By Aaron Wilson
NEW ORLEANS – Many ministry leaders are known for their oratory skills and their ability to communicate. But underneath the smooth, audible delivery hides a silent but powerful inner critic leaders wrestle with daily.
An episode of “The Glass House” podcast, recorded live at a breakfast hosted by Lifeway Christian Resources at the 2023 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, Tuesday, June 13, featured a conversation on the topic of speaking truth to this inner narrator. Lifeway President and CEO Ben Mandrell, his wife, Lynley, and special guests Jennifer and Phil Rothschild recorded the podcast in the room with more than 600 breakfast attendees.
Jennifer Rothschild is the author of the book and Bible study, “Me, Myself, and Lies.” Both resources shed light on how Christians can replace inwardly generated lies with biblical truth about one’s identity.
“Our brains are hard-wired for comparison, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” said Rothschild. “Social-comparison theory says we’re driven to compare because it helps us with self-evaluation and self-enhancement. Comparison can keep us on track, but it can also get us off track when we invite an inner critic into our lives and allow it to dominate our thinking.”
Rothschild gave examples of a pastor feeling shame that his church does not have as many baptisms as another church in the community and a pastor’s wife lamenting that her kids aren’t having structured times of devotion like she assumes other families are experiencing. These comparisons and the inward shame that can accompany them are often compounded by a society that values curated social media posts and external signs of influence. For this reason, Rothschild said Christian leaders should be careful not to drift into unnecessary comparison formed on half-truths at best and, at worst, outright lies.
“We don’t always recognize the habit of destructive self-talk because it’s become normal for us. But it’s like cancer slowly eating away at our wellness,” she said. “We need to study, scripturally, how to speak truth to our souls.”
Being charitable to yourself and others
The Rothchilds recalled how early in their marriage, they cut the entry for divorce out of their family dictionary as a sign this word would not be part of their vocabulary. Likewise, Christians need to identify the go-to, destructive words their inner critic likes to use and ban those terms and phrases from self-reflection, said Jennifer. She provided examples such as, “You always do this,” “You never do that,” and “You’re such an idiot.”
The Mandrells noted the way Christians speak to themselves through an inner critic can flow from constructive or destructive ways they speak to others—especially the people closest to them, like one’s spouse or children. Ben Mandrell encouraged listeners to make charitable assumptions of others, imitating Christ who was full of grace and truth.
The Mandrells and Rothchilds concluded the breakfast with a Q&A with attendees. They answered questions such as “How do you maintain balance in ministry?” “What’s been your greatest challenge in ministry?” and “Can you share some wisdom on parenting adult children?”
For a podcast episode that began by discussing destructive words and actions, the last question— “What is the best advice you’ve been given in ministry?”—appropriately bookended the discussion on grace and truth as all four of the responses dealt with being charitable toward others:
- Ben: “People want to work with you, not for you. This truth has helped me overcome the success addiction.”
- Lynley: “Speak well of people, and you need never whisper.”
- Phil: “Christians are always called to forgive when they experience conflict with another person. Why not do it sooner than later?”
- Jennifer: “I’ve learned to be patient with myself, patient with others, and patient with God.”
The full episode of “The Glass House” podcast recorded at the Lifeway Breakfast will be available soon anywhere podcasts are available.
Aaron Wilson is a writer for Lifeway Christian Resources.
About “The Glass House” podcast
Lifeway’s “The Glass House” podcast is a space where ministry leaders shed light on the challenges they often don’t feel permission to talk about. Listeners who work in the trenches of church life feel seen and gain tools to navigate ministry and life. Those who live outside this “glass house” better understand what it’s like to dwell there.
About Lifeway Christian Resources
In operation since 1891, Lifeway Christian Resources is one of the leading providers of Christian resources, including Bibles, books, Bible studies, Christian music and movies, Vacation Bible School and church supplies, as well as camps and events for all ages. Lifeway is the world’s largest provider of Spanish Bibles. Based in Middle Tennessee, Lifeway operates as a self-supporting nonprofit. For more information, visit Lifeway.com.