Well, the internet is a strange place. With all the enthusiasm for and against Jeff Bethke’s viral video and now all the enthusiasm for and against my critique, it may seem like all we have here is sound and fury signifying nothing. Maybe another Bellesque brouhaha in the making.
But sometimes good things happen on the internet, even in exchanges like this. Jeff sent me an email yesterday afternoon and we exchanged several emails since then. I have his permission to post parts of that exchange.
This was his first email to me:
I just wanted to say I really appreciate your article man. It hit me hard. I’ll even be honest and say I agree 100%. God has been working with me in the last 6 months on loving Jesus AND loving his church. For the first few years of walking with Jesus (started in ’08) I had a warped/poor paradigm of the church and it didn’t build up, unify, or glorify His wife (the Bride). If I can be brutally honest I didn’t think this video would get much over a couple thousand views maybe, and because of that, my points/theology wasn’t as air-tight as I would’ve liked. If I redid the video tomorrow, I’d keep the overall message, but would articulate, elaborate, and expand on the parts where my words and delivery were chosen poorly… My prayer is my generation would represent Christ faithfully and not swing to the other spectrum….thankful for your words and more importantly thankful for your tone and fatherly like grace on me as my elder. Humbled. Blessed. Thankful for painful growth. Blessings.
Grace and Peace,
I wrote this in reply:
Thanks for your email. It confirms my impression of you—humble, sincere, a real love for God and the gospel. I can’t remember ever receiving such a teachable response to criticism. I’m grateful for you and your courage in taking time to write me a note. Really grateful.
I know that criticism can be hard. You are probably getting it from right, left, and center, from Christians and non-Christians. I’m sure you are getting a lot of affirmation too, and that presents its own challenges. I tried to my write my post as a friend, not as a hater. I am rooting for you, not against you. I wanted to approach this like Acts 18:26. Thank you for receiving it in that spirit….
What can I do to help you? Have you thought about posting a clarifying follow up to the video? Or maybe writing something on “what I wish I had said differently?” It could be a powerful example of the things you were talking about to come back and say, “Hey, I didn’t get everything right here. I don’t want people to take this in the wrong direction.” Do you want me to post some of your email to me on my blog so people can see your heart in this? Let me know if there is something I can do.
Later Jeff wrote me back. This is part of his reply:
Wasn’t expecting such a quick response. I appreciate you a ton, and your words really hit home…My biggest fear is that I will say something and it will be out on the internet forever. But already quickly learning all praise goes to Jesus, and same with critique…Feel free to share parts of my email on the blog if you’d like! The tone is already gracious enough but it’d be cool to show that we have had some correspondence and it’d mean a lot.
The actual emails were longer, but these excerpts give you a feel for the tone. I’m immensely grateful for Jeff’s response and feel like I’ve made a new friend in this process. We talked on the phone this morning and had a chance to get to know each other better. We talked about the wonders and trials of the internet and the difficulty in receiving praise and criticism. We both talked about what we could have done differently in retrospect.
A friend wrote to me yesterday and said, “This is a good test for both Jefferson and for yourself. Is he the kind of guy who would be willing to write a critic with humility? And did you write the piece in such a way that the one being criticized would feel comfortable chatting with you?” I hope we are passing that test. Through the years I haven’t always aced this kind of exam.
I hope everyone reading this blog will share Jeff’s heart and mine for getting the gospel out as far as we can and as right as we can. I look forward to seeing Jeff’s next video.