Central Baptist Church of Southington Connecticut


A Rhinoceros Hide

  • Jim Townsley
  • Jan 18, 2019
At times it seems the world is falling apart and you begin to wonder if anyone wants to live for God. Elijah thought he was the only prophet of the Lord in his day. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. -- 1 Kings 18:22. There is no doubt that the spiritual temperament of people changes over time and sadly the American culture is quickly becoming more secular. As a result, when people are less godly they act more carnally. The ministry is a reflection of the rest of the world and it will result in a church planter facing some very fleshly attitudes.
Although most members will be very kind there will always be a few that will try to hinder the work and specifically say hurtful things about the preacher and his family. In a secular culture like today these incidents seem to be more and more common. But we are not alone. Paul faced many incidents in his day of which Alexander the coppersmith was one. Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.  -- 2 Timothy 4:14-16.
A fleshly response to fleshly actions does not help anyone. How should a preacher handle false accusations and hurtful words? Sometimes there is nothing that you can do except to have a rhinoceros hide. If, as a church planter, you try to address every accusation you may spend most of your time trying to defend yourself while neglecting the main purpose of the ministry, which is winning and edifying souls. Some accusations are not worth answering. Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. -- Proverbs 26:4. However a proper response to criticism is necessary for every minster of the gospel.
Any preacher that stands firmly on the Word of God will face criticism. How should criticism be handled?The first thing to remember about criticism is that the critic may be right. Becoming defensive can hinder the working of God to change you through criticism. Men of God should always be aware of the fact that they can be wrong. When it is apparent that you are wrong, admit it and make it right. Even if criticism is given in an antagonistic way it should be heeded and corrected if it is the truth. Through criticism preachers are refined and made better. Any church planter that doesn’t have a tough hide can miss these opportunities to learn and grow.
What if the critic is wrong? The Bible states, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” Refute criticism humbly. Don’t get into a fight with a member. Control your temper. Remember it is God that will fight for you. In cases where lies are being spread it may become necessary to go to the source and verify what you have heard. In some cases church discipline is necessary. The Bible is clear on how to handle false accusations and turmoil in the church. Approach the offender along with another godly man with the intent to restore the offending person. If no resolution is possible and they will not repent before the church they are to be removed from the membership. This should be exercised with great humility and with the purpose of restoration not excommunication.
There will be many pitfalls and many hurts along the way in church planting. Sometimes the greatest hurt comes from those that you have sacrificed for the most. Pastoring is not for the weak or faint of heart. A strong leader must be able to handle criticism. Whether it is legitimate or not it requires a rhinoceros hide to deal with it. Every church planter has a choice. Either you do not get involved and perhaps avoid being hurt or you take the chance to be hurt realizing it is worth the risk so that you will help the majority of people.