When the phone rang, I had no idea it was announcing an opportunity to change the future of a pastor and his church. Once on the line, I discovered this was a call from someone whom I had never met and that he was calling at the suggestion of a Detroit area church secretary, though her name and church were unfamiliar to me.
Intrigued now by the series of circumstances that had brought us together, I waited for my caller from a neighboring state to fill in the details, believing this must be a divine appointment.
Now for the rest of the story:
The caller was a member of a church board that had become critical of their pastor and wanted to know what to do about him. Since I knew neither the pastor nor his critics, I asked for more details.
In short, I discovered the current criticism of the minister boiled down to the fact that his church leaders didn't think he was doing enough pastoral work to justify the salary he was being paid. In the words of this critical caller, they didn't think they were getting their money's worth.
Then I asked this six word criticism conquering question: "Is there anything good about him?"
Suddenly the attitude of this critical council member began to change.
During the next few moments, I learned that this preacher under fire was dependable, morally clean, free from a love of money, preached great sermons and that the church had experienced a twenty-five percent growth under his ministry.
"I know what I'm going to do," said this formerly disturbed deacon: "I'm going to recommend to the board that we commend the pastor for his good preaching and tell him we're going to pray for him in his areas of need."
An unhappy woman thought there was no use in trying to save her marriage. Sitting across the desk from me, she told the reasons for her pessimism and unfolded a bitter story about her husband's faults. He was neglectful, unloving, mean, unspiritual and hard to tolerate in their home.
"Is there anything good about him?" I asked.
She hadn't faced that question in a long time. But, after a few moments of silence, she began to name a few redeeming qualities in this scoundrel and before she left my office her whole attitude had changed. He wasn't so bad after all.
The question that conquers criticism had saved another marriage.
In his letter to the Galatian Church , Paul accused the members of spiritual cannibalism, writing: "But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another" (Galatians 5:15).
This church had once been a center of dynamic faith. Love had lived there. But, sadly, things changed. Now the members gave themselves to gossip and faultfinding, being constantly critical of each other. Had they kept eating away at one another, their power and purpose as a church would have been gone.
When we hear the "character cannibals" at work, it's time to ask the question that conquers criticism: "Is there anything good about him?"
Roger Campbell is an author, radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist from Waterford, Mich.
He has written more than 20 books and has had articles published in most major Christian magazines. He was a pastor for 22 years and has been a guest speaker in Alaska churches from Anchorage to Homer.
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