After 26 years of serving local churches I’ve discovered an unappealing difficult social dynamic at work. Each and every time a local church body hashes out direction and implementation for change a heavy tension, almost political partisanship, blankets the congregation.
“Why are they against me?” “What is he thinking?” “What a jerk!” “They don’t know what they are doing.” “I don’t trust them!” To be totally honest, my own small-heartedness and sin can be seen in similar responses. But I’m absolutely certain I’m not alone.
Through it all I’ve learned an important lesson about the social dynamic of change in churches: fear of man can easily keep us from saying things we need to say, and fear of man can easily provoke us to say things we should never say.
Here are a few tips to help develop a healthy attitude toward our brothers and sisters when tensions and fears blanket our perceptions.
1) Determine you are genuinely thankful for those in your church family (Acts 20:28).
Our brothers and sisters sacrifice time, energy and often finances to serve together. Thank God for such people of dedication and desire. They are worthy of love and respect for all they do and contribute. Grateful hearts grow as we pause to recognize the value and contributions of each person.
2) Develop active listening skills (James 1:19).
We all are convinced our ideas and opinions are the most significant. But consciously develop a desire to understand what the other brothers and sisters are saying.
3) Deliver the benefit of the doubt (Psalm 133:1; Ephesians 4:3).
It is always better to assume good motives, even when we disagree. I’ve found it helpful to recognize that people often have a difficult time verbally articulating the rationale behind their emotions and thoughts. Help them state the point by asking good questions and repeating what you think they are saying. The goal is not to defeat them, but to understand them. You may still disagree with their rationale but at least you clearly understand it. Most important, you will know their motives are genuine and honorable.
4) Declare the value of wisdom in a multitude of counselors (Proverbs 11:14; 24:6).
No individual has ever developed an idea that cannot be improved upon. Good ideas are made better and bad ideas are exposed in the wisdom arena of multiple counselors.
5) Deactivate the danger of partisan platitudes (Mark 7:8-9)
It is always important to make certain you are in accord with Scripture. It is far too easy to slip into patterns of seeking people with similar thinking and traditions to reinforce our personal desires. Scripture should always be the source of affirmation and correction. In fact, apart from the constant guidance of Scripture we will slip into legalistic constraints or liberal compromises.
6) Depend on God!
The fate of the church does not depend on any group’s decisions. God is much bigger than a few decisions His people make. God’s plans for His church will not be thwarted. There is calming reassurance found in understanding we can depend on God’s plans and purposes to be realized.