Jump Start # 2366
Proverbs 14:23 “In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”
Talk is cheap, so the saying goes. Great plays are made in huddles, but they don’t become great until they are actually executed. Generals make plans. CEO’s make plans. Shepherds in the church make plans. Even, moms and dads make plans. But plans, goals, dreams, must be launched or they become nothing more than mere talk as our passage reminds us.
Our passage is showing us a man who is long on talk and short on doing. What he would do someday. But his talk doesn’t bring any money home. His talk doesn’t put food on the table. He needs to roll up his sleeves and get busy. This is a great passage for all of us. We can spend too much time in the huddle. Churches do that. Families do that. There comes a time to get on the field of life and get doing what you are supposed to do.
Having said all of that, let’s talk about talk. There is a place for that. Solomon said that there is a time to speak and a time to be silent. I’m seeing more and more that this is a lesson for leaders in the church. Open communication, transparency as many call it today, allows everyone to know what direction the ship is headed. It’s secrets that makes folks suspicious and wondering what’s going on behind the scenes.
We understand that there are times, especially when dealing with people, that some issues are delicate and must be handled carefully and with decorum. The shepherds in a church are often dealing with people when they are at their worst. An affair. An addiction. A near divorce. A near bankruptcy. A teenager pregnant. A teenager in jail. Abuse. These things do not need to be broadcast from the pulpit. Often members are unaware of all the hours that the shepherds have already poured into families trying to pull them out of a spiritual ditch. The members catch wind of some of these things and wonder, “why aren’t the elders doing anything?” Well, they have been. They are on top of the situation and are actively doing all kinds of things. You just didn’t know that. You didn’t need to know that. Some things are not our business.
But with communication, there are other things that can be shared and ought to be shared. I was with a group some time ago, all of them were deacons, and they were all ready to resign. They felt that they were operating in the dark and the elders constantly were changing their minds and there didn’t seem to be one central voice or idea. It was chaos. The deacons would begin a project, only to be told to stop by one of the elders. A little later, another elder would get on them for not having the project done. Were they to do it or not? They didn’t know. In fact, the eldership didn’t know. Each person was speaking for himself and it was changing like the weather. This led to their frustration and nearly walking away from all of this.
I’ve known more than one preacher who gets a phone call on a Saturday evening by one of the elders informing him that a new preacher had been hired and that the two of them were to work together. There was no communicating these ideas, mapping out a plan, working on the details of who would do what. There was no meetings between the two preachers. It was like a shotgun wedding. And, in several of these places, within a year, both preachers moved on. It was a disaster. No communicating and no transparency.
Now, some shepherds feel like they don’t have to tell or communicate their plans. It’s often a power thing with them. They know and no one else does. They keep their little secrets close to the vest and like knowing what no one else does. It’s like being in a select club. They laugh, snicker and have a good time, while everyone else wonders what’s being done.
Healthy relationships, be it a marriage, a sports team, a business, or, even a church, thrive the best when everyone has trust, understanding and transparency among each other.
Here are some suggestions, and remember, that’s all they are, suggestions:
Map out plans for the next five years. Include what activities you want to do, who is coming to preach, what classes will be taught. A freshman enrolling in college this August, will not only know what classes he has to take this semester, but for a specific major, he has the next four years, eight semesters, already lined up. He knows. He knows what he needs and he knows what’s coming next.
Can you imagine a church doing the same thing? Here’s the roadmap for the next four years. You’ll start in this class and then move on to this class. We do that with the kids classes. We have programs to take them through the Bible in four years. But for the adults, we tend to drop the ball and it’s more scattered than organized.
Invite the preacher to the elder’s meetings. Now this is sensitive to some. Each has to understand their roles and limitations. Each has to trust one another. The preacher and the elders so often are working together and the information one has can help the other. But if we have to deal with power, control and running the place, this will never happen. Shepherds who love the sheep ought to welcome the preacher to sit among them. His insights, both in Scriptures and people’s lives can bring wonderful ideas and find new ways to constructively move forward. True shepherding doesn’t take place in those meetings. It’s found in front rooms, and coffee shops and the elders meeting one on one with the sheep. That’s when shepherding really changes hearts.
There needs to be a fondness, love and closeness among the leaders, including the preacher. The elders need to know that every time the preacher is out of town that he is not trying out some place. The preacher needs to hear the elders say to him that they want him to stay a long time. That principle works well in a marriage. When husband and wife expresses their trust and love for each other, it’s a wonderful feeling.
The elders and the preacher needs to defend each other, support each other, and be a true team player. No talking behind the back. No back stabbing. Again, just as in a marriage, if the relationship is strong and right, a man will not put up with others trash talking his wife. He will defend her. He knows her. He knows the situation. He will stand with her. The same ought to be within the church.
When there is a great bond within the leadership, the congregation will sense it. This will trickle down throughout the church and a great love and unity will prevail. But, just the opposite is also true. When the church senses tension, hostility, unrest among the leaders, the same will follow among the members. Shepherds must know how to calm the flock and one way they do that is by setting forth the message that the leaders are united. Being on the same page is so important. It makes for better preaching. It makes for better fellowship.
When the relationship is close between the elders and the preacher, topics such as salary can be talked about without it being awkward, tense or uneasy. A preacher told me recently that he had not gotten a raise in close to ten years. Maybe he didn’t deserve a raise. However, with the cost of living, he was actually making less today than he was ten years ago. I doubt the elders thought about that. And, it is likely that the preacher felt uneasy about saying anything about this. He wasn’t happy. He suffered in silence.
Trust, openness, love and being on the same page, spiritually, as well as in expectations and plans sure makes a world of difference. It begins with conversations. Shepherds, have you just talked to your preacher about how things are going? Have you ever asked him how things could be made better? If you can’t talk openly to your preacher about these things, how can you talk to the sheep?
It begins with talking. From that it leads to doing things. Give it a try. You might be surprised!