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Preachers and Those Who Criticize Them

Some people can find fault with anything. Two taxidermists stopped before a window in which an owl was on display. They immediately began to criticize the way it was mounted. Its eyes were not natural; its wings were not in proportion with its head; its feathers were not neatly arranged; and its feet could certainly be improved. When they finished criticizing the owl, the old bird slowly turned its head - and winked at them! According to Homiletics magazine, in 2003 a funeral company in Brazil released ads on local TV containing the motto: "Our clients have never come back to complain" (March, 2005; p 23). That's true. No matter how lousy the funeral service or how unfriendly the funeral director, no matter how powerless and pathetic the preacher's funeral sermon or how long or how poorly done, no matter how sorry the singing — people who lie in cemeteries never criticize or complain. Meanwhile back here in the land of the living, there is more than enough criticism to go round. Even down at church the pews are frequently occupied by a critic or two. Elders, preachers, babies, budgets, teenagers, the temperature in the building -- all are at one time or another the target of these hyper-critics and their criticisms (we're considering unjust and unfounded criticism). It reminds me of the saying that some people keep on knocking even after they come in. Some people come into the church and just keep on knocking.

Preachers certainly receive criticism, and sometimes criticism is needed. And yes, some preachers are lazy, unethical, greedy, and even immoral. Don't forget the same can be said about politicians, policemen, doctors, lawyers, teachers, bankers, farmers, factory workers, etc. A single bad apple does not make the whole barrel rotten. Most preachers I know (and I am almost certain most of the ones you know) are like most of the policemen or teachers or doctors I know. Not perfect to be sure, but sincere and faithful and dedicated to the task they believe God has assigned to them. But even the best of preachers can't satisfy some people. In 1' Corinthians 9:3 the great apostle Paul responded to critics in the church with these words: "My answer to those who examine me is this." The Greek word "examine" here indicates they were scrutinizing Paul and had him under the magnifying glass, looking for faults. Read the context and you will learn that the criticism Paul received was completely unfounded and unfair. Paul's critics remind me of the story of the Sunday school teacher who asked her third graders if there was anything God couldn't do. One little boy quickly blurted out, "Yeah. He can't please everybody." History has seen only one Perfect Preacher — and His critics hated Him without a cause and crucified Him. Every elder and preacher and member of the church on earth ought to remember that. Frogs will croak, dogs will bark, and critics will criticize. But from Moses, Jeremiah, Jesus and Paul we learn that God's faithful servants won't let the (unfair) critic's heat run them out of the kitchen.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