Friday, December 9, 2011

Crooked Line Comunication Squelches Freedom and Kills Confidence

A minister reflects on getting that second-hand criticism. It's frustrating. A snippet:
“I got a call saying some people are concerned about this kind of thing,” he explained. “Youth group happens in the youth room. Even if there’s only one kid. That’s where you do your Bible study.”

Who called? How many people are concerned? Which ones? And would it be okay to teach them to worship Satan as long as we did it in the youth room?

“I appreciate the concern,” I told him. “If someone else calls, be sure to remind them of my phone number.”

The next day, a friend called, pretending to wonder what the young people did on Sunday night. “Some people are concerned . . .”

The Great A&W Incident, as it’s known around our house, baptized me into the murky waters of church ministry and the sideways, backhanded, upside-down channels we use to communicate with one another in the family. Before The Incident, I assumed we would all talk to each other. Not around each other.

What a naive dork I turned out to be.

It was a small thing, The Incident. But it fit into a larger pattern of crooked-line communication that one day, years later, helped break a church into a million tiny pieces.
For the laymen out there, "some people are upset/concerned" is maddening. Use it only when anonymity is absolutely necessary, as it will cripple your pastor's confidence. "Some people" might as well be "all people." Because if we don't know who's mad, we are ill at ease with everyone. It leads us to be timid, suspicious, distrusting. (eg. Can we tell this person about our fears and struggles, or is this person the one who thinks I'm doing a terrible job?) There are times when vulnerable people lack the confidence to bring concerns directly, but most other times the biblical mandate to take an offense to someone directly, not to someone anonymously through someone else, is more necessary.

I learned a good line from Andy Stanley in his "Life Rules" series: "Never say something about someone you wouldn't say to them." I'd add this rule of thumb: If you can let an offense go, do it. If you can't, take it to the offender, not to others.


Bobbi Brown said...

Maybe I was too direct. I indited the entire church board with a letter and documentation of my concerns. Now I'm shunned by the pastor and the board. I'm praying they will forgive me some day. Meanwhile I'm attending another church! I will wait to see what God will do.

Jared said...

Bobbi, I don't know anything about your situation so there's no way of course I could say whether your concerns were justified, but you absolutely did the right thing in taking them directly to the people involved. You handled your end biblically. Whether you were right or wrong in your indictments, they were wrong to respond simply by shunning you.

Mike Erich the Mad Theologian said...

I fully agree with what is said here not only for pastors but for other members of the congregation. It is simply not possible to resolve a problem second hand where you cannot even discuss it with the person involved. Having been on the other end of this, pastors need to remember this too and be cautious of sending a third party to deal with a dispute or be a third party in a dispute where to two parties have not tried to resolve it between themselves first. Even if the issue is 100% legitimate you cannot be sure if the offended person is satisfied with your repentance if you cannot face them.

The Nerdy Teacher said...

Reminds me of the time our youth group did a skit for the whole congregation called "Prodigal Joe" (about the parable of the lost sons in the theme of Bonanza). Afterward, an elder came to me and said, "Nice skit, but 'some people' were offended because you used the word "prostitute" while standing in the pulpit". Suddenly, I realized why I had never heard verse by verse expository preaching from that pulpit.

rdsmith3 said...

Great post. It is for this, and related, reasons that a church should have a peacemaking culture. Ken Sande's book, "The Peacemaker," and the related ministry deal with these types of situations, and many other sources of conflict among believers, and how to resolve them biblically.