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Leader and follower constructs are essential in a fallen world where chaos wants to reign. Part of God’s answer for His creation was to implement hierarchal structures, a good thing. There are employers and employees. We have pastors and congregants. Mercifully, we have civil authorities that provide directive care over the citizens. There are parents and children and husbands and wives. Perhaps you can think of other hierarchies.
When these frameworks are working correctly, there will be order in all the relationships involved. When sin disrupts these constructs, the people will be hurt. And evil will attempt to tear down what the Lord is building. The individuals who make up the leadership or the constituency are imperfect, which makes the implication clear: mistakes will happen. There is no way around imperfect hierarchies in a fallen world. The question becomes how you react when you’re in a relational dynamic where the imperfections of the authority in the relationship are affecting you (and others) in adverse ways. There are two absolute wrong responses:
If the authority tells you not to critique (bring your observations), you would be wise to ignore that request. You have several options, and you should exhaust them until there is an acceptable change. Here are a few of those options.
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses (Matthew 18:15-17).
Caveat – You may have a close confidant that you want to talk to before you chat with the person with whom you’re struggling. This action happens all the time with counseling. Someone will come to me with a problem before they go to the person with whom they are having the problem.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).
Having a “behind the scenes” conversation about someone else does not have to be gossip or slander. If your motive is redemptive restoration, as opposed to tearing down an individual, you should experience God’s favor as you seek wisdom from a trusted, competent, biblical friend.
If the person in authority mandates that you can’t talk to anyone other than God and yourself, do not listen to that counsel. If you do follow that advice, you will bind your soul, dull your conscience, and grow in bitterness. God never silences His children when they are struggling with others. He does not silence us when we struggle with Him. The Psalms are full of vocal, hurting saints who needed to go to God with their complaints. They worked it out imperfectly. But they did bring their critiques to the person with whom they were struggling.
I have told my children many times that I want them to talk to me when they have a problem with me. I’ve made the same appeal to my wife. It would be heartless to tell them to “suck it up, buttercup,” or even worse, attempt to make a biblical case that they can’t bring their critiques to me. We cannot be that thinned-skinned, over-protective, hyper-defensive, or selfishly determined to do our thing regardless of what others think, especially those who are under our care.
I appeal to every husband, father, mother, pastor, employer, and any other person who has an authority position over others to create an environment of grace that encourages others to give feedback, observations, (and critique). If you do not establish a grace-centered milieu, the folks you want to lead will resist you all the more. Demanding that people have no voice with their opinions only stirs those views in more vocal ways, which inevitably leads to sinful reactions. It’s ironic, but the more you try to keep people from sharing their opinions, the more they will share, even to the point of protesting against you.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).