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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

On My Mind

This past three weeks I have received a few hurtful comments in the form of emails. It’s like a have a flashing sign on my head that says “send me emails of things you would never say to my face.”

In a strange twist : : : This past three weeks I have also received a plethora of encouraging emails, cards, phone calls, twitters, and texts.

Maybe God knows I need five good comments to erase one slanderous one.

One person who directed some venom my way took offense that I didn’t want to keep a conversation going on email. They thought I was not being honest because I have always said our church is a place where everyone is welcome and allowed to question and disagree, etc.

The thing is : : : Westwinds IS a place where everyone is welcome. Everyone with questions, hang-ups, barriers, doubts, fears . . . they are all welcome.

But, honestly, there are some who aren’t “welcome.” Surprised? I do not believe everyone’s opinion counts. At least, not the harsh ones.

You know that saying that goes something like “there is a bit of truth in every criticism?” I don’t believe it.

You know how some say “you should listen to every negative comment and see what positive thing you can take away?” Yeah, that guy was wrong.

Sometimes, things should never be said. Some things are hurtful and nit-picky. Some things don’t help the situation.

The aggressive, hateful, divisive, opinionated, loud, troublemaking, self-absorbed, conflict-loving, finger-pointing, hurtful, Christians are not welcome. Okay, that attitude is not welcome. The Bible has many things to say about divisive believers and none of them are nice.

This doesn’t mean we can’t disagree. Disagreeing can actually sharpen us. I welcome friendly fire where we share a cup of coffee and discuss issues. No problem.

It all gets down to attitude.

I don’t care if you disagree with me. Sometimes I need to hear it. Sometimes I am full of myself. Sometimes I am arrogant. Sometimes I say dumb things. Just be nice.

Lately, I feel like God has given me a license to not care. The freedom to not waste time on the wrong battlefields. I will always approach someone after a nasty email and ask them if they want to talk face to face about it. BUT, if they don’t want to talk . . . if they would rather keep shooting off in emails . . . if they would rather pick a fight. . . . I don’t care to spend my time with them.

Which items would you choose to spend time on? What would you allow to occupy your head space? The following is a list of a few actual things on my plate the last couple of weeks:

The man who is struggling with alcoholism
The woman who is about to leave her husband
The single mom who is loosing her home
The guy addicted to porn who needs accountability
The woman whose husband is sleeping with his secretary
The guy who inappropriately touched his daughter and ruined his family
The guy who is struggling in ministry and calls for encouragement
The man whose wife left him for a pastor
The woman whose ex-husband is stalking her and destroying her property
The man who ended up in the hospital after trying to commit suicide
My daughter’s swollen neck and headaches
Editing videos of people telling victory stories and life change stories
The artists who have recently said they are looking for a spot to fit in
The man who wants to sit and tell me his story of restoration with his wife
Going to Detroit with my son for a concert
Planning a huge interactive moment collection including dance, painting, and graphic art
Building a huge interactive piece with the text of Ecclesiastes
Counseling a friend whose family member is near death


The email full of guilt and accusation.

You can see how the email falls down the list of importance for me.

Another interesting observation : : :

All negative emails were (and most often are) from believers.

This begs the questions : : : “When does the griping start? At what point in someone’s spiritual journey do they get handed their license to become petty and aggressive? What are we doing to head it off at the pass? What feedback loops are we creating so our people feel like they can disagree or offer their opinions in helpful ways?

Any ideas?


bobby said...

Interesting post man. For me it makes me think of an email I received while at Recreate that I'm still trying to deal with. The person that sent it didn't desire I think to be rude, but, well, in a way, they were.

She was very clear about all the ways I should be leading worship and choosing music that I am not. This past Sunday as I was leading worship, I actually looked down to see her blowing in her pitch pipe during the song to see what the note was because she no doubt felt it was too high. As I looked at several people deep into worship with God, she wasn't even trying.

I informed her in a prior email that we probably would not agree on several issues and that I had some people in the ministry and on staff who regularly help to assess the direction of the ministry and the services. This is actually something that I am in the process of creating. I don't feel like I can brush her off without having people that I can listen to criticism from.

But that is where my question, similar to some of yours comes in. She is a believer, a bit more old school, and we are just not going to agree on some things. But when do we need to just be ok and move on, and when do we need to be willing to sit down and listen to what they have to say. I have trouble believing it would be very useful to converse about it because we just come from different places. But I worry that perhaps I'm failing by not taking it to heart anyway.

So sorry, no answers there...just another question. Mabe I'll come back and leave an answer later. When it's not so late and I'm not so introspective. ;)

John said...

Pitch pipe? Wow, man. I give you permission to tell her to cease and desist. Bad news. I hope she chokes on it. Ha ha. Not really. No. I really mean it. If she is not willing to lay it down and quit fighting then she needs to find another place to worship because clearly she is not happy and is not worshipping. Rather than fighting with you against something that is not going to change, she needs to make the change. Praying for you.

bobby said...

Haha...chokes on the pitch pipe. That kind made me laugh.

But I don't think she's going anywhere. What I didn't mention is, she's on the board. ;)

As weird as it sounds, I think she probably has a great heart. She just has that personality, and I hope she comes to see that she's not the "worship police" and like you said, some things aren't going to change.

I'm just learning, kinda like your post talked about, that there are some people who I don't always have to listen to, and I need to surround myself intentionally with people I trust who can criticize me and help direct the ministry.

Ms. Lisa said...

I admire your strength in the ability to bipass the negative combative emails from fellow christians. I personally struggle with the hypocrisy of our christian society. I just do not get it. How can anyone proclaiming to be a christian be so cruel. Why are those who claim to be true to their faith our worst critics. Why are some christians looking for a fight? It truly makes no sense to me. I am disturbed that our teachers are being attacked via emails. We have the right to question, analyze, seek and discuss topics with our teachers. But for those who choose to be aggressive, mean, hateful and down right evil, I say "see ya". There is no place for you here at Westwinds. I would rather sit in a room full of atheists and drug dealers than surround myself by self centered, judgmental christians. After further reflection from todays message at fusion, Dave said that there are things in this world that we may never understand. These christians are people I will probably never understand.

I admire and love our teachers at Westwinds. I love the fact that I can be me, a struggling christian, a sinner and still feel at home. I walk away every sunday with something to ponder, study and reflect upon. I have sat in many fusions with tears flowing down my face because the message has been so spiritual to me.

The last two teachings of Ecclesiastes have been awesome!!! I can relate to the preacher within my own life and feelings. I think it is an awesome book to teach, especially in this day and age. Thank you Westwinds teachers for rocking the boat!
You are the greatest!!!!