How Pastors Should Deal With Mudslinging

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How leaders cope with criticism can make all the difference.

Our pastoral fellowship (Pastoral Fellowship for Practical Theology) met yesterday and discussed the topic of criticism that pastors regularly face. We discussed this topic through the illustration of “Mudslinging.” 

Criticism is a lot like mudslinging.

Mud is slung, it usually goes “splat” on the pastor’s face, mud becomes messy to clean up, mud can spray others standing around once it is slung, and often that mud gets tracked home with us when we don’t realize it. 

It was through this working illustration that we had a very fruitful discussion among the men present.

Here is the list of questions asked and the categories for them.

The Pastor’s Soul:

1. How does a pastor typically feel (emotion) after being slung with mud?

2. How is a pastor to deal with those feelings (emotions) or process them in light of the gospel?

The Pastor’s Ministry:

1. How does a pastor deal with the mudslinger?

2. How does a pastor deal with the mud now on his face?

3. How does a pastor care for those standing close who were also splattered with mud?

Brian Croft Brian Croft is senior pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is also the author of "Visit the Sick: Ministering God’s Grace in Times of Illness (foreword by Mark Dever) and "Test, Train, Affirm, and Send Into Ministry: Recovering the Local Church’s Responsibility to the External Call" (foreword by R. Albert Mohler Jr.). Brian blogs regularly at Practical Shepherding.

More from Brian Croft or visit Brian at

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  • HeartPointe Ministry

    Good article with appropriate questions that every individual should ponder and prepare for before venturing into the pastorate. After all, pastors are human and comments slung in our direction often do hurt. Nevertheless, it should be obvious that pastors must deal with mud slung at them in the same manner that we expect our parishioners to deal with the problems they face in life. Namely, we must deal with the mud slung and the mud slinger knowing that “…God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them… For God… chose them to become like His Son…” Ro 8:28-29, NLT. From this perspective we can consider mud slung at us as “an opportunity for great joy” (Jm 1:2) knowing that it will result in us becoming more Christlike. After all, the world threw mud at Christ first, so we must anticipate that the world will sling mud at us, Jn 15:18. In such instances we can take comfort in knowing that: a) other pastors have previously experienced similar mud slinging; b) God is faithful; c) God will not permit the mud slung at us to be more than we can stand; and d) God will show us a way out so that we can endure, 1 Co 10:13.

    At least two other Scriptures should be considered when dealing with mud slinging issues: i) First make certain to get all the mud out of your eye so you can see well enough to deal with the mud in the mud slingers eye, Mt 7:5; and ii) Woe to you… Hypocrites! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, then the outside will become clean… Mt 23:25-26.

    One final thought comes to mind: If the mud fits, wear it – and confess it, 1 Jn 1:9.

    I hope and pray these comments are helpful.

  • PrescottJayErwin

    Several points: 1) Once again the headline writer(s) let us down. The article is not a solution or suggestion for “How Pastors Should Deal With Mudslinging,” but rather a guide to questions to consider, and a question itself, “How Should Pastors Deal With Mudslinging?” 2) Much of what “HeartPointe” offers below is good, but I would suggest one thing: do not take 1Co 10:13 out of context. God is, indeed, faithful, but notice that He “will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” God CONSTANTLY gives us circumstances that are more than we can bear up under and we see ample evidence of how He did that throughout Scripture; He does it for a specific reason: so we might reach out to Him and rely on Him. Mudslinging may, in fact, get to be more than we can bear up under, but we do have recourse, as HeartPointe says, to the Lord. He may, as another Scripture points out, allow us to be afflicted on every side, yet not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; but He knows we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so the excellency of His power can be displayed, even when there are stones mixed-in with the mud that’s being slung. We may even have to bear about in our bodies the death of the Lord Jesus, so that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. (2Co 4:7ff).

    Here are some suggestions:
    A) Don’t Sling Back (Mat 5:38ff)
    B) Live at Peace, So Far As It Depends on You (Rom 12:18)
    C) Leave Room for the Lord’s Vengeance (Rom 12:19)
    D) Go Overboard in Showing Love the Love of Christ (Rom 12:20; Mat 5:44ff; Luk 6:27ff; Rom 13:8, etc.);
    E) Do Not Forget that You’re a Leader of the Church: You Must Deal with It (Tit 2:15; 1Ti 5:1ff, esp. 20; 2Ti 4:2) — Mud-slinging injures the entire flock, of whom you may be the pastor, but here I say “a leader,” not “the leader,” because when mud begins to be slung, other leaders must be called to step forward and bear their responsibility along with you. Even simple criticism of or charges against you, must be taken seriously by ALL the church’s leadership for the sake of the Church, which is made up of individuals.
    And finally F) Do Not Forget that You’re the Leader of Your Household. No one else will protect your family, but you; no one in the Church cares more for your family than you; and no one cares more than you, but the Lord. YOU must protect your family from the mudslinging.

