~ I’m a firstborn and an ISTP (67%) / ISTJ (33%) who’s worked with IT personnel (mostly guys) for decades. My instinctive approach is always content over context. Logic over feelings. I’d say that about 90% of the time, I have a male gender communication style; Report talk over rapport talk. I read instruction books and follow procedures – unless of course, the reasoning behind the procedures isn’t logical, which stems from my content over context approach.
~ Pragmatic is my favorite word. The definition that most resonates with me is:
“focused on needs and results, rather than with ideas or theories”
~ I’m a trainer. I’m always learning and I sincerely believe I can learn from everyone, whether I benchmark successes or analyze failures – including my own. As an educator, I have the opportunity and responsibility to share what I’ve learned. Theoretically, the people with whom I share will make more informed decisions, increase efficiency and generally be better as a result of the knowing.
~ As a consultant, I’ve become accustomed to collaborative work groups made up of people who are task oriented and focused on problem solving.
~ Since 1994, I’ve trained and consulted for and with clients ranging from corporation presidents to managing partners to firm administrators to executive support staff to entry level support staff to volunteers. I interact with all of my clients showing the same level of respect, regardless of the formal or informal hierarchical structure of an organization.
That’s my backstory in a nutshell.
So, given all that is me, I found myself in unfamiliar territory when someone recently told me that I had overstepped a boundary.
A little over a year ago, I was working an event and just before the program officially began, this particular person gave some opening instructions. A particular part of the instructions was incorrect.
My thought process was:
1. 300+ people were just given incorrect instructions about the event.
2. The event hasn’t started yet.
So, the firstborn, ISTP/J, problem-solving educator in me gave this person the correct information.
The instructions were restated accurately.
The program began.
But I had overstepped a boundary. And for over a year, I had no idea.
Now that this had been shared with me, I could have gotten swept up into a circular debate about whether the 300+ people needed or deserved to know the correct information before the event began. But I firmly believe the Holy Spirit stopped me from that pointless and selfish attempt to be “right” and redirected my attention to the more important issue, past the factual actions which took place and instead to the person who identified a boundary where I did not.
If God was telling me that the boundary had nothing to do with the accuracy or inaccuracy of information shared, what was the implication of my crossing it?
This person felt disrespected by me. It’s possible I embarrassed them.
It was a humble reminder that my education and experience don’t automatically translate to success in my personal interactions. I’ve got a degree in Organizational Communication. I’ve taught and coached communication theory and its application for decades. I had been involved with this organization for over a decade. I was experienced and familiar with its culture and hierarchy of authority. Yet it didn’t even occur to me that correcting this person might be at odds with the norm. Looking back now, through their perspective, within the context of the organizational culture, I can see it clearly.
I’ve been in identical and similar events, in other venues, with different groups of people – in different cultural contexts – and the kind of interaction I’ve described has never been a big deal, even in cases when the person corrected has been upper level management or an owner of a company. In my own personal experience, the person corrected – myself included – has casually tossed back a kind of “thanks for having my back” response and has continued without skipping a beat.
“In my own personal experience…”
That’s what makes communication so difficult. It’s not one-size-fits all.
Although I was familiar with both the culture of this particular organization and the expectation of this particular individual, I drifted into my communication comfort zone. I assumed the situation was similar to the others in which I navigate.
From that assumption, came the perceived disrespect.
And the humbling reminder to actually USE my communication skills.
UPDATE: Someone asked in a comment what I SHOULD have done instead. Here’s my answer:
The person who told me I had crossed a boundary actually specifically stated what they would have preferred:
(1) to be told the correct information after the event,
(2) in private,
(3) and to be told by the person who organized the event (not me) so that,
(4) in future events, they would relay the information to the attendees correctly.
I acted instinctively, not intentionally. Although it goes against all that is pragmatic in me, I could have – should have – allowed the incorrect information to go uncorrected. It would have resulted in decreased participation in the event, which would have disappointed a number of people who had expected to be able to participate and it would have made the event less memorable. Not a tragedy, just not an optimal experience for those of the 300+ who were able to actively engaged because they had been given accurate instructions.
All that said, in full disclosure, just one month after this conversation, my husband and I attended a large meeting at another venue and while the organization’s founder and president was addressing the audience, he misstated some information. Immediately, he was interrupted from the back of the room and corrected. His response was “Thank you for that correction.” And I leaned over to FirstHusband and whispered, “And THAT’S how it’s done.”
“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)
One of my go-to questions when I meet with someone as a communication/life coach is:
“How do you receive and process negative feedback and constructive criticism?”
