April 25, 2011

There's a Critic in the Gallery!

Watching a Muppet Show episode with my family, it occurs to me that The Muppet Show is a good analogy for ministry life: a loveably zany cast of characters who are simultaneously friends, family, and co-workers. Though flawed, the Muppets gamely tug the show along to its final curtain. And then, from the gallery, we hear voices—aloof, demanding, critical. Have you met Statler and Waldorf?

In ministry, God often allows critics in the gallery—people who don’t seem to understand that everyone else is fragile, human, and working together. Maybe they say hurtful things to you or your family. Maybe they just stubbornly refuse to join the community.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says, “[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (v.6-7). In ministry (as in marriage, parenting, and friendship) these verses are easy to quote and difficult to practice. We find it so easy to assume bad motives when we see others lacking. But God, who is himself love, commands the more excellent way of seeking good.

I experienced this kind of love through theater of another kind. When I was in college, I took “World Drama.” I was an English major, but the problem with this class was its deadly time slot: 2-3:30 PM. One day, the overheated classroom and siesta hour defeated my otherwise-studious intentions: I fell asleep in the middle of a lecture on Chekov.

When I got back to my dorm after class, the telephone was ringing. I answered it to hear my professor’s voice, “Megan,” he said, “you didn’t look like you felt well today in class, and I wanted to make sure you were okay. Are you?” Ooh, I was embarrassed! But I was also touched. The professor obviously cared enough to believe the best of me (I was getting sick) rather than the worst (I was napping in class.) His demonstration of love motivated me to stay awake in class for the rest of the semester.

As I meet critics, I try, by God’s grace, to practice this same all-believing, all-hoping love that my professor showed me. Why are they acting in a destructive way? Maybe they’ve lost a child, been served with divorce papers, or heard the diagnosis, “kidney failure.” They might need my sympathetic love rather than my frustration. Who knows? Maybe Statler and Waldorf had arthritis.


  1. I have critics in my gallery, and I have to guard my own heart that I don't heckle the congregation as a way of getting even. Bitterness is a sin. Thanks for helping me see it in my own life.

  2. Our congregation is small enough that we personally know our Statlers and Waldorfs. We know their arthritic and other complaints. Ours complain about everything from weather and health to church issues. Sometimes they criticize the very Word of God and hold up other things as important - like whether or not a birthday card was sent to them.

    What is it about our natures and how easy it is to live crabby lives? That "Old Man," our personal Statler and Waldorf within, needs to be put to death. It is all too easy to slip into crabbiness when it is given all too frequently to you. But putting our "old man" to death is a part of killing bitterness before it takes root. Then when their Statler and Waldorf come out to complain about the latest thing they feel the need to complain about, you can rest in Christ and His perfect work for you, knowing that even Statler and Waldorf were given to you for your good and His glory, somehow. And the church is not your church, but His, therefore you can rest knowing that all the complaining is still under His control and He will work it out for the benefit of His church. We've seen many Statlers and Waldorfs come and go and this remains the same: He will have His people, you remain faithful to Him, doing your duty in love and leaving the results to God.


  3. Heather, What you say is so true. Thank you for turning my attention to the critic within.

  4. Beautiful! I really enjoyed reading your post. We need to show everybody God's grace.

  5. Carla, thanks for your kind words. God has been so gracious to me, you'd think I'd be quicker to show grace to others!


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