Thinking Out Loud

December 4, 2018

Mark Clark on the State of Online Discourse Among Christians

Mark Clark is the pastor of Village Church in Vancouver, Canada and is the author of The Problem of God, which we reviewed here in September, 2017. Yesterday evening he posted a thread on Twitter that probably few of you would happen to see.

Increasingly, Twitter is becoming a long-form medium, but experience teaches me that many may not bother to click through to see an entire series of posts. So, as we did with a Skye Jethani thread around the same time last year, I’m going to take the liberty of sharing it here. (A few things are softly edited because there’s no character limit.)

December 3, 2018

Christian: Reformed or Charismatic, left or right, get out of your own echo-chamber. Your naive, dogmatic, tribal and simplistic ideological ideas are painful to read over and over again. Straw men arguments are not respected. Dig deeper. Let’s work together around ACTUAL data.

No, pragmatics aren’t the enemy! No, good doctrine isn’t the enemy. No, passionate preaching is not empty. No, doctrinal preaching isn’t always boring.

No, that successful pastor in the States with the big house and big smile probably isn’t Satan’s servant. No, the local small church pastor of 200 isn’t less qualified for ministry. No, your non-educated self isn’t more organic or Spirit-filled than “educated” pastors.

No, that church’s view on women, or governance, or preaching or whatever isn’t the enemy; Satan, sin and death is. No, video preaching isn’t wrong. No, faithfulness to expository preaching isn’t wrong. No, fighting for experiential Christianity isn’t wrong.

No, big churches using methods you don’t aren’t WRONG. No, small churches aren’t better or more godly. No, God doesn’t love big churches more.

No, unhitching from the Old Testament isn’t a good strategy. No, ones who suggest it from a missional heart aren’t necessarily heretical or false prophets.

No, ‘those’ churches aren’t always weak and flashy. No, ‘those’ churches aren’t always boring and irrelevant.

No, celebrity pastors don’t always sell out and do it for themselves. No, small church pastors aren’t always humble and selfless.

No, your self appointed group is not the standard holding Modern Christianity ‘accountable’. No, the solution is not to dissolve all accountability.

With that, Mark suddenly breaks the thread. But there are a few more postscripts which follow individually:

No, systemic racism is not over or a made up myth. It’s real. No, the ‘white man’, or men in general, are not to blame for all our problems.

No, our government leaders aren’t Messiahs. No, they aren’t completely evil and incompetent.

No, atheists aren’t always smart. No, Christians aren’t always smart.

I hope that, like me, you were able to see some people or institutions — or most importantly, some part of ourselves — in what Mark wrote. All our online activity, from scholarly insight to common ranting, won’t in itself change the world or advance the Kingdom.

I’ll concede that as it stands, what’s above is a short essay in desperate need of a closing statement or paragraph. (Update: In a note to me on Twitter, Mark explained that his phone’s battery ran out! That got me wondering if Martin Luther would have gone past #95 if he had more paper.)

So where do we go from here?

That’s up to me and you.

 

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July 29, 2012

A Guide to Handling Online Controversy

This is from Canadian pastor and longtime blogger Darryl Dash, where it appeared at his blog DashHouse.com under the title Field Guide for Volatile Topics. It’s a great help to fellow-bloggers, but really applies to anyone who makes their opinions known in any public forum

Inspired in part by recent events online, as well as by ministry as a church planter in a post-Christian culture:

  • Not all topics are equal. You can swing at some subjects with a big stick and nobody will care. Other topics require delicate treatment. Learn finesse.
  • If you can be misunderstood, you will be misunderstood. Expect that what you say will be taken out of context. Don’t be surprised.
  • Be aware of stereotypes. Know how people will misconstrue your position, and don’t reenforce their mistaken beliefs. If you’re Canadian, for instance, don’t talk about beavers and wear a Mountie hat. If you’re complementarian, don’t say anything that could remotely be taken as chauvinist. Some people will build straw men; be careful not to hand them straw.
  • Know that you belong to a camp. Some people hate that camp and are waiting for you to say something stupid. Speak accordingly.
  • Being a nice guy doesn’t count. Your mother, wife, kids, and dog love you; this won’t count much for those you offend.
  • Show grace to those who criticize you. They won’t always deserve it, but neither do you. Show grace anyways.
  • Apologize. Nothing will defuse the situation like an honest apology. People will know if it’s sincere or not, so don’t try to fake this one.
  • Move on. Some people will be angry with you anyways. Rest in God’s grace.

My guess is that the skill of dealing with volatile topics is going to become even more important than it is now. I’d love to hear your ideas on how we can do so.

~Darryl Dash

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