Leading by Listening
Pastor Mike Frie
Metro Harvest Church, Wisconsin
It’s Sunday evening, and we’re all pretty wiped out. It was the second week of in-person services, and because of social distancing and reduced capacities, we’re running multiple service times. Besides being Pentecost Sunday, the message was the last in a five-week series on the Holy Spirit, so I was gazelle-focused on making sure everything was right for that day. Everything went really well, but again, when it was all said and done, we were done!
I received a rare late evening text from our Life Groups Director, Jackie, who by day is a global administrator for GE Healthcare and a very capable leader. She also happens to be African American. She apologized for texting, but being the discerning person she is, she wanted to get ahead of the curve on something she felt the enemy might be trying to stir up.
I called her and she brought me up to speed. Our church is about 30% black. There was at least one member (and possibly more) who felt Jackie needed to reach out to leadership and ask why I hadn’t addressed the George Floyd incident from the pulpit that day. It hadn’t really occurred to Jackie that I hadn’t addressed it, so after assuring this individual that the church did have that situation on our radar screen (great leader), she asked her husband his thoughts, to which he said, “Yes, I was a little surprised that he didn’t.” That’s when she felt I should be looped in on what could become a divisive situation.
I think the scenario from that Sunday is a microcosm of what’s happening in current events. There are some that look to leverage and bring as much attention as possible to further any cause. Sometimes that can become reactive and even violent and divisive, which sadly diminishes the effort. In the case of George Floyd and others, the injustice is obvious and tragic. Unfortunately, the media has pushed the narrative off George Floyd and onto the anger, hatred, and rage of those creating even more division. Riots have ensued, and more people have experienced personal loss.
The other side of this are those who take a more measured approach. It’s slower and doesn’t play out as well in the news cycle. But in the end, I believe it has higher potential to bring about lasting change rather than rash, reactive measures like we’re seeing in some communities. Each leader will approach these kinds of situations differently. Some will react, and some will respond.
I’m encouraging you to be like Jackie, a James 1 leader. “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”
We know this cannot be healed on simply a legislative level. There has to be, and will be, more. Only the Holy Spirit can bring about transformational change on both an individual and national level--revival for the Church and reform for the nation.
So on that following Wednesday night, I sat down on Facebook Live with Larry, our Starting Point Director (who’s also African American), and we had a very real, raw, and unscripted discussion to begin to bring healing and understanding. Afterwards, we prayed. To date, 1,264 people watched that discussion with very high engagement, much more than if I would have just made mention of it from the pulpit. I learned more in that hour of talking, listening, and exchanging ideas with my friend Larry than in several years of news cycles and commentary. That’s not all we’re going to do, but it’s a start.
My advice? Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and you’ll find a place to start as well.