Shepherding Criticism

Serious Joy Speakers Panel

Bethlehem Conference for Pastors | Minneapolis

Jared Compton: Normally, we’ll do the panel at the end of all the plenary sessions and we’ll reflect on all of the sessions, but we thought this year it might be helpful to do the panel in the middle of the conference. We thought that it might be useful to talk about something that if you’ve been a pastor for, let’s say longer than ten minutes, you know a little something about, and that’s criticism.

You’ve experienced it and these guys aren’t interested in just sitting here and licking our wounds, complaining about this glorious calling that God has put on our lives, not least because we carry out this vocation in a country where serving as a pastor poses very little threat to your well-being, and where you’re compensated far better than most of our brothers who serve all around the world. We’re not here to lick our wounds, but we are here to name something, describe something, and try to give help for this thing that most of you know a little something about — criticism.

We’re hoping God will use their answers and our discussion to point your eyes back on what your hope is. Our only hope in life and death in pastoral ministry is the Lord Jesus Christ. We’re hoping that these answers and this discussion put a little fresh faith in your heart and energy in your soul as you head back into the hurly-burly of pastoral life.

That’s our prayer. We’re going to start with an easy question. Have you guys ever done anything that deserved criticism, maybe something dumb? Why don’t you tell us a little story? What comes to your mind? Tell us about it. What did you learn? Who wants to go first?

John Piper: I’ll go first. In the mid-1980s, I had a staff member who was quite obese, and I didn’t think at all about her being in the audience. I was preaching a message on self-control and had a section in the sermon on gluttony. I think gluttony is a sin, and I think self-control is a good thing and the fruit of the Holy Spirit, but here’s the mistake. Please learn from this. I equated gluttony with obesity. That’s a mistake. That’s a serious mistake.

There I was, preaching to several hundred folks, not thinking too much about who was overweight and who wasn’t, but making that identification that the sin I’m talking about was virtually the same as their present weight. Well, she confronted me boldly and compellingly with reasons. She said, “That’s not true, pastor. You have no idea of the causes of obesity in your church. You just do not understand. The reasons are many. Some have to do with diabetes and some have to do with trauma. There are all kinds of complexities that go into why people are the weight they are. You cannot draw a straight line between gluttony and obesity.” I just melted. I was just guilty as charged so clearly that I profusely apologized, and I don’t think I’ve ever made that particular mistake again.

Lewis Guest: I have youth ministry in my background, and one time at Jubilee, no longer in the youth ministry context, we were still running these Olympic-style games at our family camp. I had the bright idea of playing Steal the Bacon with the church, but with actual bacon, literal bacon. You typically play Steal the Bacon with something else. That’s the youth pastor inside of me. I had a mother come to me, rightfully so, on the other side of it, upset that we were actually using raw meat to play this game with her child. It didn’t even dawn on me to not use raw meat. The game is called Steal the Bacon. It felt like it was a brainchild to say, “Yeah, we should use bacon.”

The critique was right, and what it taught me was to be really aware of beautiful folks in our congregation like parents who just have another mindset. I didn’t have kids at that time. It opened up an awareness of the variety of people within the mix and the importance of running things by some folks and trying to open up the mind. This may be a bright idea to me, this brainchild of mine, but it really had no insight in terms of how this might impact people. Something I thought was going to be fun and childish really did hurt her feelings, and it reminded me that I have to have my eyes open a little bit wider for those in the mix that may take this a different way.

Michael Reeves: The most common form of criticism I get is for things that I have either missaid, said wrongly, or failed to say in teaching. I think of one instance where, teaching on the fatherhood of God, I finished and afterwards spoke to a girl who was in tears, who said to me, “This is precisely my problem with God, because my father abused me. That’s all I hear when you talk about the fatherhood of God.” And what that woke me up to was how people can hear, because of their experiences, something so different to what you mean or what scriptural intent is. So, to preach accurately to real people, there needs to be an attempt at an awareness of where people are and where they might therefore misunderstand, sometimes with tragic consequences, something that you can see as a beautiful truth.

Therefore, there’s a need to be able to not only proclaim the truth, but articulate it in such a way that they’re understanding how it is different from the lie that is crushing them and how it actually liberates. So, for that girl, there was wonderful good news about the fatherhood of God, and the fact that she couldn’t hear it was because she’d worked the wrong way around. She’d projected her abusive idea of fatherhood into heaven, whereas her father is called father because he should have been like the Father in heaven, and that’s why it hurt, because he wasn’t.

Piper: So, what’s your solution when you’re preaching on the fatherhood of God?

Reeves: The solution is that I need to talk people through how to do theology, so that they don’t project onto God their own assumptions about how things are. They need to reconceive in the light of how God reveals himself to be. You work from God down to us, rather than us up to God.

Piper: I don’t want these guys to feel like they are responsible for every way that they’re heard. That will paralyze you. I would say in a group of one hundred folks, any sentence you speak will be taken wrongly by somebody. I think you’re exactly right that you do everything you can, within the time frame that you have and within reasonable limits, to remove misunderstandings.

But if you’re going to speak in public, you must settle it, you will be wrongly heard. And that means that you’re going to have to do some cleanup work, I think regularly, and you have to have skin that’s thick enough to say, “What you heard is not what I said. And if you’re going to take me to task for that, I will own as much as I can, but I can’t be responsible for your misunderstandings.”

You will be destroyed by people using their emotional response to what you say to damn you or ruin you. There must be a distinction between articulating that what I said was this and what I meant was this. You can say, “You heard it as that, and that’s not what I said. I’m sorry you misunderstood. Here’s my clarification.” And if that doesn’t do it, that’s not on you.

Compton: And you can tell the difference. John shouldn’t have equated gluttony with obesity, so you weren’t misheard. That’s different from Michael’s, where you don’t know how everything’s going to land. He said true things about God. That’s an interesting little distinction there.

Reeves: And there’s a difference according to context. In a particularly small local church, the longer you’ve served there, the more you will tend to know people’s situations. You’ll be able to speak that way. But the more publicly you’re speaking, and the more people you speak to whom you don’t get to interact with and you don’t know who they are, the more the potential there is for that misunderstanding. The classic, of course, is social media, where someone is going to profoundly misunderstand you in almost whatever you say.

