Pastors, let's talk about 'usual suspects' critics.

There are all kinds of critics, some of whom are an absolute gift.

Then there are the 'usual suspect' critics.

Helpful: they're in it with you, they're for the cause, they see things in you that you don't see, they help develop you as a leader.

Sometimes their feedback hurts, not because of them, but because we pastors tend to take our ministry so extremely personally.

Then there is the 'garden variety' critic. They don't have malice toward you, it just hasn't occurred to them that maybe you and your team have put 100 hours into the decision and looked at every angle.

Because they go to church, they think they know how to lead a church.

They can be frustrating and test your patience, but are mostly harmless and will adjust to reality when presented with it.

Related to this is the 'Uninvolved I Have An Idea Guy.'

He's the cousin of the 'Maybe the Youyth Ought To' guy.

Don't get me started...

The usual suspect critic is a different species altogether. No matter what you do, what you say, how much insight you give, how often you meet....

You will NEVER win them over.

And the reason you're anxious is you are still trying to reason with them.

You know a usual suspect critic because:

1) They raise a litany of issues but as you try to resolve one, they shift and move to the next. You might meet for 2 hours but never resolve.

2) They weaponize and twist your words against you.

3) Insight from you does not lead to change in them. ie, they don't move toward the truth.

4) They believe their own narrative over clear evidence.

5) They bring phantom mobs, not realizing they are the instigator.


6) They have some deep brokenness that they won't address, their own life is in rough shape and they need a scapegoat.

Almost every church, regardless of size, has a handful of usual suspect critics

You can't change them, you will never win them over


You can stop feeding them, chasing them, needing them to understand/approve.

You can ask an elder or other leader to show them their actions.

If you keep meeting, explaining yourself, 'help me understand' then you're just arming them with more.

Today is the day to stop.

Let them be. Be at peace. Trust them to God.

There is a reason you are not allowed to feed wildlife.

Stop feeding the usual suspect. They will never change without a miracle from God.

It will lower your anxiety.


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More from @stevecusswords

2 Mar
Chronic anxiety is present any time the false self is demanding attention.

What do you think you need that you don't really need?

What are you in the grip of that God is rescuing you from?

Jesus died to free me from needing ______ anymore

For me? Thanks for asking.

Gold standard sermons everytime.
Having the answer always at the ready.
Everyone approving me, no matter what.
More insight from me when you don't understand me or misattribute my motives.

and plenty more.

I recommend you write them out. It is crazy what you live for and how tightly you are in the grip of these false needs.

Pay attention to superlatives and exxagerations.

'always' 'everyone' 'must' etc. These words are evidence of being in anxiety's squeeze.

Read 5 tweets
1 Mar
What are the top four ways relationships get into trouble quick?

1) Unspoken expectations.
2) Unspoken values.
3) The meaning we make out of what we don't know.
4) Assumption of motive in the other.

And then we spin in the '4th space: the space inside the other' and we spend inordinate amounts of time wondering, 'what were they thinking, why did they do it that way.'

Spinning ensues.

It takes courage, clarity, calm and curiosity.

Sorry for the litany of Cs....old preacher syndrome....

But you can speak the unspoken and move into a posture of curiosity with the person to regain human connection.

Read 7 tweets
27 Feb
The Inner Critic.


Its hard to dislodge the power and influence the IC has over us.

Here is a helpful tool:

1. Find at least one other who cares about you and get together.

2. Have your friend write down the messages your IC tells you as you share it.

3. Then ask her/him to write the adjectives of these messages, ex: 'harsh,' 'unrelenting,' 'condemning.' etc. So now you have the actual messages on one line and descriptors on the other.

4. Now write the descriptors of God's character and God's posture toward you. Patient, loving, kind etc.

5. What if I were at least as ________ to myself as God is.

Read 11 tweets
25 Feb

John says 'perfect love casts out fear.'

Perfect love displaces fear. I think fear can displace our awareness and experience of perfect love. It cannot displace God's love, but it sure can displace our awareness of it.

Knowing you're in anxiety's grip is actually not as easy as we think. We tend to bear down and try harder instead of pausing.

One way to notice it: you are no longer aware of God's presence and God's love.

It could be that your anxiety has displaced your awareness.

Warning Signs:
- you start to think it is all on you/all on your shoulders.
- 'if it is to be, it is up to me.' An anxious statement if ever I heard one.
- An impending feeling of doom or hopelessness.
- Rigid thinking, either-or locked in thinking.
- double binding.
Read 12 tweets
20 Feb
Anxiety resides in 4 spaces:

1. The space inside you
2. The space between you and another
3. The space between others
4. The space inside another.

A powerful de escalation tools is to first locate the anxiety. Where is it?

Often the answer is 'all 4.' Yikes!

Anxiety is contagious, we spread it and escalate it unless we know how to manage it.

This was perhaps my biggest lesson as a trauma chaplain - the very hard work of not catching someone's anxiety.

When I caught it, I was no good to them. I no longer saw what was going on, I was now 'infected' by my own triggers, assumptions, the story I tell myself. I was all wrapped up in myself.

But when I managed my anxiety, I was able to be calm, aware and fully present to them.

Read 14 tweets
18 Feb
Two helpful concepts when looking at anxiety:

1: Consider anxiety as an 'agent' by which I mean it has agency. My argument has always been that anxiety has agency over us before we know it and it displaces our awareness of God.

Many see anxiety as neutral. I see it as nefarious.

It has agency over you and it sends a message of doom.

So becoming aware of anxiety's grip, knowing your recurring triggers and knowing the truth of God's love can really keep it from wreaking havoc.

The second dynamic is power. Lately, especially with all the horrendous power abuses by some Christian leaders, we are thinking about power in terms of gender, race, hierarchy, acclaim etc. This is all good and right and I am grateful for the voices leading us well in that.

Read 12 tweets

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