As a pastor, I’ve made my share of mistakes. I’ve stated facts that were inaccurate. I’ve made off the cuff remarks that were insensitive. I’ve held firmly entrenched convictions out of pride rather than principle. I’ve tried to be funny and said something stupid. I’m human, and a mistake-prone one at that.
On the occasions that I’ve been wrong, and believe me when I say there are plenty, I appreciate it when someone comes alongside and gently points out my mistake, misstatement, or insensitive remark. These are the folks who take seriously the instructions in Matthew 18:13-18.
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
I can benefit from this kind of caring rebuke, the kind that aims at correction and restored relationships. While it may hurt, it helps me grow because it comes out of a concern for my well-being.
What I find unhelpful are the folks who write anonymous letters. Over the past 30 years, I’ve received my share of these as well. The critics have taken aim at my grammar, educational background, marriage, decisions by elders, theological convictions, leadership style, and preaching.
Rather than caring correction, anonymous notes feel more like a drive-by-hit-and-run where the person vents their feelings in a poison pen letter. Since the letter is unsigned, I cannot respond to it or enter into a dialogue trying to understand the individual’s perspective or explain my actions. Consequently, I tend to throw these letters away.
If someone offends you, especially if it’s your pastor, take the biblical approach and talk to the person directly. Care enough to confront. Pursue reconciliation.