Compton: Yes, and we’ll get to social media in just a little bit. Steven or David, any dumb things you’ve done? Come on, we want to hear it. Let’s be honest.

Steven Lee: No dumb things.

Compton: Is Stephanie in the room? Where is she?

Lee: She’s not here, thankfully. This is less dumb, but it’s just about when you make a mistake, what do you do with it? Three weeks ago I was preaching. I was humming along and I was trying to quote Romans 8:28 from memory in the midst of the sermon — “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” But in the second service, I just blanked. I could not pull it up at all. Nothing was on my mind and I was thinking, “I don’t have it; I just don’t have it.” One of my elders was sitting in the front row there, and I said, “Tim Johnson, help me out here, Romans 8:28.”

He was kind of on the spot. Usually the preacher doesn’t talk to you when he’s preaching. So, people were saying it all around and eventually I got it. I finished this sermon, and I was walking down to my seat. Here’s the moment, what do you do? Do you just kind of retreat and think, “Oh, that was so miserable”? It was. It was embarrassing. But I thought, “It’s not about me at this moment. How do I help the people?”

So, at the benediction, I finally recited the promise as it should be recited, and I said, “That promise is true whether you remember it or not, and God is good.” The whole point of the sermon was that God is faithful to his promises. So, in that moment, I had to make a decision to say, “I’m not going to make this about me at this moment, but how do I serve my people?”

Compton: That’s good.

David Mathis: You want something dumb?

Compton: Let’s go.

Mathis: For my wife’s birthday, when we were newlyweds, we didn’t have a lot of money. I was thinking fifty dollars seems like a good amount for this present, and she had expressed interest in having a sewing machine at some point. I realized fifty dollars was not going to get a sewing machine. So, I made a beautiful little coupon, which was fifty dollars toward a sewing machine, and I gave it to my wife. I thought this was efficient; this was miserly. From all angles that I could see, this was a very smart gift.

She did not take it that way, and offered some criticism. She was absolutely right, and I needed to hear it, and I’ve heard various versions of it over the years because I’m thickheaded. But my wife’s birthday gift is not about me making efficient decisions with my calculus, but what would express love for her.

Piper: I don’t get it. What’s wrong with the gift?

Compton: That’s right.

Mathis: Maybe I learned it from John.

Compton: Don’t worry about it. All right, guys, what is it about being a human that makes criticism hard to receive? I’m imagining if you’re like me, criticism is hard to take. What is it? What are the things that are going on in our hearts that make that sting?

Guest: Pride.

Compton: That’s right.

Guest: Speaking for myself, I think of an article that I gladly gave to anybody that would take it from our church who was struggling with criticism — criticism in marriage, or criticism at the job. It was a CCEF article and it said something to the effect of the gospel being so powerful that of all people in the world, Christians should be the ones who could take criticism. Because in the gospel you’ve been critiqued more than you will ever be critiqued. There’s nothing that anybody can say in this room that critiques me like the gospel. And in the gospel, you’ve been validated and accepted more than anybody on this planet will be able to validate.

I used to give this thing out and say, “You need to read this. This is excellent.” That’s until it came my time to receive criticism, and it shocked me of how bad I was in applying that truth. The gospel gives me the foundation to receive this criticism, but the pride in my heart was saying, “You shouldn’t be talking to me like this. Who do you think you are?” It’s pride. Pride for me is going to be one of the biggest roadblocks when it comes down to being able to move through the hurt of criticism, get to the truth there, receive it, and then keep on learning from it.

Reeves: I’d say very much connected to that is poor knowledge of God. For when God is glorious to you — and I don’t mean you understand the doctrines of grace and you can comprehend a certain understanding of God’s majesty — and he is majestic, beautiful, and treasured, then criticism of him stings and hurts. When he is impugned, that hurts. But when you are criticized, it hurts far less because your perspective is filled with him. But when your knowledge of God is small and slight, and you are bored of God, or you think God is small and unworthy, then what naturally happens is your view of yourself (your pride) gets bigger, and the bigger your view of yourself, the more susceptible you are to the opinions of others. And that works actually with both criticism and flattery.

Either way, I just care too much what people think of me. But when God is glorious, I’m caring more about what people think of him and what they’re making of him. It’s not so much about thick skin as such. It’s really perspective. What do you care about? What is filling your vision will really determine how you respond to criticism and flattery. So, of course most people, sinners, are going to take criticism as a painful attack because they are filling their own perspective, and what other people think of them is all-important. The only solution is that I must decrease and he must increase.

Compton: Amen. Are there any other thoughts on this — things that make criticism sting? Your view of God is too small, and correlated to that, your view of yourself is too big. Other thoughts? Anything else come to mind?

Piper: Well, I don’t know if it will be different, but the biblical foundation for what Michael just said with regard to criticism and flattery is found in Matthew 5:11–12 and then Matthew 6:1–18. Matthew 5:11–12 says:

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.

The solution to being crushed by that slander is joy in the reward, which is exactly the same for the protection against the love of praise in Matthew 6, which says, “Don’t do your alms to be seen by men,” and, “Don’t pray to be seen by men,” and, “Don’t fast to be seen by men,” and then he says if you do, you lose your reward. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

So, in both texts, the solution to loving the praise of man or being crushed by the criticism of man is the reward of the Father. It’s about falling deeper and deeper in love and having the source of your pleasure flow so much from God that the pleasure you get from the praise of men is small enough that it doesn’t crush you when you don’t get it, and it doesn’t make you greedy for it.

But here’s a thing that complicates the matter. There’s a little speck of goodness in the love of the praise of man, because there is a godly way to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). When he says that to us — “Well done, good and faithful servant” — he doesn’t mean for us to say, “Don’t tempt me like that. That’s bad news. I’m not supposed to enjoy that.” Well, you are supposed to enjoy that.

So, why is it right to enjoy the Father saying “well done,” but not okay to say to others, “Please tell me I did a good job — I’m so needy, needy, needy, needy of your praise”? I sow that seed to say, find the seed of goodness, and at the end of a sermon, when somebody comes up to you and says, “Pastor, that was so helpful; that was extraordinarily helpful this morning,” you don’t belittle that. You don’t blow that off and say, “You shouldn’t say that to me. It was all of the Lord.” Here’s what I say. Just say, “Thank you. That means a lot to me. That was encouraging to me.” Turn it back and receive it. It is right to receive godly praise, and it’s dangerous as all get-out to love it.

