It feels like the last several months I’ve had to deal with a lot of scrutiny. Whether it’s over budget, philosophy, practices, or other things, there’s been a lot of questioning of my ministry and myself personally.
Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complaint or a woe-is-me pity party. I knew coming into ministry that it’s a life full of criticism (both constructive and otherwise) and that my personal and professional life is constantly under the watchful eye of those who care about me and want to see me succeed, and those whose motives are not as pure. In ministry it’s not a question of IF you will be criticized, it’s when. And an even better question is, how will you respond to scrutiny when it comes?
Here are some things I think are crucial to think about and work on when scrutiny comes:
1. Integrity—My personal integrity and the integrity of my ministry is vital to surviving for the long haul. If I’m not who I claim to be and appear to be, I lose all credibility with those I’m trying to reach. That doesn’t mean I have to be perfect, but it does mean that I am passionately pursuing Jesus and fleeing from sin every day of my life. I know I’m going to fail, but if I willfully and consistently live a lifestyle outside of ministry that is against the new life in Jesus I communicate I lose my integrity and I have no chance against scrutiny when it comes.
2. Clarity—Having and maintaining a clear vision of my life’s purpose and my mission in ministry is so crucial. If I don’t know where I’m going personally and where God is calling my ministry to go, there’s no way I’ll be able to give a clear and helpful answer to those who are critical. While integrity is absolutely the primary step I have to take toward dealing with scrutiny successfully, clarity of purpose and mission is of equal importance.
3. Communication—Once I have strength of integrity and clarity of purpose, it’s then necessary to be able to communicate what I’m doing and communicate it well. I’m reminded over and over again in ministry that communication will be the key factor in my successes or my failures. I can never take it for granted that something I’m so clear on (i.e. vision and purpose) is clear to anyone else around me. I have to continue to repeat core vision and direction over and over and over and over again. Then I have to do it one more time—there’s always one more time when it comes to effective communication. In addition, communicating well from the start often means that you reduce or completely eliminate any scrutiny you will receive down the road.
So there are three things to think about when it comes to scrutiny. I won’t lie or pretend—dealing with criticism is one of the most painful things in ministry. While it’s a great joy for me to listen to a brother or sister who loves Jesus and wants to see people come to him offer a word of encouragement or direction, most often criticism comes from those who are unhappy with an inconsequential aspect of ministry (i.e. music style), who don’t like me personally, or who have their own ideas or agenda on how to run ministry that are, quite frankly, based on selfish or personal needs. On days that I deal with people like these, it seems like a great reason to quit ministry.
But, a real love for Jesus, his Church, and his calling in my life strengthens me, compels me forward, and continually thinking and working on the three areas above is immensely valuable for me in dealing with scrutiny. Maybe they will prove useful for you as well.