9 Ways to Respond to the Church Critic

One well-worn adage reads, “The two things you can’t avoid in life are death and taxes.” As a Pastor, I’d like to suggest two more for those in ministry. Two things a pastor can’t avoid: people being late to the Sunday service and…critics. I’ve served in full-time ministry for 35 years and I’ve experienced my share of critics. I’ve responded well to some and not-so-well to others. And I’ve learned 9 ways that have helped me respond better to the church critic.

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9 Ways to Respond to the Church Critic.

  1. Give them your ear, but within reason. Don’t allow someone to destroy you with caustic criticism.
  2. Let your body language communicate that you are truly trying to understand.
  3. Avoid an immediate retort such as “Yea but,” or “You’re wrong,” or some other defensive response.
  4. Breath this silent prayer, “Lord, give me grace to respond and not react.”
  5. Before responding take a few moments to check what you’re about to say. Abraham Lincoln used to suggest counting to 100 when you get angry. That may a bit of overkill, but he is on to something.
  6. Look for the proverbial ‘grain of truth’ in the criticism and act upon it accordingly.
  7. If you see more than a grain of truth and you can’t process it alone, seek feedback from the safe person in your life. (see my post on What to Look for in a Safe Person).
  8. Ask God to keep you approachable to your critics (within reason). However, you probably wouldn’t want to vacation with them. 🙂
  9. Learn from your critics on how best to deliver criticism to others. When someone delivers criticism that you received well, ask yourself what about how they criticized you made it easier to receive. For those who don’t criticize well, avoid their tactics.

What has helped you deal with the church critic?

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5 Proven Ways to a Better Brain in 2016

God created a magnificent part of our body, the brain, as our command and control center. With 100 billion brain cells, it weighs a mere two to three pounds, yet it require 20% of our body’s energy. Since God expects us to take care of bodies (1 Corinthians 6.19-20) it naturally follows that we should take care of our brain, since it’s part of our body. How do we do that? As you think about how to make 2016 a great year, consider these 5 proven ways to a better brain in 2016.

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5 Proven Ways to a Better Brain in 2016

  1. Fertilize it with the brain’s Miracle-Grow.
    • For years research has shown that exercise benefits our body. But recent research has discovered that it benefits our brains as well. When we exercise it causes our brains to release a protein called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which has been called the Miracle-Gro for the brain. It encourages new neuronal growth and protects brain cells from stress. To maximize BDNF, the experts recommend that you exercise at 60-75% of your maximum heart rate for 30 minutes 3-5 times each week.
  2. Strengthen your brain’s muscles with mental stimulation.
    • The brain is like a muscle. The old adage, ‘use or lose it’ applies to our brains as well as to our physical muscles. And the best way to strengthen it is to challenge yourself mentally, outside your normal mental challenges. As a pastor, I read a lot of biblically based books. Although that challenges my mind, I also read in other fields, specifically neuroscience, which challenges my thinking. So to maximally exercise your brain, chose mental tasks that are novel or outside your normal mental routines.
  3. Sleep your way to a better brain.
    • Often we try to get more out of our day by skimping on sleep. But sleep is a powerful brian booster. It benefits us by improving mood, enhancing creativity, increasing our ability to pay attention, and by clearing out our brain’s toxins while we sleep. Read more about the benefits of sleep here.
  4. Stomp out excessive amounts of the brain shrinker, cortisol.
    • Cortisol is called the stress hormone and is secreted by our adrenal glands that lie atop our kidneys. We need cortisol to help us deal with challenges and crises and to help us pay attention. But when we live under constant stress, cortisol actually causes part of our brains to shrink, especially the memory center called the hippocampus. So, managing stress if vital to a healthy brain. Learn here 10 ways to manage stress.
  5. Feed it with a brain healthy diet.
    • Too much sugar and fat can actually inhibit production of BDNF (see number 1 above). However, a healthy diet that limits refined sugar and saturated can benefit your brain. While a brain healthy diet limits those two, it should also include elements of what is now called the MIND diet proven to help keep your brain healthy: lean proteins, healthy fats, beans, whole grains, and fruits and nuts. Taking a fish oil supplement can also help.

So, as you look to make 2016 a great year, why not resolve to keep a healthy brain.