  • Richard UK

    You left out another question ‘In among all the emotion, anger and exaggeration here, is there nevertheless something valid behind it? Can I be sure? What is he/she really trying to say?’.

    We are most hurt and angry when we feel there is some truth in criticism. Sadly we do not like to recognise it, so respond sinfully even it is with apparent calm etc. When we know there is really no truth in it, we tend to be sad for the person, disbelieving, even inwardly amused, but sufficiently disengaged from our own emotions that we turn to help. Let’s face it – Jesus never got angry on his own behalf. We cannot say that we do because we are human; we do because we are sinful. The only people who got angry with Jesus were those who learnt rather more about themselves than they had wished to

    You see – ‘mud-slinging’ has already prejudged the situation

    • PrescottJayErwin

      Actually, “mudslinging” is the POINT of the article, not “criticism,” rather when it becomes clear that it’s not about criticism, but about broad strokes of ill-intent. Mudslinging occurs when people use insults, unjust accusations, malicious and/or scandalous attacks with the aim of discrediting or damaging one’s reputation. Throwing mud is about slander and vilification, and often is not simply directed at a single person, but is intended to smear as many people as possible. How we deal with criticism is different than how we deal with mudslinging.

  • Ben

    you know I am maybe wrong but didn’t Jesus face the same kind of people in his day on earth? did He not leave instruction on haw to handle these kind of people! why are so many of you pastures trying to so prefect in your ministries? Are you Jesus on earth? or do you all think you are so over powering and over onioned. Why don’t you pastures sit down alone with God and find out what Our Lord wants instead of you telling God what you want. quit competing with each other to see who has the biggest churches.finally are you sure you are called to be a paster? my name is a son of God through Jesus Christ. from now on I’ll call my self Preacher Ben

    • PrescottJayErwin

      Well, THIS is from WAY out in left field. But nevertheless, a good example of mudslinging — mild mudslinging, albeit, and really not the kind discussed in the article.

      Since we cannot detect tone of voice here, please note that this is asked with a calm spirit: Friend, where does all your anger stem from? Where in this article or in these replies is there any mention of church size, comparisons, or a spirit of competition. Where do you detect anyone telling God what he or she wants? What makes you question our calling and ordination (we’re not “onioned”) as pastors (we’re not “pastures”) and ministers?” This article is meant to help pastors stop, think, go back to the Scriptures, and remember how Jesus, His Apostles, and the other folks like Timothy and Titus handled these kinds of issues. It’s actually a call to humility.

      But, yes, I will concede that we DO want to be perfect (not “prefect;” that means the opposite of what we want to be), for Jesus Himself twice said, “Be ye perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mat 5:48; 19:21).

      I’m genuinely concerned that there’s something underlying your sharp response. Have you been hurt by a pastor? Has some pastor offended you? What’s your church background and history? Do you belong to Christ?

      • Ben

        Hi Prescott.JayErin thank you for your concern I do not mean to sound anger but your spirit may have pick some thing up if so pray for me if you want to, I’ll thank you in advance. what makes you think I am anger? If you are a paster you should be prepared to have people speak behind your back, gossip and yes tell lies about you. didn’t this happen to Our Lord Jesus. as i said Didn’t Jesus leave instruction to deal with these kind of people? I do not believe pastures trust there congregation there always looking out side of there church to be dealt with there own kind. pasture are a part of the body Christ as you and I are no more no less. acts 10 peters vision what God has cleansed you must not call common. brother i a not common. I have been washed by the Blood Of Christ SEALED WITH THE PROMISE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT as a guarantee. if this seems to you that I am angry i am not, just making a statement. Prescott what really burns me up is when pastures want to be treated as if they are priest of the dark ages, they want to be treated as if they know all and want to live off the fat of the land, some use the Bible as sword to make people feel guilty but the Bible I read out of is to comfort me. may be the anger you see was as i stated. I am so glad you asked me If I belong to the Lord does not the Bible say no one can call on the name of Jesus with out the holy Spirits help. I am born again washed by the blood filled with Holy Spirit Of God our father who called and chose me does this answer your question?Prescott. Ben

