Critical Moments: 4 Occasions When You Should NOT Respond to a Critic

Critical Moments: 4 Occasions When You Should NOT Respond to a Critic

If you are a leader, you will be criticized. If you are not being criticized, you are probably not a leader. The issue is not whether or not you will be the subject of criticism; the greater issue is how you should respond.

As a general rule, leaders should respond to criticism. I do my best to do so, or at the very least, ask someone in my organization to respond. Critics, more often than not, deserve a response. They need to hear from the leader who can give them his or her perspective. They need to hear from a leader in the event that the response can be an opportunity for reconciliation.

But there are times when leaders should not respond to critics. These times are rare, and should be the subject of prayer and counsel. Nehemiah is a biblical character that is often used to define principles of leadership. Look at this passage from Nehemiah 6:2-4. See how Nehemiah, in this case, chose not to respond to a persistent critic.

“Sanballet and Geshem sent me a message: ‘Come let’s meet together in the valley.’ But they were planning to harm me. So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?’ Four times they sent me the same proposal, and I gave them the same reply.” (HCSB)

Nehemiah offers us both biblical and practical principles about those rare occasions when you shouldn’t respond to critics.

  1. When you have already repeatedly responded. For some critics, a response is not sufficient. They will not stop until they have gotten their way. There comes a point where further communication becomes an exercise in futility. It’s time to move on and do “the great work.”
  2. When the critic intends harm. An occasional critic is not so much interested in communicating his or her issue as causing you harm. Their issue is not actually the issue. They want you hurt in some way. Further communication will only cause problems.
  3. When the critic will not reason. Many critics have very valid points. Whether we agree or disagree, we need to listen to their perspective. Other critics simply want to rant. There is rarely a good outcome when meeting with the very unreasonable and ranting critic.
  4. When the criticism becomes an ad hominem attack. An ad hominem attack takes place when a person attacks your character. The issue is peripheral, and is only used to assail you personally. There is often no need to deal with the critic because he or she really doesn’t care about the issue.

Criticism is painful for most leaders. It is for me. But most criticisms are good for leaders. We can learn from our critics, and we can grow as leaders. But there are a few times when we simply should not respond. In those cases, any response only exacerbates something that is already bad.

Sometimes we need to be like Nehemiah. Continue our work and ignore the critic.

More from Thom Rainer or visit Thom at


Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources ( Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.


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God Seeks Faithful Servants

As a church planter, I can no longer tolerate with “not-so-faithful” leaders filled with pride and negative criticism.

Church planting is all about exercising faith and sacrifice.

Faith without action is no faith.

God seeks servants who are filled with proactive mindsets, passionate hearts, good characters, fruits of the Holy Spirit and positive perspectives to plant His church.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18, NIV


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Fellowship of Mosaics

The Fellowship of Mosaics is meant to bring the Good News of the Scriptures to people born between 1980 and 2002 living in the Greater Sacramento Metropolitan Area. They are the Mosaic or Millennial generation. Although we are targeting mainly for Mosaics but we will welcome everyone (including their children and parents) in any ages. We are aware that many Mosaics drop out of regular church attendance (through the “Silent Exodus”); they are wrestling with their identity as church-goers.

In the midst of the Mosaics’ social context, which is defined by myriad technological channels of communication, we will strive to bring the clearly relevant message that is the Good News of the Gospels. We have a strong passion and desire to reach this lost generation who are more vulnerable than previous generations and under threat of becoming lost to the church. We understand that the “context” of this generation is unique in many ways. To authentically connect with Mosaics we must begin by reaching out through the latest communications technology and software. This means connecting with them through social media, blogging and email on a constantly updated basis. We feel blogging is an especially effective way to reach out because the content of blog posts is transferable to other networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

“Ultimately,” says Mark Brooks, “Millennials want to lend their knowledge, expertise and time to help nonprofits.”

At the Fellowship of Mosaics, we will help them do just that.

Mosaics may tend to interact with nonprofit organizations impulsively as they “surf” the Internet. Thus, we will strive to involve them in the Fellowship of Mosaics through offering opportunities for them to get involved in the Midtown Sacramento community by creating one-time commitments for them to provide their skills and knowledge to help their fellow humans.

In Sacramento, Mosaics are drawn to the Midtown District for a variety of reasons. It is where the cultural activities (coffeehouses, trendy restaurants, art galleries, musical performance spaces, multi-ethnic cultural festivals) take place. Also it is where there is great need for volunteers to help in many ways. This is why the Fellowship of Mosaics will be planted and, we believe, thrive in the Mosaics’ Midtown context. From here we will reach out and evangelize based on an authentic koinonia (Acts 2:42-47) by reaching out for the lost ones to extend the Kingdom of God (2 Cor. 10:15).

“Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand.” – 2 Cor. 10:15

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