Sunday, January 23, 2011

Shut Up Already!


This is a letter to myself from myself:

"Dear Eric,

When we gather together as a church family, you simply talk too much.  I realize you have good intentions, that you love the people present, and that you want to glorify God through what you say.  Despite this, I need to lovingly tell you that you tend to dominate the conversation.  If 25 people are present, you shouldn't be speaking 25% of the time.

God has gifted us all with the ability to edify one another through our speech.  If you, the former pastor, talk too much it will intimidate others. You may inadvertently be giving them the message that you know more than they do and should, therefore, get to talk more than others.

You can serve the body through both your speech and your silence. Silence at times spurs others to speak who wouldn't normally do so.  Additionally, silence shouts out to the other members that they are needed, too.

You may want to speak by encouraging others to do so.  Those who are more reserved may need some verbal encouragement to "get over the hump" of speaking for the first time that day.  You may even want to tell them individually that you need to hear from them and value what they have to add to the gathering.

Eric, you don't have to say everything that comes into your head.  You don't have all the answers.  As the saying goes, "God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason."  Simply put, you would benefit from talking less and listening more.

I say this as lovingly as I can: Some of the time you need to shut up already.  You will benefit and so will the church as a whole.

In Christ,

Eric"

21 comments:

reformedlostboy said...

often we are our own worst critic.

Eric said...

Bobby,

That's true. However, I still think I talk a bit too much. It is a learning process. I'm trying to figure out how to be more selective and purposeful in saying only what is edifying.

reformedlostboy said...

I agree it a learning process. My problem is that I can't ever seem to do the right thing to satisfy my own critique. If I speak, I speak too much. If I don't, I should have. For me it is an exercise in futility. I have decided to be satisfied with where I am right now (after all, God is fully satisfied) and be of humble heart and mind as God does his marvelous work. I pray the same for you brother.

Eric said...

Thanks Bobby. I appreciate the encouragement.

I'm so happy to remember that God covers even our gatherings with His grace. We are imperfect, but He accepts us because of what His perfect Son has accomplished.

Jonathan said...

Great letter. I don't think it just needs to be addressed to yourself. I think it could be addressed as a letter to the churches that meet in homes, or the gatherings who meet in homes and call themselves bible study groups or small groups, or to most gatherings that meet on Sundays, or to most of us bloggers who think we have a lot of important stuff to say.

:)

That said, in any gathering (believers or not), there will always be some who are more gifted at the gab than others. There are others in the group who may be gifted in other areas.... maybe more doers than talkers.

I don't think it is necessary that each person gets equal air time. If they want to speak up, there should be opportunity for all, but some won't want to for whatever reason.

God bless!

Eric said...

Jonathan,

Thank you.

My desire is that all I say be edifying. I'm no going to worry about this, but I certainly want to think it through.

All need to be given opportunity, but also encouraged through the silence of others (at times). It's an exciting learning process.

Jeremy Myers said...

Eric,

I found you through Bobby's blog. Good ideas here. I've added you to my Google Reader. See you online!

Eric said...

Jeremy,

I look forward to the discussion. God bless!

Richie said...

Or perhaps target that zeal and tendency to open your mouth to the people who need an open mouth preaching the gospel to them.

When I'm reading it, I can relate, but after I read it I felt the same way. I think it is natural to love to talk about God, but I think we have that "overdrive" about God for the purpose of preaching it to the lost. I think here is your true test, do you love talking about God because you love Him, or do you love talking about God because it gives status among those you regularly fellowship?

One draws men to us, and the other to Christ.

God bless, Richie
http://rcsthe.blogspot.com

Eric said...

Richie,

Thanks for your thoughts. I think you are on target.

Tim A said...

Breaking old institutionalized habits is hard, very hard. You are entering organic gathering from the clergy side. I came at it from the lay side. My struggle has been to abide in Christ and his Word all week so I am prepared to share something. The whole week could go by and i had not spend time with him "considering how I could spur one another on to love and good works". I know enough about the Bible that I could fake it, but God had put saints there with discernment to know that's what I was doing. Week after week I struggled, and still do from time to time. Walk with the Lord in this issue. You will conquer it.

Consider that your example of what you do is instructive far more than what you say. You know you want others to learn to participate. Fix your heart on your example driven teaching more than your words driven teaching. I think it may be hard for those trained in talking oriented teaching to learn and do example oriented teaching.

Jeffrey said...

It's rare in human endeavors for people to acknowledge when something should change; rarer still when they change it themselves. Isn't it cool that as believers--to the extent that we can let go of pride, and listen for the Holy Spirit--we can be self-correcting ("self" in the sense that other people don't need to force us to change).

I suppose the flip-side of this thought is that we should be slow to correct the shortcomings in other believers, and let the Holy Spirit do His work. At a minimum, we should pray about it and ask for confirmation about whether He wants to use us in the process or not.

Jeff

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

Tim,

Thanks for your comment. You wrote, "Fix your heart on your example driven teaching more than your words driven teaching." I agree. It can be tough to find an appropriate balance.

Eric said...

