“Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” 1 Tim 5:19
"Entertaining accusations" is an interesting phrase. We entertain guests by inviting them in, making them comfortable and hanging out with them. Perhaps entertaining an accusation is similar. A friend slanders someone you know, and rather than insisting on truth, you listen, afraid to confront, and allow the slanderous thoughts into your mind.
Of course criticism is different than accusation. Part of my accountability as a leader is my openness to critique. You can disagree with my actions without making it personal and accusing me.
The difference between the two can be confusing. The greater my level of influence as a leader, the more I am able to instigate change. And when change happens, someone is likely to find it unpleasant. In fact, they may feel as though their world is in some way being threatened. And then they may counterattack.
I'll use my life to illustrate. When Adventures was small and didn’t impact many people, my critics were few. These days, I've got more people who disagree with the way I lead. It seems to come with the territory if your influence is expanding.
But some of my critics have upped the ante by leveling attacks that border on accusations. They say that I believe things or endorse things that I don't. For example, some say that I espouse New Age beliefs. I do not and have written a detailed essay on my position. Some people say that listening prayer is unbiblical. I have spelled out why I believe it is.
Why do they attack?
The more a person's core beliefs are put in jeapordy, the greater the threat they feel, and the more likely they are to attack.
In my case, some of my critics are distressed because their children have signed up to participate in our ministry.
They may not be Christ followers.
They may believe the timing is wrong.
They may be suspicious about our methods.
They may be concerned that we are teaching heresy. They read my writings and find fault.
Of course I can make things worse by the way I, or my proxies, respond. We have at times made things worse by not responding to critics graciously and humanly.
How do they attack?
All honest questions are legitimate. When attacks come, occasionally however, a critic will escalate quickly. One mother who didn’t want her adult daughter to participate in the World Race said, “I will not go away. I will be your worst nightmare.”
Some relatives have launched attack campaigns based on insinuation, writing blogs and papers. Some have passed along hearsay.
When people do that, they are dabbling with accusations. Much of the gossip that we read on the internet may fall in the realm of entertaining accusations.
How should we respond?
• The best defense is your reputation. If my life and character is not above reproach, the ministry I lead is vulnerable. The good thing about critics is they cause me to look at how I'm living my life.
• Questions deserve responses. Leaders can’t be defensive. They must be accountable.
• Questions may be helpful. Some questions highlight the need for greater clarity in policy and communication, or greater accountability.
• Prayer. When we want to respond defensively, I encourage our staff to take it to prayer. Truth comes out over time.