"It’s the number one fear of pastors—the fear of criticism. And it's their number one pain."
How has the past 10 years changed me? I hope I’m more dependent. The most important thing to me in the Christian life is depending on Jesus. You make a declaration of dependence. I’m much less independent than I’ve ever been in my life. When you’re young, you’re cocky. You’re prideful. You think, I know how to do it. Nobody is more arrogant than the third-year seminary student who thinks he’s got a plan to build the church and hasn’t built anything. It takes about 10 years to knock the ego you built in seminary out of you. After 10 years, then God can really start using you.
When I get up in the morning, my feet don’t touch the floor, I don’t get out of bed, till I have a long prayer that I pray every morning. Part of that prayer is, “Dear God, if I don’t get anything else done today, I want to love You more and know You better, because that’s what I was put here on earth to do. If at the end of the day I don’t know You a little bit more and love You a little better, I’ve missed the first purpose of my life.” Because God didn’t put me on earth to mark things off my to-do list.
It doesn’t matter how many things I accomplish or how many awards I win or how many interviews I do, if I’m not closer to Jesus, if I’m not walking with Him. Jesus is my best friend, and I’ve walked with him now for over 50 years. And I talk with him just like I’m talking to you. In fact, I’ll often talk to Him and talk to you at the same time.
And so, being more dependent on God is the most important thing.
Being more gracious is the second most important thing. You can tell a person’s relationship to God not by their theology, but by their kindness and their joy. A lot of guys have a great theology, but they don’t know God—you don’t see it.
Amazingly, sometimes people who know the most about the doctrines of grace are the least gracious; they’re ungracious. And I want to be more like Jesus. I so want to be more and more gracious. If I’ve experienced grace, I want to show it.
One of the most Christlike things I can do, is remain silent in the face of criticism. Scripture says, when they falsely accused Christ of all kinds of stuff, He spoke not a word unto them. He refused to defend Himself. It’s Christlike to not defend yourself. It’s Christlike to not retaliate. It’s Christlike to return good for evil.
When you try to do a middle road, then you get shot at by both sides. When you are friends of both liberals and conservative, the Democrats and the Republicans, and you try to build bridges to Catholics and Charismatics and Calvinists and fundamentalists and everybody all at the same time—you’re trying to treat everybody with love—people in different groups are not going to like that.
At one point I wondered, Lord, how come I get so much criticism? Then when I got on social media I discovered something:
It’s the number one fear of pastors—the fear of criticism. And it’s their number one pain.
I thought, Well, OK. If God will allow me to take on maybe a little bit more criticism than others, then I can learn how to deal with I and I can help these guys. So it’s about redemptive criticism. In other words, Bring it on, because I’ve been writing it down. Someday I’ll write a book on 500 Things I’ve Learned About Dealing With Criticism. One of those little books with one sentence on each page [laughter]—because the only way you learn redemptive criticism is to just get in the middle of it.