Archives For Guest posts

quiet This week I’m thrilled to have a guest post from Shawn Smucker. Shawn is a writer whom I deeply admire, someone who has an innate ability to describe encounters in a poignant, beautiful and impacting way. His latest book How to use a Runaway Truck Ramp is a brilliant example of this, and one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

Shawn is keen on recognising the importance of silence, so I asked him to share his thoughts. Here he is.

The Megaphone Man Screaming in my Face

My friend’s mother (we’ll call her Beth) was on a train into London when a man standing in the aisle collapsed to the floor, motionless. If you’ve ever been on a train in England, you’ll probably remember one thing: no one says a word. The seats can be full, the aisles can be packed with people crammed up against each other, but no one talks.

So when the man collapsed at the other end of her train car, Beth peered down the aisle to see what was going to happen. And what happened was rather shocking.

Nothing happened.

No one went to his aid. No one motioned towards the man and asked their neighbor if they thought he was okay. In fact, one man sitting directly beside the man now lying in the aisle didn’t even stop reading his newspaper. It was as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. It was as if people always collapse on trains and everyone knew that if you just leave the person be, eventually they would stand back up, brush themselves off and get on with their day.

Beth stood and wove her way around the people standing in the aisle. The train kept clacking on down the track, shaking slightly from side to side. She arrived at where the man had fallen over and bent down beside him. He revived. When they arrived in London, Beth handed the man’s care over to a medic.

“Everyone just stood there,” she said, shaking her head. “No one was going to do anything for that poor man.”

When I lived in England, I also took the train into London almost everyday. It was a beautiful ride through green countryside. I always loved how the rolling hills gradually gave way to small towns, then highways, until finally the tide of the city surrounded us and the train eased into the station.

As much as I enjoyed those train rides, there was one particular section of the London Underground that I wasn’t too keen on. The reason is that on the District Line somewhere around Earl’s Court, a strange man often showed up on the train. He looked homeless: tattered shirt, torn trousers and sneakers that were falling apart, but that wasn’t what bothered me. His beard was straggly and his skin smudged black from the tube smoke, but that wasn’t it either. He carried a megaphone and multiple handmade signs under his arm.

He stood quietly as the train stopped, but as soon as it pulled away he got out his megaphone and began shouting in people’s faces. He set up his signs where everyone could see them and went from person to person, challenging their religious identity. Most people reacted in one of two ways.

Those who rode that particular section of train often sat there and tried to ignore him. They were familiar with the way he operated and didn’t want to draw undue attention to themselves or engage him in any way. But those who were new to this man were shocked. How could someone so blatantly violate everyone’s sense of personal space? How could someone say such mean things to strangers?

One day this man aimed his megaphone at a young Asian lady. The poor girl looked so frightened and alarmed, and her response led me to believe she didn’t speak English, or at least not well. One question etched itself on to her face: Why was this strange man shouting at me?

But the rest of us just looked away. We didn’t want to draw the man’s attention. All of us, that is, except one middle-aged woman.

I can still picture her. She stood up, marched over to that man, and got right in his face. She raised her index finger and pointed it at him.

“How dare you talk to this young woman that way? How dare you frighten this poor child? Now you take your little megaphone and you go somewhere else!”

He raised his megaphone as if to shout at her, but she pushed it back down to his side.

“I’ll have none of that!” she shouted. “Now be on your way.”

And would you believe it? The man walked to the other end of the car, sat down, and didn’t say another word.

Shouting can be immensely effective. After all, Beth’s movement to the side of the fallen man was, in a sense, a shout, and after she moved down the aisle beside the man, other people came to their aid. They just needed that first movement.

That first shout.

And look at the middle-aged woman on the train with the megaphone man: a few well-timed shouts was all it took to shut him down, to take the wind out of his sails, to make him second-guess the way he treated people.

But shouts don’t always work. After all, those of us who were familiar with that shouting man and his megaphone had tuned him out long ago.

If all you’re doing is shouting, guess what? No one is listening anymore. If the noise you create is always criticism and put-down and in-your-face shouting, your audience is shrinking, no matter what the numbers are saying. And if you want to maintain and increase your platform, you’ll have to figure out way to shout louder and louder.

Eventually, your followers will be following you because you shout, and not at all because of what you’re saying.

