My mother has a story she loves to tell about the day I was pitching a Little League baseball game and having a little trouble with the umpire. It seemed I didn’t agree with his calls as the game moved along. The problem was, the umpire was my big brother.
So, later in the game when the mother who knew I was Martha’s son started heckling the umpire on my behalf, my mom just sat and listened without saying a word. Her silence began to bother the vocal mother who, as far as she was concerned, cared more about me than my own mom. Finally, the heckler asked her, “Don’t you just want to kill that umpire for being unfair to your son?” My mother calmly replied, “No, the umpire is my son, too.”
In ministry, there are always going to be voices that are commentating from the bleachers. They are watching the game but aren’t playing in it. They have a view – perhaps even an informed view – of what you are doing, but really aren’t involved in it. Their opinion can be harsh or highly complimentary, or something in between.
If we are thinking right, we will understand that we can’t give way to the critics in our lives. We should hear them but allowing the voices of a few outliers to overly shape our thinking would be effectively vacating our responsibility to lead them. The same is true with our “fans.” If the voices of our cheerleaders become more important to us than the voice of our Pastor, we are creating another unhealthy reality.
Ecclesiastes 7:21 has something for us at this point: “Don’t pay attention to everything people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you, for in your heart you know that many times you yourself have cursed others.”
Here are my three take-ways to close this thought –
- Don’t pay attention to everything – but listen.
- Just like you say things you don’t really mean, others will as well.
- Learning to accept critique or applause without giving too much credence to harsh criticism or adulation may be the hardest lesson of them all.
And, the last take-away to never forget?
The umpire is my brother.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book (checkout his latest book: Worship Essentials). In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family (and his two new grand-babies). Visit MikeHarland.com to keep up with all that Mike has going on.