the body’s own cells turning on it in cases of cancer. Of course, I respect the motives in those who want to preserve truth, but the problem I have highlighted does infinitely more harm than good and usually serves as a diversion from personal accountability for people’s own mission for God.

      • We are going in circles. But I will conclude my discussion with you with this thought. You have subtly suggested that my use of the Word of God is somehow “selective” and even more subject to criticism because it has been used out of context. If you believe that is so, then – as a man charged with leading sheep – show me with the Word of God where I have erred. Have I taken a portion of the Word and assigned a meaning that you believe is incorrect? Make your case against what I said with the Word of God.

        We are believers in Christ Jesus. We take our instructions for life from the Word. We do not rely on the wisdom of mankind, but we rely on God’s wisdom. SHOW ME, with Scripture, that my reasoning is flawed.

        “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.”
        Psalm 118:8.

        I’m sticking with His instructions unless and until you can show me, with Scripture that I am in error.

      • Hi Kirsten, I apologise if you feel that I am having a go at you. That is not my intention. I am trying to refer to the general practice of attacking other Christians which, to me, is a significant problem in the Christian church today. Therefore, we probably have to agree to disagree as I feel that my various responses have alluded to a few main interpretations of verses I and others have raised and that it would be pointless debating verses endlessly.

  6. Hoping Rob you see your lack of the use of God’s Word, yet judging the motives of others citing Scripture. May we all seek to rightly divide His Word of truth. May we mark and avoid the doctrine that is contrary to the one we learned. May we defend the gospel. May we earnestly contend for the faith. May we tend the flock and not give them meat and have them figure out to spit out the poisoned bones.

    • Hi Holly, I can’t really add much to what I have said in reply to the various responses already, except that I am not intending to judge anyone specifically, only to generally query the rights of individuals to issue public criticisms that trend toward attack. I see the point you and others are making, but I certainly do value the use of Scripture and its importance in our own discernment and in regulating our conduct and practice as Christians. Acts 20 perhaps gives a good example of the need for ‘elders’ or church leaders to warn against error, but all I am saying is that I can’t see the value in individuals resorting to public attacks against other Christians.

  7. Hi Rob…

    I was wondering what you thought of Eph 5 where Paul(through the Holy Spirit) exhorts us to be imitators of God…EXPOSING the unfruitful deeds of others

    or when Paul calls out Peters error in Galatians 2…and how the works of the Law never saved anyone. Yet, these churches that you have exhorted us (as a shepherd of God’s Truth) to basically turn a blind eye to their error(untruth from the Word of God…) Peter was a “Believer”…a Christian…but he was teaching LAW and needed to be CALLED OUT PUBLICLY!

    If what you are saying is true, would’t that be the opposite of what the Bereans did to Paul?… (who was writing the Gospel account and he PRAISED them for doing it. he told them that they were doing it RIGHT… to “search the Scriptures to see if these things were so”)

    Did Paul himself call out Hymenaeus and Philetus and Alexander publicly and give these men over to satan so that the TRUTH would not be perverted and turned into gangrene and spread??

    Here is an example of error that I am sure we would BOTH agree with…I would hope 😉 that MUST be exposed and let people KNOW that this is ERROR and NOT just up for interpretation…but just plain and simple a LIE from the pit of hell…Benny Hinn who claims to be a ‘believer’ in Jesus…and his following also claims that they are “believers’..(.the “Christians” that you are telling us to not publicly call out)… Benny, when his church was in Orlando proclaimed this… ” about the Trinity: Oh, there’s not 3, there’s 9, Father God, He’s got a body, soul and spirit, Holy Spirit has body, soul and spirit, Jesus had body, soul and spirit. There’s 9 of them!!” ……..Now, would you NOT tell your sheep that just went to one of his conferences and came back telling the rest of your flock that this was TRUTH, that Benny was NOT speaking TRUTH and he is a false prophet and MUST be avoided at all cost and SHOW them in the Word of TRUTH, WHY you say these things about this professed “Christian”?

    My Question to you is what is the point of Searching (and finding that when the things preached by these pastors do NOT line up with the Word of God) if we are to do NOTHING about it when we do find error?? I guess I am confused by what you are telling us to do and what the actual Word tells us to do as Followers of Christ.

    In Him,

    • Hi Kimberrly, Thanks for the response. My point has been that public criticisms of an attacking nature are not the domain of the average person. Matthew 18:15-20, Ephesians 4:15 and 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 focus on preserving relationship and unity within the Body of Christ. Where we believe people are in error, we then deal with this privately, but escalation doesn’t warrant any Christian self-determining the need for public attack. The verses you have cited show Paul and other authorised leaders exposing sin, just as a pastor might expose the sin of a church leader to the whole congregation or a denominational leader might speak objectively against false teaching, but there is a due process and not a free-for-all. Ultimately, the church needs protection from heresy but not by individuals making public judgments. I just feel that individuals risk tremendous harm, disunity and distraction from their own call if justifying such actions with selected Scriptures or interpretations. Hope that helps.

  8. Hi Rob,

    You made the following comments:

    “The more we focus on God’s Kingdom and on His mission for us and on our accountability to others in leadership over us, the more we will all do good for God and the less we will destroy Christ’s body….” and “I can’t see the value in individuals resorting to public attacks against other Christians.”

    I personally would not want to be accountable to a leader that sweeps false teachers and their teachings under the carpet as long as some ‘good’ is coming out of their church and/or ministry.
    Surely you must be aware that there are people even within your own church that follow the teachings of Bethel, Vallotton and the equally offensive ‘Jesus Calling’ by Sarah Young.

    But my experience is that those who speak out against false teachers are the ones who are chastised for being intolerant, negative or divisive. Yet if we don’t speak out, how will people be taught that many of the teachers they are following and books they are reading are questionable or outright heretical.

    Such a shame that, given the privileged role you have as pastor and shepherd, your preferred method is to tell Christians to keep quiet or be selective in who they speak to rather than speak out and warn others.

    • Hi Amy, thanks for the feedback. I am not suggesting leaders sweep comments under the carpet and I think the safeguard they provide to their congregation is an important protection. I am, of course, asking Christians to be careful how they go about dealing with what they oppose, so as to avoid self-determined attacks on others, since these create other problems such as diversion from mission or disunity.

      • Then the problem is still that these false teaches can go on publicly teaching error without ever being challenged. The issue is that a growing number of people are being duped by this false doctrine (which thanks to the internet is on the rise) and yet too few churches standing up to challenge them. This is likely why individuals (as good Bereans) feel compelled to speak up, because few others will!

      • Yes, you raise a good point about the need for greater cooperation between churches at the leadership level. I’d endorse the spirit of the noble Bereans in being diligent and discerning, but just not if that results in taking a self-appointed place in lieu of leaders, due to the danger of individuals going on the attack against other Christians on their own say-so. It’s a little like the sort of vigilante action that some endorse when the police are unable to enact justice; maybe this is somewhat different, but I think the principle is still valid.

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