January 17, 2009

Church Experiment: A Pastor Responds

Well, this was unexpected.

I always wondered how someone from a church I visited would respond if he or she ever found my blog. Now I know:

You, Steve Fuller, are a hypocrite and a coward. To hide behind a blog and put down others is not Christian at all... it disturbing! I think you are the creepy one! Sneeking into churches and looking for things to critisize publicly is not honest or a journey of discovery, its just plain wrong! I think you should grow up, especialy in your faith and love! That's a journey worth taking. Remember, a good rebuke is better than flatery. - Pastor Randy Rice (Christian Life Center)

That was verbatim from the comments section of Monday's blog. (It was posted late Friday night.) First, I'm not convinced this was actually written by the pastor of Christian Life Center. The name is correct, so maybe, but anyone could have written the comment and attached his name, so who knows.

But, assuming it was Randy Rice, this is my response:

I am truly sorry you were so hurt by my words. I have wrestled long and hard with how Godly people from the churches I visit would process my comments. I really do feel terrible if this experiment causes pain or frustration for any Christians trying their best to serve God. It is not my intention to discourage Christian leaders.

I know it is difficult to hear criticism. But, to quote you, "A good rebuke is better than flattery." I naively hoped any pastor that stumbled upon my blog would use my experiment to help him consider how visitors experience his church. Obviously, I am only one person, and others may have different experiences, but as a current teacher and writer (and former church leader), I crave feedback. It always helps me to refine my work and improve. Of course, any pastor is free to lead his church however he feels led by God, but it never hurts to stop and consider honest feedback. In fact, I really appreciate your perspective and have prayed about your words as I consider how to move forward with this experiment.

And I do just want to point out that my feedback was honest. I didn't lie; didn't make up anything; didn't even exaggerate. I simply expressed my feelings about the church as I experienced them. I tried my best to be fair; and I fully admit that some of my comments were based on my own biases.

I don't walk into a church looking to publicly criticize the service. I walk in with an open mind (as much as humanly possible) and a desire to experience God. If that would have happened at CLC, I would have written about it. But it didn't (for a variety of reasons, both internal and external), so I wrote what I experienced. I mentioned the good (nice people, communion, worship seemed to be genuine), and I mentioned the bad (anti-Obama sentiments, nationalism during worship, Biblically inaccurate tithing comments).

Despite our differences, I wish you the best and will pray for your church community.