Hate Mail (Considering Common Questions)

Whenever you put out a strong opinion about something… you can expect hate mail.

You know, the messages you get on Facebook, email, and your blog that doesn’t make sense. The person discounts all the good that happened. The messages are written in one big continuous block of text full of bad spelling and grammar. The message is hard to understand and common sense it nowhere to be found. Okay, I could go on, but there is no need. You get the point.

I have pretty strong views and write from a perspective that expresses my opinion. Am I always right, definitely nope. When people disagree, they often let me know in a not so pleasant way. I guess this is what I deserve since I often react in a bad way to things I don’t agree with instead of acting in a proper way. I am trying to grow and learn.

I hope that many of my post don’t come across as judgmental. I hope they encourage the fearful to be brave. I hope they encourage the lazy to be active. I hope they encourage the foolish to be wise.

I know this doesn’t always happen because people take personal offense, or they defend why they do things the way they do. They simply react to what they disagree with or what makes them uncomfortable. (I am fine with people having different opinions and expressing them in an intelligent, normal, productive way.)

One thing I have learned from working around missionaries to closed countries is this: everyone lives on a different level of fear and most people are looking out for themselves; therefore, brotherly love is often dismissed because fear rule one’s emotions.

Fear is a greater problem than most people imagine. Fear is one of the major hindrances of the gospel in China. Fear can hinder the best of us. Fear can cause you to doubt everything you have been taught to do. Fear makes you act crazy and respond in unusually ways. Fear is worse than culture shock because it is something you can never get comfortable with in your life. Fear causes you to think crazy things. Fear messes with your thought life and causes you to think things are happening that aren’t.

Fear is often what causes people to send hate mail.

(Side note: I have learned something else: missionaries who work together as a team that encourages and helps each other seem to do better at overcoming fear.)

Whenever something drastic happens… you can expect hate mail.

Our team had two men deported from China. We knew hate mail would come. Why? Because of our strong stance before our men were ever kicked out. Every since I have been a missionary to China, there have been haters prophesying my downfall and those I work with. I have written about all the “alarms” and discouragement from different people over the years. (A simple search on this blog and you will be able to find it.)

People have been telling us for years that we are going to be kicked out of China. Some would say it to our faces and others would just say it to others. So, why didn’t we listen to these warnings? Why didn’t we listen to the caution and the perceived wisdom of others?

This is a good question to ask and answer. I wanted to answer it for those who may be wondering. I know haters will be haters, and this won’t change them. So let me try to explain for everyone else who is genuinely wondering…

Answer: We do ministry in the manner that we do because we believe it is right and the best way to accomplish our goals.

There are two aspects to what I mean here:

(1) The Fundamentals (non-negotiable) – These are the core things that we are committed to doing where ever we are doing ministry in the world, such as, preaching the gospel, making disciples, planting churches, training men, etc. If I was not able to do these things in a consistent manner, then I would change fields or be persecuted for doing them. To me, these “fundamentals” are to be obeyed or disobeyed.

Many people working in China often give up the rights to some of the fundamentals so they can do the other or vice versa (usually give up everything else for the opportunity to do some evangelism). But most people would agree that we need to obey these, and they usually don’t send hate mail to us because we shared the gospel with someone (though you might be suprised).

The hate mail usually comes from the second aspect:

(2) The Preferences (negotiable) – These are all the “hot button” issues. How open should we preach the gospel? How much information do we put on the internet? Do we have to talk in code? Can you send a text message to someone with “Bible words” in it? Can you invite strangers to your church or do they first have to have a relationship with someone, so you know they aren’t undercover police? Can you use Facebook? Should you use a false name? Should you witness to a police officer?

As a team, we have taken an “open” stance in both of these areas. For us, the “fundamentals” are settled. It is the “preferences” that are constantly changing. We do have limits. I don’t think anyone on our team has been preaching on the street with a bullhorn. We don’t think there is anything wrong with it; we just have chosen not to do it because we don’t think it helps us accomplish our goal. Opportunities for us to present the gospel in a more clear and effective way are abundant. So we have chosen a different route.

Other areas, such as our openness on the internet and lack of code words often get us hate mail. So why do we not listen to these objections from others? Because we don’t think that it hurts our ministry in China. We don’t believe what most people say about this aspect of ministry in China is true. We have found no links between any of the cases that we have studied. Maybe we aren’t studying the right people, and we are ignorant on the subject (most haters would agree we are). Here is a part of a comment I left in response to someone on my blog in 2011:

“I will never deny the technology is possible because enough research will scare anyone to not post anything on the internet. I think missionaries are low on the government’s radar, and they aren’t investing money into hunting down missionaries online.”

