leader has experienced some type of personal attack. Whether it
is an attack on character, conduct, motives, decisions or abilities,
it all can be very hurtful.
church leader must be able to rise above those attacks in order
to survive and remain faithful to his calling. But, what should
be your immediate response when you feel you’ve been wrongfully
attacked? The immediate temptation may be to defend yourself and
react in an emotional manner.
the example of strong leaders, however, shows us it may be wiser
to take a higher road.
H. Spurgeon seldom responded to personal attacks. A good example
of that is the time that his famous pastoral colleague, Joseph
Parker, of the City Temple in London, wrote an open letter to
Spurgeon that was published in the newspaper in 1890. The letter
issued from a disagreement the two men had over Parker’s
frequenting the theatres in London. Spurgeon was not amused by
such worldly practice for a Christian leader. As well, Spurgeon
frowned upon Parker welcoming the recognized liberal pastor, Henry
Ward Beecher, into his pulpit.
a result, Spurgeon ceased cooperating with Parker in evangelical
endeavors. Parker felt rebuffed, and responded unwisely in a public
manner. There was a lot of comment in the public press. But, Spurgeon
never addressed the letter in a public fashion. For him, the matter
ended there. He just let it go. Sometimes we need to do that.
Just let it go, as difficult as that may be. An unmerited response
might simply make matters worse.
Spurgeon did not generally respond to personal attacks on him
as a person, he did, on occasion, respond to personal attacks
on his position as pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. He believed
his calling to be a sacred one and if someone attacked his role
as a minister, he did respond to those critics accordingly.
was the case in the early part of his London ministry when the
newspapers derided his immediate popularity and castigated him
with every vile description possible. He was lampooned as a country
bumpkin from Essex, whom the media elite considered uncouth and
vulgar. He was caricatured in cartoons as a charlatan seeking
fame and fortune in the city.
took advantage of the situation and rallied his congregation to
support him in the wake of the vilification he was receiving.
It turned out to be a positive force for the gospel, as many people
came to hear him out of curiosity, and in the process, came to
faith in Christ.
enough, Spurgeon became somewhat amused at the ridiculous nature
of the criticisms in the press, and compiled a scrapbook of the
news clippings entitled "Facts, Fiction, and Facetiae."
He enjoyed showing them to visitors. At least he did not take
himself so seriously and was able to see the humor in it all.
But, the criticisms did hurt and he felt the sting at times. He
wrote privately to his wife and lamented the false accusations.
But, he charted safely through those stormy waters, and went on
to become the first megachurch pastor in modern times.
a similar vein, we have the biblical example of Nehemiah, who
returned to Jerusalem to lead the Israelites in rebuilding the
city walls. There were enemies who opposed this noble effort and
did everything they could -- from open mocking and ridicule, to
false rumors and even entrapment -- to stop Nehemiah from finishing
the project. But, Nehemiah refused their attempts to distract
him from his goal.
one particular occasion, after his critics repeatedly called for
a meeting away from the city, Nehemiah replied: "I am carrying
on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop
while I leave it and go down to you?"(Nehemiah 6:3). He knew
they were scheming to harm him, and refused to be drawn away from
his main task. He stayed with it, hung in there, rallied the Israelites
and the wall was miraculously completed in fifty-two days!
leader must demonstrate wisdom and exercise restraint in responding
to personal attacks. But, if Spurgeon and Nehemiah are valid examples,
it may be appropriate to respond to attacks upon one’s position
in ministry at certain times.
crux of the matter is determining whether you are simply out to
protect and defend yourself or the integrity of the ministry to
which you have been called. With much prayer and appropriate humility,
divine guidance will be granted. Then you may make the best decision
for the sake of the gospel.