DO ASK GOD IF THERE IS ANY TRUTH IN IT. About 50% of the criticism I have received over the years has had some element of truth to it. I have heard some guys say there is always truth to it, but I really don't think that is the case. Either that or they have never met some of the whack jobs I have. Starting a church brings out the whack jobs! See if there is any truth. Then, and this is the tricky part, you have to separating that little element of truth from the emotion and the hurt in the rest of the criticism. Here are some tips for doing that:
- Don't read anonymous letters! If you open a letter and there is not return address or name at the bottom throw it away before you even glance over it. If they don't have the guts to put their name then you don't need to read that. The same goes for anonymous e-mails.
- Delete critical e-mails. Once you have read an e-mail or letter that has been signed, and you have prayed to see if there is any truth, delete the e-mail! Don't keep it around just to stumble back on one day. Delete! It feels good...
DON'T GIVE PEOPLE AN OPEN FORUM. Whenever you are doing something that has anything to do with the vision or direction of the church NEVER open the floor for questions! All it takes is one person going negative to ruin everything that you just worked for. Tell people that if they have questions or comments to please come up to you one-on-one after the gathering or service.
DO NIP NEGATIVITY IN THE BUD. This is something none of us like because we want people to like us. We are human too. We want people to think we are a good guy or gal. BUT, we can never let that get in the way with nipping negativity in the bud. I mean confronting people who you know have been going negative. Here is an idea I just recently came across at our last Growing Healthy Churches Network:
Have your financial person send you a weekly report of everyone that gave and how much. If you are uncomfortable knowing what everyone gave I would say first to get over it. The Bible tells us there are people who have the gift of giving. Would you not want to know who had the gift of evangelism or helps? BUT, if you just can't get over it at least get a copy of everyone that gave. Then if you see someone that stops their regular giving (and they haven't lost their job or something) you can almost be certain they have gone negative. And, if you let it go they will affect the social circle around them!
Negativity is a cancer that has to be cut out! You wouldn't think a little bit of cancer was an OK thing in your body so why let a little of it in the Body of Christ? Let people know in loving ways they are free to find a church where they can buy into the vision and values of what is going on. Free people up to leave your church!!! You need a big front door and you need a backdoor. Not a big one... but you need one for the people that go negative on you. Don't let even a little negativity to stay in your church. If they can't support you then let them leave (OR ask them to leave if you have to).
People who go negative will 9 times out of 10 never be able to come under your authority and leadership. If you let them leave well you help them find a new place to belong and you free your church up to seat more people who can buy into your church.
One last thing. The people who will go negative the most... Christians! Most of the time if someone has taken their first steps with God at your church they are on board. It's the believers from other churches that will give you the most trouble. They have all that church baggage they bring in. They say things like, "At my old church..." When you hear that run!