Monday, October 11, 2010

Humility, Criticism, and the Body of Christ

Humility can be tricky. Check out this video of Mark Driscoll talking about his own humility.

Rules for being humble:

1) Confess that you aren’t.
2) Give insights from the experiences that have caused you to become more humble.

At least that what I’ve ever seen those do who are praised by others for being humble.

Of course it’s always easier to be humble when you are popular or wildly successful. (Although it’s not unlike a rich man who says he really doesn’t need money.) And unless you have a platform for humility you are the primary target for teaching on humility. (That’s like taking a rich man to teach a poor man how to better manage what he doesn’t have.) That said, you can’t teach humility without a platform and you can’t come off as authoritative on humility without appearing a bit hypocritical.

One the other hand, here’s our Great Example: Jesus was humble. Jesus was also authoritative. He criticized the Pharisees strongly to their face. Would that earn him Mr. Congeniality by today’s standards? Not really. But here’s the King of Creation dining with sinners and dying for their sin:

As it is, I can’t say that I’m particularly humble. I desire to be. I’m often disturbed by many compliments. However, I’m generally particularly pleased by myself way too often. The more I think about it, the more of a paradox living in a sinful world makes it. I’d go batty if I focused on it all the time. I think some measure of recognition of our inability to be humble on our own is appropriate, but focusing too much is a sign of great pride. The balance is that instead of feeling constant shame over our lack of humility, we must recognize the joy of forgiveness given to us by God and focus our attention of him instead. If anything, that’s our source of true humility. Jesus isn’t simply our Great Example, he’s our source.
On criticism and humility:

I don’t recall ever coming out in criticism of Mark Driscoll. I heard he cussed from the pulpit once and I would consider that unwise. I have been particularly cautious with his teaching as a result. Consider that my first open criticism of him. Generally, I think his teaching has been good. I don’t particularly agree with him on his use of the multi-site method of church planting. He doesn’t think of preaching as particularly relational. In other words, he considers it to be a one-way avenue of information. I strongly disagree. The pastor should address the information to the congregation he has been called to shepherd. Even Christ tailored his messages according to the needs of those who were listening. But most of Mark’s teaching is okay anyway. It is at least designed to instruct a group of people he largely doesn’t know.

But Mark brings up a good point in this video with regard to critics. Critics are necessary to hone us. There are critics who criticize without regard to our growth and critics who criticize based on their friendship to us. In this, Mark is a blessed man.
To adapt John Piper: Don’t waste your critics.

I wish I had more critics. I especially wish I had more people who gave me constructive criticism out of their friendship with me. I love and need encouragement in a significant way. But a greater encouragement is that someone sees enough potential in someone to want to help that person improve. They must point out flaws in order to do so. That’s what I hunger for in criticism.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6)
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. (Proverbs 9:8)

If a person is not loved enough to be criticized constructively by a friend, then he is left to self-criticize. This result in a bit of false humility. There fore, humility is a function of the Body of Christ. We must learn to give and take good criticism. I approached a minister a couple of weeks ago for nothing more than to see if he had a battery and he exclaimed jokingly, “Uh oh, what am I in trouble for now.” I replied, “If you’re in the ministry, you stay in trouble.” In a sense, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. If you do anything meaningful at all you won’t be able to please everyone. Criticism means that you are doing something right. It could also mean that there is an area in which you can grow.

So do not fail to criticize your brother or sister in love where appropriate. Do not deny such critics their place in God’s plan for your ministry. But welcome their words as those that may cleanse your work and make you humble so that God will receive the glory in all things.

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