Noel Heikkinen is pastor of Riverview Church in East Lansing, Michigan. He writes, “I look forward to and dread Mondays at the same time because on Mondays, I read feedback from our church’s weekend services. The notes I receive can be divided into three categories…”
These are people who have legitimate questions about how I treated the Bible during the services. The “Berean” notes I get are people who have dug into the Word and come to a different conclusion than I did. These notes have a positive, respectful tone and I love dialoging with people like this. Many times, we will end up agreeing to disagree but will have an even greater respect for each other because of the tone of the exchange.
I love answering Bereans.
These are quick little notes encouraging me regarding the service. I get a few of these every week. Someone was touched by something I shared and wanted me to know. Often, it was an “aha” moment they had in their walk with Jesus. When I get these notes, I am always blown away that God is using me. He is obviously a great God if he can use me through all of my failings.
I love reading notes from Encouragers.
These people find something nit picky they don’t like in me or my delivery or my message. Perhaps it’s a word I used that they don’t like, or an illustration they thought was inappropriate, or maybe they disagree with me on a gray area. Whatever their message, the strategies remain the same. Here are a few:
1) Anonymous notes. Recently someone wrote a letter “to the church,” (even though it was specifically about me) and mailed it without signing it. I read it and promptly threw it away. It carried zero weight. It was a gray area they had issue with but they were too cowardly to have a conversation with me, so we will never be able to talk about it. It’s a shame–I think we could have learned something from each other.
2) Hateful notes. These are attacking / offensive notes when people write what they would never say to my face. Often it is something disparaging my character or my faith. I usually respond politely once and if their tone does not change, I ignore any more notes I get from them.
3) Gossipy notes. This is when someone contacts me to tell me his or her “friend is upset.” My response is always the same, “What did they say to you when you reproved them for gossiping and asked them to talk directly to me?”
4) Symbolic Gestures. I once taught on money and someone ripped up a check into tiny pieces and threw it in the offering basket.
As pastors, what should we do with cowards? Ignore them. The thing about Cowards is that they could so easily be Bereans–it’s all about tone and respect. Until they see that, they won’t be teachable enough to hear you.
For everyone reading this who is not a pastor, may I ask a favor?
Please, be Bereans. If you have a concern/disagreement, bring it directly to your pastor. Don’t gossip, don’t be hateful, don’t be a coward; and by all means, be respectful. I have made good friends with people who started out as dissenters. Some of my biggest supporters started out as critics. Now, we will both defend each other to the death. We may still disagree, but we love each other. That’s Christian unity.