A Note from Chris Adams: Well, in this particular post, our guest writer, Leighann McCoy, gets me right where it hurts. Like Leighann, I am very task-oriented, sometimes at the expense of relationships. That’s not a healthy way to live or lead. Perhaps you too will have your toes stepped on by this post, but you will also learn some valuable lessons!
I recently got a big dose of reality, and I didn’t like it. A couple months ago, I’d invited a group of people together to discuss a Sunday that’s happening this month. Granted, the only time we could meet was on Thursday of the world’s busiest week in the life of our church—Vacation Bible School. Plus, the other people in the meeting were the very ones who were up to their earlobes in VBS activities. However, it was the only time we could all get together until mid-August, when we’d be pressed for time to do any good planning.
So, when two of the women attending the meeting starting muttering to themselves, I invited them to speak their peace by saying something like this, “We want to hear what you think. That’s why we invited you to participate in this meeting.”
Have you ever wished you could retract your words? For the remaining 30 minutes of our meeting, we heard loud and clear what they were thinking. There was no holding back and nothing was sugarcoated. I discovered I wasn’t quite as eager to hear their thoughts as I thought I was. But as I digested what happened at that meeting, I realized that I’d just received a great big dose of me. And, I didn’t like it.
Some of what they said seemed mean. Some of it seemed negative. And yet, most of what they said was absolutely necessary and led us to discover better plans. It wasn’t so much what they had to say as it was in how they said it. But as I reflected on this experience, I realized that with just 3 tiny adjustments, I could learn a tremendous lesson from what felt like a spanking at that meeting.
Lesson #1: Sugar and spice is still very nice.
Just because it is true and no one asked your opinion before, you are not licensed to kill with your words. My son had a basketball coach in middle school who reamed those boys. I mean, he tongue-lashed them in practice and during the games. Most parents let him get away with it because their little boys needed to grow up, and they knew the coach had a great big heart. My son got to be really good friends with this coach, and one night over dinner the coached asked TJ, “Don’t you think the boys hear me better when I yell?” To which TJ responded, “No, coach, I don’t. I don’t think anybody hears better when they’re yelled at.”
And I have to agree with TJ. If you find yourself in a meeting where no one was smart enough to ask your opinion, don’t make them sorry they finally got around to doing so. Let your words be gracious and your input be pleasant. My father-in-law told my husband a hundred times, “You draw more flies with honey than vinegar.”
Scripture says this: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” —Ephesians 4:32.
Lesson #2: Nobody’s out to get you, so don’t make enemies with friendly fire.
Most of us minister on a team of like-minded followers of Christ. We share common values, theology, and philosophy. We are friends! We don’t compete with one another. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of this truth. Say this aloud, “These are my friends. This is my team. We are a great tribe, and together we do wonderful things.”
Celebrate the fact that you get to participate with an amazing team. Be friends who encourage one another. I read a great quote recently that said this, “Encouragement is like oxygen to the human spirit. Don’t forget you are carrying someone else’s air. Encourage them: Help them breathe.”
Scripture also says this, “But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.” —Hebrews 3:13
Lesson #3: It’s better to build relationships than it is to accomplish tasks.
OK, now this one is a big one for me. I’ve forever been task-driven. Nothing makes me happier than a job completed. I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I get when I hit “send” to my publisher with a completed manuscript attached.
And even though tasks are fun to finish, relationships are more precious to God. Therefore, relationships are the priority in ministry. God expects us to live out horizontally what we profess vertically. For instance, if I say “Lord, I love you! I want to serve you. I want to give my life for you.” And then, I fail to love my neighbor, serve someone, or give my life for someone, I have failed in my commitment to Him.
Look around you. God’s given you a whole lot of “whosoevers” right where you work and live. Determine that the tasks are simply tools to help you build relationship with people, so that your love for God might be expressed in your love for them.
I thought I loved Him until He asked me to love that person. Then I discovered I really loved me.
Have you ever had the pleasure of that lesson in God’s vast box of “lessons for those who need them?” I have. God’s still watching to see if I’ve learned it yet. He sent me this person who offended me, who took advantage of me, whose behavior was so deplorable I couldn’t wrap my head around how God could let him do those things. And yet, while I pleaded my case in heaven’s courts, God found a special place for my hearing.
It was at the foot of the cross.
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
—I John 4:20-21
I’m grateful for those women who chose to bless me with their wisdom in that meeting. I hope I get to share lunch with them a time or two before we meet again. But if not, I’m glad to learn these lessons.
Leighann McCoy is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Currently, she serves on staff as the prayer and women’s minister at Thompson Station Church, in Thompson Station, Tennessee, where her husband is also the senior pastor. Leighann is a mother of three, a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier, and the author of Spiritual Warfare for Women and A Woman’s Guide to Hearing God’s Voice. You can read more from Leighann at LeighannMccoy.com.