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People Don’t Care How Much You Know…

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

You know the rest of this trite little saying: “…until they know how much you care.” I can’t even begin to recount how many times I’ve heard it repeated in seminars and conferences over the years.  When a saying gets repeated over and over again for a prolonged period of time, that is at least some evidence (though certainly not conclusive) that there is truth to it.  In this particular case, eternal truth.

I don’t even know who said it first.  In my own research, I’ve seen it attributed to dozens of people, from presidents to coaches.  I suppose the earliest quote I’ve seen has it attributed to Thomas Watson, former chairman of IBM.  Who knows?  With information moving around the world in the volumes we see it happening today, it could have been repeated a million times by thousands of different people by now.

The reason this saying has stuck with us so long is that it contains an eternal truth.  I know this because it is remarkably close to what Paul told the church in Corinth:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. I Corinthians 13:1-2

In other words, you may be the most gifted proclaimer of God’s Word alive in the world today, but if the people you are teaching don’t know that you love them, you are just a bunch of noise.  If they do not perceive you to be in a loving relationship with them, your “gift” is wasted.  You may call yourself a leader, but nobody is really following you.

I once worked in a church where the pastor was under fire.  He was an amazingly gifted preacher, one who was recognized all across the country as one of our best.  So you can imagine my surprise when I started interviewing the people in that church and finding that his preaching was not all that well respected there.  I probably met with 100 different people, asking them what they believed was at the heart of their conflict.  To a person, every single person who perceived that they were in a good relationship with this pastor told me his preaching was inspired and amazing.  And every single person who perceived that they were NOT in a good relationship with him, told me they were surprised at what a bad preacher he was.

I suppose the lessons here are pretty obvious.  Churches are firing their pastors at a near-record pace today.  Broken relationships are almost always at the heart of church conflict.  I wonder: if our seminaries spent as much resources teaching pastors how to love their people as they do teaching them how to preach, would we see different results?

Of course, when relationships are broken, there is always plenty of blame to go around.  Often, the church people themselves are much more to blame than the pastor.  No doubt about that.  But if you were going to start somewhere, trying to make a difference, where would you start?  With the students or with the teachers?  Just saying…

Leadership in the church is different than in almost any other culture.  There simply is no built-in followship.  In a volunteer army like the church, people follow a leader because they want to follow that leader, not because they have to.  That makes leadership in the church all about relationships, all about loving.  Those who love best, lead best.

So, whether you are staff or lay leadership, first and foremost, love your people.  Then (and ONLY then), will people really care how much you know.

© Blake Coffee

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