Contend Earnestly: Responding to Haters

Monday, March 02, 2009

Responding to Haters

Ministry is an odd duck, as life is. It seems as though no matter how much you feel like you are on track and doing things "correctly" it only takes one person to knock you off course. For whatever reason I have chosen a pretty strange mix of "professions." On my actual vocation side, I am an investment advisor. I have been for 10 years now. I used to be called a stockbroker, but that term is like telling a stay at home mom that she doesn't work for a living. But, when someone doesn't know what I do, I just tell them that I am a stockbroker and then they kind of "get it." On the other side, my non-paid job is a youth director at my church and also a lay leader. What I have noticed throughout the years is that for whatever reason, in both cases, it just takes one person to make you feel as though you aren't doing things correctly and then the focus is turned to that one person as though they are your validation. And by the way, it seems like I get attacked more at church than with my worldly clients, but that is a different subject.

For instance. I have around 300 clients. But if one calls in and complains, all my focus turns to that one person's thoughts, thinking that all my other clients feel the same exact way. What I have had to realize over the years, is that this is just not the case. The same thing can happen in ministry. We can get caught up in one person's opinions about our ministry thinking that their outbursts of anger against us, is what everyone else feels. In an instance, you can go from serving the Lord with a good heart, singing weird praise songs with a goofy smile on your face, to wondering if Jesus still loves you and wondering how the flames of hell are going to feel like.

In both cases I have learned a lot. In both cases I also still need to learn a lot. Here are some things that I try and do everytime I get that "call" from a client, or the outburst of crazy anger served with hypocrisy on the side from a Christian brother or sister.

1. I pause and pray for God's direction and insight

God knows us best, and He lives within us. I know this is kool aid theology for most of us, but do we live this out when it is needed most? Whether the outburst or accusations are true and honorable is one thing, but asking God to direct us to the truth is another. So, I simply pray for whatever truth is being said in anger to be brought to my attention so that I can fix it.

2. I pause and pray for the other person

We are not to respond in evil, but in good. I have Christian clients and non-Christian ones. I pray to God that through this, his glory will be shown to them. I have people that I serve that are Christian and who are non-Christian, so I pray that his glory will be shown to them as well. This also helps me remember that they, like I, are a sinner and need Jesus.

3. Go to someone who gives godly counsel

After I have prayed through this, I go to someone I know will help me with my flesh of wanting my accusers to get run over by a truck. For my business, this is my father. We work together, so I go to him and we discuss things to bring things back to reality and to also reassess what we are doing to make sure we are on track. For ministry, there are a myriad of people I go to, to see if what I am doing is for the glory of God, or for the glory of self. Just like any joke, usually has some truth mixed in, so do accusations. This is why you need an honest person that you can go to. They will usually be able to weigh in what truths are found in the accusation and which ones are just said out of anger.

4. Seek Change

Give it the correct amount of time to weigh the matters brought up and seek where you need to change, if any. If there is some, then start those changes ASAP. If the accusations were out of complete anger and with no amount of truth, then don't change for the sake of the other person or for the sake of change. Change because the Spirit has convicted you do so, not because a wolf is attacking you.

5. Seek Reconciliation

This sucks. It really does. All I want from someone who comes at me angrily is that I get to tell them off and then they go away. This is just me being honest. But, it is not godly. After all the above has happened, look for an opening to reconcile. Tell the person where you have decided to change, or decided not to change and why. Also bring to them the ways that they have also sinned through this and a better way to handle their accusations in the future. Do this carefully, because this person already thinks you suck, so they usually don't want to hear that they suck too. But, you must make sure that they don't feel like the end gives them confirmation on the means. You don't want this person to now use what they did, to go to others and do the same.

In business, I have gone to clients who freaked out on me and just talked to them and let them know where I have changed, or not and then asked them to handle it better next time. Usually this works very well and usually their outburst was more emotional than rational. By doing this, they see Jesus. My clients see the meek and mildness of Christ lived out. Then, when I decide to share the gospel with them, the door is opened wider.

In church, this usually always works out well. Sometimes it does not, but for the most part people are just frustrated and need some guidance. Again, this is my chance to show this person what a man of God is. A man of God is not someone who reacts with emotionally charged rants, but one who reacts with a humble heart knowing that Jesus' fame is more important than his self esteem.

We are all in the same business. We are in the business of working with, and alongside, sinners. The main thing is that we forget that we are also sinners. Remember that the person accusing you wrongly is just like you, not different. The way that you can show difference is by who you put your trust in. If it is in yourself, then you will yell at them wanting them to be target practice for oncoming traffic. If it is Jesus, then you will want them to see the face of Jesus in this life and the next. You will want to direct them to Jesus by your words and your reactions.

May we all seek the face of Christ for not only ourselves, but also to those who hurt us terribly.


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