        • PrescottJayErwin

          It’s a little difficult for me to follow your thoughts, however I am glad you belong to the Lord — thanks be to God. I don’t know what passage you’re referring to that says no one can call on the name of the Lord without the Holy Spirit’s help, unless you’re referring to 1 Corinthians 12:3, “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” But I do know that no comes to the Father but by Jesus and no one comes to Jesus unless the Father first draws him and that it is the work of the Spirit to convict with regard to sin and righteousness and judgment and to guide believers into all truth. Praise the Lord that He has drawn you to Himself — amen!

          I suppose what causes me to sense anger in your remarks is, for instance, here where you say, “what really burns me up…” In my culture that’s a sentiment of anger. And beyond that, what you say burns you up has nothing to do with the article or the responses. No one is suggesting they’d like to be treated as priests or that they know all; there’s no suggestion that anyone wants to live off the fat of their congregation; and there’s nothing here about using the Bible as a sword or as an instrument of shame against their flocks. This kind of thing upsets you and it upsets us, too, but it doesn’t apply here — at least there’s nothing to suggest that in the article or discussion. We KNOW we don’t know it all; that’s why this website exists.

          This isn’t about mistrusting our congregations, either, but we are all aware that not everyone in our congregations are believers and even believers don’t always act the way believers should. Pastors DO expect to be the object of gossip, back-biting, slander and all kinds of maliciousness; we can absorb that. The question is, what happens when those personal attacks escalate beyond the Pastor and the mud being slung begins to get on other members of the flock? In order to do the work of a Pastor — to feed, nurture, guide, protect, and comfort the flock — Pastors often need to deal with people in or among the flock who are acting badly, and to do so biblically. Of course, at this point we must concede that “the Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” This isn’t about protecting Pastors, but their flocks.

          We know that while we are called out from among our congregations for a specific kind of service, we are not somehow holier or better than they, it’s just that our service is different. The Bible says church leaders, including Pastors, keep watch over their flocks as men who must give an account. And teaching is part of our calling as Pastors, but the Bible says we who teach will be judged more strictly than the rest of the flock. In many ways we’re just like the rest of the flock, but in others we’re different. We have to take our calling seriously because the Lord certainly is.

          I hope this helps clarify where this discussion is coming from.

          • Ben

            good morning Prescott, first the reference you asked for 1cor. chap 12 verses 1-3. this morning In my pray time because of what you said I realized I did have anger so thank you. however I will make commends in what I see and hear. how should believers supposed to act, Please explain. are you treating you congregation as sheep are you treating them like sons a daughters of God. do you see the gifts of Our Lord Jesus operating in you church? if they are will stop it or encourage your people to keep on. as to protecting the flock explain. yes your serves is different but no different than mine or any one else who is Spirit filled. I look to Jesus for protecting and this should be tough to depend on Christ Jesus not the pastures or any other man. Don’t you think so? Jesus said if you lift me up I WILL DRAW ALL MEN UNTO ME. this morning I reread John the 14 chapter where Jesus said i go to prepare a place for you and i starting thinking about that statement Jesus is also preparing me for the place. If the Lord isn’t involved with every aspect of your life than He an’t. thank you Prescott. Ben as son of God our Lord.

          • PrescottJayErwin

            Thank you for your prayerful engagement, Brother Ben. Let me begin with your reference to John 12:32, where Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Notice that He did not, as you suggest, say, “If you lift Me up, I will draw all men unto Me.” It may seem subtle, but it’s easy to twist Scripture to make it mean something that seems good, but is not what it says. Do I believe people will be drawn to the Lord when we exalt Him? Absolutely! But that’s not what that verse is about.

            As to your question about the congregation and pastors, I do believe you’re missing something. First, believers ARE referred to as Children of God, but are ALSO referred to individually as sheep and collectively as the flock. We are to treat the congregation as the Children of God, as His sheep, as the Bride of Christ, as the Household of God, as the Body of Christ and individually Members of it, and many other such metaphors. We are to treat them as Spirit-filled, Spirit-gifted, fellow servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, set apart (made holy) for works of service the Lord prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. On the other hand, we also know, as the Corinthian church discovered, there are people in our midst who operate according to something besides the Spirit of God and they do not have in mind the things of God.

