For some reason, I consistently invent new ways to say controversial things. This past week I had the opportunity to teach a class at my alma mater. I've taught in their continuing-ed school a few times before, but this time I was filling in for a class in the undergraduate school: a perfect opportunity to contaminate the minds of 19 to 22 year-olds.
It was a church finance class so I was discussing the various aspects of financing a new church. Whenever I tell people about the unconventional way we went about getting things started it immediately draws distinct parallels to how other practitioners are doing it (for example: most new churches today cost about $200,000-$500,000 to start, while we spent less than $20,000 to get Echo going). In explaining our philosophy it is difficult not to critique the ways many churches spend exorbitant amounts of money for high impact ministry all while chalking it up to doing "God's work."
In that discussion last week in class, I used a specific church as an example and criticized that financial aspect of their ministry. I used strong words at first, and then caught myself and pulled back a little, but still I was pretty hardcore. Even in the case of young, impressionable minds, we need to be critical of ways that we act that aren't necessarily Biblical.
Of course, in that class were a couple of students connected with that church.
That afternoon I felt a little convicted about what I said; I still hold that my critique was correct, but I didn't do a great job of establishing my respect for that church. Therefore, I could've come off sounding like an arrogant church. I knew the email of one of the kids and apologized for those few words. He connected me with the other student and I apologized to him as well.
What sucked about the whole thing is that I had to apologize to a couple of young guys significantly younger than me with no experience. I could've just walked away and not done it, but it would've probably gnawed at me. Honestly, I'm still not 100% convinced that an apology was in order, but since I didn't feel 100% confident in the situation, I went ahead anyway.
I guess the big thing I learned is that I continually need to strive to find a balance. I'm not going to withhold strong words where necessary; one of the problems within our movement of churches is that we tend to value politeness more than truth. That said, I still need to figure out how to be as respectful as possible if I criticize others.
I'm still learning. But now more than ever, I think I'm finding my voice.