2020 has been quite the year. We kicked off 2020 with the impeachment of President Trump (actually started in late 2019, but carried over into 2020).
Then, Kobe Bryant (this one hurt bad as he was my favorite player to watch during my childhood).
Then a global health pandemic that shut down pretty much everything everywhere.
Now, racial tensions are everywhere.
2020 has been one crisis after another, and we just got into the summer. Can we just get on to 2021 already?
Listen, as much as we want this to be over, church leaders have been given an incredible opportunity to lead people in some of the toughest days our world has ever faced. Look at 2020 as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.
I want to share some brief responses for church leaders when crisis hits…
1. Listen more than you speak
Stephen Covey said something that has always stuck with me: “listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to respond.”
That is pretty much the exact opposite of what most people do.
Come on, we have all been there. Someone is talking, and you are hardly listening to their words. Sure you audibly hear them, but all that is running through your mind is “when they stop talking for a second, here is what I am going to say…”
Too often, we don’t listen to understand people. Understand where they are coming from. Understand why they feel or think a certain way.
I truly believe that if everyone listened more, this world would have a whole lot more unity and peace than it does.
2. Empathize with those who are hurting
We tend to empathize with things we have only experienced ourselves. That is natural which is why I think God calls us to a deeper calling than this.
He says, “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.”
Right now, there are people who are hurting. Have you weeped with them or are you quick to dismiss their feelings, because you yourself have never experienced what they have experienced.
Jesus did not tell us to weep with only those who weep over things that you have experienced. He says weep with those who weep (that includes those who think, believe, and look different than you).
Empathy is the path to unity (I truly believe this).
We are not going to be unified until we are willing to empathize with those who are hurting even if you disagree or have not experienced their pain yourself.
3. Friend those who are different than you
Evaluate your five closest friends right now. More often than not, our top 5 closest friends look like us, think like us, act like us, and believe like us.
What message is that sending to the world around us if church leaders cannot befriend people who think, act, and believe differently.
It is because we have been trained to seperate ourselves so far from anyone who is different from us, and that seems to be entirely different from the life of Jesus.
Jesus was always hanging out with people that were much different than Him. He never conformed to their beliefs or behaviors though, and we don’t have to either.
But, it would really help with unity if we led the charge and started having people who looked and believed different than us over for dinner.
We have to be diverse in our churches and in our relationships.
4. Stop trying to solve debates on social media
Listen, use your social media voice. It is a voice that you have been given, but save the debates for the dinner table.
Debates are not solved in a facebook feed. People’s minds are not changed through a twitter conversation. But yet we continue to fight the battle on social media 😦
I have lost some respect for church leaders because of their social media debatable presence. And I bet you that they lost others respect as well.
It doesn’t work so stop trying.
5. Be intentional about diversity in your church
Churches should be diverse and we should be leading the way with what diversity can look like.
For years, I think diversity has scared church leaders, and now, I think the door is open to be intentional about diversity in ways that some churches couldn’t years before.
If there are white people in your community, there should be white people in your church.
If there are black people in your community, there should be black people in your church.
If there are asian people in your community, there should be asians in your church.
If there are hispanic people in your community, there should be hispanics in your church.
God did not call your church to go into its community and only reach the white people. He called you to go into your community and reach the COMMUNITY (all of it).
If your church is labeled as “just a white church” or “just a black church,” then I believe you are doing it wrong.
We should be creating churches that mirror Heaven (the most diverse church we will ever experience).
Listen, I do not have all of the answers for the problems that we are facing, but I do believe that if we listen more, things can slowly get better. If we empathize more, things can slowly get better. If we friend those different than us, things can slowly get better. If we stop trying to win debates on social media, things can slowly get better. If we are intentional about diversity, things can slowly get better.
Church leader, you have one of the greatest opportunities ever in front of you. Don’t waste the opportunity.