15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Eph 4:15-16 (NIV)
One key factor that will shape the future of the BGCT will be our effectiveness in communication. To be all we hope to be we need to create what I will call a “clear communication loop.” This “communication loop” values both the sending of messages but also equally feedback. Great organizations recognize that the communication superhighway runs both ways.
Communication functions like the “central nervous system” of large complex organizations. When we communicate in effective clear ways with each other we have a much better chance of accomplishing what we are trying to do together.
It seems odd for me to write this article on communication since I struggle in this area quite often. In fact the joke around our office is “FBC Canyon” stands for “frequently bad communication.” In the rat race of running full speed between Sunday our leadership team frequently fails to communicate clearly with each other.
Paul stresses the role of communication in the body of Christ in the fourth chapter of Ephesians. He points out that “we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ”—when we “speak the truth in love”.
Speaking the “truth in love” reveals the heart of good and effective communication. Time and again it takes courage to speak the truth. Like the little boy in the Hans Christian Anderson’s book The Emperor’s New Clothes who bluntly declares what everyone can see—the emperor is walking around in his “birthday” suit. Few of us want to be the one to speak up and speak out. Granted there are those who enjoy this role too much, but most good people fall silent when truth needs to be spoken. Note the last heated church business meeting you attended. The vast majority of the people sat silently.
We would be wise to note that Paul did not simply say “speak the truth” but rather “speak the truth in love”. Here is the telling mark of Christian communication. Our words must be filtered through a heart of love and compassion for others to hit the mark. When people know how much you care and love them they will not only hear you, but they will take your words to heart.
On the flip side, we err if we only “speak…in love” and leave out the “truth.” As a leader who struggles with “people pleasing” I know this danger all too well. It is the temptation to tell people what they want to hear. It is remaining silent about the “white elephant” in the living room. It is testing which way the wind is blowing before you speak up. We have all been there. It has been suggested to me that I am too “nice” to be the kind of leader we need for the future. There may be more truth to that observation than I want to admit. However, I have discover the hard way that “being nice” at the expense of truth or right is being “too nice.” Jesus showed us by His example in the temple courts that there are times when tables need to be flipped over, and wrong needs to be confronted.
Over the past twenty-five years as Baptist life has become increasing more political and segmented we have struggled in applying this Biblical principle. Our rhetoric has been harsh. We have chosen to “beat” each other with “truth” from our perspective like hitting someone over the head with a ten pound Schofield Study Bible. We have been so “right” we have been “wrong” in how we have communicated with each other. It has gotten to the point state conventions have felt the need to pass resolutions about blogging of all things!
Paul added later in this chapter on Christian unity:
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin” : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. Eph 4:25-27 (NIV)
You would think in the body of Christ we would not have to remind each other to tell the truth. When you feel the need to tell a “little white lie” for the sake of your cause, or to stretch the truth just a bit to make a point you may be more under the influence of the “father of lies” than the Holy Spirit. There may be times we don’t even know we are lying because we never took the time to check out the facts or to talk to the people who were involved. Shame on us. we destroy and undermine trust and credibility when we take short cuts with the truth. It’s time for us to give the “father of lies” his walking papers by communicating with each other by “speaking the truth in love”.
The motivation for good healthy communication rests in the reality (whether we like it or not) “we are all members of one body.”
I need to “speak the truth in love” because we are all in this together. Kenneth Gangel put it this way:
“Small wonder we use so many ship words in church—worship, fellowship, stewardship, leadership. Perhaps we like to remind ourselves that when we serve the Lord Jesus, we are all in the same boat.”
As the BGCT faces the future together we would be wise to remember we are “in the same boat” and hopefully we will work hard at paddling in the same direction so we won’t go around in circles like a rubber raft full of Texans floating down a “whitewater” river in Colorado. (If you wonder what that looks like I have home movies from a recent vacation adventure! It’s not a pretty sight”)