WARNING: Do Not Encourage the Pastor (Digitally) · 26 November 2011

I have thought about sending encouraging notes to the senior pastor of our church through email or Facebook. After all, encouraging others, especially those who serve us so well, is probably something we should all do. But after last week, I am not so sure I want to give encouraging words to Pastor Nate. At least not written or digital ones.

Everybody needs encouragement. Being a high school teacher and coach, I try to give it out with abandon. I try to let my students and athletes know that they can do anything if they try. And I let them know I am there with help when they need it. I try to do this with everybody I know. After all, everybody needs encouragement.

Church pastors are especially in need of encouragement because regardless of what message they deliver, somebody will be there to argue or find fault with them. So when I am moved by a sermon on Sunday, I like to tell the pastor who delivered the message. Sometimes, I will even wait in line to shake his hand and let him know I appreciated his words. I like that method much better than sending a note or posting on his Facebook page. You might think it is because I like the personal touch. Quite the contrary. While the personal immediate feedback is gratifying for the pastor, I wait in line to say thanks so I do not leave a permanent record.

Notes and emails and Facebook posts stay around forever and can come back to haunt the writer. We see this all the time in the newspaper and on TV. The media warns us that anything negative we put out digitally could (and usually does) come back to haunt us. Sometimes, positive things do too.

Recently, Pastor Nate, showed us all that posting something positive and encouraging could lead to something bad. At least if the person posting has stage fright. Or does not like speaking to big crowds.

We had been going through the book of Nehemiah and the pastor kept using the phrase, “Somebody better do something,” in all his sermons in the series. One week, somebody gave Pastor Nate a concrete application of the messages he had been giving. She gave him encouraging words through Facebook on how she had been the “somebody doing something” about what she had been praying for. It was a great lesson about practicing what the preacher had preached. (For specifics, check out the podcast.) It was also a great lesson to me about not giving the pastor tangible encouragement.

I do not like to leave evidence that I have encouraged somebody, lest they hold it against me. Like the preacher did to one of the people in our congregation. The only thing she did wrong was leave a digital trail that he was able to follow. Thus he was able to encourage her share the stage and speak to the rest of us. It is why I prefer to shake hands and say thank you for the message. Even if he remembers what I said, there is that little thing called plausible deniability. I can blame any nice things I said on somebody else.

I will still continue to give Pastor Nate and all the pastors thanks and encouragement for what they do. Like everybody, they need lots of encouragement. But to keep any of my nice words from coming back to haunt me, I will make sure not to encourage them digitally.

© 2011 Michael T. Miyoshi

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