Pitfalls of Electronic Pastoring
Our church is trying to make use of e-mail in positive ways. Three e-mail lists facilitate the schedule of the worship team, prayer requests and announcements for body life, and keeping up with sermon notes.
But e-mail also has its curses . . . because fast and efficient are two words you don’t want to describe your shepherding. Hurting sheep need to hear the voice and feel the touch of the shepherd. Straying sheep need the same. The temptation to solve problems with e-mail is strong, but its effect can be deadly.
One problem with electronic pastoring is its speed. There are some questions that should not be answered quickly. There are some problems that need prayerful thought and leisurely reflection. A swift reply can short-circuit the work of wisdom. “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20).
The danger is especially acute when someone else is venting on you through e-mail. Sending back a fiery zinger is far too easy. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires” (James 1:19-20). James might well counsel us in the twenty-first century to be “slow to hit send.”
No, pastoring should not be done electronically. A phone call, or better yet a conversation over coffee, would be much more helpful. This allows you to supply appropriate tone, read body language, and respond immediately to misunderstandings. It shows the sheep that we view them as persons, not just problems—people with feelings to be understood, souls to be fed, motives to be probed, and hearts to be loved.
It is more work and less efficient . . . in the short-run. But the long-term fruits taste sweet.
Making It Personal
• Is my life overly governed by the computer?
• Do I hastily send e-mails in situations that really deserve more time and prayer?
• Do I avoid personal, face-to-face confrontation when dealing with problems?
• Have I caused alienation in a relationship due to an e-mail written in haste?