Jeff,

This is an exciting journey together for our families. As time goes on and we develop even greater community, I also look forward to what the Holy spirit will do. I believe He will bring about greater freedom of expression so that more will want to be verbally involved. As this happens, my goal is to speak less and listen more. My hope is that this will even more effectively build up the body.

Thanks!

Alan Knox said...

Eric,

It has helped us to have someone scheduled to guide us through a particular passage or topic on Sundays when we meet together. This person teaches/facilitates the discussion. However, we all still understand (and encourage) everyone to read the passage and to take part in the teaching. But, when someone is scheduled - someone different from week to week or month to month - then it helps me and others refrain from talking as much.

Also, we have started encouraging others to take part in the teaching with us. For example, my friend David is teaching/facilitating for the month of February. For that month, he is going to be teaching about prayer. He has asked several of the teenagers to pick out a prayer from the Bible and be ready to share with the church something they learned from that example of prayer. So, he is not only intentionally including them in the teaching time, but he is helping them prepare an instruction (like 1 Corinthians 14:26).

Like I said, the idea of having someone scheduled to teach/facilitate has worked for us. It's certainly not the only way to do it. But, in our context, it has been helpful.

Don't be afraid to experiment with different teaching methods to see which works best for your group. We tried several - some more effective than others - and even now different teachers/facilitators teach in different styles.

-Alan

Eric said...

Alan,

Thanks for your input and ideas.

This learning process has been an interesting one for us. Since it is new (and since so many of us have come out of a traditional church background), it takes some time.

As for a facilitator, I could see us moving in that direction, but for now we've stayed away from that simply because we don't want one person to dominate. It takes a skilled facilitator to not talk too much. Of course, if the facilitators rotate, then that problem could be avoided.

I'm enjoying the learning. My hope is that we are all growing in Christ not only through what is said, but also through the process of both listening and speaking.

Tom said...

Getting the right balance of speakers in a gathering seems to be difficult. I think that now I tend in the same direction as you, Eric, but there was a time when I was too quiet.

Before I got saved, I was sometimes happy to listen to others talk about God, but I often found it awkward - embarrassing, actually - when I was asked to speak. Even though I thought I was saved at the time, on some level I knew that I didn't really have anything to contribute.

I recall, in particular, being asked (along with others) to share my "testimony" after at least two different youth group trips. The problem with this was that I had no testimony to share, since I was lost and God's Spirit was not drawing me at that time. In essence, I was being pressured by people who didn't know any better (supposing I was saved) to make something up.

After I got saved and developed a real hunger for God's Word, my "shyness" evaporated pretty quickly, because I had come to know the God we were supposed to be talking about. The main times since when I have found myself reluctant to speak were times when the Holy Spirit was convicting me about a sin in my own life.

I have seen this same pattern in the lives of others; many lost people recognize on some level the hypocrisy and vanity of trying to contribute to a church gathering without the power and guidance of the Spirit, even if they aren't consciously aware that that is their problem. But, when God saves us, "we can not but speak the things which we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:20)

I share all of this only to say, it's good to give opportunity and encouragement to those who are too submissive or shy to speak, but we ought to be careful not to force participation from someone to whom the Spirit has not given anything to say.

"The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD: but the words of the pure are pleasant words." (Proverbs 15:26)

Eric said...

Tom,

Thanks for commenting.

You are right. There is certainly a fine balance between encouraging folks to verbally participate and making them feel uncomfortable about it. My goal is to let everyone know that they are needed and that they are welcomed to voice what the Spirit has placed on their hearts.

One way to encourage others is to not talk too often. That gets difficult to discern sometimes. When do we cross the line into too much?

I'm learning and enjoying the adventure.

francisdrakeprivateer said...

In the 35 years that I have participated or led home groups, (led=facilitate), I have never managed to avoid this problem.

My heart has always been to encourage others to become what God has ordained them to be, and not become what I or anyone else wants them to be.

I have regularly been accused of talking too much. This is certainly true sometimes, however it is an easy excuse for many to remain silent. Many times after a meeting, it would come out that Dave or Mary was just about to speak, but I beat them to it, so they remained silent.

I have been in meetings where I was so frustrated with the constant accusations that I remained silent the whole time, and guess what, no one else came forward with a word either. The meetings just get filled with singing because people can hide behind a song.

If you believe in the ministry of the body, it takes great patience and discernment, to encourage others to risk their pride in giving what little they have got, and therefore grow by it. However it is worth it.

Most people have become so beaten down by the church system that they live in fear of always being wrong and getting beaten over the head with God's big stick.

In one of my teaching jobs in the 70's my department boss had a banner on the workshop wall.
"THOSE WHO DON'T MAKE MISTAKES, USUALLY DON'T MAKE ANYTHING".
It is just as true in the body of Christ. If we expect immediate perfection from our brothers and sisters, we are going to wait an awful long time.

Eric said...

Frank,

Thanks for your comment. The whole process is an interesting one. There seems to be a fine line between encouraging others to speak and making them uncomfortable. I'm still working on this. My hope is that over time those who would speak a lot would learn to listen more, and that those who are quiet would learn to add more. These both strike me as acts of service to the church.