1. Please don’t believe, or write as if you believe, that your personal experiences are a fully reliable path to understanding. Everyone who has life has experiences, and those experiences do shape us in meaningful ways. But here’s the problem: Different people have different experiences, and different experiences can yield wildly different, even contradictory, notions of reality. You may have been bullied and wounded by a fundamentalist church. That experience is valid and means something, but it doesn’t mean that every fundamentalist is waiting to hurt someone, nor does it mean that everyone who sounds to you like a fundamentalist is someone who would bully you given the chance. We can be honest about our experiences and how they form us, but making experience authoritative–especially when it empowers broad assumptions and animosity toward others–is deeply deceptive.
  2. Please make your theology more than language games. If you describe your faith as “welcoming,” “authentic,” and “open,” explain what those words mean using ideas and examples. Don’t merely use the words to gain leverage over those who disagree with you about Scripture or the church. This verbal violence happens to the word “legalistic” all the time. Legalism has a specific meaning which implicates certain specific attitudes and beliefs. It’s not a catch-all term to describe anyone who has a conscience issue about entertainment.
  3. Be willing to critique your “tribe.” This is not hard to do when your friends are doing it too. It’s only hard when you’re the one doing it and your friends/fellow writers are the ones at the receiving end. A lot of young evangelicals are more than willing to critique, harshly even, their parents’ tribe or their pastor’s tribe. This, unfortunately, is not necessarily the same as critiquing your tribe.
  4. Remember that “love hopes all things.” Write, think, and love as if the church is beautiful, because she is. Beware the temptation to demand that other Christians be good to you before you love them and hope the best for them. Don’t ridicule or shame the very thing for which your savior died merely for the sake of some clicks, follows, or a book deal. Honestly, “I Got Burned By the Church and Now I’m Out For Revenge” is the lamest, least-interesting genre of writing out there today. Be brave enough not merely to deconstruct but to say, “This, flaws and all, is valuable, and I love it, and you should too.”

Posted by Samuel James

Samuel D. James is associate acquisitions editor for Crossway Books. Follow him on Twitter @samueld_james.

8 Comments

  1. Gregory Martha Herr Obl.S.B. February 18, 2017 at 10:12 am

    As an Evangelical, I’d add: Explore and research those of us Evangelicals now in Rome.

    Our church is composed of around 70% converts from the range of Evangelicalism.

    And we need more—Evangelicals have benefited our parish and diocese (ie, the Anglican Ordinariate) in astounding ways.

    Thanks.

    Reply

  2. Very helpful advice, and badly needed.

    Reply

    1. Thank you so much, Ms. Rutledge.

      Reply

  3. I thought
    Point #1 was super helpful.
    Point #2 was very insightful.
    Point #3 was very convicting to me personally.
    Point #4 was beautiful, and maybe the most helpful.

    Revenge is very low-brain. If we could see each other in Christ, as God sees us in Christ, I suspect a large percentages of books and sermons would never come to print, or preached.
    Thank you.

    Thank you for a very good post.

    Reply

    1. Thanks so much for the encouragement, Joe

      Reply

  4. Good work, Samuel. One other comment: This pieces seems to be aimed at “evangelicals” (the quotation marks indicate that they are not really evangelicals), or, more pointedly, “progressive evangelicals.” I wish they would read and heed your words.

    Reply

  5. I had never been to this site…I appreciate the content and there’s huge truths here. The delivery was a bit startling (to me)…no one becomes an ideal writer over night, and consequently it’s easy to perhaps make mistakes particularly in 1&2 without even knowing it. We’ve gotta be careful to truly build one another up even in needed corrections and rebukes. Thanks for the courage and content.

    Reply

  6. This article helped me to look at my brash and arrogant younger self and then at my current self at 40 when I am more prone to love and cooperate. Thank you and thank God for this article.

    Reply

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