We all want to disrupt what we see as evil in the world. We want to fight injustice, free captives and lead people to truth. But we’ve swallowed the culture’s lie that the only way to do this is to shout, louder and louder and louder. In reality, the most effective way to bring about change is to incorporate silence into our platform.

What is silence?

Silence is being quiet, sure, but silence is also mercy. Kindness. Encouragement.

Take a break from all the shouting. Your whispers will carry further.

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To find out more about Shawn, visit his website or follow him on Twitter.

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tbToday, I’m thrilled to have a guest post by Tyler Braun. I first came across Tyler last year when I did a review of his brilliant book Why Holiness Matters.

Tyler is a great guy, and a voice worth listening to in a world where so many people are clamouring for attention. He’s humble, wise and discerning, and I have really valued and learnt a lot from his thoughts on mentoring over the last few months. His post below is about just that – mentoring – and it’ a great read. Over to him – and I’d love to know your thoughts on what he says.

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Certainly not all churches are representative of this, but mentoring is quickly the buzz word of choice for churches looking to reach younger generations. Fortune 500 companies are making the news by starting mentoring programs they hope will fulfill the desires their younger employees have for interaction with more experienced members within their organizations.

With the success these moves have made for companies, churches are also starting programs for mentoring. If churches start programs for mentoring they’ll kill the entire concept by trying to force relationships. What I think churches need is not another program, but a shift in mindset. Anyone can create a sign up sheet for those looking for a mentor, but churches should be equipping people with the tools needed in order for mentoring to become a core focus.

In 5 years, your church will have moved on to the next quick fix if you create a mentoring program, but if you instill a mindset of mentoring within a church, in 5 years you’ll have a church full of people who are more connected and shine forth the light of Christ like never before.

First off, it’s important to define what is meant by mentoring, so it’s understood what is being discussed:

Mentoring is inviting someone into an intentional relationship for the sake of personal and spiritual growth.

I have no doubt my call away from creating mentoring programs is discouraging for those who have had in mind to do this very thing. So let’s spend time examining how we can instill a mentoring mindset in a church. Over time this will be more effective than a program anyway.

The Gospel Leads to Mentoring

The lack of understanding about what the Gospel is can be seen all around as the Gospel is truncated to simply mean being saved from sin. Jesus then is Savior, but not King. The focus on grace is simply saving grace. Where is the focus on equipping grace? Where is King Jesus found in a lived out theology? What does God have for us to do with our lives after he saves us? These questions are often ignored.

If the Gospel saves us, and also equips us for the present and the future by infusing God’s power within us, then we can begin to see how we are called to care for others. If mentoring is only a quick fix to reach a generation it will never become sustainable, but connecting mentoring to the core belief of Christian faith means it becomes integral to the outworking of that faith.

Lead the Way

Churches are full of leaders who want their church to build a mentoring mindset but they’d prefer to leave to work for others. If developing a mentoring mindset is something you desire for your church, but you cannot find the time or energy to help lead the way, you need to find something else to focus on then. Without the key staff/volunteers/idea leaders leading the way, mentoring will not develop.

Just as you should never preach a message you haven’t first taught yourself, you should never tell others to do something you are not first willing to do.

Look for the Linchpins

Every church has indispensable people who are the glue of the congregation. They hold everything together by serving, teaching, leading, praying, etc. Churches develop a mentoring mindset because these linchpins put their effort toward it.

Reach out to these indispensable individuals and start having conversations that help get the ball rolling. While it is vital for you to lead by example, you also cannot lead the church toward mentoring on your lonesome. You need others who are passionate about investing in people. Who are the leaders in your church or community that people are drawn to? These linchpins are the people you need on board.

Celebrate What’s Already Happening

Chances are mentoring is already taken place, in various forms, all around you. But often it’s taking place with little to no intentionality or fanfare. Opportunities are wasted because people choose to stop investing their time and energy in them.

You have the opportunity to champion the pockets around you where mentoring is taking place. You have to start somewhere, and celebrating what is working is a great place to start.

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Tyler Braun is the author of Why Holiness Matters: We’ve Lost Our Way—But We Can Find it Again. Tyler lives in Oregon with his wife Rose and son Judah. You can find Tyler on Twitter or his blog, www.manofdepravity.com, where he writes about Millennials and finding the significant life we’re all searching for.