“Three performances! We’ll never get that many people.” Church choir members blurted out their opinions on expanding our Easter presentation to more than just two church services. “We’ve never had that many people here for anything.” “We’ll be too tired out after all that!” “People outside our church don’t want to come to our stuff.” This vein continued for a couple minutes until the quiet coyote (yes, I use that with out of order adults and students alike) regained quiet and order.
In those few moments, my resolve wavered. Two years prior, quite a hullabaloo erupted when we moved to two performances at Christmas. The last Christmas event packed our sanctuary to the gills. The music leadership team and church board decided we needed one more performance. The transformation of the community around the church prompted the decision. Once surrounded by farms, it now sat on the growing edge of large subdivisions. Research showed that many of these households were unchurched. Leadership believed outreach to be strategic.
Nevertheless, in this moment, half my choir loft presented frowny faces. Never great at receiving criticism back then, I wanted to quit and say, “Fine, two it is,” in a curt tone. In my head, I figured I’d show them when we had standing room only at two performances. The Holy Spirit expressed his displeasure with my attitude quickly and stiffened my spine a bit.
He put a story from Ken’s childhood into my head about what it was like growing up in a non-Christian home, with several churches in his nearby neighborhood. Not once was Ken ever invited to anything by a believer until he was seventeen years old. Within weeks of that, he became a Christian. I watched some faces soften as I continued to share the vision but some remained put out.
We filled two presentations completely and the third was half full, way too many people to squeeze into the other two. Three to four performances became our norm and we watched souls enter the kingdom through these special events.
When I think of how close I came to allowing the criticism of a few to derail the vision of many, I am ashamed. I’m also sad when I think of the hours and hours I’ve wasted in my life, mulling over useless criticism, things said to me with no redemptive value and no attempt to be righteously constructive.
I’ve backed off plans and even cancelled some things due to criticism. I’ve taken too deeply into my heart critical comments and allowed those words to shape my beliefs about myself more than what God’s word says about me. I don’t do that so much anymore.
As I mulled over this concept of abandoning dreams due to criticism this weekend, I was delighted when my pastor, Sam Rijfkogel, preached an outstanding sermon yesterday concerning critical spirits. Let me share some of his wise counsel with you.
- Criticism is a reality for everyone. The only way to escape it is to be nothing and do nothing. Luke 6:26 even says it isn’t good if everyone speaks well of you
- Criticism reveals my insecurities. If someone criticized me as being too short, I’d laugh. I know that isn’t true. However, if someone said I looked a little wide in the hips……. well….
- Criticism should only be taken to heart if it comes from people with pure hearts. Does this person genuinely care about you and are their motives pure? Additionally, do they express it in a humble way? Family members can be some of our largest critics and dream killers. Look at the rotten things Miriam said about Moses’ wife for goodness sake. Sometimes family and friends who know our weaknesses and flaws say ungodly things to us, unable to see the potential God has placed inside of us.
- Reject criticism when it comes from the chronically critical. There might be a nugget of truth in what they say but it’s buried inside harsh words and an ungodly attitude.
We shouldn’t allow criticism to assassinate dreams God places in our hearts. Constructive criticism may help refine the dream and work it better, but it shouldn’t annihilate your self-esteem and goals.
This weekend I also listened to a dynamic motivational speaker named Kris Mathis, author of the book “Success to Significance.” If your dreams seem to be tattered and covered in dust, I highly recommend this book. It’s a short read and allows you to understand the strategies Kris used to overcome some of devastating circumstances and setbacks of his own life, to achieve his current success.
God created you to uniquely fulfill a purpose in this world. So often we allow others to undermine our success with their rejection and criticism. I’m praying God will revive the dreams and plans He has placed inside, if you’ve given up on them. As my pastor says, if you’re still suckin’ in air, God has purpose for you!