You’re going to have to deal with it. Verbal criticism.
Sometimes people mean well. Sometimes people don’t understand. You’ve got to be gracious to them. After all, if you’re a church planter: chances are you have a big mouth. This means that you’ve been the one who has spoken well-meaning words in relative ignorance, and have unwittingly become a nuisance to someone who is actually serving God right from their sweet spot. Smile, thank them, and move on.
Sometimes the criticism folks issue is actually constructive and actionable. Believe it or not, other people are gifted, smart, and wise—even more so than you. Blessed is the church planter who acts upon the wisdom of the wise.
THE BRAVE BROTHER
Sometimes you’re being a moron and what you’re calling “criticism” is actually a faithful call to repentance. As one of my mentors has taught me: if someone has the boldness to confront you, a church leader, with your sin, you have to be ruthless in dealing with that sin.
But sometimes people are just thugs.
There’s no way around it. This is one of the unavoidable, horrible things about being a church planter. These thugs may come in the form of anonymous Twitter trolls. They might emerge in the form of church connoisseurs. They might be wolves decked in sheep’s clothing.
Because you have been called to do something different, you’re basically painting a target on your chest that says “Thugs: Fire Criticisms Here.”
Ask your tight circle of honest peers and mentors if there’s anything in the thuggish nastiness that’s true—things that maybe you’re not able to see in yourself. If they say no, then you know what to do.
Block and Unfollow the Twitter and Facebook trolls. Tell the church connoisseurs that this is not going to be the church for them. Gather the elders and rebuke and warn the suspected wolf. Then do it a second time. Then have nothing more to do with him (Titus 3:10).
THE THING YOU HATE BUT MUST DO
You may not feel like a tough guy. You’re very likely a people-pleaser to one degree or another. This thing you’re going to have to do is not pleasant to any people: not for you and not for the troll/connoisseur/wolf. Too bad. What do you really want most? The commendation of Jesus for heeding his call to plant and cultivate a gospel-rich church? Or a handful of Retweets and Likes? The praise of the persnickety? The epitaph “He was even nice to wolves”?
Stand up to thugs.