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Leading in Turbulent Times: 4 Essentials

If you are a leader, you will face turbulence in your ministry or organization. Sometimes the turbulence feels so intense that leading seems impossible. If you’re currently facing turbulent times in your role, consider what one of the most revered men in history did when he faced such times.

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King David constantly faced turbulence as he led. When King Saul died, Israel faced a leadership future fraught with obstacles. I Chronicles 12 describes how many groups stepped up to help David make this transition. The Scriptures describe one particular group, called the men of Issachar, in this way.

  • (they) understood the times and knew what Israel should do — 200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command…. (v. 32)
  • All these were fighting men who volunteered to serve in the ranks. They came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over all Israel. (v. 38)

This group modeled what every leader must embody during turbulent times.

  • they understood the times: they accurately perceived reality.
  • they knew what to do: they knew the steps they must take.
  • they were fully determined to make David king: their passion compelled them forward.

From the men of Issachar’s example, we can learn four essentials necessary for good leadership in turbulent times.

  1. Clearly define reality.
  2. Shape a vision in response to the difficulty.
  3. Develop a coherent, practical strategy.
  4. Implement your strategy with passion and courage.

What has helped you lead better during turbulent times?

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Shadow Beliefs in a Leader: Clues to Yours

Kevin Cashman wrote an outstanding book on leadership called Leadership from the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life. In his book he writes about conscious beliefs and shadow beliefs. He defines a shadow belief as a belief we hold deep inside, outside of our conscious awareness. He provides insight about how to discover those beliefs.

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He contends that these beliefs often hinder leaders from being their best. For example, one shadow belief might be that subtle voice inside that constantly says, “You must perform better than everybody else for people to like you.” For me, one shadow belief I discovered was this: “Everybody around me needs to be happy for me to be happy. Therefore, I must try to make everybody happy.” Years ago that belief stifled my joy and peace as I tried to lead our church.

Cashman says, however, that we must bring those shadow beliefs into the light so that we can become our best as leaders. He gives seven clues that can bring these shadow beliefs to light.

  1. If other people often give us feedback inconsistent with how we see ourselves, a shadow is present.
  2. When we feel stuck or blocked with a real loss as to what to do next, a shadow is holding us back.
  3. As strengths become counterproductive, some hidden dynamics need to surface.
  4. When are are not open to new information, new learning, or other people’s views, a shadow is limiting us.
  5. If we react to circumstances with emotional responses disproportionate to the situation, we are right over the target of a shadow belief.
  6. When we find ourselves forcefully reacting to the limitations of others in a critical, judgmental way, we are often projecting our shadow onto others.
  7. If we often experience pain, trauma, or discomfort in our body, a shadow belief may be attempting to rise to the surface to seek reconciliation.

As I’ve faced my shadow beliefs, I’ve experienced greater peace in my life and become a more productive leader.

How about you? Are any shadow beliefs dogging your leadership?

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The iPhone App that Improved my Ability to Concentrate

One of the most precious commodities a pastor has is time. Ministry always beckons us to do more than time permits. I once heard a researcher state that most people have 35 hours of unfinished work ahead of them. However, if we use the time we have most effectively, we’ll become more fruitful for the Kingdom. This app has helps me concentrate better which has improved my time management.


Preparing sermons, at least for senior pastors, is one of the most time consuming Kingdom commitments. Although I don’t preach every week, I still must prepare over 40 original messages each year. Each week I study 15-20 hours to prepare one sermon. That’s a good chunk of my week which requires concentration.

Some time back I purchased a $2.99 iPhone app that has proved invaluable to help me concentrate when I study. When I fully concentrate, I make much more progress than when my mind gets distracted.

That app, Ambiance, is a simple collection of natural (and man-made) sounds that I play on my iPhone through my headphones. They call it an “environment enhancer.” In case you are wondering, I don’t make money on the sale of this app and I’m not connected in any way to the company.

The standard iPhone earbuds work ok, but I purchased a pair of noise canceling headphones (Audio Technica) that block out most ambient noise. You can purchase more expensive ones, but this set works great for me. This would make a great Christmas present. They’re not Bose, but a third the price.

So when I study, I plug in, play a repetitive waterfall or beach sound, and become totally oblivious to the people and sounds around me. My ability to concentrate skyrockets. Science confirms that white noise helps us concentrate.

As Paul the Apostle wrote in Ephesians 5.16, … make every minute count. (CEV)

This simple $2.99 purchase has helped me put that command into practice.

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