Compton: I’m curious, in your ministry did you grow in this? Do you remember any sort of recognizable seasons where you began to think, “I’m receiving praise in the right way; criticism is hurting less”? Did you grow in this? I’m hoping the answer is yes, that you did grow in it. If he says no, that’s a bad line of questioning.

Piper: Well, the safe way to answer the question is the way I did at TableTalk a minute ago. One of the guys said, “When will I get beyond the struggle?” I said, “Never, until Jesus comes or you’re dead.” I don’t think sanctification works that way. I think John Piper will be a proud man until he’s gone. The indwelling sin has to be daily crucified, regularly put to death. So, I think what I learned was a few things about how to receive praise better because I think, theologically, my first thought was this: since everything good that John Piper does that has any speck of goodness in it is of God.

I still believe that, but having come through this channel, it is clear that the Bible is willing to bless human beings who do good things, and God himself rewards human beings for doing good things. He writes everything down. Ephesians 6:8 says you will receive back for every good deed. Isn’t that amazing? Every good deed you’re going to receive back. Oh, that’s amazing. So, he’s writing it all down and that’s a good thing, and I think I learned that there are humble ways to receive thanks and praise. I doubt that I’ve grown too much out of my delight in the praise of man. I think that still tastes very good, and I must regularly do the God work of reorienting my heart on God.

Compton: It serves us to hear you say that. Thank you.

Reeves: There are two ways in which we grow. The first is through Scripture, primarily, learning to know and cherish God more, so that he becomes greater to us and we become less. But there is a second means in which we grow. We can have a theoretical sense — and it doesn’t seem theoretical to us — of the gloriousness of God. When life is easy, we can hold onto it and think we hold to it firmly. The second way we grow is that the Lord brings afflictions our way in order to disabuse us of the vain things of the world, and that is the hard part.

The afflictions where you find your pride and your anger and your sinfulness awakened by criticisms or hard times, what that does is that it shows the difference between a mere sense of the truth and an appreciation of it in reality. So God kindly, providentially sends us and sanctifies for us afflictions, so that our appreciation of what we might cerebrally hold grows, and therefore, we shouldn’t be too scared of the afflictions and the pain that come with these things. Because for those who keep in step with the Spirit, the Lord sanctifies these afflictions, making the very ugly traits in our character beautified.

Compton: That’s a good word. Any other thoughts on why criticism can sting?

Piper: I’m pretty experienced with this. I dislike being criticized by my wife. We haven’t stirred that in. Here’s one of the main reasons: I think, “Look, if you’re going to say that about me, what about this other thing?” That’s the dynamic we haven’t brought up yet. The critic is imperfect and you know it. I think, “Can’t you own that? If you knew how many times I didn’t . . .”

That’s a dynamic that I think brings in another dimension of love toward a person — Noël is my most cherished. We have 55 years of ripening cherishing, and few people can hurt me more. And few people can hurt her more than me. We’ve been through some deep waters together on this. Therefore, I think a strategy is to not do that. I forget who said it now, but for me to know how much I have been forgiven by Jesus is the key to my forgiving, my disposition of letting it go, not holding it against her, or returning good for evil — which from her angle, it wasn’t evil at all. She was just saying it, and I’m feeling it as evil, so I should get over it.

There is this vertical dimension of recognizing this is a good day because I’m not in hell. I am being blessed by the Lord. I sit here in this house that we own. I have running water, I have indoor plumbing, I have refrigeration, and I have doctors healing every disease. I am so overwhelmed with paradise in America, and here I am upset with a word? Come on, Piper. Get real. That dynamic of the other person also having feet of clay, as soon as she says something negative about you, you think of ten things negative about her. That’s just evil. That will destroy a lot of relationships, and ruin a lot of marriages.

Compton: That’s right. If we only receive criticism from people that are immune to it — they’re perfect — then we’ll never receive it from anybody because everybody’s a sinner. That’s right. That’s helpful. Let’s talk about sources of criticism. You get criticized from different sources. One of those might be from your congregation criticizing you about your preaching. Has that ever happened to you guys? Where do you go with that? How do you respond to that? I suspect for a lot of these guys out there, that’s an experience they have more frequently than they’d like to admit. Talk about criticism from the congregation about your preaching.

Piper: I’m always ready to go.

Compton: It’s like an Ask Pastor John episode.

Piper: During my first year as a pastor, a deacon came up to me with his wife and he looked at us and said, “We’re probably leaving the church.” They had been there for ten years, and I had been there for six months. She said, “Everything you say goes over my head. I don’t understand anything you say.” And he was kind of there, saying, “I like what you say.”

So, I missed it. They left the church. I was not connecting with this lady, and we never quite figured it out, but her language was that I was going over her head. And it could be. Everything I ever said at Bethlehem is online. You can go back and test whether the 1981 and 1982 sermons were too heady. But they were for her for sure, and I could have perhaps done better for her. That’s one kind of criticism.

Let me just give you two other bullet points really quickly. I’ve heard a lot of things. I preached a sermon and I wrote an article one time just called “Missions and Masturbation.” Now, this is not smart in a church of mainly older people and a lot of them single women. One lady came up, took my hand after, and she said, “Pastor, you’re sick.” That’s another illustration. We can follow up on these if you want.

We also had a big debacle of an immorality in the church. An elder’s wife just came up to me after one of the meetings where we were arguing about how the church had handled it, and she didn’t take my hand. She looked at me and said, “You’re the most arrogant person I have ever known.” Her husband was standing right there. I still know her husband well to this day. We’re good friends. I haven’t had much of a relationship with her, so people have said, “You’re sick, you’re arrogant, and everything you say goes over my head.”

Guest: Last year was the first time that I could recall in the role that I have at the church of receiving criticism on a sermon that I took really personally. It was communicated in a way that she thought what I was saying in the sermon was an attack on them. Going back to not being able to be in charge of everybody’s perception, the biggest thing I wanted to do is to be able to turn around and say, “By no means am I using the pulpit as a means of attacking the flock and attacking the sheep from the pulpit,” but it once again took me by surprise because what I would’ve hoped to have done in that scenario is just to unpack what I meant by it. But it felt personal, to the gut, to the core.

