Thursday, August 16, 2007

correct me if I'm wrong...

A few days ago I received something interesting in the mail (other than a wonderful newsy letter and cool photos from my mom!). It was a yellow envelope with a few writings from someone who felt we needed to hear his perspective on what has gone wrong with the particular flavour of church that we are part of. I am never quite sure how to respond to criticism of this sort (from strangers whom I have no relationship with). Sometimes it merits no response at all, but in this case I think it does. No doubt the man is sincere and has obviously been through some less than pleasant experiences and seen some less than perfect people and situations in church (haven't we all? welcome to humanity!) but I wonder what he hopes his action will accomplish? Change, obviously, but I can tell you from experience that criticism seldom brings about the desired change.
Some thoughts on responding to criticism in general: Should I fall on my face and repent for my shortcomings and errors? Of course. I need to do this every day. Should I desire to be more loving and know more truth? Yes and yes! Should I search my heart to see if I am being the leader God wants me to be? I do this often, believe me. Should I take criticism with an openness to God's loving correction and conviction? I believe I try to do this.
I can tend to be too susceptible to owning mistakes and accepting correction and doubting myself, so let me avoid that path and pursue truth instead. While our church community is not perfect, we strive to make it a place of safety and love and growth. We are not pursuing building a successful church by any man's standards, but committed to doing what we see Jesus doing in our midst and loving all those that God brings our way and helping them discover who God made them to be by teaching them to discern His voice and presence in their lives. In fact, this is not a church thing; this is an "every day of my life" thing.
In the past, I have been corrected by critical people and I have been corrected by God - the two feel vastly different. One is done with a certain manipulation to get me to conform to their ideals in order to gain acceptance; the latter begins with an overwhelming sense of love while I am still in my inadequate state, a firm hand guiding me to a way out of my mess, and the sweet taste of freedom upon changing my ways.
Let my words and actions also leave a sweet taste in the souls of those pursuing freedom.
This is another one of Jeff's photos from beautiful Manitoba.


Anonymous said...

Your blog is interesting. Since you have felt the need to write about me regarding my yellow envelope booklets in a more public setting, I think it would only be fair that I could get a chance to respond in the same sort of setting.

It is interesting that you say I am trying to manipulate you into what I have written. It’s interesting to me because I just received an email from an individual pastoring a Vineyard community in another place who has received my yellow envelope as well. His response was different.

In fact, some of the honest “criticism” (as you call it) he could relate to – seeing the need for a corporate repentance in his community. He has passed one of the booklets to the leadership team, hoping to generate discussion. It may be used as a catalyst – one small resource to help their community through repentance, healing, and hope… something God was obviously placing in their hearts before the words arrived. The words only confirmed a little bit of what was already going on.

One of the biggest tragedies of our current day Christianity is the trouble we have of receiving criticism. Is it really criticism to point out sin? And, after a true heart searching, the sin is not there after all, why should we feel mildly offended and call it manipulation? If the sin is not there, then we should have no problems hearing it, knowing that we are secure and safe in the eyes of God. Perhaps a negative reaction indicates some issues.

I would be careful in stating publicly that I am trying to manipulate people into my way of thinking. What if it really is God speaking and what if it really does help individuals and communities out of hurt and pain caused by sin? If you are convinced that it does not relate to you or your community, then that is great. There is no need to shut that door on other people just because you don’t agree with the “critical” and honest nature of my approach. Sometimes, the truth needs to be spoken honestly and in a raw state in order for it to be effective.

Eric Kang

Matte Downey said...

Thanks for your comment, Eric. I was not implying that you were manipulative and I am sorry you read that into my blog. I was just writing about criticism in general (your booklets happened to be the catalyst for these thoughts) and thinking about how it can be done in a godly way vs. a self-justifying way, since I have been at the receiving end of both. I pretend to make no judgements on your motivations (except for the obvious one regarding change) so I apologise if it appears that I was jumping to conclusions. If you have read any more of my blog you will also realise that I try to write in an open way about situations in my life while protecting people's anonymity. Sometimes that is difficult to do, so if you would rather I delete this entry, just let me know.

Thanks for the dialogue.

Eric Kang said...

Thanks Matte for clarifying that. No need to delete anything you have written as it was not out of spite that you said anything.

I am glad to have open and honest discussion, especially about "sensitive" matters.


Eric Kang

Matte Downey said...

I edited the post slightly to clarify the misunderstanding. Thanks for the input.

Shelley said...

I am so tired of people saying stuff like "perhaps a negative reaction indicates some issues" though one cannot disagree with a criticism legitimately and with freedom, without the other needing to toss in that parting shot.

just an observation from someone in another church far away...

Shelley said...

In my experience the very best way to offer a sincere criticism is in person...then both hearts can be heard...which is essential.

Ryan said...

I appreciate your very honest and kind approach to dealing with this situation. Although I know nothing about your church or what was said about it, I was encouraged by your attitude as I read your blog. Thank you! It did also make me think of things I've dealt with in my own life (from both sides - being criticized and being the one criticizing).
I've heard so much about you and Dean over the years from Lynn Tilma and thought I would check out your blog. I'm sure I'll end up reading more!
Take care,
Ryan Martin