I was a full-time teacher for thirty-six years. My job was to present instructional material in front of different kinds of people all year long, week after week. I am sure that some appreciated my teaching; sadly I am sure some did not.
I never spent a lot of time thinking about why students came to my classes. Maybe for many it was the simple fact that they wanted something from me—three hours of college credit. I wanted them to like my teaching; I wanted them to enjoy coming to class. Nevertheless, it was up to me to decide whether their performance merited the credit. You might say I “held something over them”.
It was their job to impress me on examinations with their knowledge of the material we were covering and in the speech classroom, they needed to show me they could deliver an “effective” speech.
Since I had so many opportunities to be in front of so many people, I worked hard to be as prepared and professional as I could be. Almost all of the time, I think I succeeded. However, I remember one day when I walked into a classroom and began teaching with a problem [unbeknownst to me]. A certain garment was unzipped. I began my presentation and all was well, but I noticed a more mature student on the front row with an unusual facial expression. Soon after I noticed his expression, he did something unusual. He called me into the hall outside of the classroom where he told me about my “problem.” I will never forget his attitude. He did not embarrass me. He was matter-of-fact. He just wanted to alert me to my error. He seemed to have my best interest at heart.
And I surely appreciated this information…but most of all I appreciated the attitude he had as he delivered the information.
Pastor John Bevere is calling on men and women of the church to not be afraid to speak the truth to their congregations. Like the student who alerted me that day, it may be uncomfortable to speak truth to certain people, but it needs to be done anyhow.
He cites the spiritual advisor Micaiah in 1 Kings. This person was known as someone who was unafraid to speak truth to power. The King of Judah was constantly surrounded by advisors who told him exactly what he wanted to hear: “yes.” The problem is that the king knew their advice was not always good. The king’s initiatives were not always successful and after several failures, he asked “Are there not advisors who will speak accurately?” The King of Israel replied “There is still one such man. But I hate him. He never preaches anything good to me, only doom, doom, doom.”
The King of Judah summoned Micaiah and when he arrived at court, the king’s messenger told him “Look, as one man the other prophets are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably” [1 Kings 22: 13]. Micaiah said something unique in his reply: “As surely as the Lord lives, I will say only what the Lord tells me to say” [22:14]. He told what he felt to the king and the king was not happy but as the king’s initiative began to take place, all the positive advisors were wrong and Micaiah was accurate.
Why are there few in the church to speak the truth today? Pastor Bevere says that speaking truth to a congregation will not help you sell your Christian bestseller. You won’t be invited to be a conference speaker. You won’t have the largest number of views on You Tube. You might not have that chance to pastor to a megachurch.
The Lord knows that we do need encouragement today. We can’t stand “only doom, doom, doom” all the time but the story of Micaiah makes a point. When things are wrong, they need to be addressed. Ignoring a problem will not make it go away.
When correction is needed, Pastor Bevere states it does not need to be done with malice. Some people may want to address a problem but their way of doing it is like telling someone off. Bevere states,”The entire time you bring a corrective or challenging word, you must absolutely love the people you are addressing.” He also compares a person who refuses to correct others as a used car salesman who will say anything to get a customer to buy a car. A pastor who loves the Lord should also love the people of his or her church. “True love does not flatter; it’s truthful. It speaks what is needed to bring health to the hearers” [Bevere, 169].
Speaking corrective words with an “I told you so” attitude, an “I know more that you” attitude or an “I’m better than you attitude” will not get the job done. When someone tells you something is wrong, you want them to do it like they have your best interest in their heart.
Kind of like that student who helped me that day; he just wanted to alert me to my problem. Was I embarrassed? Of course I was. He just helped me that day and I liked him not only for what he did, but I really liked him for how he did it.