Several years ago, I was introduced to a wonderful Christian woman's email group. It had a very high participation rate with women coming from many different walks of life. The host site was one which I had been following for over 20 years and had benefited from as a young wife and mother. Now, all those years later, I had an opportunity to add my voice to those of others who were fielding questions from the new wives and mothers of today. What a blessing! What an opportunity! So, I jumped right in.
Boy, was I ever was shocked by the responses I got. I was too harsh, too "know-it-all," too uncaring, unfeeling, too intellectual, too rational. There were others who jumped in right after me -- and some of them right on top of me -- with contradictory and unbiblical counsel. I was told I needed to take more time to think about what I was saying and to pray about what to say and how to say it. I needed to add in more compassion and empathy before laying out the naked truth. Oh, and I needed to stop using so much Scripture; that made folks feel like I was preaching to them.
Okay, maybe they had a point, maybe I was being too harsh and cold, too preachy. So, I took the counsel given to me by the moderators and other women on the list and started making adjustments to my input. Yet, regardless of how I put it, the truth still came out sounding harsh and unfeeling. People were offended again, and someone left the group over what I said.
Finally, with a heavy, grieving heart, I also left the group. I wasn't angry; I wasn't hurt; I was frustrated. I was frustrated with myself for not being able to convey my heart with those who could not or would not see the heart behind my words.
It took me three days of prayer, contemplation, meditation, and seeking the wisdom of other believers, including my dear husband and our grown daughter, to finally come to a conclusion why this didn't work for me. Here are a few of the unique challenges I have found with trying to be a Titus 2 mentor in the context of online communities:
- Bible Illiteracy: The current dearth of a love of and personal study of the Scriptures among those professing to be believers has, consequently, led to a denial of Scriptural truth when it is presented.
- No Examples: Women today do not have a quarter of the biblical teaching on the home which past generations had. Unfortunately, few young mothers today have mothers or even grandmothers who believed or lived out biblical principles in their own homes let alone passed them down to them. Thus, few women have any teaching at all from which to draw any comparisons regarding the biblical roles of men and women in the home, the church, or society at large.
- Brevity: The mediums of email and social media themselves are too small to hold all the background information needed to clarify and apply biblical truths to each individual situation.
- Brainwashing: Most women raised in Western culture have been indoctrinated from the womb in anti-family ideology through television, movies, music, popular books and magazines, and other media sources; through public school education; through the counsel and examples of their families and peers; and even through the teachings of the leadership in their churches.
- Romanticism: The revival of Romanticism in our Western culture has infiltrated the church (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanticism), moving truth aside in favor of feelings.
- Unwillingness: Not only do few women today recognize what their specific responsibilities are in regard to marriage and child rearing, but there are fewer still who are willing to step outside their comfort zones in order to fulfill them, and most women today have never been challenged by their parents, teachers, or church leaders to do so.
- Deception: For a mentor to give counsel adequate to the situation, she must know the situation in truth. For one thing, there is no way to know the husband's perspective in a marriage dispute. How can you know that she is telling all the truth about the situation? And, for another thing, there is the remote but very real possibility the one complaining is actually a troll from a feminist site presenting impossible situations in order to discredit the counsel given (I suspect this may have been the case for me since my entire response was found copy and pasted on a feminist site).
Although I will not be returning to this particular email group any time soon, I am not saying one should not participate in these mediums at all. Yet, perhaps we should go into them prepared to work more slowly, to lay the foundations, and to refer the ladies to resources where they might pursue the truth on their own. Sharing our own struggles and triumphs through the work of the Spirit through the Word may also soften the delivery, but, when it is all said and done, I must warn you that if you hope to be an effective mentor online, be prepared to be slapped down at times.
Even after all I've been through with this group, it is still worth it in the long run. If only one woman listens, if only one soul is drawn to Christ, if only one marriage is saved, if only one child is reared in the fear of the Lord, it is worth it.