Sometimes, people know the answer. Sometimes I have to provide a few multiple choice options:
(1) Do you usually deny it? Assume it’s not true?
(2) Do you get depressed? Maybe shut down or give up?
(3) Do you get fired up? Determined to prove the criticizer wrong or to overcome whatever weakness the feedback and criticism points to?
(4) or do you get depressed, shut down and THEN get fired up and determined?
The most difficult to deal with are the two extremes of denying and shutting down.
I don’t know about you, but my knee jerk reaction is to deny. Way back in college, my favorite interpersonal communication professor, Dr. Grasty, assured me I wasn’t alone by confirming that:
“When we are criticized, our tendency is to be defensive.”
And then he gave us this sage advice:
“Don’t be a deluded wimp. Have the courage to look for any truth in the criticism. Strip away any acrimonious language, any selfish motivation or defensiveness of the criticizer and diligently search for even a nugget of truth in the accusation.”
This is one of those occasions where the words “the truth hurts” ring loud and true.
I’ve learned that in order to grow – personally, professionally, mentally, physically and most importantly, spiritually, I have to face the truth of where I am right now.
Praying for God to search my heart. Asking Him to give me the courage to look at what He reveals. Begging Him to comfort me when He shows me the ugly that’s hiding in there, layered in rationalizations and rainbows.
And praying for Him to equip me with the motivation and stamina needed to purge from my life the things that separate me from Him.
or the abundance of time I’ve had to think about the chaos of the last year and a half while I’m attending to the mindless task of shoveling the chaos in my house…
maybe I’m just tired.
or hormonal. I’ve had a hysterectomy, so for all I know I’m on my period and don’t even know it.
But, today is one of those days where I’m haunted and grieved by voices.
Condescending voices of marginalization and mediocrity.
The voices that told me I don’t have to work as hard as I do, because less is “just fine.” As if the voices didn’t realize that the unnecessary extra time I took and the unneeded effort I expended led to a result they just described as “fine.” As if it didn’t occur to them that less effort and time would knock “fine” down to…less than fine. And worst of all, by continuing to tell me I don’t have to work so hard the voices continued to let me know time and time again how little they know me or how little respect they have for my determination to give my best.
And now, “fine” saturates the air I breathe.
The voices that told me I shouldn’t work as hard as I do, because it makes other people look bad.
And now I’m gone. And it turns out I wasn’t the reason someone else wasn’t succeeding. I actually wasn’t hogging their opportunities and stealing their affirmation. They are still contributing the minimum and spewing bitterness because they think they are entitled to more opportunities even though they continue to prove they can’t be depended upon.
The voices that politely asked me to step back. Say less. Do less. Give less. and be less. And “respect” the leadership of someone I thought I was collaborating with. Because my unfettered contribution made other people jealous. and angry. and sarcastically hateful.
And now, I’m mired in the mindset that everything I have to offer is too much. Unwanted. The constant monitoring for those boundaries holds me back from offering anything outside of one-on-one conversations. The fear of overloading someone with too much of me keeps my head out of the clouds, my feet planted firmly on the ground and my eyes focused on the 1st mile responsibility of caring for my family. And re-flooring and painting my house, all the while secretly hoping it really IS #thehomeprojectthatneverends.
The voices that flippantly dismissed my interest in returning to school because I don’t “need” any more education. As if ANYone, ever “NEEDS” a formal education. As if the desire to learn isn’t enough reason to seek knowledge and understanding.
And then there’s little voice that can’t help but wonder if pursing another degree might be an excellent two year distraction…
Even so I continue to learn. But share less of the lessons, gauging who actually might LIKE to engage in a discussion about the things that get me thinking by tentatively testing and retreating in conversation, facebook and the rare blog post. Confirmed in my square-pegness again and again by the facebook stats that indicate people view one of my amusing family dialogs or a home project progress report 3 to 4 times more than they ever view anything I post about something I’m learning.
The voices that let me know I read too much (and am out of touch because I don’t watch enough TV). As if someone else’s desire to only read fiction – or not read at all – and quote platitudes or pinterest eCards means that my desire to read non-fiction and quote scripture is evidence that I just need to chill out and “enjoy life” more. Because reading non-fiction couldn’t possibly be enjoyable.
Even so, I continue to read. and learn. and think. Because I love it.
The voices that assure me it’s not necessary to share the hope of Christ at every opportunity because a more acceptable and more comfortable alternative is to “rub off on people.” Because evangelism is a process. of passive osmosis. Because too many people think evangelism is telling someone ELSE how you think they should live instead of telling someone how God is working in the life YOU live.
