by David Eubanks
If I were asked to suggest five items of advice to church leaders, near the top of the list would be communication. We must place a high premium on communication. How often I have seen wrong conclusions drawn, misunderstandings occur, unnecessary hurt feelings experienced, and outright division rend the church, simply because of a lack of communication. In some cases, those consequences were suffered because of a refusal to communicate.
Leaders are elected or selected because people have confidence in them and in their judgement. One way to maintain that trust is wise communication. Even though critical decisions are often made by a small number of leaders for a large number of people, and sometimes a few of the factors in those decisions need to be kept confidential, it is wise for leaders to communicate accurately and in a reasonable time all that can be related concerning their decisions and plans.
Unfortunately, with a few leaders any question raised regarding a decision they have made is interpreted as a challenge to authority, and stubborn bullheadedness ensues; conflict, occasionally irrevocable, follows. Sometimes, a little communication beforehand or afterward would have prevented the questions even being raised and the conflict prevented entirely.
I remember vividly a true circumstance in which a friend of mine, a former elder in the church, prevented a major schism in the congregation by merely calling together younger members who were ready to leave the church immediately. He told them that he was certain that they did not know the whole story concerning the situation that troubled them and urged them to wait until more was known. Providentially, they listened to him; division did not occur, and the church is thriving today. The leaders had made a personnel decision and some of the details could have been related earlier, but they saw no reason to do so, taking the approach: “The people elected us; they should trust us.” While that statement is true, we need to recognize that we do not live in an authoritarian culture, but an anti-authoritarian culture, augmented by an electronic media craze that demands information and thrives on gossip and misinformation. Wise, measured, deliberate communication by the leaders of a congregation can prevent the spread of those relational cancers.
Paul was chosen by Christ and miraculously endowed to fill the role of an apostle. By God’s own appointment, he commanded authority and sometimes exercised it. Yet, I never cease to be amazed at the level of communication that he carried on with the churches that he established and served. Much of his communication was to clear up misunderstandings, identify troublemakers, clarify the truth, and soothe hurt feelings. But he sometimes communicated in anticipation of misunderstandings that could arise and to head off conflict that might result accordingly.
We do well to follow Paul’s example.