(De)Constructive Criticism

[Seeing as I am a new, young minister, I am going to be studying a bit deeper into Paul’s pastoral letters — 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus. I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts throughout the study]

1 Timothy 1:3-7

When I was in 8th grade, I had an English teacher who was brand new to the school. She was also new to the type of English curriculum we were used to — the good ol’ Shirley Method. To make matters worse, she had somehow lost the teacher’s manual (I think it was actually stolen…). So the entire year she was following along in a student book without the answer keys…and she was often wrong…and I often pointed it out.

Yes, my little brainiac, smarter-than-the-teacher, 8th grade self would correct the teacher often. So often, in fact, that she sent me out into the hall for correcting her! Ha.

As I got older I was not as quick to point out the mistakes made by my teachers, and when I did, I was much more polite and considerate. My concern became less about showing how smart I was and more about making sure my classmates were not “lead astray” or confused by a teacher who misspoke.

When Paul writes to Timothy, the first instruction is to correct anyone who is teaching false doctrines or who is focusing too heavily on myths and genealogies. The term “false doctrine” can be a dangerous one to throw around, and we need to make sure that we use the phrase with the same understanding as Paul and the apostles. But the fact remains that Timothy is given the task of correcting the shortcomings of some teachers.

I don’t think these are “bad” men. I don’t think they are purposefully trying to lead people astray. Paul even says that they want┬áto be teachers. They just don’t know enough about what they are teaching. James gives a warning along these lines in James 3, when he warns that not many people should become teachers for they will be subject to a stricter judgment.

That’s scary to me as a youth minister. Teaching is one thing I do the most!

So what if you are sitting in your Sunday morning class and you notice the teacher talking about something that is incorrect, misinformed, or confusing? What if a teacher is beginning to cause debates, arguments, and unrest among the students?

Correct them. Go to them and discuss your concerns. Study with them more on the topic. Do something!

But the goal is not to make yourself look better. It’s not to show how much you know and how little the teacher actually knows.

The goal is LOVE.

“The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (vs 5).

That’s tough stuff. It’s not easy to keep a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith when confronting someone with whom you disagree. But that’s what is necessary if love is to be the ultimate goal in all we do.