Last week, I did something I didn’t want to do…
I reached out and attempted to build a bridge, even though it required stepping out of my comfort zone. I picked up the phone and made a call, with the goal of smoothing things with someone who was willing to share that he was upset with me–but refused to specify how/why.
As I dialed, I could hear my little brother’s voice in my head: “Social media is where fights happen! You have to connect with people on a genuine level. Sit down face-to-face, or at least reach out by phone, to build real relationships…”
So I gave it an honest effort. Rather than hashing out the issue in comments on Facebook (even though that’s where the disagreement started), I asked the angry person whether he was open to a phone conversation instead.
The blog post in question is this one: God Bless Divorce.
I asked whether it’s wise for a pastor to brag about how many people are attending his services–even under the guise of bragging about God? It’s especially complicated when that pastor suggests his divorce has something to do with God’s favor, and that the full offering plates (somehow) make the Devil look foolish.
My question was–and still is–how can we be sure God is the one orchestrating the senior minister’s divorce into more baptisms?… How does that work, exactly?
For the record, I censored the name of the pastor and the name of the church in the first blog post. But I’m not doing that now.
Now that I’ve tried a handful of times to open the doors of communication with Ryan privately (and failed), my dad and I talked about the details on the podcast.
#1. I always much prefer an honest, angry email or message rather than a passive-aggressive note that you’re “praying for me,” followed by sticking your fingers in your ears.
#2. Anyone who knows me, or who gives me the chance to explain, knows I welcome criticism about anything I’ve written, even from people I’ve never met. I don’t put random stipulations on people (like “you need to have been in my youth group more recently than ten years ago,” for example.)
#3. I feel bad for any Christian who doesn’t allow him/herself to have the blessing of being judged. Many pastors of large churches are surrounded by layers of staff to protect them from unwanted criticism. But, the rest of the Body has learned to do the exact, same thing by selectively blocking certain people on social media. You only want to watch cat videos and hear a happy chorus of “I’m praying for you!” whenever you have a problem?
Easy! Just block everyone who makes you think.
Honestly, I understand how hard it is to hear criticism, especially if you’re already in the middle of an emotional crisis. (Listen to the podcast! Think of my toilet-paper story! I’ve had fragile moments, so I get it!) 🙂
But, I harp on the importance of being open to criticism, because finding the courage to do that (even when it’s hard) ultimately changed my life. I’ve discovered it’s empowering! It leads to mental toughness and a certain maturity that cannot come from hiding, and plugging our ears.
I teach my children how to appreciate criticism, even when the critic is wrong, because I can’t think of a more powerful gift I could give another person.
In closing, Ryan was partially correct a few weeks ago when he said that making a statement (like the Nashville Statement) “hinders the possibility of relationship in many ways.”
But he and Perry Noble should stop blaming “the statement” and recognize which person is really at fault. Blame the individuals who build walls to protect themselves from disagreement.
Unfortunately–it’s not just the “unchurched” who build walls. Christians do it with each other, too.
To me, it’s a red flag when Christians talk about inclusion and dialog and then turn around and block each other.
Unfortunately, the only way we can discuss that is if we come out from behind the walls we’ve built and face the possibility of criticism with courage.