And yet people are DYING every day. DYING. And we may not get that second or subsequent opportunity to allow our autopilot passing presence or casual words in someone’s life to be the kind of intentional witness for Christ that the most important relationship of our life deserves. We share posts about kids, dogs, kittens and pinterest exponentially more than we ever share something Christ has taught us or how He’s moving in our lives every day, no matter how small.
The voices that explain my writing is too “intellectual,” that I use too many rarely used words like “unfettered” and “mired” or that I tend to “drone on.” (The owners of those voices have already clicked away. If they even started reading at all.)
And now, more often than not, I have the attention span of a gnat when I sit down in front of my brand new computer. With the rare exception of this post – which at this point exceeds the recommended maximum attention keeping word count – I have no inclination to write anything longer than a facebook update or anything that takes more than 30 or 60 seconds to digest. When I think about anything I might have to say, the only word that consistently comes to mind is “meh.”
The voices that suggest I consider the possibility my dream was bigger than God’s will for me. I should be grateful. Compared to all the problems and suffering in the world, the loss of my dream is not a tragedy. There are plenty of other things I could do with my time. “There’s nothing wrong with living a simpler life, you know.” Because dreams devalue anyone living this “simpler life?”
And now I find myself searching for that unselfish place of devotion and delight in Christ that fuels me with passion and a determination to be a good steward of the gifts I’ve been blessed with while at the same time, being held back by the relentless thought that as long as I continue to grieve whenever I think of never leading worship again or of not writing a book or never again speaking about my faith while holding a microphone, it’s evidence that I love the dream more than the dream-giver and I need to climb out of my big britches until a “ministry” of one-on-one every day relational evangelism doesn’t feel like less.
And then there’s the voice that belongs to the person who sifted through every nuance of every other voice, meticulously looking for truth, no matter how hard to face. The voice that wields the sharpest sword and cuts the deepest.
Most days, the Voice of Truth is louder than all of these voices.
The Voice of Truth tells me that these words are meant to oppress me. To feed me the lie that the words spoken by these voices are more powerful than the blood of Christ and the strength available to me through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The Voice of Truth tells me that Satan is far more effective in derailing me through the casual words of Christians than he ever would be through a direct attack from an anti-theist who thoughtfully planned out a full frontal assault.
The Voice of Truth tells me that these are the voices of flawed humans, not a perfect God. Careless knee-jerk reaction words, spoken without a pause for thoughts of the message they are sending or of long term consequences or – more importantly – especially when it comes to instruction and advice – spoken without a pause for prayer.
Voices of those searching for something or someone to blame, not words of personal responsibility.
If you’re wondering if one of these voices was yours, ask yourself why you’re wondering that, and regardless of whether the answer is yes or no, I pray that you click away from this post with an awareness of the powerful impact of the words you speak, the decisions you make and the reasons behind them.
I don’t blame any of the voices. Not anymore. I’ve come to realize that any influence they had on me, I allowed. Any limitations that were placed on me, I accepted.
This is the 17th post of a series on Christ-centered church. I began writing to work through my personal experience and heart-wrenching burden for my own church but I’m beginning to see these posts as open letters to the American Christian church.
(If you need to catch up or review, CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.)
It’s been 25 days since I published a post in this blog series.
I’ve been praying. and reading past journal entries. and praying. and writing. and praying. and talking my husband’s ear off. and praying.
Today’s post does not come easily. or lightly. (and it’s not short. You might want to go to the bathroom first.)
This is a two-part post. First, a confirmation. Then, some hard truth.
The first thing I needed to do was confirm that these hard things I’ve been saying have absolutely NO basis in my own selfish motivations. I discovered that, after reading the first 11 posts in this series, someone referred to me as sanctimonious.
I admit. I didn’t know exactly what it meant. So I Googled it.
My favorite college professor, Dr. Grasty, taught me a lesson that has stuck with me for decades:
When we are criticized, our tendency is to be defensive. Our knee-jerk reaction is to deny. His sage advice? Don’t be a deluded wimp. Have the courage to look for any truth in the criticism. Strip away any acrimonious language, any selfish motivation or defensiveness of the criticizer and diligently search for even a nugget of truth in the accusation.
Sanctimonious. Are these posts sanctimonious? am I sanctimonious?(If you’re more confident in my motivations than I was, you can skip the next few paragraphs by clicking HERE)
I began writing this series at the beginning of fall last year. And then I spent months arguing with God about whether to publish them. I pulled out my previous prayer journal for some hindsight.
Journal Entry Excerpt, Thursday, August 9, 2012:
“Am I really naive to think that if we focus on Christ, YOU will orchestrate the circumstances and not only give us the “optimal” worship service, but You will overwhelm us with an awareness of Your presence?
