A month ago there was discussion about Emerging Critiques and many of us were saying we looked forward to D.A. Carson’s critque. This week I’m thinking perhaps we don’t know what we’re in for. Somebody (I forget who) posted a link to somebody’s critque of the emerging church, which we all rushed over to look at, me included.
My first thought was that the woman posting the information lacked credibility, and the largest effect of a unified response or attempt to engage her in discussion of these materials would be to (a) give her credibility and (b) increase the traffic on her website dramatically. Seriously, the site has a bunch of information that is badly nuanced or is partially incorrect or otherwise misrepresents the facts… and there’s some other stuff which isn’t wrong enough to waste effort taking issue with, but which portrays how the emerging church looks to outsiders.
Problem is, a whole bunch of us (me excluded this time) decided to contact her, engage her, or just refute her claims or representation of the emerging church. At this point I’ll point out that I’m intentionally omitting names and links concerning the exchange of the week. I’d like to urge the emerging voices among us to exercise restraint – use the old rule about not posting a response immediately (but maybe some of you don’t remember back when we used to post to usenet instead of to our own blogs, and our newsreaders connected to NNTP servers rather than to RSS feeds). Think twice, compose your reply; think twice again, preview the reply; think twice more, and once you’ve toned it down, go ahead and send it if you still feel you need to.
Personally, I feel we should wait for informed and credible critique, and then engage cautiously with the posture of a learner. Go back and check, that’s basically what we all said a month ago… I suggest a reminder, my relevant post links the two primary summaries; also see Robbymac’s followup to my post. In the midst of discussing how to respond, we should remember that sometimes it’s wisest not to respond. I added a random quote in the margin along the right side of this page not long ago, and when stocking the quote pool, I found this one:
Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. — Benjamin Franklin.
Good advice for us these days. I remember fairly vividly a scene from about nine years ago. We were in the midst of a “renewal” in the church, and had many people coming nightly for worship and preaching, but mostly just to receive prayer. I was overseeing the ministry that evening along with one of the senior leaders, when a worship leader from another church (people were showing up from all sorts of places) stormed up to us with a complaint. I mean stormed, you could practically see steam coming out of this guy’s ears while he was issuing his complaint. Seems he was watching and felt that it was “unfair” how some people got more prayer than others, and some people got prayed for twice before others got prayed for once – or various complaints along those lines. I forget what we said exactly, probably thanked him and told him we would watch to correct that concern. Thing was the guy was all wrong in his approach, and it was very easy to write him off because of his approach, because most of his complaints were about minutiae, and because really, we were doing our best to get to everybody in a crowded room with limited resources. Sometimes people just seem determined to be offended and let you know about it, and this smacked of that attitude; he later came and apologized for his demeanor. In the meantime there was a far worse factor that I had to deal with. He wasn’t exactly wrong. The lesson to me was a strong reminder to look beyond the surface; no matter what the complaint or how its presented, examine it and see if there is any substance to it.
That time I did not too badly, but more often than not I fail on this test and say the wrong thing too quickly. But allow me to appeal to fellow emerging voices, if you’re going to say the wrong thing, go right ahead but think about it carefully first. Just to clarify, this is not the “emerging storm,” it’s thankfully just a false start. Let’s learn from it.