I think it connected because these were people that we loved and we’ve known each other. We’ve walked with each other for a while. For that thought to come into their mind hurt, because I thought, “Hey, we’ve been doing this for a while. I love you. You love me. We love one another.” That wouldn’t be the case, but that would be an example that comes to my mind when I think of somebody hearing something in the sermon and hearing it in such a way that I come across in a way as attacking them, which is difficult to hear.

Compton: You know how it is. You spend your week doing all kinds of stuff, eking out a little time to write a sermon. You put your heart into the time you got. You’re loving your people. And for someone to say, “Look, that went over my head,” or, “That wasn’t helpful,” or, “You orchestrated that to attack me,” it stings because you want to say, “Man, I love you. I’m giving myself to you.” And we expect that and we kind of think they owe us, don’t we? We think they owe us to love us because of what we’re doing for them, which is a misplaced expectation. Steven, you were going to say something?

Lee: I think related to just criticism on preaching is criticism in general. In 2020 and 2021, criticism came in every direction. Some said, “You’re making us wear masks,” or, “I can’t believe you’re not kicking out the people who aren’t wearing the masks,” or all of those other things. I think one of the things that is really helpful to remember in the midst of all that is to just have elders that you can go back to and say, “Hey, are we aligned in how we’re doing this? Give me feedback if I’m misspeaking or leading poorly.”

You’re not just on an island by yourself. I think that’s always helpful. And then with preaching, I almost go to this text every time just to remind myself, if criticism comes, usually on the drive home. I pray, “Thank you Lord for the encouragement that came and, Lord, I hand over the criticism that came as well.” And the text that comes to mind is Isaiah 55:10–11:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
     and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
     giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
     it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
     and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

So, you just say, “Lord, I trust that you used that to feed the right people, to water the right grass, and I’m going to leave it there.” And certainly there are going to be criticisms that are merited, and you bring that to your elders to say, “Is there something I need to learn from this, or is it something that is like words for the wind — things I can just toss and don’t need to sit with me?”

Compton: That’s helpful. How about avenues for giving people an opportunity to provide feedback? I know we’re talking about you receiving it — maybe it’s an email; maybe someone’s coming up in your face. What avenues or what strategies have you put in place that actually welcome and seek for people to give you feedback of honest kinds? Anything? Help these guys out with that.

Lee: What we do at our church is that we’ll have a sermon review meeting every Wednesday, and several of the associate pastors will gather. And we’ll just say, “These are the things that you did well, brother. We were so encouraged. Praise the Lord. It was so good how you did that.” And then they say, “And these are the things that were distracting. I don’t think you should have lingered there. I don’t think you should have said that.” We’re just inviting the staff. We have a team of preachers, so everyone gets feedback, but I think that’s so helpful.

So, we’re getting it from the people who know that you’re doing the work, who saw the outline on the front end, and then now can really share feedback in love, because it’s always hard when it’s a random person. You don’t know who they are and it’s an email. So, that’s been really helpful. We have a staff that’s developed that muscle to say, “Let’s encourage one another, praise God for how the word worked, and then also help each other and sharpen each other.” So, that’s an intentional thing.

Compton: Did it take a while to develop a culture like that? We’re Minnesotans, so we kind of don’t always say things straightforwardly. Did it take a little while?

Lee: Yeah, it still takes some work. You have to cultivate that, and then you have to not rise up and say, “Well, this is why I did that.” You just have to say, “Okay, let me think about that.” My wife says my favorite pet is the elephant in the room, so I always try to call it out whenever I get a chance to say. I think, “How did that land? Because for half of our people, they really appreciated that. When you said that, they all clapped. But the other half was upset and angry.” So, get your staff to help you see the blind spots that you have.

Reeves: The use of the word culture there I think is important because culture cannot be created with a single deposit of information or a single meeting. Culture is something that needs to be worked on constantly. The first thing that creates a culture shaped by the gospel is the constant teaching of the gospel, which humbles us and therefore puts us in a place where we can receive the criticism humbly and rightly.

The second thing is then being constantly intentional in that. With my staff, I am constantly saying that we want to have a culture of gracious honesty here, which is a two-way street. I want you to tell me if there’s something I’m doing that seems off to you, that seems unwise to you, some way in which you think I can do better. I want you to tell me that, but it’s a two-way street, and I want you to be prepared that I would like, in love, to be able to say the same to you. If I can see something in you, I want to be able to address it and not for you to feel, “He’s out to get me and he’s just attacking me.” But I seek to build you up in love through constructively critiquing.

Lee: And the lead guy determines the culture of that. If he can’t take it, it won’t happen because everyone will know, “He says that, but he can’t take it, so we’ll shut up.”

Mathis: I had a thought on team preaching. Something that has emerged naturally for us in these years of preaching together is we’ve come to a point when we’re working on a sermon, thinking ahead about it, and we can say, “Am I going to say this or not as application of this text?” Being well aware of the brothers on the elder council and the fellow preachers can be very helpful in terms of having brothers to refer to ahead of time. We can grow in our sermon review after the fact, but one thing we’ve learned to do leading up to sermons is to say things to each other.

There are times where we’ve shared whole manuscripts on a certain topic. Sometimes it’ll just be a paragraph. Sometimes it’ll be a thought: “Brother, what do you think about this application? This could step on your toes. I don’t mean just to step on your toes unless you need to be stepped on, but help me craft this ahead of time.” That has been helpful. It doesn’t happen on an every-week basis, but being aware of each other helps us try to get at that ahead of time in some of the things that may be misunderstood.

Compton: Lewis, do you guys have any kind of sermon review — you and Toph and the guys?

Guest: Yes, at our staff meeting every week we’ll go over a sermon review. It’ll be a time for us to think about the text. We are also in partnership with Bethlehem College and Seminary, our apprentices. We have a preaching apprenticeship where we also will go a little bit deeper. The preaching apprenticeship is a place where it is not as hard to get the feedback. I think we tried to make a covenant with one another to say, “Let’s give ourselves the feedback that’s necessary so we can grow in our preaching.” Those are two mechanisms that we have set up.

Compton: How about you, John? Was there a feedback loop on your preaching ministry at Bethlehem?

Piper: There was nothing formally. I heard plenty, but what I wanted to follow up on was where your question was going. You said, “How do you create opportunities for the people to criticize, not just the staff?” And I would say three things.

