the weblog of Alan Knox

Making friends with critics…

Posted by on Apr 4, 2007 in blog links, fellowship, missional | 32 comments

Scot McKnight at “Jesus Creed” offers some wise advice in his post “Letters to Emerging Christians“. This post is actually his response to a letter he received and posted here.

As many of you know, I do not consider myself to be “emerging” or “missional”. I do agree with many of the things that I have read from those who consider themselves emerging/missional. However, McKnight’s post was less about emerging than it was about dealing with people who disagree and critique your views. His advice was very good.

Consider this suggestion:

Fourth, find a critic and make him or her your friend – have coffee, go out for lunch, go to dinner. Learn to converse with that person as a friend about what interests her or him and what interests you. You may grow in your appreciation for that person and she or he may grow in their appreciation for you. (Wouldn’t that be a good thing?) Gosh, maybe you will even become friends. I’ve sat over coffee with many a critic of emerging.

In another suggestion, he asks us to consider that none of us are “right” about everything. We all must be willing to listen to others, recognizing that the other person may be right.

All of his suggestions are very good. The post caused me to look at how I think about and deal with people who disagree with me. What about you?

Are you willing to sit down over coffee with someone who disagrees with you? Are you willing to talk about areas in which you agree instead of only focussing on the disagreement? Are you willing to possibly even become friends with this person? Are you willing to admit that you may be wrong and the other person may be right?

Could it be that walking in unity with someone begins with walking with someone, instead of simply critiquing their views?


32 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-4-2007

    Good thoughts, Alan. I hear what you’re saying. I am very willing to talk with people who disagree with me, and have a conversation over coffee about it. What I don’t enjoy is when people turn it into a debate session. I find that this is the temptation of many. The best conversations I have had with those who disagree with me is with non-Christians. Perhaps influenced by a more postmodern cultural shift, those whom I have discussed faith issues with have been the most receptive to dialog in a calm and friendly manner. This has been a very enlightening opportunity that afforded a lot of growth.

    However, I come out a background in which a lot of my friends also are from, a quite conservative Reformed background. There are friends of mine with whom I avoid certain topics because they become argumentative and angry. This is a style I refuse to take, and avoid dealing with if I can.

    Why can’t we all just get along? :)

  2. 4-4-2007

    Alan,
    “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
    That was Amos’ comment, not mine, but he does have something there. I think the “walking together” does mean having a shared goal, and I think that often we may find that even when we don’t agree on details, we will agree on the desired outcome.
    I don’t consider myself part of the emerging or missional “journey”, either, but I do find much that they are saying to be challenging to my own views. That’s not bad, because I think that we share the same desire to live out the Christ who inhabits the Body.
    Come for coffee, and we’ll talk.
    Kat

  3. 4-4-2007

    Alan,
    “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
    That was Amos’ comment, not mine, but he does have something there. I think the “walking together” does mean having a shared goal, and I think that often we may find that even when we don’t agree on details, we will agree on the desired outcome.
    I don’t consider myself part of the emerging or missional “journey”, either, but I do find much that they are saying to be challenging to my own views. That’s not bad, because I think that we share the same desire to live out the Christ who inhabits the Body.
    Come for coffee, and we’ll talk.
    Kat

  4. 4-4-2007

    Alan,
    “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
    That was Amos’ comment, not mine, but he does have something there. I think the “walking together” does mean having a shared goal, and I think that often we may find that even when we don’t agree on details, we will agree on the desired outcome.
    I don’t consider myself part of the emerging or missional “journey”, either, but I do find much that they are saying to be challenging to my own views. That’s not bad, because I think that we share the same desire to live out the Christ who inhabits the Body.
    Come for coffee, and we’ll talk.
    Kat

  5. 4-4-2007

    Alan,
    “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
    That was Amos’ comment, not mine, but he does have something there. I think the “walking together” does mean having a shared goal, and I think that often we may find that even when we don’t agree on details, we will agree on the desired outcome.
    I don’t consider myself part of the emerging or missional “journey”, either, but I do find much that they are saying to be challenging to my own views. That’s not bad, because I think that we share the same desire to live out the Christ who inhabits the Body.
    Come for coffee, and we’ll talk.
    Kat

