Several years ago I had just finished leading worship for a big event that had taken a huge amount of my emotional and physical emotional energy, the better part of six months to plan and execute, and a significant amount of ministry capital, when a letter arrived in my mailbox (an actual letter, in my actual mailbox) addressed to (you guessed it…) me.
As any humble worship leader would do, I hoped that this letter would contain high praise for my incomparable musical and spiritual prowess, list specific ways I was awesome, tell me particularly impressive things I had done, and possibly contain a financial blessing (i.e. “cash”).
I opened it up, ready to receive the flattering praise of an adoring
fan congregation member, and instead read the following (I’ll summarize for time’s sake):
- That was the worst thing ever
- You are the worst worship leader ever
- You have ruined everything
- Did I mention you are the worst worship leader ever?
- Grace and peace to you from God our Father
Let’s just say it wasn’t the glowing letter I was hoping for.
I immediately wrote this person a response that said:
- That was actually the best thing ever
- I’m actually the best worship leader ever
- You’re an idiot
- Did I mention that I’m the best worship leader ever?
- May God’s richest blessings be showered upon you
Then I felt better. And then I crumpled that letter up and threw it away. Then shredded it. Then threw it away again. Then I wiped the servers. Even though the letter was handwritten. It’s never a big deal to wipe servers, apparently, as we all know.
Then I wrote another letter that basically said:
- Thanks for taking the time to write
- I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the event
- Here’s what I was praying for in the months leading up to the event, and now in the days following
- I hope you’re able to enjoy Jesus even more the next time you come to church
- May God refresh you with joy in him (and I mean it)
There was no good reason at all to start a war with this person. There was nothing I could say to convince them I wasn’t the worst worship leader ever. For whatever reasons (unbeknownst to me, even to this day), I had pushed a hot button for that person, which resulted in an inappropriately harsh letter sent to me, giving me the choice to either respond in kind, or as the theologian Queen Elsa says, to “let it go”.
I would have loved to send that first letter. It would have felt SO GOOD to throw some mud back into that person’s face.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
The Holy Spirit gets in the way (thank God) of our desire to throw mud back at people, even people who tell us we’re the worst person ever. He allows us to respond with the kind of strength and tenderness that resembles – and glorifies – Jesus Himself.
6 thoughts on “Responding To Mud-Throwers with Spirit-Empowered Restraint”
Jamie, nicely said! …. and I Iike how you throw in allusions to current events in the news and reference iconic kids movies to boot!! ……………. ” while we were yet sinners, Christ Jesus DIED for us”…………………. “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I , but Christ liveth in me, …….and I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me! This was your example: to that person and to us all.
1. That was your best post ever. 2. You’re a good writer and, from what I can tell, a pretty decent man. 3. You’ve brightened my day and outlook on dealing with naysayers. 4. See #1 5. Grace & peace in Christ.
Thank you from a frequent reader. – Curtis
One pastor I knew called this the gift of discouragement. I’ve had people on the same Sunday tell me they were really blessed by the praise time, and another tell me how much it bugged them. I’ve come to the point where I don’t deal with these things in writing but in person. Getting to the root reason for their displeasure and responding in the way you describe in the last sentence of your great article helps with the relationship going forward.
We have a complaint notebook in the office where you may log in your suggestions but they must be signed. Mail without signatures is shredded. Anonymous letters are actually illegal. We try to do a face-to-face after a time of cooling off. Lots of good conflict resolution materials out there.