Thursday, July 21, 2016
“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” ― Fred Rogers
As much as most of us want to get along with everyone else, we sometimes forget the very basics of personal interaction. We forget that not everyone believes the way we do or sees the world the way we do. We forget that other people have opinions and feelings and just go on doing what we think is right without including them in the decision making. This is the kind of thing that kills churches. One or two people can get it in their heads that they and they alone know what is best for the church. They are not malicious or wanting to hurt others, they just really don’t see how anyone else could object to what they want done or how they want it to be done. Most of the time, in fact, I suppose it’s almost all the time, the others do agree and want the same things, but the way the one or two insist on doing things hurts feelings, causes resentment, and, in churches, rather than have any kind of confrontation, those who are hurting just leave. Churches are funny things in that everyone except the pastor and paid staff are there voluntarily. And every single person except the pastor can even be a member of another denomination and another church from one Sunday to the next. It is more important to have everybody feeling that they are important and crucial to the outreach and mission of the church than it is to have the best program and mission possible. If everything the church does is pastor driven, when the pastor leaves, the church either dies or regresses quite a bit. If we are really serious about responding to Christ’s question about who proved to be a neighbor, we need to ask ourselves if we are being good neighbors with those closest to us before we look outward. Those churches that are the most active, the most fun, that have the most loving and caring congregations are those whose members respect each other and who do not make decisions like the military but count on mutual respect and consideration to come to a consensus on direction and plans. There are specialists in church growth who have been reporting just such things for decades, but few are listening to them. Almost two thirds of all church membership comes because church members invited non-members to come to church with them. Less than 10% come because of the pastor and almost 25% come the first time because of the building (no figures on whether or not those people stay). Want to be an active, vital, fun, and inspirational church? Invite others in. Respect the feelings and opinions of all of the members and listen to them. You don’t have to vote on everything, but you do have to make sure that everyone feels included in the decisions. If what is important is for you to be right, then nothing I write here will have any value for you. If what is important is to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance and bind everyone together as teammates in the struggle to bring peace to a chaotic world, then loving each other and respecting each other is very, very important. You all know people who have to have their way or the highway, and you all know people who know how to enlist your enthusiastic support for the mission of the church. You also all know to which ones you would rather give your loyalty and offer yourselves to advance Christ’s mission. Think of how Mr. Rogers would do it. WWMRD, what would Mr. Rogers do. He wouldn’t bully or ride roughshod over others feelings. He wouldn’t yell or get mad or insist on his way. He would invite your participation and make you feel good even if what you had to offer was very little. You know he would. Now, we know how to get things done, but when it comes to the church, how we get them done is most often more important than the task itself. If I could, I would have a “like” or “share” option here, but I don’t. I’m just saying be kind, be considerate, and think about others’ feelings before you rush in to save the world. I am saying this as John Bunyan would have. John Bunyan wrote “Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners” and I am the chief of sinners when it comes to riding roughshod over others and trying to force my way because I am convinced it is right. What I want to do may be right, but the way I am doing it is not only wrong, it is damaging the very fabric of the church and its mission. I have to remember to pause and think and respect others every day. It is not natural for me, but it is what both Christ and Mr. Rogers would want me to be. I am trying to be better--to think of others first. It is in that struggle to be a better man that real growth and wisdom comes.