Words That Wound
The Tucson incident was yet another disturbing example of how in today’s society, everything from major debacles to minor bungles are an opportunity to pull down one person or idea in order to push up an opponent or opposite point of view.
someone makes a serious statement, immediately a panel of experts
debates his or her qualifications or sanity. It doesn’t matter if the
individual is a political figure, industrialist, economist, theologian,
teacher, or parent. We are becoming a continent of commentators too
quick to judge and too quick to speak. And so much of the speaking is
laced with vitriolic words in doses sufficient to inflict significant
This past month, two missions that were long lapsed came back into AGRM membership; one was out for 14 months, the other for four years. The first mission let its membership expire after its CEO received a verbal mugging at a district event. In the course of a conversation about funding, the director mentioned to three people whom he considered to be friends how he was availing himself of specifically designated government funds to finish setting up a new program for homeless intact families in his city’s suburbs.
He told me it didn’t take long before the conversation got heated. As a small crowd gathered to hear why voices were elevated, one of the men put a finger in the director’s face and snarled, “People who take government funds these days needs to examine their hearts to see if they really are followers of Christ.”
He not only felt betrayed, but also humiliated.
“I cried halfway home, and spent the next two weeks on the verge of depression,” he said sadly. “I went to where I thought I would receive encouragement for the work I was doing, and instead received condemnation for the way I was doing it.”
Staff members from the second mission were ambushed in a hallway at one of our conventions by people who had an opposing point of view regarding addiction recovery. The opening volley was: “So we heard you took Jesus out of your program.”
Others gathered but only gawked. No one came to the staff’s defense. Wounded in spirit, the confronted group left and didn’t return.
Both of these missions are now back in membership because we have connected their leaders with other members who agree with their principles as well as their practices. The hurt is wearing off and they are feeling less alone.
AGRM is a big table; there is room for everybody serving the poor in rescue mission ministry. Only the essence of the gospel is non-negotiable.
When we at that table hear statements that go against our grain, we must learn to listen longer and then suggest softly. Certainly there is room for debate, but not in a way that grieves the Spirit. More than ever before, the AGRM family needs to be unified in purpose, even if we are diversified in our methods.
Scottish minister and author George MacDonald said, “My own conviction is, that if a man would but bend his energies to live, if he would but try to be a true—that is, a godlike—man in all his dealings with his fellows, a genuine neighbor and not a selfish unit, he would open such channels for the flow of the Spirit as no amount of even honest and so-called successful preaching could.”
In The Message, Eugene Peterson’s take on 1 Thessalonians 5:11 is essentially the call for a truce on any war of words among fellow believers: “So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.”
Certainly not everyone in AGRM is guilty of delivering caustic discourse. But who among us—myself included—is not guilty of thinking the statements and then adopting an attitude toward a person or group that reflects that thought?
A battle is raging for the hearts of the hungry, homeless, abused, and addicted all around us. Let’s make a commitment that in 2011 we will fight the real foe.
the AGRM board moves toward a March meeting that will involve intense
planning for the future, we will be reviewing several books. I’m going to give you two management books this month, both with five in the title. Both are must-haves for your library.
There is so much going on in Washington, D.C., these days—especially
with the new Congress—that affects rescue missions. For this reason,
AGRM has scheduled a Washington, D.C., Summit for Tuesday, March 29, and
Wednesday, March 30. We’re inviting rescue mission leaders to fly in to
the nation’s capital for two days of important meetings.
Association of Gospel Rescue Missions l www.agrm.org