The other night on the radio I heard one of those guys who always concludes his nightly segment asking for donations to his ministry, and if you mention the segment when you call in with your credit card number they’ll throw in a cassette tape or booklet as a gift back to you. The man made a very obvious reference to a popular Christian figure, a household name, though he neglected to say who. He merely referred strongly to his distinctive work on rewriting the Bible in modern language, and proceeded to point out all the flaws with that man’s ministry.
Wait – how annoying was that paragraph? How frustrating for you was it that I know exactly who the person was, but I’m leaving it out?
There was no need to shroud in mystery – it was crystal clear who the guy on the radio broadcast was discrediting. It was Eugene Peterson. And the man doing the discrediting? John MacArthur.
I’ve noticed a trend where someone will want to poke holes in another person’s public ministry, but they leave out the name. I recently read a book that did this constantly and I found it quite frustrating, I just wanted him to name the person or movement so I could know specifically what he was denouncing. I lost patience with trying to guess, wondering if I was misunderstanding his point because I guessed incorrectly.
(Since this post is about how we should be more direct and not passive-aggressive, the book was Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer).
I understand why many chose the route of leaving the “culprit” nameless. It wound sound rude to simply say “and insert name? Here’s a list of all they get wrong!” It could instigate a back and forth of ripping each other apart like a rap battle. However I don’t think the alternative of passive-aggressively referencing them is necessarily a better option. So what should we do?
Maybe this situation can force to ask bigger questions – what good is it to constantly critique fellow brothers and sisters? Most say they would hate for the person they are discrediting to lead followers of Jesus astray, so it justifies their watchdog ministry. Moreso it causes to me question why, if we see issues with someone’s ministry or leadership, don’t we approach them personally by phone, e-mail or otherwise, and why do we instead choose to write from afar, publicly denouncing them?
It seems to me that this inspires a considerable amount of the in-fighting among Christians – even if someone has valid criticisms they are interpreted as attacks when they are given with out a personal touch. This often inspires an attacking response, high horses are mounted and the cycle has begun. What would the conversation constantly swirling around among Christians be like if those with issues carefully approached the “offender,” rather than writing an “open letter?”
What do you think? Which option is the better one – or should we question the whole system?
(note: you could throw it back in my face that I should follow my own advice and write to John MacArthur – though with this post I genuinely want to hear other perspectives before I do something like that)