“I could be wrong but from looking at the facts and actual situations leaving the “fear” aspect of it aside, I see no great danger at this present time. Every worker in China must make their own decisions about their “online presence”. One day it might be a serious problem, but I have found that when you worry about the smallest of things, you usually let that affect the larger more important things.”

Another question you might have is: How is this the best way to accomplish your goals if you get deported?

Answer: We believe that we can produce more fruit doing ministry with a wise forwardness (boldness) in a short period than doing ministry with a fearful mindset over a long period.

The above answer may be offensive to some. Sorry.

As I mentioned above, the “fundamentals” are settled. The “preferences” will change when we see a problem arise. If we are doing something that doesn’t have to be done (non-fundamental) and it causes us problems, then we will change it up. We don’t desire to cling to “it has to be done this way” traditions.

In conclusion, if you see our team doing something that you are wondering about, it is probably for one of the five reasons:

  1. We don’t think it is a threat.
  2. It is a threat but a fundamental.
  3. It is a threat, not a fundamental, but the effectiveness is worth the risk.
  4. It is not a fundamental, but we don’t know if it is a threat or not, so we are testing the line and willing to take the risk.
  5. It is not a fundamental, but it is a threat and we are not wanting to take the risk.

Below are a five examples of how the above reasons are practically applied:

  1. The internet, we don’t think it is a threat.
  2. Church services are a threat but a fundamental.
  3. Introducing myself as a pastor to strangers is a threat, not a fundamental, but the effectiveness is worth the risk.
  4. A church sign is not a fundamental, but we don’t know if it is a threat or not, so we are testing the line and willing to take the risk.
  5. Street preaching with a bullhorn is not a fundamental, but it is a threat and we are not wanting to take the risk.

7 thoughts on “Hate Mail (Considering Common Questions)

  1. Stanley Ewing

    I’m sorry to hear that some people have been so critical. Thanks for taking the time to share. I don’t think we do things much different here in Indonesia than what you were doing. One thing we don’t do is put a sign up. Our problem is not with the government but with the hard line Muslim groups. If we put up a sign a local mob of hard liners would show up and run us out of the building. If the hard line groups find out where we are having services they rent a few buses and come stop the service and run everyone out of the building even if we don’t have a sign. We have only had to relocate once in 24 years but some of our sister works have been run out of their buildings more than once. Indonesian have freedom of religion but where they get us is that any new place of worship has to have 90 percent approval from their neighbors. When your neighbors are 90 percent Muslims you will not get the signatures you need. We don’t worry about what the building is called we have church in the building. The body of Christ is not a building. Praying God opens another door for you.

    Love in Christ,

    Bro Stanley Ewing
    Bandung, Indonesia

    Reply
  2. Gregory Barnes

    I think that the account of these missionaries is inspiring and have shared these details with students at the Bible College here in Argentina. It would seem to me that those that have written in opposition ( the haters) probably have not read, OR have not taken into consideration what our Baptist forefathers went through because of their faith in Christ. Too bad “the Trail of Blood” or “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” are not required reading in churches today. Reading through the book of Acts and these two other books mentioned would help to put things into perspective. May God continue to bless and keep you by His amazing grace!
    Gregory Barnes
    evangelist / missionary in Argentina

    Reply
  3. Steve Dwire

    This situation certainly reminds me of Paul – when even a prophet told him point blank that he would be captured if he went to Jerusalem. Paul’s boldness was commendable, even though it had dire consequences for him – far worse than simply being deported.

    As an aside, I’m not sure I’d label Agabus or the other disciples in Acts 21 “haters.”

    Reply
    1. Mark Post author

      Thanks for the comment Steve.

      Maybe I wasn’t clear enough in my article, let me try to add to the post. Also, I will try to address the Scripture reference you mentioned.

      Haters – When I am referring to haters or hate mail, I am just using it in the modern sense of the word; someone who wants to knock someone down a notch for whatever reason. It is a person who dislikes what someone else does and, therefore, is negative and critical of that person. (I don’t think anyone “hates” me for being a missionary to China.) It is hard for these people to be happy and see the good on what is happening because they are numb (in this case by fear), thus exposing what they think is the flaw instead of commending the good.

      Here is an example:

      Church Member: “This missionary has been to China for 4 years and seen many souls saved, and two churches started, too bad he was deported. The Lord used him in a short time.”

