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Paying attention to more than the attention hogs
It seems to me like some of us get our best thinking done at 10 p.m. at night. There are Design Team leaders were, in maybe the most stimulating meeting I attend, talking about what to do with our next season. Justin is our leader. And he was instructing about how to “win” an audience. He was lauding his wife Sarah for starting a portion of the meeting she was leading with a blast from her kazoo. I liked it too. I kept paying attention. You know, most people are actually paying attention to what we do
But then, I thought, (the state certainly is). In fact, most people that come to worship on a Sunday evening (on Memorial Day weekend of all days!) are there to worship, learn, and respond. Over-emphasizing a leader’s charisma may not necessarily be a soul-saving path. We are so used to being advertised to, lulled into listening, seduced into acceptance, that we’ve lost the art of just listening. Is the most charismatic person in the room the one that’s most fit to lead us? I’m not sure.
I made the point that the people that are zoning you out are the people that are zoned out anyway. The people who didn’t mentally prepare to be at the meeting. They come exhausted out of obligation and are annoyed that the same people are talking for as long as they are. Sure, the leaders up front may not be delivering the most well-prepared or thought-out speech, but they are trying to do something and although many people are respectful enough to listen to them, it seems to me that the entitled members of our community are the ones that are most likely to zone them out.
This is personal! It’s not like we’re at Joel Osteen’s church where we are a blip in the mass so that you can zone out if Joel isn’t being his usual self. We’re closer, we can smell each other, we barely need a microphone. Pay attention! People matter and so does what they say! I should note that it is worthy for our leaders to do their best to present well, but more than they’re style, it is them that matters.
We aren’t used to doing this. During the intro to the public meeting, I exclaimed to the group—“Hey! I’m talking to you! Not just the ‘new person.’” Someone fell asleep and I had to wake them up during the meeting so they could keep doing their job. Another person couldn’t get off their smart phone. We’re all guilty of it. Ready to be entertained by the next thing and judging it not worthy if it drags for just a second.
I’m guilty of this all the time; I work on offering the most impassioned speech I can give, fit with jokes, hooks, and stories that keep drawing the audience in, but I’m not sure I’m most trustworthy when I’m slickest. I think I might be better off just being me. Just being who God made me, warts and all. Many of us fail at being that attention-grabbing leader, meanwhile what we present isn’t personal enough to attach to. It can be cold, and route—reading off of a piece of paper thoughts that really have nothing to do with us.
Out leaders might not offer the introduction that enchants you, nor will they offer the most engaging stories or the funniest jokes—but I do believe they are saying something that’s worthy to be listened to, especially if it’s about them and how they relate to God and God to them. If we make it that personal and that intimate, I think that’s all that matters. Not that we are just clever or witty.
I think that, alone, is a point of Christianity. Jesus found favor in us. He died for us. We were worth it in his mind. We are his children, redeemed and full of significance and value. When we show each other that mutual respect, we actually build the kind of gravity that’s crucial for our mission—crucial to including more people into our community. That authenticity, that genuineness, is really what’s inviting about Circle of Hope, not how attractive our leaders are.
But to be fair, they are very good. I’m honored to be serving with them. They are thoughtful, smart, talented, and faithful. I’m thankful for their leadership and I am inspired by it. They are worthy to be followed.