Written by Paul Penner Tuesday, 26 July 2011 18:33
One hundred-plus-degree temperatures do not seem so bad, especially while sitting in a temperature controlled conference room.
My greatest enemy at the time was not the oppressive heat outside the hotel complex in Tulsa, Okla. My enemy was the 70-degree temperatures inside the meeting room, making it difficult for my cold, stiff fingers to flex enough to keep a written record of the ongoing discussion.
How’s that for a bit of irony?
It’s all about keeping a proper perspective. Where would I rather be—in the suffocating heat or inside and freezing my hands off? Actually, I’d prefer neither, but most choices aren’t that simple. For the moment, then, I choose the cooler side of perfect.
My purpose for attending this five-day meeting was to represent, along with other colleagues, the National Associations of Wheat Growers. We were guests of U.S. Wheat Associates at their quarterly business meeting.
In retrospect, though, one might compare seemingly endless committee meetings to watching grass grow, I did learn a few things along the way, especially from guest speakers who were informing and encouraging us to strive for excellence.
Retired NFL referee Jim Tunney challenged the audience to create a positive force in our lives and not allow ourselves to let the bad things that happen influence how we live. We are to accept criticism as a gift.
That’s easy for some to say, right?
One might say Tunney should know something about criticism and how to react, or not react, to it. Can you imagine a day when an entire stadium of fans, not to mention coaches, players and the television audience disagrees with your decision?
In leadership, Tunney says people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Tunney’s observations of coaches and players in the NFL provided insight into this concept. Some leaders inspire and build confidence in others, and some leaders provoke people to react with rage and fits of anger.
No matter what our position is, whether we are responsible for one employee or a thousand, this rule applies. Whether we teach, preach, manage a business, or whether we lead a group of volunteers, building relationships with people and showing that we truly care, that is the key for creating a level of trust that can solidify a relationship for a lifetime and foster respect.
So much for an inspirational Sunday morning sermon, and we weren’t even in church.
After the board meeting ended late Sunday morning, three members of our executive team, including yours truly, took a time-out to attend a church service at the Asbury Methodist Church, located a short drive from the hotel.
The multi-level sanctuary is large. The entire building complex of Hillsboro MB Church, not a small building in its own right, could have been placed within the sanctuary’s walls, with space to spare.
Of five services held each Sunday morning, this was the second primary service conducted within the primary sanctuary. Another service was taking place in a smaller venue on the church campus. Worship formats ranged from casual/praise and worship to contemporary, traditional or modern—I’m unsure what that was—not to mention an additional communion service earlier in the day and another “modern” service later in the evening.
Imagine an audience that represents nearly as many residents of the entire city of Hillsboro, times two, sitting together in one room, in one of those meetings. Those numbers alone offers another perspective that reminds yours truly that we live in a different reality than those living in a truly urban environment.
One statistic the senior pastor noted in his sermon suggests we all face similar challenges. According to the data he mentioned, roughly 70 percent of all children of church members in the U.S. eventually leaves the church and the faith.
Whether that statistic is accurate or whether the number is slightly lower—data from the Barna Group indicate it is about 61 percent—it reflects a poor spiritual condition, not only of the children of church attendees, but perhaps the spiritual condition or inability of their parents to connect with their children as well.
In any case, whether one finds comfort in this knowledge, large and small churches struggle with the challenges of keeping children within the church’s membership rolls.
It’s just a thought, but perhaps this reflects our inability to focus on people already sitting within the church walls, to minister to them, to encourage, to disciple, to love them. It’s too easy to say we Christians are primarily focused on evangelizing and reaching out to the world “out there”—people, whose bad habits and personality quirks we don’t even know—than to focus on people we know all too well.
It’s not a romantic notion, the idea of reaching out to people to show that God loves them. It can be gut-wrenching work, often requiring one to sacrifice time, money and other resources to be faithful to our God-given call. It can also mean we face rejection and criticism from others. However, we would do well to heed Tunney’s advice to not let adversity get us down.
The focus of my experiences that week varied from strategic planning for a national foundation to reaching lost people. It seems a bit ironic that both meetings contained elements of wisdom that were “God” inspired.