What’s Wrong with Written Communication?

C.J. Mahaney is continually telling Brent Detwiler that he prefers to meet face to face instead of communicating by email. I have heard similar things from pastors. It has become a truism that email doesn’t communicate tone, facial expressions and body language like in person communication does, and so it is inferior. Contrary to this view is a little book we use called the Bible.

You would think that of all people, Christians would respect written communication the most! We have an entire library of books bound together as one which are a written communication to us of the highest authority. We don’t know what Moses or Paul looked like when they preached, wrote or confronted someone. We have no idea what their tone or facial expressions were. And yet we expect all believers to be perfectly capable of receiving the message communicated via the written word and to live based on that message.

So it doesn’t make sense to me for Christians to knock written forms of communication. Of course, more can be conveyed in person than via email, but that doesn’t make it inferior. And in cases where emotions are charged, people may lose self-control, ideas may be forgotten in the heat of the moment, and fear may silence us, email may be a far superior way to communicate so as to get thoughts down on paper, be polite and remain self-controlled. A religion that reverences a written Scripture should not be so down on “written communication.”

4 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with Written Communication?”

  1. My comment does not refer to the C.J.M./D dispute, but when I had a huge disagreement with a pastor, which led to my eventually being dismissed and exited, he sent copies of all of our communication to all of the elders, until I started clarifying things in the email which showed him for who he truly was, and then he stopped cc’ing the elders with our communications and refused to allow me to meet face to face with all of the elders when I requested it. However, he was a sociopath.

    Having said that, I would side with Mahaney in this because when true offense between two brothers is involved, the absolute worst way to handle it is by email. Handling offense is not the same as handling truth, i.e. reading the Bible.

    A brother offended is harder to be won than a walled city. It is best to handle offense if possible 1. in person 2. by phone Other ways of handling offense lead to the end of the matter, but not very often do they lead to reconciliation.

  2. Excellent thoughts Joel. I’ve often wondered the same as to why Christians treat written communication in such a pejorative manner. If Christ the Logos deemed it right and good to communicate to His Church primarily through the written word, why the demand for “face to face” when something is supposedly important.
    We can see in 2 Corinthians 10:1-3 that Paul admits that his written communication with the Christians there is “bold” and his face-to-face communication is “lowly” or softer. I believe this points us in wisdom to understanding that many times what really needs to be said can best be communicated through the written word and doesn’t always require “face-to-face”.

  3. Thanks Corey, and I agree. It doesn’t need to be an either/or, but I certainly believe that written communication can be superior to in-person communication when things are contentious. Sometimes.

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