What I wish I’d known about critics, the Bible, and discipleship

Jeremy Carr » Biblical Theology Church Leadership Wisdom Culture

Criticism is difficult for any leader to face, but God can use it as an opportunity for you to grow. Jeremy Carr shares what he wishes he had known about critics, the Bible, and discipleship. 

What I wish I’d known about critics

I once thought that criticism was just about intangible issues, such as stylistic preferences or philosophical differences. This view often led me to either disregard critics altogether or demonize them as enemies. I’ve learned, however, that criticism is about the human heart and brokenness. Criticism at its core is not about you, but it is an opportunity for you—both to grow as a disciple and to pastor hurting people.

It’s been said that “hurting people hurt people.” When facing criticism, answer the person behind the issue, not just the issue itself. Your critic may have some previous hurt or current struggle prompting the criticism targeted at you. The criticism is sometimes a manifestation of experienced brokenness.

Criticism at its core is not about you, but it is an opportunity for you.

Criticism can be received as a gift from God. It is an opportunity to pray, search Scripture, evaluate your own heart, and offer grace to others. The right response to criticism should not be retaliation or pride (which just perpetuates hurt), but rather humility.

Paul addresses this attitude in the Christians in Galatia, who were characterized as biting and devouring one another and consuming one another (Gal. 5:15), and provoking and envying one another (Gal. 5:26). Paul urges them to “through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13) and “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2).

Criticism is an opportunity for growth in light of the gospel for the critic, the one criticized, and those looking on.

What criticisms are you facing? How can you use them as an opportunity to grow?

What I wish I’d known about the Bible

Early in my faith, I thought the Bible was all about information and application: what I must know and do to be a Christian. While both knowledge of Scripture and obedience to Scripture are certainly part of the Bible’s intent, there is more to the Bible’s role in our lives as Christians.

Following his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples. Luke records, “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:44–45).

In short, Scripture points us to Christ.

I thought the Bible was all about information and application: what I must know and do.

The apostles began teaching from Scripture that Jesus is the one Scripture foretold, and what was the believers’ response? They “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). These Christians were changed, exhibiting characteristics of their new identity and new community together through new actions and attitudes (read Acts 2:42–47).

I have grown to understand the Bible is moreover about revelation and transformation. The Holy Spirit, through Scripture, reveals to us who Christ is and what he has done. The Bible is the written revelation of God’s redemptive plan. In turn, the Holy Spirit uses Scripture to transform us personally as disciples, in community together as a Christian family, and on mission proclaiming the good news and making disciples of Jesus.

How do you view and use Scripture? What role does the Bible play in your life?

What I wish I’d known about discipleship

I became a Christian at the age of eight. Early on in my faith I had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge—I wanted to learn as much as possible about the Bible. By my late teens and early twenties, I became zealous for action, passionate to do and serve in various ways. While both knowledge and action are a part of the Christian life, discipleship is more than knowing and doing. Discipleship is also about being and becoming.

Scripture is not only about information and application, but also revelation and transformation. Transformation involves a new identity: being and becoming. We see this, for example, in what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:2–3: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul’s words point out two truths about discipleship:

Transformation involves a new identity: being and becoming.

Discipleship is about being: “Called to be saints together” reminds us that discipleship is about our personal identity in the context of community. Calling connotes both designation as well as direction. In Christ, we are “called out” and gathered together, belonging to God and with each other.

Discipleship is about becoming: “Sanctified” is being set apart as holy for a holy purpose. In Scripture, sanctification is both a one-time event and an ongoing process. Discipleship shapes us and sends us with “grace . . . and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

This understanding of discipleship shapes personal faith and discipline, relationship in gospel community together, and partnership in mission.

What is God teaching you about discipleship?



For more on the Bible and discipleship from Jeremy Carr, check out his new eBook Sound Words: Listening to the Scriptures from GCD Books.

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