            One of the most important passages, and one that might speak to your particular concerns, is 1 Peter 5:1-3, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” Jesus Himself referred to believers as sheep as well as children, and He warned of the wolves and the vipers that threaten them, not only from the outside, but from within. Upon his departure from the Elders of Ephesus, Paul said this: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears…” (Acts 20:28-31; see also 1 & 2Timothy, Titus, and others).

            Note several things here: 1) Those who have been made overseers of the flock need first to watch themselves, lest we become like those against whom we are to guard the congregation. 2) Those who have been made overseers DO need to take heed of (watch over, care for) members of the congregation for their protection. It is the economy of God to provide all kinds of protection for His children, the sheep of His hand (Psalm 95:7), including by the ministry of elders (presbuteros)/overseers-bishops (episkopos)/pastors-shepherds (poimenos).

            Pastors are among those by whom the Lord gifted the Church as a means of building up (edifying) and perfecting (bringing to completion) the saints, for preparing the saints for works of ministry, to facilitate the growth of the saints in the unity and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. The point is, yes, we who are called as pastors ARE called to a different ministry, not as overlords, but as caring overseers, and yet we also share in many of the same kinds of ministry as the rest of the flock.

            Pastors are NOT called because there’s something special about them, or because they’re stronger, better-looking, more spiritually gifted, more charismatic, closer to God, or anything of the sort; pastors are not called because of what THEY bring to THEIR calling, but because of what the LORD does in them and through them in HIS calling. This is God’s design, not man’s, and so when you disdain pastors, you show contempt for the Lord Who gave them to the Church (Ephesians 4:11).

            Consider this verse from Hebrews regarding those whom the Lord has called to leadership of local churches: “Obey them that have the rule (leadership) over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (13:17). Some unscrupulous men have used this in malicious ways through the years, but that is not the way of the Lord and faithful pastors must not be tarnished by the misdeeds of the untrustworthy ones.

            As to your assertion that the service of pastors is no different from anyone else who is Spirit-filled, I would again direct you to the passages that speak of greater accountability for church leaders and Christian teachers than the rest of believers. I would also direct you especially to passages in the letters to the Romans and Corinthians (specifically Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12-14) which discuss the fact that the gifts of the Spirit do empower people for ministries that are different — and that we must not disdain one another in view of those differences; the work of the seemingly least important or seemingly least presentable are no les important than the ones that look impressive and seem most important.

            It is admirable that you want to be “tough” in the Lord and to be able to do it all on your own — just you and Jesus — but that is not the way the Lord planned for it to be. In fact, by seeking to be so strong on your own, to be self-sufficient in the Lord, you may be missing the great truth Paul expressed about God’s use of the weak to confound the strong, and that “when we are weak, we become strong.” Children of God need to rely on one another AND on their pastors, elders, deacons. “bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the Law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

            I hope some of this proves to be helpful to you, Brother.

      • Rob

        PrescottJayErwin, I wish there were more people like you out there addressing people and issues. Your responses are stated very well, but what impresses me most is your concern for the well being of those you are communicating with (“I’m genuinely concerned . . .”). It would be very easy to get defensive and confrontational in these responses, but you tackle the issue with compassion and concern. Well done!

        • PrescottJayErwin

          Thanks for the encouragement, Bro. Rob.



    • PrescottJayErwin

      Dear Joanna: Use of all caps online is equated with yelling. Is that what you intended?

      It sounds like what you’re dealing with is simply criticism, not mudslinging. Mudslinging involves, as I wrote below, broad strokes of ill-intent. It occurs when people use insults, unjust accusations, malicious and/or scandalous attacks with the aim of discrediting or damaging one’s reputation. It’s about slander and vilification, often not directed at just a single person, but intended to smear as many as possible. And often it’s not about what one DOES, but about who one IS.

      Of course, it’s hard to respond to anyone’s specific “personal” plight, because it may not be good to post personal information here, like facebook page links, email addresses, etc. (no one would want to be accused of using these pages for self-promotion or book sales). But even if we had access to all that, it would still be difficult because we don’t know the intricacies of personal relationships that lead to such plights. It sounds like you might benefit from some good local Christian pastoral counseling in order to deal with your critic. Do you have any Christian life-coach associates you could talk with?