The Biggest Reason I Don’t Criticize Other Ministries by Travis Sharpe

In July of 1998, after I graduated Bible College and had been married for only two months, I got the biggest rejection and criticism of my life, all in one day.

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I had been ministering to the homeless for almost three years at that point and was certain that God had called me to devote my life to the same. So, after being married for only two months, my wife April and I applied to a missions agency. We were going to be missionaries!

The day finally came when we were to travel to the agencies home office to have our interview. We were both a little nervous but our excitement definitely outweighed the nervousness.

When It was time for the meeting we were ushered into a nice room with a big table. Several men sat down with us around the table, I think there were six of them. The President asked us to share our salvation testimonies, our ministry history and our calling.

I was so thrilled to tell these great men about all the people who had already been saved in our ministry. I also told them about our plans and the dreams God had put into my heart to start rescue missions. The first one would be in Augusta, GA.

When I was done, it happened. They began to, one by one, tell us all the reasons that our ministry was not a very good one. They said that even if they accepted us, it would take us years to get enough support to be effective.

They explained that they really wanted missionaries who were church planters, which I could understand.

But the big blow came when one of the men at the table, a foreign missionary, gave his opinion.

He told us that the homeless people in America have McDonald’s and the Salvation Army and I shouldn’t waste my time trying to minister to them. He went on to suggest that if we really wanted to serve God then we should join him on the foreign field where he served.

Confusion sets in

The meeting was finally over and we headed home with our big fat “no” and a hefty dose of criticism from a fellow preacher.

The drive home was two and a half hours and we didn’t talk much. It’s hard to talk when your dreams have been shattered. We were so discouraged. I began to second guess my calling and reassess my whole life.

How could all of these men of God be wrong? I was just a young man fresh out of college so surely they knew more about what I should do than I did, right?

I was confused. I was saddened? Had God called me? Was I wasting my time? Had I missed the mark?

The path ahead

Our pastor gave us good advice. He suggested another year of schooling and continuing the ministry as we had been doing for the previous three years. (Another year because the college was changing from a three year program to a four year program and seniors had the option of taking a fourth year)

I enrolled in classes again and finished another year of school. Then, in 1999, certain that God did want me to be a missionary to the homeless, we applied with another mission agency.

We were scared to death as we sat around another table with another group of men and shared our hearts and our calling. We braced for rejection but hoped for acceptance.

When I was done speaking, the President said that they had never heard of a missionary to the homeless, but if God had called me then they wanted to help.

We were absolutely thrilled to be accepted by Baptist Missions To Forgotten People’s, Inc. as missionaries to the homeless. They too were excited to give us a chance and see what God might do.

What I learned

 
I learned a lot from these experiences. I guess the biggest lesson’s I learned were that criticism can crush your spirit and the discouragement that follows is very real. It can even cause you to give up.

I also learned that where and how someone serves God is not up to another human, however wise they may be. It is between God and you. As much experience as that table of men had, they completely missed it. They refused to believe that God had called us to the homeless.

Practically speaking

Sometimes I am tempted to compare the ministry the Lord has given me with other ones. Some I feel are much better and some I feel are not as good. But every time I am tempted to compare or criticize another, I stop and remember how it felt that day when I was made to feel so small and insignificant by the comments of men.

I don’t want to be guilty of discouraging anyone who is trying to serve God.

Now that I have been at this for 18 years, I get plenty of people who call or write to share the dream that God has given them to minister to the homeless. They ask for my advice and they ask what I think.

Each time that happens I try my best to encourage and edify. The simple fact is that the person I am talking to could be the next Franklin Graham or Billy Sunday. And if so, I want to be a part of it with them!

How about you?

Do you realize that your words carry weight? Your nit-picking and careless criticism could injure one of God’s choice servants before they even get off the ground good.

All ministry (assuming it’s biblical and godly) is Kingdom building. Let’s do our best to build up the Kingdom of our God and never be guilty of tearing it down.

Question: Have you ever been criticized? How did it make you feel?

*Note* I know that there is such a thing as healthy or good criticism but that’s not the focus here. I have learned tons from my critics who have done so with grace and a heart to build me up and of course, I am thankful for them for that.