…I pray for arrogant hearts – including my own – to be freed from pride. To be humbled and full of compassion. I pray for the courage to be authentic. I pray for the obedience to follow your promptings.
…Please show me – tell me – what you want me to say. Please TAKE from me my selfish desires. Please burden my heart for YOUR message, not my agenda.
…If I have this wrong Lord, please change my heart.”
Journal Entry Excerpt, Sunday, August 12, 2012:
“Lord, please don’t let me read things into this that just aren’t there. Please Lord, reveal to me the truth.
…Lord, please, please, please don’t allow Satan to be an influence over my interpretation of this situation. Please fill my head and my heart with YOUR perspective. Please God, don’t allow me to be unintentionally disobedient because I’m misinterpreting these circumstances and not understanding Your will.
Skip ahead. This entry is eerily prophetic.
Journal Entry Excerpt, Wednesday, November 21, 2012:
“Please Lord, as I write, lead me to find the words which will open minds and hearts – without shutting down the path of communication. Please Lord, help me find the line between honest and accusatory – between challenging and insulting.
How do I call attention to the pursuit of Christ without people getting caught up in defensiveness to the point they shut off the message?”
Skip ahead. The day before I published the first post.
Journal Entry Excerpt, Sunday, February 3, 2013:
“Lord, please give me courage. Bless me with wisdom and words of grace and unflinching honesty. Please Lord, place your hand at the small of my back and guide me. Please place your hand of restraint on my shoulder when I am overcome by pride or anger so I won’t say things that are unedifying. Please, please empty my mind of distractions and open my heart to your presence. Help me to focus not only my eyes on you, but my hope also. You alone can redeem this seemingly hopeless circumstance. Please bless me with encouragement, Lord. Please, please, please – don’t let me fail to understand and do my part in Your perfect story.”
In my last post, 25 days ago, I asked if you would PLEASE PRAY WITH ME. I asked you to pray that the Holy Spirit would bring revival to my church. And I said that because we are doers and fixers, the question that usually follows that is:
“But what else can I do?”
I hold steady to my answer: NOTHING else. We can’t bring revival. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.
So please. Please PRAY. Pray for revival. Pray for God’s will to be done.
I BELIEVE that prayer is more powerful than ANYthing we can do on our own.
no. I know I am less, not more.
And here comes the hard part. the part I prayed about for 25 days before I published this post.
As a unified body of believers, my church doesn’t want revival. My church doesn’t want change. My church doesn’t want to rely wholly on God. My church doesn’t want to pray unreasonable prayers. My church doesn’t want to pray for unreasonable lengths of time. My church doesn’t want to pray with unreasonable persistence. They don’t see a need.
they are fine.
They want to continue doing things they way they do them.
On their own.
Here’s a question my husband posed to me:
“Consider all the man-hours involved in doing all the things we do at our church. From admin to ministry, from service to worship, from study to fellowship. Consider how many man-hours – Church staff, lay leaders, members, volunteers – are involved in activities and ministries both on and off the church campus.
MrYehbut: “EVERY man-hour can’t be Christ-centered.”
yes. They can.
If the WHY and the HOW of WHAT we do is centered on Christ.
Brother Lawrence was a 17th century monk. His job at the monastery? He was a cook. And his job was Christ-centered. Because he strove to do everything “as unto the Lord.”
“…he went to his work appointed in the kitchen (for he was cook to the society); there having first considered severally the things his office required, and when and how each thing was to be done, he spent all the intervals of his time, as well before as after his work, in prayer. That when he began his business, he said to GOD, with a filial trust in Him, “O my GOD, since Thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to Thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech Thee to grant me the grace to continue in Thy Presence; and to this end do Thou prosper me with Thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections.” (emphasis added)
EVERYthing we do at our church can be – should be – Christ-centered.
But that’s not the case.
So. many. reasons.
But at the core, this seems to be the looming, pervading, deep-rooted reason:
We don’t trust God.
MrYehbut: “If we change, people will complain.”
yes. some will.
MrYehbut: “If we change, people will leave.”
yes. some will.
MrYehbut: “If people leave, giving will go down and the church might not survive.”
God told Abram to leave his home and go to “the land I will show you.” He promised Abram He would bless him and make him a great nation. So Abram packed up and went. Turns out, there was famine in “the land I will show you.”
But God had promised. “I will make you a great nation. I will bless you.” Famine? There’s nothing great about famine. It is NOT a blessing. At least from not from Abram’s point of view. So Abram went to Egypt, and despite God’s promises, he asked his wife, Sarai to do him a favor:
“Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
Because the Almighty GOD isn’t able to protect Abram. He needed his wife to protect him. By lying.
