Cruel Emails

Do you know the official term for a group of alligators? A congregation.

As a former worship leader, I remember the cruelest email I ever received from someone in the congregation. No, it’s not the reason I’m a former worship leader. And I’m not scarred for life. In fact, when I tell the story, it’s usually with a bewildered laugh. I still can’t believe anyone could be that … obnoxious.

We don’t expect that in church, though maybe we should. Because every church is made up of a bunch of messed up, selfish, insensitive people–in other words, a bunch of real people who are just like everyone else in the world–who’ve been well-trained by our ME culture to want what they want. And when they don’t get it, they squawk.

OK, I’ve delayed long enough. Here’s my email:


Yes, it was a real email that someone really sent. And yes, that person had an agenda. They usually do.

Talking with other worship leaders, here are some emails they’ve received:

  • “Worship isn’t as good as it was when the old leader did it.”
  • “Worship was so crummy I couldn’t pay attention to the message that followed.”

Even the seemingly nice messages can contain small jabs, either real or perceived: “Worship was good today.” Well…what was it last week, when you didn’t send  a message? Something “less than good”?

How do we keep leading in the face of this, when all we want to do is roll our eyes, shake our head and sometimes just lash back at someone?

Maybe a passage of scripture will help? I’d advise you not to go immediately to the “pearls before swine” passage. Better suggestions might be:

  • “…be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
  • “…do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.”

The biggest problem with cruel emails is not the sting to our egos. The biggest problem is that these emails may cause us to instinctively bristle at any further critiques. Even heartfelt, well-meaning ones from people who really do love us. Because in church, more than anywhere else in the world, we also find truly loving, caring wonderful people who have our best interest at heart, and who are touched deeply each week by the Spirit of God through what we do.

The bottom line is this:

It’s all a messy, beautiful mix. And that’s the church, the Bride that Jesus loves with all His heart.

So serve your people well. Love them well. Remain open to honest critiques. Filter out the mean-spirited, agenda-driven ones. Be wise as serpents. Harmless as doves.

Do justly. Love mercy. And always walk humbly with your God.


Do you have your own examples to share? Or stories about how you responded to other emails? Leave a comment or reply below!

As a songwriter, worship leader and a member of the marketing team, Paul is connected to CCLI in every possible way. Paul serves as CCLI’s Content Creator in the U.S. Service Center in Vancouver, Washington. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from George Fox University and has served as a marketing/communications specialist and a worship leader for a number of churches and ministries.


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