A Note from Kelly King: I’m often reminded that ministry must minister. Jesus came to those who needed a doctor. He wasn’t striving for compliments, and we know He definitely encountered criticism. In this article, Stephanie Edge, addresses how leaders can and should respond to both compliments and criticism. She mentions LifeWay author, Lysa TerKeurst. If you aren’t familiar with her resources or the new LifeWay Women event, The Word Alive, click here.
Union University recently welcomed Lysa TerKeurst to campus to share God’s Word with the students, faculty, and women in the surrounding area. Lysa serves as the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. She is a frequent speaker and author of over 18 books, many of which have been on the New York Times best seller list. More importantly, for this conversation, Lysa is a veteran women’s leader.
Female student leaders joined Lysa for lunch and a time of Q&A. She answered practical questions about life and leadership. One of the many leadership tips she shared grabbed my attention: “Don’t let compliments go to your head and criticisms go to your heart.”
Today, many Christian leaders are viewed as celebrities. Women rush to their sold out conferences, purchase their bestselling books and Bible studies, follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and seek to capture their photos to post on Instagram and SnapChat. Some women are groupies of particular teachers and even nearly idolize certain leaders. Others desperately seek to be in their presence and grasp for them to provide answers to their pressing problems. Lysa rightly shared, “Don’t let people put you on a pedestal.”
Have we forgotten who our real help is? Our help, salvation, and peace are found in none other than the person of Jesus Christ, not fellow believers and fellow servants. “I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2). Somehow, in the natural and right desire to esteem leaders, we have made idols out of mere mortals. Misplacement of adoration leads to disappointment. We need to stop and refocus our eyes on Jesus (Exodus 20:3-4).
As women’s leaders, we must remember our part in ministry. 1 Corinthians 3:5-7 identifies our role. “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” Have we forgotten what true service is about? The picture of a true servant is found in Philippians 2:5-8. Christ served in humility and was willing to sacrifice all. Therefore, His name will be exalted. It is for His glory and His alone that we serve. We are His servants pointing others to Christ (Matthew 5:16). Let’s serve well!
And, then there is criticism. Ministry and leadership can often look fun and appealing from a distance, but challenges are inherent and criticism is indeed one of these challenges. These days criticism is fierce. Perhaps in part because of the anonymity of social media. People feel free to share their raw, unfiltered comments. Slander, lies, and backseat opinions are hurled daily in the media. We seem to live and minister in a world of extremes. Lysa rightly assessed that for as many people who love you, there is another group who hates you.
How can we rise above criticism?
- Tip 1: Refrain from responding immediately, especially if you have just expended a great deal of energy serving.
- Tip 2: Evaluate the criticism for truth.
- Tip 3: Determine an appropriate response.
- Tip 4: Remember Whose you are and Who you are serving.
- Tip 5: Keep on serving!1
Lysa’s advice to the college students attending the Q&A luncheon was so appropriate, and it is life-giving for those of us who are further down the road in life and ministry. It is worth repeating: “Don’t let compliments go to your head and criticisms go to your heart.” As we join hands together for the sake of the gospel, let us keep on serving! “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession” (Hebrews 3:1).
Stephanie is the former Director of Women’s Ministry at Poplar Heights Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee and a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier. She graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity. She also completed a Masters of Theology and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Stephanie currently is an Associate Professor at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She has a passion for God’s Word and ministering to women.
1. Scott Beargie and Justin McAvoy, “How to…handle criticism,” Occupational Health 59, no. 5 (January 2010): 24-25.