The living, breathing, organization called the Church is made up of imperfect people, saved by grace, empowered by the Holy Spirit, following a perfect Creator. We have daily conversations with others involving topics of all kinds. Such topics include newsworthy, weather channel stuff, political, church community, family and friends, travel, tragedy, health changes, sports.
The list continues.
Human nature thrives on us being social beings. We crave community. Without conversation, we become isolated, separated and alone. With this being said, how do we engage in conversations that fulfill our deep human desire for community in the Church?
Effective communication is a connection between people that allows for the exchange of thoughts, feelings, ideas and leads to mutual understanding. It seems simple, but in today’s environment, it isn’t.
In our world today, the art of conversation can quickly become tension-filled when disagreement is sensed. Verbal and written communication seems to change dramatically at a moment’s notice. Recognize also social media and comment sections invite anyone into the conversation who can intentionally make an irrelevant comment to divert and disrupt the conversation.
As preachers and followers of God’s word, we want to be faithful to what we believe is right and is in line with a Christ-like approach to the Gospel. It is very difficult to do that in a Church world that increasingly reflects in its dialogue the extreme tensions found in the political dialogue of the day. The loudest voices on both margins dominate the political and theological conversations and those of us somewhere in the middle get drowned out.
There are at least two tragedies when dialogue in the Church reflects that of the political culture of today. The first is the destruction of ministries and the divisions formed in the Church. Especially in the Wesleyan tradition we have forgotten that important motto often associated with John Wesley: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, but in all things charity.” This is a reminder that essentials are clearly found in the Word of God and loving our neighbor as Christ loves us is a Biblical principle, not a recommendation.
Secondly, when we as the Church can’t have thoughtful conversations about the most pressing issues of the day, our children go looking for places that will talk tactfully and openly about those issues. However, most of those places are not shaped by the framework of the Gospel and so while the Church fights, our children walk out because we are not perceived by them as relevant to their lives or to their world.
The criticism for pastors comes from both the conservative and liberal sides. It is not unusual for pastors or preachers to get attacks from those who think the Church is being too close-minded or too legalistic in its stance on various social concerns.
As a leader in the Church, I have learned and followed some great communication principles. A few of those principles are listed below and have helped greatly leading and discipling people, in godly conversations, and developing relationships that I treasure to this day. Although remember my statement earlier that there are imperfect people in the Church and I am one of them.
1. “Everything that is said needs to be true, but everything that is true does not need to be said.”
2. “Responding means listening. Responding means seeking to understand before we seek to be understood.” – Stephen Covey
3. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt.
4. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1: 19-20)
Grace and truth in all things.