We were serving together at a traditionally strong and healthy church. I was still very young and learning what it meant to lead. One day we were talking about the personality of congregations. Some love a harsh presentation from the pulpit…a hefty dose of bad news before we get the good news. Some like to know what we’re against more than what we’re for. Some are expressive. Some are reflective. Some feel like closed groups. Some are overexuberant when a visitor shows up.
At one point in the conversation I remember Jim saying something that continues to shape the way I preach, teach, and interact with people. “Darrel, you never know each week how many people are just barely hanging on.” It was at this moment that I understood no matter how loud the prevailing culture of a church was, people need consistant reassuarance of God’s love.
- The faithful need the reassurance because they get proud and can begin to think their goodness has earned God’s love.
- The religious need the reassurance because they like to compare and can begin to think they deserve God’s love.
- But most of all we have a responsibility to those who are ‘just barely hanging on’ because their faults, failure, and self-condemnation have beaten them into thinking they are unworthy of God’s love.
Our tone communicates God’s love as much as our content.
Not long ago Krista and I were visiting a church. The pastor was a skilled communicator but as I listened all I could think was, “I don’t disagree with anything he is saying…but I sure don’t like the way he is saying it.”
Our doctrine can be sound. Our logic can be clear. Our words can be true. And we can still miss the mark of communicating grace if we forget that we ‘never know each week how many people are just barely hanging on.’
We need people in our lives who remind us of that.