  6. 4-4-2007

    Alan,
    “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
    That was Amos’ comment, not mine, but he does have something there. I think the “walking together” does mean having a shared goal, and I think that often we may find that even when we don’t agree on details, we will agree on the desired outcome.
    I don’t consider myself part of the emerging or missional “journey”, either, but I do find much that they are saying to be challenging to my own views. That’s not bad, because I think that we share the same desire to live out the Christ who inhabits the Body.
    Come for coffee, and we’ll talk.
    Kat

  7. 4-4-2007

    Alan,
    “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
    That was Amos’ comment, not mine, but he does have something there. I think the “walking together” does mean having a shared goal, and I think that often we may find that even when we don’t agree on details, we will agree on the desired outcome.
    I don’t consider myself part of the emerging or missional “journey”, either, but I do find much that they are saying to be challenging to my own views. That’s not bad, because I think that we share the same desire to live out the Christ who inhabits the Body.
    Come for coffee, and we’ll talk.
    Kat

  8. 4-4-2007

    Alan,
    “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
    That was Amos’ comment, not mine, but he does have something there. I think the “walking together” does mean having a shared goal, and I think that often we may find that even when we don’t agree on details, we will agree on the desired outcome.
    I don’t consider myself part of the emerging or missional “journey”, either, but I do find much that they are saying to be challenging to my own views. That’s not bad, because I think that we share the same desire to live out the Christ who inhabits the Body.
    Come for coffee, and we’ll talk.
    Kat

  9. 4-4-2007

    Alan,
    “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
    That was Amos’ comment, not mine, but he does have something there. I think the “walking together” does mean having a shared goal, and I think that often we may find that even when we don’t agree on details, we will agree on the desired outcome.
    I don’t consider myself part of the emerging or missional “journey”, either, but I do find much that they are saying to be challenging to my own views. That’s not bad, because I think that we share the same desire to live out the Christ who inhabits the Body.
    Come for coffee, and we’ll talk.
    Kat

  10. 4-4-2007

    Alan,
    “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
    That was Amos’ comment, not mine, but he does have something there. I think the “walking together” does mean having a shared goal, and I think that often we may find that even when we don’t agree on details, we will agree on the desired outcome.
    I don’t consider myself part of the emerging or missional “journey”, either, but I do find much that they are saying to be challenging to my own views. That’s not bad, because I think that we share the same desire to live out the Christ who inhabits the Body.
    Come for coffee, and we’ll talk.
    Kat

  11. 4-4-2007

    And I will echo — good thoughts here, Alan! Your last statement:

    Could it be that walking in unity with someone begins with walking with someone, instead of simply critiquing their views?

    is a good question to ask ourselves. Thanks for posting this …

    ~Heather

  12. 4-4-2007

    Jake,

    Thank you for the comments. I think you bring up a good point. With some people, there are certain topics that we should not discuss. Discussing those topics does not lead to edification, only argumentation.

    Kat,

    Do you think we can walk together based on those things in which we do agree – which, for most believers, would be the main points of the gospel? I know that I agree with most believers when it comes to God and salvation.

    Heather,

    Thank you again for the kind words. You are always very encouraging.

    -Alan

  13. 4-4-2007

    Jake-
    Yes, I think we have more places in common where we can walk with believers than places we need to avoid. Jesus unifies us. It’s often the Pharisee in us that divides.
    Kat

  14. 4-4-2007

    Jake-
    Yes, I think we have more places in common where we can walk with believers than places we need to avoid. Jesus unifies us. It’s often the Pharisee in us that divides.
    Kat

  15. 4-4-2007

    Jake-
    Yes, I think we have more places in common where we can walk with believers than places we need to avoid. Jesus unifies us. It’s often the Pharisee in us that divides.
    Kat

  16. 4-4-2007

    Jake-
    Yes, I think we have more places in common where we can walk with believers than places we need to avoid. Jesus unifies us. It’s often the Pharisee in us that divides.
    Kat

  17. 4-4-2007

    Jake-
    Yes, I think we have more places in common where we can walk with believers than places we need to avoid. Jesus unifies us. It’s often the Pharisee in us that divides.
    Kat

  18. 4-4-2007

    Jake-
    Yes, I think we have more places in common where we can walk with believers than places we need to avoid. Jesus unifies us. It’s often the Pharisee in us that divides.
    Kat