First, in your preaching, it will be evident to your people if you are vulnerable and imperfect. I, at great risk, share painful things about my life. Sometimes I have to be careful because I’m more easily open than people around me are. That’s one. They will know if you talk about your own discouragements, if you talk about your own marriage issues, your own counseling issues, and other things. They will feel like, “He might be approachable.” Because I’m a pretty intimidating guy. That’s one of the criticisms I get. I can easily shut down a group because I’m just too strong. So, communicate without becoming self-centered in your preaching, let them know you have feet of clay.

Second, do popcorn with the pastor. You can have regular gatherings, maybe quarterly after a service, Wednesday night, Sunday dinner, or whatever, where everything is game. The staff is in front of you, and you can ask us absolutely anything you want.

Third, I suppose as long as we were in our new sanctuary — I don’t remember doing it too much in the old sanctuary — I said to the people, “I’ll be here in front, and I would like to pray with you about absolutely anything between services. I’ll be here 20 minutes after service, and I’ll stay all afternoon.” I would usually be there for an hour, and the people that would line up, they came with everything. They came with their criticisms, they came with their questions, they came with their prayers, and they came with their struggles with pornography.

I just think that is a very efficient use of your time to make yourself available to your people after you preach for an hour or whatever it takes and let them just weep or fume at you. Those are three ways, I think, you can create a culture for your people of knowing, “Our pastors are approachable, even though he’s a big shot and he preaches with authority. He has feet of clay, and he’s willing to stand there for an hour afterwards and listen to our people.”

Compton: That’s good. We talked about criticism of your preaching from a congregation. What about criticism and sort of conflict within your elder team? How do you guys navigate that? What advice would you give to these fellas? Sometimes that’s a particularly devastating kind of criticism when you get it from one of your mates, your band of brothers. Talk about that a little bit. What advice, what comfort can you give?

Guest: I think the relational depth that you share with your brothers on the elder board is going to be one of the ways that you can take the shock of criticism. We were talking about this driving in today about how if there’s relational girth there, when that shock comes, you can perceive it, you can get into the argument that you might get into, or you can exchange the sharp words, but because there’s relational depth that’s been developed, it helps swallow it down.

An idea that he was sharing with me that I think you heard from one of the breakout sessions was the necessity of having opportunities to build that relationship outside of doing the work of the ministry. It involves eating together, going to retreats together, and coming to conferences together. Building that type of relationship was a great idea that I just heard recently that would help you when you do get in those moments and you have to have words with one another.

Compton: That’s good. Other thoughts about criticism from an elder from your team?

Mathis: My topic yesterday for the breakout with 9Marks was working for unity amid disagreements among fellow elders.

Compton: Perfect.

Mathis: I think I gave seven points in the moment. But I told the guys that the most important thing I have to say to you is build the relationships ahead of time. Work for unity before the moment of disagreement, knowing that the thickness of the relationship will enable the relationship to be improved by that criticism, that disagreement, that tension. The thickness of the relationship can even encourage open disagreement instead of sending it back underground.

So, I believe it’s worth investing in the thickness of the relationships between pastors and elders, so that we can weather those challenges together, those disagreements, those criticisms, and actually mine for conflicts between us. Because the relationship is in good shape, we can see a furrowed brow and say, “Hey brother, tell me about that,” instead of trying to avoid it and let it go underground until it comes back up in a bigger way.

Lee: I think that’s a great point. Mining for conflict is how you get healthy conflict. You actually look for the places where you have those areas of disagreement, but the trick comes with, what if you actually have a fundamental difference on some foundational things? What do you do then? It’s not just general criticism where someone says, “I didn’t like your sermon — I think you should have said it this way,” but we see the world differently.

This is ground-shaking. It’s the kind of thing where you think, “We should not be on the same team.” What do we do then? Because all the building up of the relationship doesn’t help at that moment. It helps, but it’s not ultimately decisive. So, I think the question there is you have to really say, “Let’s understand the issue as well as we can. Let’s give that time. Let’s give it patience.” And then at the end of the day, you have to determine at what level this falls.

Is it a place where someone needs to step off the council because he can no longer in good conscience serve with these men? And I think he should be willing and ready to do that, to tender his resignation, if he says, “This is where our church is, and I’ve changed from that. I don’t agree.” And he should not blow up the council in order to do that, but actually have the integrity to step off at the right time and realize that’s a first-tier issue, or at least it’s a second-tier, but it really is important for how we run the church together, how we lead, how we shepherd, and how we look at the world.

So, I think having that level of honesty is important. We should say, “Are we all willing and ready to do that when the time comes, if the time comes?” Are we willing to say, “That’s really significant”? And if we can’t come around to that, then we’re going to have to step off.

For example, we had an elder several years ago that just said, “I don’t know if I’m a Calvinist anymore. As I’ve studied, as I’ve looked, I just don’t think I can sign off on the elder affirmation of faith.” And it was heartbreaking because he was a dear, dear brother. He said, “I think I just need to step off.” And we said, “We think you’re right.” After a season where we walked with him and studied and looked and it was eventually, “Yeah, I think you do need to step down.”

Compton: That’s really helpful. An option might be to say, “Look, this disagreement is intractable and in humility and for the good of the church, you should say, ‘All right, I’m going to step aside. God doesn’t want me to use my elder gifts here at this time right now.’” That’s helpful, Steven. Other thoughts on this regarding the weight of disagreements with your team? Any other thoughts on this one?

Piper: I would encourage you not to build a staff that is diverse theologically. Don’t even go there. It’s been a long time. I’ve been in our little bubble of reality for a long time now, but at the beginning of my ministry that was considered a plus by a lot of pastors in my denomination. They would say, “Have diversity on your staff theologically.” I said, “That’s a prescription for chaos and for catastrophic conflict.” Because these elders — namely, pastors and lay elders — are the teaching office of the church. You’re going to teach one thing; I’m going to teach another thing? You escape a lot of conflict by building a unified staff.

Now, that’s very different from a unified church. You expect from baby Christians, to Christians coming to your church from all kinds of denominations, that will be all over the map theologically, and over five, ten, or fifteen years from teaching from the pulpit, you hope many of them would grow in the truth that you see. But as far as the staff goes, avoid conflict by building a unified staff. And that doesn’t mean it’s a unified personality. It means you are unified theologically and philosophically.

