Constructive Criticism: We haven’t arrived yet, but we can learn how to take the next step

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I haven’t been teaching the Bible to adults for long, yet I’ve been asked to do so on several occasions. In the most recent series I taught, I handed out feedback questionnaires after each lesson. The responses have been helpful and encouraging. Yet, when I receive suggestions for how I could improve my lesson or teaching in general, I easily feel disappointed, defensive, or discouraged.

But isn’t that the purpose of requesting feedback? Or did I just want to hear how good my listeners think I am?

Responding well to criticism isn’t easy, even when it is lovingly given. But I (and we) need to learn that we need constructive criticism. How do we expect to grow as teachers, writers, parents, businessmen, pastors, athletes, and Christians without it?

While I find it difficult to immediately respond well to constructive criticism, I will continue handing out feedback forms after I teach the Bible. Why? Because I am also thankful for feedback. I’d rather receive suggestions for how to improve than to stay the baby teacher I am. I’d rather my faulty theology and narrow thinking be pointed out than to continue teaching the Bible unfaithfully. (Teaching the Bible is a serious task that will be judged strictly [James 3:1]!)

Here are a few benefits of constructive criticism:

  • Reminds us that we haven’t arrived yet
  • Teaches us how we can grow into more faithful Christians
  • Removes our gaze from ourselves and leads us to ask for God’s help and wisdom
  • Leads us to be thankful for the patience of God and the patience of our friends and loved ones toward us
  • Helps us improve in the important areas of our lives, such as teaching the Bible, parenting, counseling, etc.

Might I suggest that we all take the steps of asking for constructive criticism from our colleagues, friends, and family? Pastors, preach your sermons to your wives before Sunday and ask for their feedback. Bible teachers, hand out feedback forms to your class after your lessons. Wives and husbands, ask your spouse how you could improve as a spouse or parent. Christians, ask a brother or sister in Christ if they see any weaknesses in you as a Christian.

Constructive criticism is a vital step towards growth and sanctification. Thanks be to God who does this for us as well! At the right time and in the right ways, He chooses to reveal our sin to us so that we will repent and become more like Christ as we journey closer to eternity.

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