Harbor Church Honolulu is an Evangelical Free and Acts 29 church in Hawaii. At the church blog recently John Lee who is on staff of this Acts 29 church wrote a post about communication with people that you love. This post is a response to that blog article and is about evangelicals and love, communication, and the absence of grace. Evangelical culture has a lot of issues.
“Many a man would rather you heard his story than granted his request.”
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:15-17 NIV
USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, Virginia
The previous day I wrote about an Evangelical Free (EFCA) and Acts 29 church on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Its called Harbor Church Honolulu and you can read about it in, “Why Acts 29 Harbor Church in Honolulu Will Not Reach the People of Oahu.” Recently John Lee who is on staff at Harbor Church in Honolulu wrote a blog post for the blog of this EFCA/Acts 29 church. John is the pastor of Mobilization and Strategy. The name of his blog post is called, “Better Communication with The People You Love.” I am going to write a response to John’s post and point out some issues with Acts 29 culture and love in evangelicalism. My comments below will be in red.
The weather is starting to cool off. The temperature setting in the office AC is moving up a few degrees. We just served Starbucks Winter Blend at church this past Sunday. Our Marriage Conference is coming up at the end of this month. All of these events mean that our couples at church may be drawing closer to each other in intimacy due to warming each other up.
But one thing that should always be drawing us closer to each other (regardless of the weather) is applying better communication skills with those around us. So this goes for our interactions with our spouse, our children, our co-workers, and even with strangers. With our Marriage Conference a couple weeks away and a lot of our children on Fall Break this week, lets look at 3 easy ways to improve our communication with those we love.
1. Practice basic communication skills.
Writing down some fundamental communication skills on a notecard and then reviewing the concept before applying it in a conversation with a loved one is a great start to improving your communication skills. A couple of basic skills are to reflect feelings and clarify content. Reflecting feelings is listening to your loved one and reflecting back their feelings like a mirror. For example, “I can see that you are upset, what can I do to help?”
Since the person you are talking to isn’t a mind-reader, you need to make clear what your intentions are behind your words. If you are receiving someone’s words and you don’t understand their meaning, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. There are always problems and unnecessary hardships when we jump to conclusions. I remember as a teenager, my driving instructor transferred this idea of clarifying content when you are driving with others on the road. He said, “Don’t assume anything.” And he later explained when you assume, (using all the letters in the word “assume”), it makes an “#*&” of “u” and “me”.
Here is the issue with John. When it comes to evangelicalism you actually need to go deeper then what John is saying. You need to ask questions about why some evangelicals are communicating. My past experience with evangelicalism is a movement that is skin deep and very shallow. And before I go on this is not about me jumping to conclusions, instead this is me analyzing almost 20 years of experience with evangelicalism. Enough to see its flaws and problem in its culture. Love is often shallow and subjective. Its conditional. When it comes to Acts 29 the question becomes who can be the biggest ass kisser and pucker up to Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung. and countless others. That is how you prove love you show that you worship the correct doctrine and worship the proper celebrity pastor. In the Acts 29 culture this shows how much you love the church and more. When you hear the phrase “sound doctrine” you need to think of the phrase “brown noser.” That tells you about the reasons why evangelicals wan to reach out to people.
2. Exercise lots of grace.
The way to becoming proficient in any skill is to acquire lots of practice and experience. When talking with your young children, give lots of grace to them as they try to communicate their feelings to you. Put your personal standards of acceptable communication on the side and rather, draw closer to your loved one through trying to understand one another. When we acknowledge that our spouse, child, or friend is reaching out to us, we need to cultivate and appreciate the opportunity for communication, and not critique it. Give one another grace, and room to fail.
Grace doesn’t exist in evangelicalism. Actually its laughable to see John Lee write about it here. Grace is a myth and honestly doesn’t exist. Evangelicals are known for their harsh judgement. This is not going to change as its part of the DNA of evangelicalism. And what grace is he speaking of in an Acts 29 church? Grace or the doctrines of grace? Authoritarianism in an Acts 29 church can be defined as “grace” in a perverse way.
3. Create an emotional safety zone.
When someone wants to truly communicate and share with another person, they want to feel emotionally safe. If a person doesn’t feel safe, their defenses come up and true communication of feelings and ideas will disappear. So how can you provide an emotional safety zone? By not casting judgment on what the other person says and also by pinpointing what your loved one needs. Maybe it is a need of approval, or perhaps assurance that you are listening to them.
God’s word gives us valuable insights into how we should speak, treat, and communicate with one another. Our words are a reflection of what is in our hearts, so we should constantly be filling our hearts and minds with what is best. As you go about your day today preparing for an opportunity to communicate with a loved one, remember the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable- if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy- dwell on these things.”
One point to emphasize is that many evangelicals have no concept of boundaries. And many evangelicals have co-dependent relationships and unhealthy friendships. But getting into what John wrote many evangelicals are casting judgement. They do so all the time. I don’t want to hammer this point as I touched on it above. Its just how the culture is. Can evangelicals assist and help others? Can they pinpoint other people’s needs? No they can’t. In the business world there is a a belief called truth in advertising. That needs to apply to evangelicals. Many churches speak of it but in the end almost none of them can respond in such a way. And evangelicals don;t know how to listen. Many will speak their mind but how many will respond to need? If words are a reflection of what is in one’s heart, I wonder what John Lee would say about some of the teachings that came from Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney, John Piper and countless others.
That is about all I can say for now. Harbor Church Honolulu I will be writing about you long term. If any former members have spiritual abuse stories that they want to tell this blog exists for them.