When tough feedback comes in the ‘side door’.

If you’re in a church, at some stage someone is going to feel the need to give some feedback. This feedback may be pretty tough to hear. This feedback may not come through the appropriate structures and processes assuming you have any set up. Or, someone is just really fed up.

Feedback is really important and the above scenario is the product of when its importance is neglected for a long period of time. The more neglected it is, the more awkward it is when someone ‘tells it like it is.’

I write this knowing that what follows may come to haunt me down the track as I have to eat my words. I hope they taste good.

The standard response to the uncomfortable feedback shared incorrectly* within an organisation goes something like this:

Well, whether or not this person has a point, it is essentially inconsequential now because they have gone about it in the wrong way.

It’s dawned on me that although this sounds spiritually mature, it’s actually about the most spiritually immature response.

Yet I have on many occasions heard that come out of my mouth.

I know how tempting it is to write off a criticism because of its method of delivery. If you ask my wife, she’ll tell you how furious I’ve been once or twice after ‘what just happened’.

But as one who knows such a temptation, can I implore you…..Don’t. Here’s why:

Firstly, when we do this, we are actually making quite a few terrifying assumptions:

  1. Truth is contingent upon the character and standing of the one conveying it in order to be true. Actually, God has used some extremely fallen people to convey some of the greatest truths. (A belligerent murderer by the name of Moses once gave some pretty direct feedback to Pharaoh!)
  2. We are the arbiters of who can express truth and how it is to be expressed. (Ie: we assume our processes could never be the problem.
  3. We assume we hear God’s voice more clearly on things than this person, no matter their expertise and our current other distractions.
  4. It’s impossible for us to fall into the same trap that the Pharisees did.
  5. Heresy always manifests prior to hypocrisy (and is thus a greater danger) when it is in fact the other way around.
  6. There cannot be a logical reason why this person felt they had to take this route, Which means that anyone with a less than complimentary word is necessarily a ‘team wrecker’.
  7. Jesus is more concerned with procedure than truth. (Ok fine, before you pull me up in the comments, I’ll say it how you’re thinking it: Jesus is more concerned about Love than Truth. In fact they are equal but the onus to love lies heavier on the leader than the follower.)
  8. I’d never do it that way. (Yeah,………nah…rubbish.)

Now that we have looked at the arrogant assumptions made in the moment, let’s also have a look at the fruit that is missed.


A good friend of mine, has recently written an article on ‘Supporting your church through change you don’t agree with.’ You can read it here. In the article which I admit is more geared to laypeople than clergy he makes this remark:

When we choose to support our church through change we don’t agree with, we trust God at a higher level than what we were previously capable. We trust God enough to journey maturely through ongoing dissonance. And we can only do that when we love His church more than our own or others’ agendas.

I’m not sure there’s ever been three sentences I have more wanted to shout from the rooftops than these.

BUT, the point I want to make is that it works backwards too.

When you are in a position of leadership, the higher your level of authority, the more you’ve given up your right to complain. Wanna claim the wins? Own the defeats. Simple.

Where a defensive attitude results in the loss of a lesson, the loss of a friend and a loss of the sense of God’s glory, a humble response allows the lesson, improves the relationship and glorifies God.

Don’t answer that email. Knock on their door….with a pad an pen. Ask them to unpack their thoughts and as they  do, write them down. Now commit to pray about them for at least a month. If that person has been genuinely inappropriate, as long as it’s only affecting you, let God deal with them.

Few things grow our faith more than when someone has the ‘blowtorch’ on us.


Lastly and finally, this is kind of the ultimate test of spiritual leadership. Why? Because you’re only going to be able to respond well to the inappropriate when you’re more in love with Jesus than your ego. His church is more beautiful to you than your own sense and feeling of authority.

Maybe these words will taste bitter one day, but I’d rather have a reminder that there’s fruit to be experienced than circling the wagons.

My notepad and pen are ready.

Bless ya:)

*By ‘incorrectly’ I mean, Incorrectly according to current procedures…or lack of procedures.

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