Joel R. Beeke and Nick Thompson, Pastors and their Critics: A Guide to Coping with Criticism in the Ministry. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2020. $10.00, paper.
Criticism can drive men from the ministry. For some it comes early in their careers, unexpected and fierce, like a flash flood. Unable to receive criticism, the pastor resigns or moves to another field believing, wrongly, that his initial experience was unique.
What went wrong? Part of the problem can be unrealistic expectations. While preparing for ministry, a young man envisions his future congregation as a group of believers eager to learn from him and follow his leadership. Early on, criticism came and expectations were shattered, leaving him hurt and disillusioned. Isolation can exacerbate the problem. Perhaps for the first time, he is experiencing life without the support of nearby family, encouraging friends, and affirming professors.
Inexperience can intensify the hurt. He may arrive at his first church with little or no management experience – he hasn’t been exposed to the kind of criticism that comes with the responsibility of leadership.
I want my seminary students properly prepared for this particular challenge, which is why I was glad to make Pastors and Their Critics a required text in my recent seminary leadership class. Judging from student papers, without exception they found the authors’ counsel valuable.