I was thinking about some things that bug me the other day, and then how those things came to bug me and put a couple of things together in my brain. Frequently we talk amongst ourselves, and with other friends about how opinionated outsiders (def: those who do not live here full time) seem to be about what we do every day.
Seriously, you wouldn’t believe how often we’ve been told by people that we should do x, y, or z, or all of them, differently because whoever it is seems to be an expert. An expert with no experience.
It got me thinking. I’ve spent many years working in ministry of some sort, and you know what? It’s amazing how critical people can be, even though they aren’t holding that particular ministry position. Think about it. It’s like there’s this mentality that anyone who is a Christian automatically has the right to be an expert about any kind of ministry position. How often do pastors, missionaries, evangelists etc come under scrutiny simply because we think we have the right to tell them how to do their jobs because we share the title Christian. I know the Bible talks about certain perimeters for being in those roles, but just because we read our Bibles and call ourselves by similar names, does not give us the right to offer directives.
Case in point – would I tell an engineer how to design an airplane, just because I’ve flown in a plane at some time or seen a plane? Would I tell a teacher how to teach when I’ve only merely been a student? Would I tell a baker how to make a cake if I had very little experience and they pumped out 20 cakes a day?
Furthermore, would I offer my unsolicited advice, when it was just that – unsolicited?
Chances are no, I wouldn’t. Because it would be stupid and rude. I don’t know enough about any of those to have any sort of educated opinion, so why would I try to tell any of those people how to do their job. Yet every day non-pastors are telling pastors how to pastor. Non-missionaries are telling missionaries how to work in the mission field. Non-evangelists are telling evangelists how to evangelize. You get the idea.
What gets me even more is when people get offended, after the offered unsolicited advice is rejected. Even very politely with a statement like, “Well, it’s more complicated than that,” or “Based on my experience…” And then they get further offended if the person on the receiving end is even remotely ungracious, or is honest and says that their advice is not need, or asked for. And yet, we probably wouldn’t be offended if an engineer told us we really didn’t know what went into designing an airplane. We would probably admit that they were right, that we don’t know what we’re talking about.
In my years of working in ministry I’ve seen more criticism to those doing the hard work of ministering from those that weren’t in their shoes than I believe I ever would see working in a “secular” job. Why, people? Just because we share the same faith, doesn’t mean we become experts in every aspect of it, or working in the roles God calls us to. There’s a reason why the Bible talks about the body and each person having their role to play. It’s because we aren’t all called to the same things, we don’t have the same giftings, and we can’t possibly understand every calling out there and what it takes to carry it out. There are reasons why some are called to work in pastoral ministry, and some in hospice care. Some are called to be teachers, and others prophets. Not everyone is equipped to leave their current life behind and go live in another culture like a missionary. There are reasons for this, in the same way that not everyone is a brain when it comes to math and building things, and not everyone can do childcare without dropping from exhaustion. And within those roles, there is still more room for our unique personalities and giftings. No two pastors will pastor the same way, and no two missionaries with work in the field in the same way. Yet, for some reason, within the Church we have no end of criticism and advice for those that minister around us.
We have no right.
The Bible firstly talks about the body and how we have a role to play that is different from everyone else’s. If my role is different, how can I possibly know what someone else *should* be doing?
Secondly, the Bible warns against judgement. We are told not to. If I’m giving someone advice in an area that I know very little about, let me tell you, the line between knowing and judging becomes a very fine one indeed. We can sweeten it up under the veil of concern or good intentions, but the bottom line is the same – telling someone how they should do their ministry role better without being asked is judgement. You are saying, “I don’t think you’re doing this right, and this is what you need to do to resolve that.”
Lastly, when someone is called into ministry, the only opinion that really matters is GOD’s. Yours does not matter. When we give unsolicited advice we’re giving ourselves more importance than we actually have. It doesn’t really matter what we think – it’s what God thinks that matters, and it’s God’s job to convict his servant and to direct them in the way they should go. I do believe that there are times when we’re called to hold each other accountable, but accountability is in regards to sin, not in regards to people doing things we just don’t agree with for our own reasons. I also believe that God uses others to speak wisdom into our lives, but that wisdom is supposed to be spoken in love and in relationship.
I think we need to be very careful when we start telling others how to carry out their calling. And, we need to remember a lot of discernment needs to be used before we offer our opinions. How can our words potentially hurt or undermine? How can they grind against the things that God might be leading and directing? Are we willing to listen when someone says, “Sorry, but that’s not what God’s been telling me”? Are we willing to look at ourselves and our motivations before we share? Are we willing to admit that maybe we don’t know what we’re talking about and what’s best in a particular situation? Most of all, are we willing to be learners, actively listening to what the needs really are and the reasons behind chosen actions or directions?
It’s a lot to think about, isn’t it?