How are you at communicating? You would think we “minister types” would be good at this subject, since it’s our bread and butter. However, that is not always the case. For most of us, communication is an ongoing growth process. Just ask your wife.
The Bible has numerous exhortations concerning the use of words. “A word spoken in due season, how good is it!” (Prov. 15:23) “The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.” (Ecc. 10:12) Obviously we cannot exhaust the subject of words and communication in this limited space. Let me share the following observations from the school of hard knocks and clumsy blunders. Hopefully they will encourage you and cause you to weigh your latest efforts at communication.
1. It takes patience to communicate. Word meanings often take time to unravel and understand. Our English language does not help us in this area. Word meanings allow so much room for interpretation, and that requires patience.
For instance, the phrase “I love you” can be interpreted in several ways. It can communicate “sexual or romantic love,” “love for a friend,” or “love for a family member.” To know what is being communicated it’s necessary to evaluate the context, emotion and recipient.
2. Communication is not just words. Communication is dependent upon context, motive, relationship, body language, and other factors. Suppose I am listening to you talk, but my head rests on my hand, as if I am bored stiff. There are more than words being communicated.
3. Communication is harmed by assumptions. Our experience warns us to avoid making assumptions when we communicate with others. Come on, get real! All of us make assumptions. We read between the lines or misdiagnose the intent of a person’s heart. These mistakes cause us to respond in an appropriate manner or make incorrect statements.
4. Communication is short-circuited by impulsive responses. Impulsive responses cause us to speak instead of listening. James said, “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” (James 1:19) The old saying “God gave us two ears and one mouth” should come into play in our communication. It is imperative that we “really” hear the other person before formulating a plan or offering a response.
5. We should not communicate with partial information. The old adage “do not communicate or respond until you have all of the facts” is wise indeed. Many times, one simple fact can change the whole meaning of a message.
Each of these five principles can/should be applied to church relationships. These five principles are the mere tip of the iceberg in good communication. However, they remind us that communication requires hard work and diligence. Our relationships should be characterized by patience, accuracy, professionalism, thoroughness, maturity, and grace.
Life is too short and ministry too precious to miscommunicate. Miscommunication is usually at the root of most ministry issues. Communication should be a life-long learning process and a part of a strong ministry. Communication, or lack thereof, may make or break our ministry. Personally, I think God is honored when we work to succeed in this vital area.