Tag Archives: communication

Re-Focus: The Role of the Church in Spiritual Warfare

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven…And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Revelation 12:7-8, 11

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:10-13

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7

boys-and-swords

I remember playing “soldier” when I was a little boy. My friends and I would make up battlefield scenarios and spend hours and hours playing them out. We pretended to be sentries and infantrymen, and pilots and marines. We pretended to fire guns and swing swords and throw grenades. We crawled on our bellies and climbed trees and ran and hid. We manned pretend prison camps and planned ambushes. But you know what we never did? We never pretended to be communications officers whose job it was to communicate but who rarely ever actually “fought”. We never pretended to be the guy running BEHIND the other soldiers, carrying all the communications equipment but rarely ever firing a cannon. …

Bracing for a 16-Month Season of Rants

Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Romans 13:5-7

political masksOne of the things that defines a culture is its communication patterns. And, by “culture”, I don’t just mean ethnicity. The legal profession is a culture. The world of healthcare is a culture. The businessworld is not only a culture unto itself, but consists of lots of subcultures as well. Being a distinct culture, each of these arenas has its own patterns of communicating. There is a way of talking that has evolved and that must be learned in order to fit in. Everyone knows this intuitively.

With the GOP debates this past week, we in the U.S. are entering into a season of politics (“season” means 16 grueling months of seemingly interminable mudslinging). Politics is a culture unto itself, with its own patterns of communicating. It is a culture which has become so pervasive here on social media, it almost defies having a “season” any longer. And the patterns of communication born out of our adversarial, two-ideology political culture have invaded (and superseded) virtually all other cultures, including the church. If I want to “fit” in this culture of Fox news versus MSNBC news, I must wear my agenda on my sleeve and lead out into every discourse wearing my colors proudly. I must learn pointed and outright mean-spirited ways of disparaging the other ideology, making it appear irrational and ridiculous. Of course, I may quote …

Church Leaders and Our Hard Hearts

Tuesday Re-mix:

So, as the Holy Spirit says:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
    during the time of testing in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested and tried me,
    though for forty years they saw what I did.
That is why I was angry with that generation;
    I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,
    and they have not known my ways.’
So I declared on oath in my anger,
    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”  Hebrews 3:7-11; Psalm 95:7-11

heart of stoneAs it turns out, hard hearts come in a pretty large variety of shapes and forms…even among church leaders.  It is rarely as overt as Israel’s rebellion at Meribah.  More often, it is a mild arrogance or self-reliance or pride at the heart of our hard-heartedness.  So, as I study the above passage, I am reflecting on some of the less obvious (but more common) ways I have seen leaders “harden their hearts”…including me and my own heart.

Hardening our hearts to the power of God’s Word.  Every time we catch ourselves thinking, “what this text needs is a little more of me…a little of my flash and polish will go a long way in helping it hit home in this sermon…” our faith in the power of God’s Word diminishes just a little more.  Every time we receive a compliment for a lesson well-taught and we fail to acknowledge that it was God’s Word and not our communication skills that caused the real transformation, we steal God’s glory, and our heart hardens just a little more to the miracle of His living word.

Hardening our hearts to the power of prayer.  When the priority we give gathered prayer meetings falls somewhere between  repairing the hems of the …

Let’s DO Have Hard Conversations…but NOT On Line

Monday Morning Quarterback – Encouraging God’s people to be responsible, encouraging and uplifting in their use of social media.

We have said here over and over again that “the church” really must be especially effective at communication. After all, “go ye therefore and make disciples” is pretty much ALL about effective communication. We should not be the ones learning communication from the world…we should be the ones blazing trails in effective communication.

One fundamental concept of effective communication is truly understanding the limits of any particular vehicle. Every form of communication has its limits. We do not use post-it notes to write a doctoral thesis. We do not use texting to break-up a relationship (please, agree with me on that one). We do not use video to make a grocery list. Every form of communication, every vehicle, has its ideal purpose and use as well as its limitations.

difficult conversationSocial media is no different. You want to capture a fun moment in a photograph or video and then share it with friends instantly? Social media is ideal. You want to make the world aware of your opinion, even wisdom, on a recent cultural or political event? Social media works great. You want to reach out to a demographic and get some quick feedback on a particular subject or do some quick and low-cost marketing analysis on a product or service? Social media can help there as well. Even spewing your own spin on controversial topics is easily and effectively accomplished through social media.

