Church Planting Lesson #11: Flaming Emails


I process through writing.  When dealing with a conflict or difficult question, I’ll often write down a response in 5-10 pages–it’s cathartic, kind of like this blog.  As our culture has moved more and more into the world of written communication, I have developed a love hate relationship with email.  Email can be both good and bad.  Like facebook, blogs, or twitter, email alows you to say things that you wouldn’t often say in front of others.  Granted, expressing opinions, especially negative ones, have been around since we’ve had the written word.  But email has made our comments fly out much quicker, farther, and remain their much longer than many times we would.  And, because 90% of our communication is non-verbal (tone, facial expressions, etc.), we often end up communicating things we don’t intend to communicate or failing to express what we’re really trying to say.  I used to struggle with this.
Of course, saying that sounds like I’m at an AA meeting, admitting to being an email-aholic.  What I mean to say is that I used to be fairly quick on the draw with the email flame-thrower. I enjoy a good debate, or at least I used to.  If challenged, I rarely would back down and I always thought that people wanted to hear my opinion when things.  When we planted the church, I would often get emails from people who didn’t like the service, the sermon, or me. Instead of ignoring the email or better yet, turning my “critic into a coach”, I unleashed the beast and turned my critic into a piece of charcoal.  One time a gentleman (who had gone to church for 20 years and now was looking for something new–red flag) who prefaced his criticism with compliments about our website, criticized the fact that we played poker.  His question was, “Where was that in the Bible.”  There are a lot of things I wanted to say, but I decided with some choice words that had something to do with a juvenile understanding of the gospel and an unhealthy of fear of games akin to bingo.  I never heard from him again.

In fact, I found that everytime I responded with such an email, I’d never see or hear from that person again.  I learned that when you send a flaming email–you burn people–you don’t actually put fires out.  So, I am much slower to respond to any emails. I have learned that a face to face conversation is always more productive, that fewers words are always better than many, and that often times I can look like a genuis (even if I’m a fool) if I say nothing at all (Proverbs 17.28).  I have learned that not all emails have to be answered, not all criticisms are worthy of a rebuttal, and that flaming emails are not completely useless–they are simply reserved for wolves who need to be killed.


Author: Sam Ford

Sam Ford is a preacher, planter, and pastor from the Pacific Northwest. He is currently pastoring Restoration Road Church in Snohomish, WA.

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