Then the second thing would be that if you’re a strong leader, and everybody on this panel right here is a strong leader, when you walk into a meeting, people kind of defer to us. They think, “There’s the leader.” That person has to work hard to draw out statements. If you just assume that being there people are going to volunteer their criticisms or their suggestions, that’s naive. You have to just go one by one and ask, “What do you think? What do you think?”

I’m more conscious of that now than ever because I’m not in that position in certain settings. I want to be, and I think, “I’d like to lead this meeting.” But I’m not, so I’m thinking, “Three people here haven’t said anything, and I know what they think. They have to talk here. Come on. Come on. Somebody call on them.” You have to draw people out. If you have three people on your staff or two people on your staff, draw them out.

Compton: That’s so good, and I suspect the guys that aren’t being drawn out, for you lead pastors, are frustrated. They have stuff they want to share, and they want to kind of have your permission maybe. Maybe you have to cultivate their freedom to share and it’s frustrating them right now not to be able to speak their mind. So, that idea is good. Ask, “What do you have to say?” That can really serve them. That’s really good.

And I like this idea of theological unity and dispositional diversity. I think that can really serve different giftings, different dispositions, and different personalities. You’re all on the same page theologically, but man, are we served by different kinds of instincts. That’s helpful. I’m about to move to something else that I think is kind of interesting, but Lew, you look like you’re ready to say something.

Guest: I’m thinking about theological unity. The importance there is absolutely the right thing to state, but I sit here and think, “What happens when brothers on the elder board have theological unity, but you may have different perspectives on all types of issues, like a cultural issue.” Put the cultural topic on the table. We all share the same fundamental beliefs, but we are on two different equations when it comes down to putting whatever the topic on the table, and that’s the thing that’s causing the eruption around the elder board. That feels tricky when it comes down to us.

Pick whatever topic you like, and you have two camps there. All share the same theology and love it, but we’re on different pages here on the elder board. That’s just a microcosm of the same thing going on in our congregation.

Compton: You named some of them in your sermon today. We think, “You’re too this, or you’re too that.” You went through a list of them, and I suspect that kind of stuff characterizes these guys’ elder teams. There are different instincts for cultural moments. It’s not a statement of faith thing. That’s a real, live issue that these guys are dealing with. Do any of you have insights for that?

Guest: I think about the issues where a couple of my brothers around the elder table find ourselves in different spaces, and it really boiled down to some things we’ve already talked about. We have to lean on the relational depth that we have. We have to put our cards on the table about what we feel about this issue, not trying to be fake about it. We say, “This is what I think about this issue.” And then we find out where we are on the spectrum to be able to agree or disagree.

Then I also think what we’ve learned as elders of Jubilee is to communicate to our congregation whether the elders are not on the same page about this, so they can at least not think that we’re a unified front on this particular issue. That’s not about theological unity, but it’s some sort of response to some sort of cultural aspects we’ve tried to deal with.

Compton: That’s helpful. Mine for the differences, and then try to do a little triage with them to sort of see how significant they are.

Guest: We’re still trying to figure it out, but that seems to be one of the bigger issues we have to wrestle with these days.

Compton: That’s good, Lew.

Lee: One related idea is that you have to judge how important it is to actually wrestle to the ground. Because you might have a lot of ideas on a lot of things, a lot of cultural issues, but do you really need to deal with it within the church at that point? I remember an illustration John did, probably a panel like this, where he talked about cow patties. You and your wife were fighting over something, and you said, “We don’t need to fight over that right now. Let’s throw it in this lump over here.” And there might be some things like that for your elder council.

It’s out there and it’s going on in the world. Maybe it’s something Christian Nationalism. But we’re not waiting for a Christian Prince. We get to pick between Trump and Biden. Those are our choices right now, and you might have different ideas on that, but you don’t probably have to exactly figure out every single view of where you’re at on that issue because it’s really more conceptual. Now, it might be good to continue to learn and figure out and understand one another, but I don’t know how helpful it is at that particular moment to say, “Here’s our unified elder statement on that issue.” You can’t do that with every issue that comes down the pike.

Guest: And it feels like you need to have that freedom to be able to say that this is not an issue that we have to figure out at this moment, to not feel the pressure. You’re going to social media here at some point. Social media creates the pressure of saying, “I have to have a statement about everything as soon as this thing drops, and if I don’t have a statement about it, then here comes the horde.” We shouldn’t feel that pressure amongst the body or amongst the elders. I think it is a sense of freedom that we need to continue to cultivate. We may not be prepared to have a statement about everything and rest in that freedom.

Compton: That’s kind of refreshing. David said that in his message today. Someone can come into the church and say, “Pastor, what do you think about this?” We can say, “Man, I don’t know anything about that.” It’s so good to create a culture where you don’t have to know about everything. It’s not you being negligent; it’s you paying attention to the proper things that you need to be paying attention to. You’re teaching them by what you’re attending to where their attention should be focused. That was good. That’s freeing. I think that should free these guys. You don’t have to know about everything. You pay attention and you try, with God’s help and with your elders’ help, to pay attention to the important stuff, and you can be blissfully ignorant about things.

Let’s talk a little bit about social media. Maybe I don’t want to talk about it, but I think we should. Social media can be a place where you guys are criticized, and sometimes it’s not direct criticism, but it’s a proxy battle where people in your church are out promoting ideas that are divergent from and incongruous with the kind of things you’re trying to do as a pastor. What do you do with social media? Help us. What advice would you give? What if as evangelicals in 2024 we all just stay off of it for an entire year? Can I get an amen?

Guest: Amen.

Compton: I’ll let John make pronouncements like that. Go ahead.

Lee: I’ll jump in quickly. I’m not saying everyone should do this because I don’t think they should, but this is just what I do. I don’t do much in that realm. I try not to consume as much in that realm, and I mainly think that I don’t want anything that I tweet or post or whatever it is to compromise the ministry that I’m going to bring on Sunday when I preach to my people. When I say, “Thus saith the Lord,” I want them to have full confidence that I’m true to God’s word.

So, whatever else happens out there, it is secondary to my ability to be able to sit across from the family whose heart is breaking over whatever the issue is, or to stand up in the pulpit. I want to make sure social media doesn’t compromise that. Now, other people might have different strategies of how to handle that, but that’s the way that I generally have operated. I want to handle myself in such a way that anyone could hold my post up in church and it would be fine.