But what about difficult conversations? What about the kind of conversations every Christ follower is called to be a part of from time to time, where emotions are running high and where genuine understanding of the other side is running very low? What about conversations that have been …

It’s a Relationship, Yes…but Different

Tuesday Re-mix:

When I kept silent,
    my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
    your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
    as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
    my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
    the guilt of my sin.

 Psalm 32:3-5

Theology is difficult for me. Understanding God is difficult for me as well. I do so much better with stories and metaphors to try to get my mind wrapped around Biblical truth.  Maybe you’re that way too…in fact, maybe we are all that way.  Maybe that is why God gave us His Word in the form of Jesus and in the stories of the Bible rather than in formulas and spreadsheets.  Surely that is why Jesus used stories, similes, and metaphors so much in his own communication.

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The metaphor most of us use to describe our Spiritual pilgrimage, our faith walk, is relationship.  We talk about our relationship with Christ, or with God.  We use little sayings like, “It’s a relationship, not a religion.”  We use that term (that metaphor, if you will), because it best captures what it means to follow Christ.  It is NOT a metaphor Jesus used for ancient times, because it would not have had meaning then.  It is NOT a vocabulary we find anywhere in God’s Word.  But, like the term “mission”, it still has profound meaning to our culture today, and it is a useful way of describing our part in this amazing revolution that is Christianity.

The call to follow Christ is a call to relationship. Yes.  So, why doesn’t that answer all our questions?  Why does that metaphor fall short for …

Game-changing Moments and the Church

Tuesday Re-mix:

Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.  Mark 16:2-5

These women had two sleepless nights to start their grieving process.  They had something along the lines of 36 hours to mourn their loss and to begin dealing with the harsh reality of life without Jesus.  It had to have been painful and scary and confusing.  As soon as the Sabbath was over, they started together for the tomb to take care of one bit of unfinished “business”.  They were busy making their plans on their way there.  Their biggest concern was how they would roll away the stone.  It was in the midst of that mundane concern and preoccupation that God provided a game-changing turn of events…the empty tomb.

I think it is God’s nature to change the game on us, His people.  I believe his ways are so very different from our ways, His thoughts so far removed from our thoughts, that we will encounter this type of “this-changes-everything” moment often in the church if we are truly seeking after Him.  But we don’t dare miss them, right?  Here are some observations about the church and our opportunity in this regard…

1.  While you’re waiting, continue doing the last thing you knew you were supposed to be doing.  Grief is a debilitating thing.  It would have been easy for these women to just stay at …

The Routine Maintenance of Every Relationship

Tuesday Re-mix –

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…  Hebrews 10:24-25

As a teenager starting to drive, I spent one Saturday afternoon learning from Dad how to change the oil in my car.  It was actually pretty interesting to me.  I was fascinated with the whole process.  Dad was very careful to show me how to change the oil filter without damaging it, how to drain the oil and properly dispose of it, how to tighten the drain plug again without stripping it, and how to put the new oil into the engine.  It was a whole process.  I learned it all.

Then, by the time I was 40 years old, I had paid to replace two different automobile engines as a result of NOT changing the fluids regularly enough.  It seems that, while I did learn HOW to change the oil…I had not learned THAT I must change the oil regularly!  I am a slow learner.  🙂  The truth is, I have had a hard time learning about routine maintenance in lots of respects…appliances (both major and minor), household, landscaping, automobiles, computers…you name it, if I have owned it, I have struggled with routine maintenance for it.

Relationships have routine maintenance requirements as well.  All relationships do…even Christian relationships.  Relationships between really good people still need maintenance.  Relationships among experts on relationships still need maintenance.  Without that maintenance, even the strongest of relationships will tend toward breakdown.

I am always amazed in my counseling endeavors when I find two otherwise intelligent, personable, Christian leaders who spend little time actually nurturing their friendship with one another and who then seem befuddled by the …

Real Leaders Have Hard Conversations

Tuesday Re-mix –

…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  Ephesians 4:15

Am I the only one who thinks “Pastor” should be one of Mike Rowe’s “Dirty Jobs” episodes on the Discovery Channel?