Why did Abram ask her to do that?
He didn’t trust God.
And motivated by that lack of trust, he took matters into his own hands and made what seemed to be a reasonable and effective decision. Abram was afraid to surrender his will; his idea of how things should be. He didn’t want to risk any suffering. Because surely, God wouldn’t want him to suffer.
What if the people of Christian churches everywhere surrendered their idea of how things should be? What if we trusted God, even if it meant we might suffer? What if we STOPPED? And evaluated EVERY. SINGLE. THING. we do. And honestly asked, for each and every ministry, each and every decision:
“What’s the goal?”
“Is this Christ-centered?”
“Does this lead to the development of intimate relationship with CHRIST?”
“Does it actively provide a witness to salvation through Jesus Christ?”
“God, what do YOU want?”
What if we STOPPED asking each other “What can we do?” and started asking God “LORD, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO THROUGH US?”
Do NOT tell me that is semantics. Not when I’m inundated by reasonable lukewarm mediocrity. It is only language if the prayer is perfunctory. But when we are face down on the floor, palms up, sincerely humble and desperately expectant in prayer it will NOT be semantics.
This subtle change in language, combined with a transformed heart, an open mind and a sacrifice of will, would have infinitely HUGE implications in application and fruitfulness.”
Instead, we regularly dismiss the need to consistently pray and ask God to reveal His will, to guide us as we decide what to do and equip us as we do it – from worship services to programing to service to ministry.
One heartbreaking reason? Because too many people don’t believe we will be able to discern God’s answers. Because they haven’t experienced the kind of intimacy with Christ that is necessary to hear and discern His voice.
There are some people mocking me right now. “How sanctimonious. God talks to her. Isn’t that special.”
I believe God DOES speak to His people.
I believe it IS possible to experience the kind of relationship with Christ that allows US to hear and discern his voice.
Am I saying I know what God wants?
NO. I’m saying, PLEASE, CAN WE ASK HIM? TOGETHER? and WAIT on Him to answer? and TRUST Him?
I trust God to do WHATever He wants at my church. Even if it ends in the kind of death that results in empty rooms, no electricity and plywood on the windows.
MrYehbut: “That’s easy for you to say. You have nothing to lose.”
There ain’t nothing about this that’s easy. I’m acutely aware of what I might lose. of what I’ve already lost. and it’s been wrecking me for nearly a year. wreck. ing. me. It invades my days, interrupts my nights and fills my prayer journal.
MrYehbut: “You want our church to die?”
But if God allowed it, I would still trust Him. I would mourn the death, but I trust Him to work it for His good. Even if I don’t understand. Even if He doesn’t provide a way for me to see the good.
DO NOT tell me I don’t understand. I get the seriousness of the situation. I don’t like it. I HATE it. I understand that if we were to truly give God EVERYthing in this Church He might allow it to die.
He might prune it to a stub.
Will people leave if we have the courage, motivation and obedience to trust wholly in God?
Will people leave if we intentionally enter into and strive to maintain an intimate relationship with Christ?
Will people leave if we dedicate ourselves to seeking his guidance and responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit?
Will people leave if we submit everything we do to the will of the Father?
YES. SOME PEOPLE WILL LEAVE. People who GIVE and support the church financially and through their service WILL LEAVE.
And we need to let them go.
I’m going to say another hard thing.
Because we don’t focus on Christ and depend wholly on the Holy Spirit to guide us and equip us people – some of those same people we are afraid of losing – people who GIVE and support the church – ARE ALREADY LEAVING. I know some of their names and faces and heartaches. Some people who GIVE and support the church are dying. The elderly and the sick. It is only a matter of time until the people we are trying to keep – and keep happy – are gone. or dead.
The death we fear, the death of our church, will come. We will have only prolonged the inevitable. Because eventually, we’ll all be gone too.
Our absence will make us no less responsible for the death of our church.
This is why God is making me say these hard things. In wrecked love for the people of my church. In a spirit of edification. Against my own selfish will. Because it would be so much easier…
so. much. easier.
to just leave.
“…when Jesus had a large crowd, he would most often preach a message that was likely to cause them to leave…
…’From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him’
(John 6: 66).
Many of the fans turn to go home. I was struck by the fact that Jesus doesn’t chase after them. He doesn’t soften his message to make it more appealing…As I sat in the sanctuary surrounded by thousands of empty seats, here’s what became clear to me: it wasn’t the size of the crowd Jesus cared about; it was their level of commitment.”
Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus
by Kyle Idleman
This is the 17th post of a series on Christ-centered church. If you want to catch up or review, CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.