On Being People Smart

Dear Ministers and Leaders in ministries:

After a careful analysis of various churches, ministers, and testimonies, I have come to the conclusion that churches in themselves are not the problem, we are. How often do we lose people, who were starting to come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, because of our behavior and attitude? How often do we not have the right motivations behind our speech? How often do we fail to be more Christ-like to others, including our own church family? Thomas Gordon provides a list of communication spoilers and from this, I will attempt to not only explain our problems but also guide us toward solutions.

Commanding or directing someone to do something is a very common tool within ministry today. Those who use this tool communicate that you do not care what the person you are ordering around thinks. Instead, you produce fear and resistance.

Leaders ought to take a friendlier and emotional approach, which would involve listening and working it out together with the person. This assures that you care about their problem and how they would solve it.

Threatening or warning go hand-in-hand with commanding. They both cause resentment and resistance, but threatening leaves with messages like “You’ll be cursed if you don’t do this.” This sometimes will make people do it in spite of your warning to test the threat.

As Christian leaders, we should never enforce things, especially with threats. Christ does not threaten us and neither should we threaten other believers. Non-threatening churches would have a better brand, higher reputation, and less cult-like perceptions from non-members.

Moralizing, another tool used by many ministers who aim to cause others to feel ashamed for their thoughts or actions. You may hear “You shouldn’t think like that,” or “You know what the right thing to do is.” The use of moralizing beyond a Biblical basis is commonly found, unlike the actual use of moralizing found in the Bible. When we use this careless tool, we are telling others that our judgment is greater than their reason.

We tend to forget that we ourselves have problems and in some cases, we need to be preached to also. Christian leaders should focus on helping and restoring, not moralizing and tearing down. We can then show that we really do care about those who sometimes may need to be talked to for their bad actions, not the ones we perceive as bad actions.

Advising others on solutions to their problems is another very common and also senseless way of handling people. We tend to tell people what they should and shouldn’t do based on our own experiences or what we think is common sense.

If we follow how a psychologist would handle their clients, we would guide a person to a conclusion they came up with. That’s not to say we can never give advice, but that we shouldn’t automatically jump to giving them a solution based on ourselves.

Lecturing or giving “logical” arguments is another common and effective way to break down someone’s confidence and judgment. It may also lead to them outright rejecting your statements from then on. Logic and facts usually lead to people taking up a defensive stance, especially when you do not show love and prefer to be seen by how “right” you were.

Many times, we, as Christian leaders, tend to practice this method because we may have more knowledge in areas and forget to treat people as that, people. Everyone has a certain amount of knowledge in a certain area that we don’t. We could try listening and showing emotion when we give our reasons for decisions, not just basing them on the “facts.”

Criticism doesn’t just come from the saints or outsiders, it comes from the pulpit too. Recently I watched a pastor give a five-minute talk on people who criticize the pastor and church. I agreed with him on most of it, but he left out the most important piece, when criticism is right. Preachers tend to like to criticize but hate when it’s put back on them. When we criticize, we usually do more harm than good. It leads to people feeling worthless and never “good enough” to do anything for Christ or His Church. All we do is fail His people as they are priceless and we make them look useless.

We shouldn’t look to go around judging people unless it really is against the Bible. After all, judgment starts in the house of God, and doesn’t God dwell in us? Let the Bible and God judge. Jesus is the Judge. He is Lord and we are not. So why try to exterminate His power? We need to focus on helping others grow in their faith, building them up, not destroying and uprooting them.

Manipulative praise, another tool, is used by those in leadership to get approval by others. While praising a person for good actions may be okay, praising for your own motives may likely lead to that person’s downfall. People who are used to being praised begin to expect praise for everything that they accomplish and more. They begin to look for praise outside the church if they cannot find it from the ones in the church who used to give it. This will lead to people falling outside the church and/or even rising up against leadership within the church. This form of praise typically leads to favoritism.

Christian leaders don’t always use what God has given them in the church. We need to be aware of those that have gifts/have yet to find them, and allow them chances to find/use them. This is where churches will begin to grow and become even more effective for the Kingdom of God.

Name-calling or shaming is a very damaging attribute to Christian leaders. Terms like “faggot” and “heifer” are damaging to not only the reputation of the preacher (at least should be, especially by the church members,) but also damaging to the church brand and the Church itself. Gay bashing and slut-shaming are degrading, simple-minded, and meaningless.

As Christians, we were once in the same boat. All of us have sinned and we should never find humor or hatred in sin. Instead, we should focus on being kind and showing Jesus to them. We do not want to end up back on the same boat because of having no love to give them.

Diagnosing is another problematic tool that many within leadership attempt to use. Someone looks like they have a problem so we tend to analyze them. They come to us and tell us the problem, we interpret what they say to what we want to hear about them. Then, we diagnose them as if we know what the solution is. What we really do is make them feel inferior as if they are never smart about anything. We threaten them and embarrass them to the point they no longer want to talk to us.

We all have ideas on how problems can be solved, but we should never make solutions for others. Instead, we should look for opportunities to help guide people to make their own solution, building up their confidence. The advice for diagnosing is the same for advising. Let people think for themselves!

Reassurance happens when a leader wants to help someone, but only with words. They do not get involved in that person’s life. This only leads to the person who is being helped to withdraw. Telling people that they will “make it through this,” doesn’t do any good if we aren’t willing to make sure they actually get through it.

Christian leaders ought to be ready at any moment to help guide a person. We need to be more emotionally involved. Words are useless if they are never backed by actions.

Aggressive questioning happens when ministers aim to control people’s dialogue by only asking closed-ended questions or questions that require short answers. This form of questioning shuts down many great conversations and causes a fear of being analyzed. Normally leaders ask suspicious questions or questions that require answers which can be used against them. This tends to cause ministers to not have many friends, or at least, not true ones.

Our focus is on serving God and preparing His Church, not probing into the lives of other believers. We should never be scared of questions, in fact, we should encourage them. If people do come to us looking for Biblical advice, then we should be able to sit down with them and study it out together. You’ll gain trust and friendships with more believers this way. Remember, we should never go around seeing which believer is seemingly sinning, not coming to prayer every time, etc. This will only discredit us from other believers.

These may all be great anti-people/people smart techniques/solutions, but how does anyone change? By you. In order to change as a leader and make your church more effective, you must first change yourself.

With this change, leaders will gain a greater reputation while churches will gain a more effective brand. The Church may always have people against it, but churches with people smart leaders/ministers will have people seeing Christ in them, and will want to be part of the Church. This change has the potential to make a greater impact and a longer lasting effect on communities around the world.


A well-read evangelist


http://mobile.gordonmodel.com/home-roadblocks.php – Thomas Gordon’s List of Communication Spoilers


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