It was Monday morning. My tired mind, still reeling from the busy weekend, was reloading to go through all the demands of another hectic week. Then, quietly…it came…with no warning, no flashing lights, no more notice than the simple ding of a notification. I had received an e-mail. Not just any e-mail, but the Monday morning e-mail from a disgruntled church member (or “partner” as we call them). This person was not disgruntled with the church in general, or leadership as a whole, but specifically with me. To protect the guilty person involved, I won’t disclose the name or even the situation, but as I read the lines of that e-mail a varied range of thoughts and emotions flooded not only my mind, but my heart.
We’ve all had them. We all get them. And if there’s one vital sign that’s indicative that you’re on the active front lines of ministry, it’s this truth: If you’re authentically following Jesus and in a place of influence leading people, there will be defining moments like these. In my moment of distress, I looked across my office and saw some younger members of my team. In that instant, the Lord quickened my heart and revealed to me that my reaction to that moment would not only be potentially shaping for me, but also had potential in the lives of other young leaders. I knew in my heart, this e-mail doesn’t determine or define me, but my reaction to this e-mail can and probably will reveal a lot about me.
So how did I deal with the Monday morning e-mail and how do I recommend you do the same? In situations like these I have to ask myself a couple of recalibrating questions. These questions help me keep proper perspective and stay grounded in my response.
(1) Am I prideful? The first thing that is going to start rising to the top in situations like these is your pride. This is where what you’ve accomplished academically through degrees and years of study come flooding to the surface. This is where years of varied experiences in working with different churches and situations like these comes bursting to the scene. This is where all of that begins to form thoughts like “what do they know” or “they just don’t get it”. Academic pursuits and experiences aren’t inherently bad things, and are often very useful in maneuvering hard situations. But in those pivotal, quiet moments, being in the place God most needs you to be to be most useful to him, the pride that can puff up and well up from those things needs to die. I must admit, my first response was not one I’m proud of. The struggle was real.
(2) Am I approachable? Relationships with the people I lead is of high value to me. So I need to recognize the fact that the person felt safe bringing this to my attention and my response should be one that keeps relationships at a high value.
(3) Am I teachable? Have I seriously come to the place where I’ve learned everything there is to learn in my field? Is that even possible? It doesn’t take long to recalibrate myself being reminded that I really do have so much to learn and that God is continually sculpting and shaping me daily.
(4) Am I correctable? Could God be using this situation to have me rethink or reconsider some things in my own life? Am I open and postured to even allow that to happen? If nothing else, I have found these moments to be very confirming of why we do the things we do. When I have to do some background study and explain myself in words, I move forward and lead with more confidence and clarity.
But perhaps the best approach or guide to responding to the Monday morning e-mail is to consider the fruit that comes from the Spirit. Any or all of these would serve you well in your next situation.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… Galatians 5:22-23
In your response, where is the love? Would words to describe your response be kind or gentle? Maybe, in patience, you should show some self-control and take the rest of the day while you formulate a peaceful response. I’m afraid my first response was not one exemplified by any of these words. But as the Spirit convicted me, and gently guided me, I began to see many of these things come into play in the way I responded to this person.
If God has given you a place of influence, soon you will receive a Monday morning e-mail like mine. May we honor and serve Him well in the way we lead and shepherd His people.