Thursday, February 16, 2012

Everybody's Talking at Me. Leadership series Part 1.

I am starting a series of blogs talking about leadership and in particular church leadership.  God has put this on my heart and I feel obliged to at least put the thought out there for your consideration.  I have  used several sources for this post.   The title of that blog is Lead, Follow and Get out of the Way.  I encourge you to read it.

I am attempting to take the main points that apply to leaders in that post and apply them to church leaders.  The first and probably most important trait of a leader is the ability to listen.

Leaders listen. Listening is not waiting for your turn to speak. Listening is an active engagement with the person you are talking with. Leadership grows out of knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your colleagues, their fears and triumphs, what motivates them and what turns them off. There’s a trick psychologists recommend, where you try to summarize what your conversation partner just told you and what you understood them to be saying, like this: “So the police officer gave you the ticket anyway, and you feel that was unfair?” This gives your partner a chance to correct you if you’re wrong or confirm that you more or less got what they were saying — plus it helps you to learn and not just respond
I think it’s important to go to the bible and just see what The Bible says of a flock of sheep. about listening. 

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" (Matthew 11:15).
What is the intent of this verse? How does this apply to leaders in our church?
Many times I have heard that the leaders of a church are like the shepherds of a flock.

Well, this is a fairly good analogy except for one point.  Human beings have feelings and have the process of thought.  They were made in God’s image.  So really, you shouldn’t treat humans like sheep.  This happens fairly often in our churches. 

The even deeper problem lies in the fact that you can let someone talk all day.  They can talk till they are blue in the face.  But, is anybody listening to them.  Listening is a conscious thought.  Don’t tell me that you haven’t sat in a Sunday sermon and quit listening to the pastor somewhere during the sermon.  Maybe you don’t agree with him or maybe you are thinking about what you have planned for the afternoon.  The end result is that you quit listening. 
You know, I have often heard that listening is an art.  I think there is something to that idea.  Too often we have our own preconceived ideas about what someone is telling us.  We often speak before we know what is being said.  When a person fails to listen to you and you have told them several times how you feel about a subject, they are diminished in your eyes. You are may have been wrong, but you will never know, because the person didn't listen to you.

Just take that to the church.  If the leaders don’t listen to the people, they began to get discouraged and they began to leave, or maybe even worse, stay and complain and cause trouble in God’s house.  Even worse yet, they sit in the pew and say nothing and contribute nothing to the spirit of the church and cause newcomers to wonder what is wrong? 
Let’s go to the Bible for some more instruction.

"He who answers before listening--that is his folly and his shame." (Proverbs 18:13).
We should be quick to listen and slow to speak. (James 1:19).
Acts 14:23

GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

23They had the disciples in each church choose spiritual leaders,[a] and with prayer and fasting they entrusted the leaders to the Lord in whom they believed.

The congregation chooses their leaders.  I don’t know so much about fasting anymore, but I do know that it is done with lots of prayers.  Read this verse carefully, “they entrusted the leaders to the Lord in whom they believed”. 

This is where one’s interpretation of the Bible gets tricky.  You have to remember that not everyone is a Bible scholar, (this includes me), not many have gone to seminary, few get intense Bible training and lots of people just go to church on Sunday and listen to the sermon.  Even more don’t go to the church, but claim to believe and trust in the Bible.  And the one thing that I have heard all my life, is that your interpretation of the Bible is between you and God.

Many people take the Bible literally, some are Biblical historians and take it in context of the times of Jesus, Some believe in Biblical myths.  It gets very confusing to people because most can’t defend themselves when confronted with someone that is a Bible scholar. 

So now back to Act 14:23.  What does that last sentence mean?  If you pray about it, it means what God tells you it means.  But my interpretation is a follows:

The disciples believed not only in the Lord but the leaders that they felt the Lord sent to them.

Many people may say that it is just the Lord that the disciples believed in and that’s their right.  I just add the leaders to whom the disciples believed in. 

I want to insert another line from the link that I found about leadership:

It follows then that leadership is not a trait of individuals. Leadership theorist James MacGregor Burns describes leadership as a collective process, a characteristic of the relationship between individuals rather than a property of individuals themselves.

Who is right?  Well there are probably both types.  Leaders have followers.  Why do people follow someone?  There are many ingredients, but one of the most important is listening. 
Please pray about this and the future blogs that I write about leadership.  These are just my thoughts. I am going to close here, but as almost always, I need some music. Please enjoy the following.
Most of you remember the song, "Everybody's talking to Me", by Harry Nillson. The most important line in that song is the first line. "Everybody's talking to me, I can't hear a word their saying". Quite frankly that's the problem

1 comment:

  1. Mike, I sense a feeling of despair... maybe frustration. Our Christ was the greatest leader of all history - only three short years changed the world for all time. He too felt despair, and so he prayed. "...if this cup could pass..." "... nevertheless, not my will but yours..." Sometimes drops of blood, but always prayer.

    I will cover your back in prayer as you continue this series.