Heal Your Church WebSite


Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Dealing with those who Flog the Faithful

Here is a question for those of you who run church websites and/or are church staff: how do you deal with ‘believers’ who courageously ensconced behind a wall of electronic anonymity, hurl threats, commandments, admonishments and ‘exhortations’ at you, your pastor or your congregation?

For example, below is an email that came to my ‘catch-all’ account at redlandbaptist.org because the sender typo’d the pastor’s email address:

Mark, I wanted to give you something to meditate on. “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people. Cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth.” “Such as are for death, to death; And such as are for the sword, to the sword; And such as are for the famine, to the famine; And such as are for the captivity, to the captivity;”
This is what God does to His chosen people when they do not glorify HIM.
What do think He is going to do to you and your church if you do not submit to Christ?
Do you REALLY know how CHRIST defines submission? You won’t see this one in seminary!
If you are sure you know, and you ARE in this SUBMISSION, you can praise Him for your obedience. If not, REPENT! REPENT! REPENT! Love, A— D——

Dire Consequence:

While I enjoy a spirited Bible debate as much as the next guy, this is at techBlog so please forgive my ‘theology for dummies‘ … that is, I interpreted A——’s email as an unsolicited admonishment and threat. This is because the quoted portion of Jeremiah 15:1-2 in the original message is not the words of the prophet, but a response of dire consequence from God after Jeremiah pled for mercy regarding the nation of Judah.

So not wanting to be attacked by Babylon, and a bit purturbed over the implication that somehow Mark and/or the members of RBC had set aside real-World ministries such as taking care of the needy, supporting missions and teaching His Word in favor of practicing idolatry, I replied:

Because your message does not refer to any past correspondence with Mark Adams, nor does it refer to one of the hundreds of online sermons, I’m going to have to report this message to your upstream provider unless you can answer why you suspect Mark Adams and/or the congregation of RedlandBaptist.org apostate?

Please reply within 48 hours or I’ll be compelled to follow standard procedures for said communications.

Having dealt with spiritually abusive individuals before, I was neither surprised nor angered by the following response:

Dean, the message is an exhortation. Your response is not appropriate for a true believer. Love, A— D——

Instead, I just kept ticking down the “I‘m going to report you” clock in my responses while asking A—— each time to cite specific actions on the part of my pastor or congregation; and to produce two or more witnesses to corroborate any such charges (Matthew 18:15-20).

His reply? For the sake of space, he first tried to correct my view of God’s Grace with an out-of-context snippet from Isaiah 63. When he saw I wasn’t intimidated or deterred in my promise to report him to his ISP, he then cited Paul’s “Lawsuits Against Believers” passages found in 1 Corinthians 6 and demanded this issue be turned over to the moderation of elders within the Church.

Nothing like wanting to have it both ways, huh?

Why Bother?

I suspect at this point, some of you are going to say ‘why suffer fools, just block his email address?‘ Don’t worry, I’m going to, but I often react with this big-stick approach for three reasons, all educational:

  • convey to the individual their inappropriate use of email;
  • solicit and apology and a pledge not to do it again;
  • sting them just enough so they think twice about doing the same unto others at other churches.

However, instead of taking Jesus’ advice to settle matters quickly, this guy smugly informed me that he’s sending a hard-copy of our correspondence along with a letter to my pastor via U.S. Snail Mail. Don’t worry folks, I’ve already been assured it will get the attention it richly deserves. I just hope I can get a hold of a copy so I can scan it in and post it as I’m sure ‘it is as much fun to read as it is to eat.

Back to Business:

I find myself having to deal with such tripe once or twice a month, I’m curious to know if you do too; and if you have some ideas that we could all effectively employ. So if you don’t mind, how about leaving a comment to one or all of the following questions:

  1. how would you handle the above situation?
  2. how do you deal with zealots who instead of putting their energies and resources into something productive, prefer to beat the believers with bad Biblical hermeneutics?
  3. how do we convey to these cowardly lions that they’re flogging of the faithful over issues of sin is about as useful as preaching to the choir about church attendance?

Leave a comment, tell us a story, render an opinion, I’d like to hear what you have to say.

12 Comments

  1. Ouch! My mother used to work in church offices for many years and she was always amazed at what she calls “the crazies”. Now they have an anonymous way to reach out and touch someone.

    Much as I dislike a “closed door policy” feeling, when you have such an open door you should at least have a screen to keep the bugs out.

    Perhaps if the pastor could be trained NOT to read such stuff but forward it to an elder who would advise the pastor how to deal it with they could avoid “the crazies” and still be able to respond to genuine emails that are meant to build up the body of Christ.

    The next best idea i have is to have someone screen all emails and weed out the abusive or “religious spam” similar to what happens at the office door when the admin screens the calls and or appointments with the pastor. That would be a confidential and discerning person of necessity. But that way lies danger also, you need to watch for false negatives.

    I think the greatest problem with such emails is the personal attack the pastor feels reading them alone. The answer is to build a support system that he shares these email with so as to reduce that feeling. Perhaps saving all the abusive emails and reading them with a group of peers and responding to them that way.