Thinking about another truth my Dad taught me about the church.

Those of you who know Dad know that he is certainly capable of “stirring the pot” even to the point of conflict.  That capability is, I think, actually a reflection of a particular leadership skill he possesses…he is capable of having the hard conversations in a church.  You know the conversations I mean: the ones nobody else on the staff wants to have, the ones which may prove to be a bit awkward, even painful.  I have watched him in ministry for all of my 52 years on this earth and, whether as a pastor or a denominational worker, or even as a Sunday School teacher, I have known Dad to step up to the plate many, many times when a hard thing needed to be said or conveyed.

This is not a lesson he has ever spoken to me, at least not that I can remember.  Rather, this is a lesson I learned from watching him all these years.  Real church leaders, the ones who are genuine influencers, are the ones who are willing to sit down and have that very difficult conversation which nobody else wants to have.  The pretend leaders, on the other hand, will avoid those conversations at all costs.

You know well the conversations I mean…

…that volunteer who needs to be “counseled out” of a particular ministry position…

…that employee whose gossip is becoming a problem…

…that Sunday School teacher …

Burning Labels and Building Bridges

Tuesday Re-mix –

I recently pulled up to the Starbuck’s drive-through thinking about how to say what I want (it’s important in this culture to sound knowledgeable when it comes to coffee–after all, what barista worth his/her salt would be at all impressed with me if I stepped up and just asked for a cup of coffee?).  Here is how the conversation went:

Blake:  I’d like a Grande Two-Equal Skinny Latte please.

Barista:  What flavor?

Blake:  No flavor.  Just the Skinny Latte.

Barista:  So, you just want the Latte with Non-fat milk, but no flavor?

Blake:  That’s correct.

Barista:  Just so you’ll know in the future, “Skinny Latte” means a flavor.  “Non-fat Latte” means no flavor.

Blake:  Whose rule is that?  Who made that definition?

Barista:  I don’t know, sir.  I’m just trying to help you say it right.

Blake:  (humiliated)  I’ll have a medium-sized coffee with steamed non-fat milk and two Equals stirred into it, please.  Call it whatever you like.

As a peacemaker, both by temperament and by profession, I have never liked labels.  I do understand why we use them.  For communities who all use the same vernacular, labels can provide important short-cuts to having to use long explanations for things.  I get that.  If I learn Starbucks’ language, my orders will go a lot faster.  Still, there is that tension between the barista and me, especially when he/she “otherizes” me by pointing out that I’m not saying it right.

So it is with Christians and their communities.  They come up with short-hand phrases and labels to describe Biblical concepts and theological positions, and those terms are useful in most situations within that community.  But over time, we sometimes lose the fact that they are just short-hand for other, more accurate descriptions and we begin to …

Social Media, New Wineskins and Church Unity

Tuesday Re-mix –

Social media is here to stay. You may have sworn against Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter, and SMS (much the way you may have sworn against e-mail back in the day), but you may as well get used to them and do your best to embrace them…because social media is the communications vehicle of choice for at least the three youngest generations in the church today and is making pretty significant in-roads into the older generations as well. It is one of those “new wineskins” Jesus talked about which are necessary to communicate the gospel in our ever-changing world. As churches, we have moved way beyond asking whether or not we should engage this language. Clearly, we must. The only remaining question is: what impact will it have on our relationships, i.e., church unity?

I first started discussing this question here and here in previous posts. Now that I am a little further along in my own experiment with social media, I want to further explore the question about its impact on church unity. So, here are a few more observations:

1. A flood of testimonies of what God is doing. One of the things that builds unity the quickest in a body of believers is sharing testimony of what God is doing in our lives. Social media gives churches the opportunity for anyone to share that testimony through the written word, through video, through audio and then put that testimony out there for anyone to see/read/hear. It has never been easier to find out in a couple of minutes what is going on in someone’s life–someone with whom you may not have a close relationship, but from whose testimony you can still benefit.

2. Prayer concerns (and other needs) made easy and accessible. Yes, if you are able …