Guest: If one congregation member comes and says, “Hey pastor, did you see what such and such posted on such and such?” Something that could be good would be to turn around and say to that person, “Well, did you go talk to him?” They might say, “No, I haven’t talked to him.” I would say, “Well, you should go talk to him. You should go talk to them and try to discern or ascertain why they posted it and what was the impetus behind it.” That first step is about being in a relationship with that person, trying to clear things up and understand why somebody posted what they posted. I think that is a healthy thing.”

Compton: They’re trying to escalate it by coming right to you. They think, “Let’s bring in the big guns.” But you say, “No, do this the right way first.”

Mathis: A good impulse, when something starts popping in the digital realm, is relate it to your analog church. Draw it back into real life. Draw it back to face-to-face interactions. That’s a good impulse. Also, there are things God takes care of ahead of time as you continue in your faithfulness.

Compton: Michael, I’m curious across the pond. I don’t know what social media involvement is like in the UK. What kind of advice do you have from that perspective? Any insights?

Reeves: We do have electricity and the Internet.

Compton: You think I’m rubbing in 1776 right now?

Reeves: The reason I’ve been a little quiet the last few minutes is because we’re sort of touching on cultural moments that are particularly American. I’m immediately feeling I’m just not up with these things. But actually, while I’m aware of what some of these cultural moments are, they’re different for us.

That knowledge — that I can speak about God’s word but I’m not aware of the finer points of cultural moments in a different country — actually pushes me back to some pretty basic guidance for how I can think about social media when there are people all over the world who are going to be listening with different cultural moments. This doesn’t mean I’ll always be heard correctly, but it can be very simple guidance that in my use of social media, I have two guardrails: Love God, and love your neighbor. Are you seeking to do both in that?

You can ask, “Am I seeking in my use of social media to glorify God or to glorify myself? Am I seeking to build up the church or am I seeking to build up myself?” I simply cannot be aware of every cultural fight, every moment, every issue that people who are going to be listening to what I say are battling with, but I can seek with my contribution or my reaction to anyone else — whether that be a criticism of me or they put something on social media and I’m wondering if I respond — to use those very simple biblical guardrails. I can ask, “Am I glorifying God or glorifying myself? Am I loving my neighbor, loving the church, or am I just loving myself?”

Compton: That’s helpful. Backstage, Michael, you had said something about wanting to talk about not just receiving criticism, but what about advice and insight on actually responding? When someone criticizes us, how do we go about responding? We want to show them we’re listening, but there are times when we want to say things for the sake of truth and justice maybe. Did you have insights on that that you wanted to share?

Reeves: Well, I think it would be really guided by those very simple principles. As I’m seeking to respond to someone, am I seeking to win an argument for my own glory? Am I seeking to parade myself or my knowledge, or am I seeking to build them up? It might be that they will not listen, but I could be building up others who hear me. In my answer, am I glorifying God in what I’m doing? Therefore, if God is impugned, that becomes a motive to me to want to set the record straight, so that God in his glory is truly seen, and this false view is undone. So, those very simple biblical guardrails should be guiding how we are conducting ourselves on social media and in our conversations where we’re wanting to critique someone else, and also how we’re responding to criticism.

Compton: Any insight also on wanting to kind of just explain yourself? I feel like that’s often what we want to do. We get criticized and we don’t want to look defensive, so sometimes we don’t say anything in order to present ourselves humbly. Is there a place to try to explain and say, “Here was what I was trying to do.” Do you know what I’m saying? How do you navigate that? You don’t want to look defensive. You do want to be humble, but you want to give a fuller picture. Is that something you guys kind of wrestle with?

Reeves: Your answer to that is driven by, “Is this for the glory of God or not?” You can ask, “Am I seeking to respond when someone has misunderstood or critiqued me? Am I seeking to respond in order to say, ‘You misunderstood my position, and I will defend my position’?” No, but if God’s glory is being impugned, now I do want to step in. You can misunderstand me and you can impugn me, and those are the times where it’s right for me to be able to say, “Okay, I’ll just back off here and shut up.” But if God is being impugned and if people are being hurt, that’s a right time to step in.

Compton: That’s helpful. That’s good. Anybody else want to add onto that before I kind of turn this in one final direction?

Piper: I’m just trying to think of what questions these guys might have. Here’s what comes to my mind. When I became a pastor in 1980, there were no personal computers and there was no Internet. There was no email and there was no social media. I preached on Sunday morning, I preached on Sunday evening, I gave a devotional on Wednesday night, and I was so busting with things I wanted to teach my people that I created a weekly mailing called “The Bethlehem Star.” I thought that was creative. Every week they received a gray and red sheet of paper, and I decided on the colors. It had a one-page article about God or life. Most of those today are Solid Joys.

Now, here’s the moral of the story. I was not writing those for anybody but our three hundred people. That’s all. I didn’t even give a thought to anybody else reading those. This was my flock, and that’s the way I think you should think. If you create a website or whatever, create it for your people. Don’t create it for me or Chinese folks or folks that you want to blast politically. Do it in your flock. And what’s going to happen is that maybe what you say to your flock others will find helpful and they’ll tune in, because they can get at it if they want to. If God does that, that might be a calling on your life to have a wider ministry.

But if not, don’t thrust yourself into the world. I think that’s one of the biggest differences between when I started and when you guys are starting. You guys can become immediate celebrities. You can say something crazy on TikTok, or whatever, and ten thousand people will think you’re cool. I couldn’t do that, which was a great blessing. So serve your flock. Along with the criterion of, “Am I answering to the glory of God?” also ask, “Am I answering from my people? Am I protecting them from this terrible book that was just published? Should I write a review of this?” Well, yeah, for your flock. Write a review for your flock.

What about this awful thing that was just said on the Internet? Do they even know about it? If they don’t know about it, you don’t need to say anything. But if half your congregation is buzzing with this controversial thing, then talk to your flock; minister to your flock. If you’re faithful in that, he who is faithful and little will be faithful in much (Luke 16:10). That’s the pattern I think you should think about when it comes to social media. Calculate how you can best serve your people, not how you can become known among evangelicals.

