Speaking and Understanding

March 31, 2014, 0 Comments

Leaders speak. It is a natural part of the leadership process to communicate what the group is to do and where the group is to go. Though leadership can happen by influence through the actions of the leader, nevertheless, verbal communication is always necessary. In one form or another, leaders must also be teachers. They are not necessarily teachers in the classic form of classroom instruction but it may occasionally take that form.

Leadership requires that you speak in a way that is understandable. It also requires having the discernment to know whether or not you have been understood. It is a lesson driven home to me when I traveled in 2013 to teach for a course at the Kiev Theological Seminary. While teaching in their church planting school, all of the lectures were translated into Russian for the students. Some of them preferred Ukrainian but all of them spoke Russian. As in any teaching, I lectured, asked questions, interacted with the students, and engaged them in various learning activities. It was during those days of teaching that these four principles were driven home to me about speaking and understanding.

  • Just because you speak does not mean that they heard you.
  • Just because they nodded their heads in affirmation does not mean they understand.
  • Just because they said they understand does not mean that they agree.
  • Just because they agree does not mean that they will do it.

Take an international setting combined with educational course and thrown in a translator and you will have a recipe for a great deal of miscommunication. During the course, I learned when the students were nodding to be polite and when they were smiling in disagreement.

As a church leader, it is a distinction you must learn as well in your own setting. How many times have you given a rousing vision-casting sermon that was met with “Amen” and “Good sermon, preacher” statements? But then no one followed through on the vision. They all nodded in agreement. They all affirmed the worthwhile nature of the goals you laid out. They all heard you… but that does not mean they understood you.

Leading the church into its mission, vision, core values, or whatever else you may call it is more than just blurting out words to inspire. It requires that you know the people whom you lead well enough to know if they understood a word that you said. And, having understood it, knowing if they will go in that direction. There are no easy answers to this issue. It is the place where we learn just how fictional “positional leadership” really is in most of our churches. Ultimately, the speaking you do must be backed up by the influence you have. Then, and only then, can there be true understanding.

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