Don’t Use E-mail to Correct Others

It’s hard enough for a pastor to pour out his heart by preaching God’s Word, then submit to the critique of members standing in line to shake his hand. But what pastor doesn’t dread opening his e-mail account on Monday or Tuesday morning? Why do certain Christians feel the need to review the pastor’s Sunday morning “performance”? This discouraging weekly experience is enough to dull whatever excitement you have to head into church in the morning.

But in this era increasingly dominated by digital communication, pastors are hardly alone in struggling to discern how to use e-mail. When was the last time you sent a message you eventually or even immediately wished you could take back? How often do others misunderstand you? In this video, James MacDonald and C. J. Mahaney confess mistakes they’ve made when using e-mail as a means of correcting others. And they lay out some ground rules for how to employ digital communication for the glory of God and the good of Christ’s church.

  • Dan Adams

    So true! While it might not need to be said, I think this extends beyond just e-mail, but facebook and texting as well.

  • Steve Cornell

    Great clip. I’ll pass this on to others. Add to the discussion using Facebook to grumble and we’ll cover another big tech temptation. May the words of my mouth and (my fingers on the keys) be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

  • Doc B

    If church members shouldn’t disagree or ask questions or “review” on Monday morning by email, then I suppose they shouldn’t encourage or agree either. Right?

    Or do we have a pass on accountability? Does it only go in one direction?

  • Matt

    write about good talk about bad

  • Jeff Hartzler

    I want to acknowledge agreement with the concerns and cautions that are communicated here but also to ask a question of this line of reasoning. Can we apply these same thoughts, comments and reasoning to scripture which we know was for the most part, written communication and not personal dialogue. And as we know, much of it was corrective in nature. So, I guess my question is this, can we really be consistent with saying this about email or is this reasoning actually flawed and instead do we need to simply use the biblical directive for all our communication whether they are written or in person, snail mail, or email? Again, please understand that mine are just some honest thoughts and questions from someone who agree with the concerns present. And from one who looks forward to hearing input from others.

  • Jeff Hartzler

    One of the things we have done is to open Sunday PM service up to Q&A regarding the AM message so that we can openly dialogue regarding the questions, comments, agreement and disagreements we might have with the morning message in the hope of enabling us to communicate in an edifying manner and then apply the truth. I have found email, FB etc, to be means of this as well. It seems to me that the problem comes when we do not communicate in either forum in a godly, biblical manner.

  • Steve Cornell

    Hey Jeff,

    Good points. Perhaps it’s because Email and Facebook tend to be shorthand in style that the issue is raised. Letters (written or typed) can be powerful means when they balance truth with grace and humility. A couple of days ago, I walked into my house for lunch and my wife was in tears holding a note that came in the mail. I asked, “What’s wrong? Did someone die?” She said, “No. Read this. It’s good.” Our 22 year old son (a senior at a university in Reading, PA. ) sent us an amazing thank you note for how we raised him. It was extra special because it was so thoughtfully worded and hand written (rare these days!). We will cherish this written gift!

    Thanks for keeping the conversation going!

  • John Peterson

    I think the main problem with email is its immediacy. Within a few moments, a potentially poorly thought out message can be sent. This can also be the case with an in-person meeting.

    What should we think about Paul’s letters then? These are in many ways letters of correction. The main difference between an email and handwritten letter is the time it takes to put one together.

    Time then, is perhaps even more important than the method of correction. The time spent in prayer. The time spent considering the need. The time spent examining our own heart.

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  • sook

    But many of Paul’s letters were written because he could not meet the people face to face. He did desire to meet them personally. So, perhaps the caveat is if it is feasible and possible, meet someone and talk to them face to face.

  • Derek Iannelli-Smith

    I have done this and was very convicted by this message again today. Thank you for reminding me of how much sin I do have and how ineadequate email can be. This also reminded me of another Sovereign Grace person’s excellent article on “Writing an email that will not stir up a conflict.”:

    Thanks for posting and reminding me again today about the fear of man and how deceived I am to think I am above this in my own heart. Ps 51

  • chris

    was this an implicit correction via electronic media?

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  • math1as

    “When was the last time you sent a message you eventually or even immediately wished you could take back?”

    With Gmail you actually can undo sending!

  • Chris Lewis

    I was going to comment, but . . .

    Good stuff!

  • Daniel F

    So, maybe we should record video so that intonation and nuance is better communicated? :)

  • Jeremy

    Even the scripture writers aknowlege that at least some of it’s content is a at best a stop-gap until a face to face meeting would be possible. Face to face communication is always prefferable if possible.

    “Having many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that your joy may be made full.” (2Jo 1:12 NAS)

    “I had many things to write to you, but I am not willing to write them to you with pen and ink; but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face.”(3Jo 1:13-14 NAS)

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