  19. 4-4-2007

    Jake-
    Yes, I think we have more places in common where we can walk with believers than places we need to avoid. Jesus unifies us. It’s often the Pharisee in us that divides.
    Kat

  20. 4-4-2007

    Jake-
    Yes, I think we have more places in common where we can walk with believers than places we need to avoid. Jesus unifies us. It’s often the Pharisee in us that divides.
    Kat

  21. 4-4-2007

    Jake-
    Yes, I think we have more places in common where we can walk with believers than places we need to avoid. Jesus unifies us. It’s often the Pharisee in us that divides.
    Kat

  22. 4-4-2007

    Alan,

    Our ability to discuss and debate, is very dependent on where our security is founded.

    If our security is in Jesus Christ and His finished work, being a child of God through the new birth, we will not be threatened by those who challenge our theological and ecclesiastical premises.

    Our response to others, and their response to us, says far more than we may imagine about our security being on other than that sure and certain foundation (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph.2:20).

    Blessings,
    Aussie John

  23. 4-4-2007

    Kat,

    You said: “Jesus unifies us. It’s often the Pharisee in us that divides.” I think I’ll remember that. Thank you.

    Aussie John,

    If our security is in our knowledge instead of God’s grace, then we will vehemently fight against those who disagree with us.

    I know that I am wrong in many areas. I also know that my hope is in Christ, not in my knowledge.

    Thank you for this reminder.

    -Alan

  24. 4-4-2007

    Kat, yes, those whom I find I can’t discuss certain things with I am tempted to label Pharisees, because it is overly legalistic attitudes that cause them to be this way. But I don’t want to be judgmental or point the finger. It’s just a tendency I notice. And yeah, everyone has a little Pharisee in them for sure. We just really need to make the Jesus in us stand out and shine brightly. Love triumphs.

  25. 4-4-2007

    Hmmm, this post and thread is making me wonder whether I have been too firm in confronting what I believe to be error in discussions here……

    Where does that line get drawn, I wonder? (By the way, Alan, I am very open to correction in these matters, and since you’re the host here, I am even more open to correction from you regarding my conversations here.)

  26. 4-4-2007

    Steve,

    I appreciate your transparency in regard to ‘your firmness’ … and understand where you are coming from when you ask: ‘Where does the the line get drawn’? Personally, for what it’s worth, I would ask: Why does a line have to be drawn at all? Let me try to explain.

    Life is not meant to be all about rules and regulations etc. Life is spontanueous … it happens … we experience it … we share it and all are enriched by, well … life! This to me mirrors the ‘life’ of the Holy Spirit (where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty comes to mind) in that Paul in 1 Corinthians likens the Holy Spirit to the wind! Wouldn’t we all rather live life like the wind?!

    Now I know that we need ‘order’ etc, but surely such order as is necessary, is best found in growing intimacy with the Lord and in following the promptings of His Spirit.

    Man-made rules and ‘lines of demarcation’ have done enough damage! I simply try to be me … guided by the Holy spirit but capable of (sometimes) huge blunders! However ,the ME that is on offer is real, transparent and (sometimes) comes with a ‘fragile handle with care sticker’ attached!

    I for one, enjoy the relational tensions (most of the time) that, (when submitted to God for teaching) lead to wholesome growth in Christ with the ‘spice’ of individuality and complexity of personality that is real. Your comments in my opinion have been ‘spot on’ and needed to be heeded! But I would submit all of this to Alan as the host of this blog!

    On another note, but related to this, and in the spirit of what I have written – without any offence intended …

    Heather, how do you ‘agree to disagree’ and yet, maintain UNITY? I mean isn’t that really conformity? And if someone really thinks that Jonathan is, let’s say; unteachable and actually enjoys ‘stirring the pot’ why not say so and be liberated by the cathartic release and ‘speaking the truth in love’?

    John

  27. 4-4-2007

    John, I appreciate your words of encouragement. I think you raise some really good points, and I’m going to be spending a lot of time thinking through this stuff as we all go forward.

  28. 4-4-2007

    Steve,

    On my blog, I have a little program that randomly selects the ‘quote of the day’ from those I have collected from all over … well I just noticed today’s offering; and thought you might enjoy it!

