I got some great advice today from a colleague who said to my overwhelmed, frustrated heart, ‘You’ve got to follow the yes voices, not the no’s,’ or something like that. He was quoting another colleague, but it was valuable advice, and probably one of those tapes that will play in my head over and over again in ministry. It is a common problem among minister types that we pay attention to those negative voices who create doubt and fear, who create chaos and confusion, who stand in the body of Christ and build a wall that says clearly and loudly, “NO!” We pay attention to them because they are loud. We pay attention to them because they sound like they have power. We pay attention to them because we are afraid they will try to fire us if we don’t listen. The problem is…these voices are not voices of faith. These voices are not voices of a community that lives in mutual care for one another. These voices are not THE VOICE of God.
So what should a church do, when the loud, “NO!” is exerting its power and reach to sabotage the ministry Christ calls us to be and do? Sometimes the “no” is not loud at all. Sometimes the “no” is quiet and hidden, in the darkness where no one will think to look. What should a church do, when there are some who are trying to undo all the good things God is blessing, who like the tempter in the wilderness, whisper doubt into the ears of those who will listen?
I can think of four things that a church should do in response to the “NO!” or the whispered doubt.
- Pray – A church in this situation should pray for clarity. It should pray that the voice we listen to is God’s voice and not our own, and certainly not that of the tempter. It should pray that it is inspired with the strength of the Holy Spirit to avoid and deny temptation to become a “NO!” and instead become a Yes; a yes for God and for the mission of Christ which will change us all.
- Listen to the, “YES!”, then be the YES! A church in this situation should begin listening to the yeses. In her book, Bossypants, Tina Fay talks about the rules of improve and she says, “Rule 1. The first rule of improvisation is to AGREE. Saying “no” grinds invention, innovation (and improv) to a screeching halt. Obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with what everyone says. But saying YES reminds you to respect what your partner has created and to start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you. Rule 2. The second rule of improve is to not only say YES, say YES, AND. In improv, you agree and then add something of your own. If your partner starts with, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say “Yeah…” the skit has stalled. But if you respond with, “What did you expect? We’re in hell!” things keep moving forward.” (Found at this link.) The church could learn a lot from these rules of improv, because it tends to get stalled with the “NO” and the ‘now what?’ But when a church accepts that the response to the question should be “yes, and…” it opens itself to hearing God’s call and living God’s promise of abundance.
- Find the joy and celebrate – A church in this situation should learn to seek and find the joys; no matter how small, and it should celebrate them all as if they are huge. You might think this is over doing it, but when the church delights in the small things it echos the voice of the creator in Genesis who delights in all creation that is good and amazing. God says, “WOW!” and the church should look at what God is doing and say, “WOW!”
- Pray – A church in this situation should pray some more. It should pray for more guidance, and for ears that listen to God’s voice and not any others. It should pray for the spirit to rejoice in all of God’s good blessings. It should pray for those who say “no,” that God would change their hearts and bring them to the place where God’s voice is stronger than their own thoughts and deepest fears. A church in this situation should pray, and pray some more, and pray some more.
Today, I choose the follow the yeses, and to share the joy. Our vision team is making the next step and on Sunday we will be telling our future story. This is a joy as we begin to name God’s vision and set out a plan for future ministry based on God’s vision for us. Hooray!