Compton: Amen, that’s good. Let’s do this. We’re going to do a rapid fire. Each of you think of one thing you can share with these folks out here. I suspect some of you are feeling awfully discouraged. On the discouragement scale, if 10 is not at all and 1 is that you want to quit, some of you are closer to 1 than you are to 10. There are things you’re seeing in your church, there are things you’re seeing in the Bible, and there are things you’re seeing in the world — beyond what these three speakers have already said from the pulpit, which has been very encouraging — that these men could speak about to encourage you guys.

Mathis: Whenever I see you, Jared, I think about Hebrews, and our shared love of Hebrews. We just finished preaching through Hebrews, and Hebrews 12 is so good for those who have grown weary or are growing weary and fainthearted. The obvious passage is Hebrews 12:1–2, but Hebrews 12:3 says:

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself.

Boy, that puts the thorns and thistles of our vocation into perspective. And then, what is it? In Hebrews 12:12–13, the writer says:

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

I take that as hope. Don’t hear it as law; hear it as hope. You can run again. That’s how the chapter starts. Hebrews 12 starts with running. The hands are down. They can be lifted again. The knees can be strengthened; they can move again. God loves to do it. He loves to heal. Pray he would do that.

Compton: He’ll give you a second wind.

Mathis: That’s right.

Compton: That’s good.

Guest: I’ve been deeply encouraged at our church with a deep desire to pray more congregationally. I want to encourage that to you brothers. Whether it’s just a congregational prayer or setting aside times throughout the week for you all to gather as a congregation, pray more. That’s just been a great encouragement to my soul ever since this year started, and I would commend it to you.

Compton: Wonderful.

Lee: I’ll say one thing. I shared this with our congregation at our congregational meeting on Sunday. God is working in a million ways, and you don’t see it. Every once in a while he gives you a little glimpse, and then you think, “Oh, he was working.” In 2019, someone came in. They were an above-the-knee amputee. They had chronic pain for 18 months. They were losing all hope. A few pastors and elders gathered, and we prayed. I followed up and I asked, “Did anything happen?” They said, “Well, we’re going down these pathways to see if some of these diagnostics might help, and we’re not sure.” I didn’t hear from them. They moved away.

I got an email this past week, and they said, “By the way, after you guys prayed in 2019, I found healing from that and from the various doctors and the various treatments. I’m all better.” I found out four years later.

Then she said, “And by the way, I have an unbelieving coworker who’s still in the Twin Cities, and she’s going through deep waters. They’re not believers, they don’t go to church, and they never read the Bible. I asked them if they would be willing to get prayer from my former pastors, and she’s willing.” So, I met with her after church on Sunday afternoon, I shared the gospel, and I gave her a Bible. I said, “Start in Mark. You’ve never read the Bible before. You can read it from the beginning, but it’s a little confusing. Start with Mark, and I hope to see you next week.” We trust that the Lord’s going to work through the seeds of the gospel that were planted.

You’re ministering, and it looks like fallow ground. Nothing is sprouting up. But every once in a while there are roots that are going deep, and then something springs forth. God is doing a million things. Be encouraged. He’s working while we sleep.

Reeves: Related to that, building on my text from last night, all things are for the church. Friends, whatever your situation right now, God is using all things sovereignly for the good of his people. That means your tears and your pains are never wasted. But keep in step with the Spirit, keep walking in communion with God, and the very afflictions and weaknesses that discourage you may well prove to benefit the church. Historically, through the church, you can see so often that the very weaknesses of God’s people have become their greatest strengths in the service of the Lord. Those blemishes they’ve struggled with, the weaknesses, become the ways in which they can most minister to weak people.

Therefore, don’t be too deeply discouraged by your own weakness, your own frailty, your own fragility, and your own corruption, in the sense that walking with the Lord, keeping in step with the Spirit, he can sanctify those very things to you. The sin that grieves you and that grieves the Spirit so much can be the very thing that becomes the greatest mark of beauty in your character and could be the way in which you can most tenderly minister to your people.

Piper: I was at TableTalk an hour ago with a couple dozen young guys, and they were probing into Michael Reeves’s talk last night. They asked, “Where does that come from? How can I rise into that level of sight of the greatness of Christ, and say things of similar spellbinding effect that we all felt?” One of the things I would say now, and you can tell me if this is true, is that this fellow didn’t come out of nowhere. He drank deeply. He has drunk deeply at certain wells. If you listen carefully, you can hear the wells.

Here’s what I mean by that. He can choose to say what his wells are. One of the old Puritans said, “I keep a copy of Calvin’s Institutes on my bedside table because I want a little taste of Calvin before I go to bed at night.” Now, Calvin has never done that for me. Edwards has and Owen has. It’s just about only those two.

You men must find the wells you’re going to drink at. The Bible is the main well, but God has ordained that there be teachers in the church. Some of those teachers have been granted extraordinary insight. The kind you heard last night didn’t come out of nowhere. So, find your well. It might be Edwards, it might be Owen, or it might be Spurgeon. Most of them are dead. There aren’t any living wells that are worth reading, I don’t think — not every night on your bedside table. But there are dead wells that have proven themselves over the centuries to have such extraordinary sights of God.

So, by way of encouragement, after you leave this for the next forty or fifty years — I used to say I’m a shepherd on Sunday, and on Monday I’m a sheep. I need a pasture. I need a stream to drink from on Monday. Where am I going to drink? And no living people were doing it.

I needed to go back three hundred years and drink from certain wells. I still do. I have an iPad, and on that iPad I have Logos, and on Logos I have Edwards’s sermons by the hundreds. I can pick any of them. There’s just something about Edwards, with all of his flaws, where he sees God in a way that awakens in me something. It makes me think, “I want to keep on doing this, I want to keep on seeing this, and I want to keep on saying this till the day I’m dead.”

Compton: Thank you. Why don’t you pray for us?

Piper: Father, whatever it is, from each of the encouraging words that these brothers have just heard here at the end, whatever it is, Holy Spirit, apply to their hearts right now, so that they find the grace, the strength, the joy, and the faith to go on with joy and power. Oh, grant them fresh levels of effectiveness in their preaching, in their organizing, in their counseling, in their evangelism, and in their missions mobilization. Grant them great, new, fresh levels of effectiveness, so that they can taste your work and your power in their lives.

Thank you so much for what you’ve done in the first messages. Be on us, Lord, for the rest of this conference. Keep doing what you’re doing to strengthen our hands so that we might press on in this greatest of all works. I pray in Jesus’s name, amen.