That is the question that is discussed by CJ Mahaney and James MacDonald. You can watch the helpful 5 minute discussion here:
What do you think?
I agree that it would be preferred to meet and correct somebody in person. I also agree that it is wise to examine our hearts before correcting anyone (whether through email, letter, Facebook, or in person). I have had numerous experiences where I have been misunderstood through written communication. Of course, that has also happened with non-verbal communication too. So, I agree with the heart of their answer.
However, I do partially disagree. I do not think that you should NEVER correct someone through email. I think you should almost NEVER correct someone through email, Facebook, etc. if you can do it in person and then only if you have a prior established relationship.
Two things motivate this difference of opinion. The first is that I poured 5 years of my life into a group of students in Missouri. I established a deep relationship with many of them. They know that I love them. Sometimes they continue to email me, or send me messages on Facebook with questions. Whenever possible I try to redirect them to their local pastor. But sometimes I need to email them—distance keeps me from being there in person.
Another motivator for this difference of opinion is John Newton. Of course Newton never had email. But he was a prolific letter writer. Sometimes they were gentle corrections. It could be argued that a letter is more thought out (especially in Newton’s day) than an email or Facebook message. The solution then is not to ban email but to ban senseless email. Treat email like you would a letter.
This is a really wise and helpful video. Many relational difficulties brought on by quick and senseless emails would be solved if we would slow down and heed this advice.
What do you think?