  2. I’m a pastor, and I almost never receive email of the sort you described. If I did, I’d just do with it the same thing I do with all other unsolicited email from people I don’t know… I wouldn’t feel abused. I’d just think, well, basically what Russ’ mom said. Another crazy. :) It’s not the sort of thing I’d need intervention for or help to deal with.

    So, to answer your questions:

    1. Delete.
    2. Ignore them.
    3. We don’t.

    OK, *maybe* I’d send a reply saying something like, “You obviously don’t know me or our church, or you wouldn’t think that of us,” and asking who they are or why they think what they do. But it certainly wouldn’t be something I’d spend any time or mental/emotional energy on…

  3. Dean,

    You have a itchy trigger finger, don’t you? :) I’d either ignore it or respond something like this:

    Dear A— D——,

    Thank you for your exhortation. We at Redland Baptist Church strive to submit to the lordship of Christ in all that we do. As you have cited, there are grave consequences for not doing so, therefore we gladly endeavor to give Him all honor and glory and praise. Have a blessed day.

    I would not report him to his ISP. Primarily because I would not want to set a precedent where scripture quotations and calls to repentance are labeled “threatening speech.” The guy seems harmless enough to me, and believe me I’ve dealt with plenty of crazies. He is probably a somewhat misguided, yet sincere person who honestly desires to see God glorified and for some reason feels that most modern churches today are not doing so properly. He may have a point. His method of rectifying the situation may not be effective, nor prudent, but he probably means well. I see no reason to quench the smoldering flax in this situation.

  4. I’ll agree with Don on this one. Humor the person.

  5. I’ll agree with Don on this one. Humor the person.

  6. I get one of these every couple of months in our catch-all account. My standard response is to reply and ask them if they have any specific complaints or suggestions. I have yet to receive an actual reply. I suspect most of the ones I receive are religious spam (although I do not understand the purpose; there is no attempt at commercial gain).

    Due to the low volume of these, I just ignore them and move on, but if I were receiving several per month I would want to develop a more concrete policy.

  7. May I suggest that the writer of the email lacks spiritual maturity, and that the email has been sent off in a flurry of emotion. I pressume this person visited your church at some point?

    If this _was_ something given to him for Mark then this is certainly not the appropriate way to deliver it. This is NOT an example of ‘speaking the truth in love’, where there should have been careful consideration of the time, place and method of communication.

    We are told to take your brother aside and correct him, if he doesn’t listen, etc, etc. so I’d suggest refering the email directly back to the person’s Pastor (or dealing with it locally if this person is one of ‘your own’).

    cheers.

  8. I do not run a church website, but I do run a Christian entertainment site. On my site, I post articles about current events from a Christian point of view. I have received some pretty hateful emails about them before. The crazy thing is that sometimes the email has nothing to do with the article they are replying to. One time I received an email about George Bush being a horrible president, but the article I had just written never mentioned Bush.

    I just replied to the email asking the guy what makes him think that. I said that I had not seen anything about the Bush Administration that caused me to doubt their comptency in running our nation. I encouraged him to continue to visit my website, watch the videos, and read the articles.

    If I was running a church website, I would filter the emails. If a hateful email to the pastor came through, there is no reason to forward it to the pastor. When my website used to be for our Christian drama team of the same name, I would forward emails addressed to any specific members of our team to them. On one occasion I received an email full of vulgar, sexual comments about one of the female members of our team. I did not see the reason to bother that member with the email. I simply deleted the email. I never heard from the person again.

  9. I run a church website in the UK. A few years ago we had an email from a widow in Nigeria whose husband had died and left her loads of cash. She wanted to give it after seeing our website – she obviously thought we needed the cash.

    We were little bit too trusting and emailed her. She referred us to her lawyer who wanted a little bit of cash to set up a bank account in Nigeria to transfer the cash into. We quickly realised we were about to be ripped off and never sent the cash. We found out about a week later that this was a common scam that wasn’t just targeted at churches.

    We’ve since had emails from more widows, bank managers and members of the UN all keen to give us cash! They get deleted straight away.

    Our Pastor is pretty computer illiterate and all his emails are screened by a couple of our admin staff. They deal with pretty much all his correspondence so know what he needs to see and what can be junked. The kind of emails discussed here would probably get passed onto him only if it was from a partner or attender of our church otherwise it would be binned.

  10. I’m glad your church was wise enough not to send the m o n e y. Churches need to be made aware of scams like this one.

    P.S. I placed the spaces in money, because the website claimed that the word money was spam like content and would not let me post the message.

  11. Show him the compassion and love of Christ, and befriend him.

    I don’t understand what makes you think you are healing the church with these attitudes and comments, and others here like calling people crazies.

    If you have a gripe with a fellow christian, then take it to him in private and try and win him over. This approach here looks very much like self gratification, not love for another.

    Heal thyself may be a better title for this site.

    Lucy

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