    Quote of the Day

    “The purpose of Christianity is not to avoid difficulty, but to produce a character adequate to meet it when it comes. It does not make life easy, rather it tries to make us great enough for life”.

    James L. Christensen

    John

  29. 4-4-2007

    Steve,

    You raise a very good question. One thing that I noticed from the previous comment thread is that no one chose to “separate” from another person because of their disagreements. I believe that we can continue discussions and disagreements as long as we agree to live with one another as brothers and sisters and to listen to one another and to admit that we might be wrong.

    I appreciate your concern and, like John Purcell said, your transparency. You have given each of us a good example.

    John Purcell,

    Brother, thank you for your wisdom and your spirit (and your Spirit!). I agree that we must be ourselves at the same time that we try to submit ourselves to the Spirit. Thus, we also must be willing to accept others as they are. Perhaps this is why so many biblical writers exhorted us to love, bear with, and forgive one another – they, inspired by the Spirit, knew we would all need it.

    -Alan

  30. 4-5-2007

    I think one of the best things about blogging is that it provides a great platform for “making friends with critics.” Some people may think it tends to “stir up the pot” and contribute to conflict. But, in many cases, the conflict was there already, it was just “swept under the carpet.” As long as we do our best to avoid gossip and vindictiveness, I think these types of discussions, even with, and sometimes especially with, those with whom we disagree, can be very edifying.

  31. 4-5-2007

    John Purcell -

    You asked, “Heather, how do you ‘agree to disagree’ and yet, maintain UNITY? I mean isn’t that really conformity? And if someone really thinks that Jonathan is, let’s say; unteachable and actually enjoys ‘stirring the pot’ why not say so and be liberated by the cathartic release and ‘speaking the truth in love’?

    I knew someone would ask that question ;). Here comes some transparency :) ……..

    Right now I am at a place of learning that I don’t always have to prove my point. You see, much of my life I have always thought that in order to feel good about myself & my beliefs that I needed to prove to others that what I believe is true, even if it meant that I lost my temper, or insulted the other person, or began to feel arrogance & animosity toward them because they couldn’t “see” it (thinking – how stupid are you that you don’t get it???!!!).

    So in order for me to not go there, I had to just break off the discussion. I realized that in order for me to not think what I shouldn’t think about someone that claims Christ or to become arrogant, I had to stop the conversation. Did that last sentence make sense? It’s early :) … sometimes I just don’t see the point in continuing in such a conversation. Perhaps I am wrong about that.

    Conformity is agreement between an individual’s behavior and a group’s standards or expectations. A conformist is one who follows the majority’s desires or standards. I don’t think that I was conforming by stating that I disagree. I did say what I believe by quoting Alan’s last paragraph and wanted to just let that be that. Steve said in the next comment what I wanted to say anyway ;). But my response would have been filled with arrogance and animosity.

    You see, I am at a place of learning the difference between loving to speak the truth and speaking the truth in love. My speaking the truth would not have been in love. It would have been like so many other times in my life when it’s a subject that I am passionate about and I would have left a wake of arrogance and ugliness behind me in proving my point. Even if it didn’t come across that way in the words I used, my heart would have been filled with such.

    Above my computer is Galatians 1:10 – Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. I am included in the word “men”. Sure, I could have spoken the truth, but I didn’t believe that I would have been doing it to please God, only to please myself.

    So, to sum it all up :) – although it may not have seemed like it in my words as they were read, I was beginning to feel something in my heart toward my brother in Christ that I shouldn’t. I needed to step away and and just know that we disagreed and leave it at that. I hope that made some sense.

    Writing all that out as a comment on someone else’s blog is, well, scary because it’s so honest, and yet liberating at the same time. Alan, I hope this is okay to be writing here — it does, I think, go along with the topic of this post. But if not, feel free to delete/edit …

    :)

    John, I SO appreciate you!!! :)

    Blessings!

    p.s. please feel free to let me know if you think anything that I said is wrong thinking :)

  32. 4-5-2007

    David,

    Interaction in blogs has helped me to learn how to live with people who disagree with me as well. I think for some people, interacting on blogs does “stir up the post”, but I think that has more to do with the “pot” than anything else… that is, with the people being stirred up.

    Heather,

    It is definitely okay for you to write that here. I’m glad you feel safe enough here to share your heart.

    -Alan