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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

26 Jun '11

Spirits of criticism and negativity

If there is an attitude akin to cancer in a congregation it is a spirit of criticism and negativity. Few things are more disheartening to pastoral staff and few things are more divisive and dangerous to the life of a ministry than this. One church has just lost its pastor because of the criticism and negativity on the part of some congregants and some board members. Another church is probably going to lose their pastor. In both cases the congregation is far worse off for it. A ministry I know well has this spirit running through its entire office (not the one I work for which is a great blessing). 

Words and attitudes matter. They either build or tear down. They encourage or they discourage. I would go so far as to say that where such a spirit is pervasive it is not the spirit of the Father but of the evil one - even when wrapped in spiritual language.

This does not preclude honest dialogue. In our organization, robust dialogue is a huge value and anything can be put on the table that does not include a personal attack or a hidden agenda. The problem with critical and negative attitudes is that in many cases they are indeed personal attacks and there are personal agendas. There is a huge difference between critical and negative spirits and robust dialogue. It lies in the attitude and motivations behind it.


The truth is that we ought to treat one another as our Father treats us and as Jesus treated people in the gospels. Our attitudes and words are deeply spiritual issues for Jesus said in Matthew 7 that what comes out of us comes from what is inside us. Critical and negative people have a spiritual issue (and don't we all from time to time in this arena). It is sin and it comes from our lower nature.


In my view, church leaders ought to directly and boldly deal with pockets of critical spirits and negativity in their congregation because, like cancer they will eat away at the very core of your congregational health and it usually spreads. It is also one of the reasons I encourage churches to define the culture they want to see embedded in their church (see the book, Leading From the Sandbox). Once you have defined your culture you can hold individuals accountable for keeping the culture.

In the two churches I referenced above, I would not personally recommend that any pastor take them until the church has dealt with the insidious infection that is destroying them from within. And the pastor who left? I agreed with his decision to resign. The church and leadership were so unhealthy that it was destroying him as well. Don't ignore criticism and negativity when it pops up. It will hurt you and the cause of Jesus.