      Hater: “If he was doing so well, then why was he deported? If he wasn’t so open and posting everything on the internet, he could have stayed longer, everyone knew he would be kicked out.”

      This person is the one who is complaining about the cup being empty as it is being filled up. He doesn’t care to pay attention to water being poured into the cup as much as he does to point out the cup isn’t all the way full.

      So, when I refer to “haters” I simply mean those who make comments that don’t edify, encourage, or give wise council to others, but make comments that are critical, negative and tear down.

      The way I use the word, might be generational, thus a better word might be “discourager” or “discouraging mail.” (If that better helps my meaning, then re-read the above post replacing the word.)

      For China missions, this often expresses itself as comments made out of fear that cause others to fear. (As mentioned in the post: “everyone lives on a different level of fear and most people are looking out for themselves; therefore, brotherly love is often dismissed because fear rule one’s emotions.”)

      As mentioned in the post, fear, for people working in closed countries, is a bigger deal than most people realize. As I mentioned many times, I think fear hinders people’s ministry and causes them to not be very productive. So in a sense, I am “constructive and critical” of others who allow fear to rule. I want to help others overcome this, not just be critical of them. I want people to say, “many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Philippians 1:14)

      Here is a post that would explain the fear I am talking about. https://www.chinaministry.org/archives/2947

      So with this in mind, let’s turn our attention to the verses you mentioned. I think Acts is a great book that helps us know what kind of attitude we should have in the face of persecution, and Acts 21 is no exception. Here we have a prophet, Agabus, prophesying Paul’s persecution in Jerusalem.

      First, let’s make note that this is divine revelation about events that were going to happen. We have no indication that Agabus meant to be a discouragement to Paul. He was just delivering a message that the Holy Spirit, apparently, wanted him to know. Nothing else is recorded here about Agabus reaction (unless you include him in the “we” or “they” of verse 12, which seems unlikely to me). Therefore, I agree that Paul wouldn’t refer to him as a hater for delivering God’s message. Why would he?

      The message of Agabus and the discouraging messages I am referring to are not the same. One who lives boldly for Jesus will suffer persecution in some manner. The discouraging messages are those that tell us to stop doing the “fundamentals” to avoid persecution and/or those who discredit our ministry because of the preferences (as if they were fundamentals). These people often write with a mean spirit.

      Second, those in verse 12 besought Paul not to go up to Jerusalem because of what this prophet said. These are people who loved and care for Paul (not unknown to Paul like many haters are), and this is a natural response for anyone who cares for a person serving in a country with known persecution.

      But even in this, Paul had to look at them and say, “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart?” So even though these people are not mocking Paul for being bold with the gospel or because he is does not speak in code, they aren’t much of an encouragement either. Paul’s question here reveals that.

      Eventually, these people would overcome their emotional hurt of sending Paul away for the sake of the gospel and state: “The will of the Lord be done.”

      Side Note: This is a very good passage for us to see. It shows a struggle with the idea of persecution and shows the correct attitude that we should have in the end: “The will of the Lord be done.” I know many people hurt for their friends and family who work in closed countries, but let us have this attitude!

      Third, Paul was ready to be persecuted. He says, “for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Paul had something that many missionaries today don’t, a willingness to serve God no matter the cost. We need to realize that to do the job properly, there is a a price to pay, and we can not always avoid it.

      The heart of true persecution is a believer’s love of Jesus and the word’s hate of him. The persecutors may find out about our love of Jesus through many avenues: flyers, internet, church service, witnessing, preaching, baptising, phone calls, text messages, an upset neighbor, a mad church member, church sign, the shop owner of an idol shop which is loosing business… whatever the avenue is, it doesn’t really matter, the persecution exist because you love Jesus, and they hate him. In almost any situation, you could deny Jesus and avoid the persecution. So please, discouragers, don’t try to diminish persecution to something so insignificant. Let’s build up the body together. Let’s realize it is a love for Jesus that makes any withstand persecution. Let’s realize God has a plan to use persecution for His glory.

      Reply
      1. Steve Dwire

        Thanks for the clarification and thoughtful explanation, Mark. Most of the criticism I hear so far comes from friends with a heart of edification, so even though I see heartless comments on the internet, I have a tendency to forget that people can indeed be cruel at times. Thank you for keeping your convictions in spite of them. Your boldness is an inspiration.

        Reply
  4. Pingback: What really happened in China, Haters, and more! | Training for World Evangelism

Leave a Reply to Gregory Barnes Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.