Are We Really Saying What We Want to Say?

Imagine that you are sitting at your desk in an office job, while your boss is giving a new team member the office tour. As he comes to each desk, he spends several minutes regaling the new hire with the accomplishments of your co-workers, sharing how valuable they are to the organization. But when he gets to your desk, he merely identifies you by name (mauling it in the process) and says, “He’s been here a year or so,” (you’ve been there three and a half) before moving along.

Can you feel that icky sinking feeling in your stomach? If it was me, I’d be updating my resume, and my boss wouldn’t have the first clue why.

That situation is called a micro-inequity. A micro-inequity is defined as a subtle message, sometimes subconscious, that devalues, discourages and ultimately impairs performance in the workplace. These messages can take the shape of looks, gestures or even tones. The cumulative effect of microinequties often leads to damaged self-esteem and, eventually, withdrawal from co-workers in the office.

Do some people in your congregation always wonder why visitors don’t come back? Or, have you ever been at church and looked around for someone, noticed they were gone, and no one really knew why? They’ve been visiting with you for a few weeks, maybe more, and then they just vanish. Or, maybe you’re in a meeting, or in a Monday Night for the Master gathering, and the question comes up: “Has anyone seen <insert name here> lately?” They just stopped coming.

I think the micro-messages sent by our assemblies might be one of the culprits we’re looking for. We DO communicate more than what we intend. We’ve heard many times that most of communication is non-verbal, but do we apply that truth to our corporate communications?

Congregations who worship according to the Five-Acts Model might be particularly susceptible to pushing people away with micro-messages; believing that your only audience is God does not lend itself to concerns like micro-inequities. Mutual Edification might not be any better though; so much bitterness from the splits that so often give birth to ME groups lingers in the atmosphere for years.

In fact, I wonder if our method of addressing problems is capable of addressing our failures at the level of micro-messages. Something tells me that micro-messages, positive AND negative both, come mostly from our hearts, not our minds. Until we surrender to God and let Him begin the transformation of our inner self, we will be ham-handedly trying to fix problems we really don’t understand.

We will be like the man in the recent TV commercial: This middle-aged guy sits in a chair pushed back from the kitchen table. His shirt is off and he has a steak knife in one hand. The other hand holds a phone to his ear, through which a surgeon is giving him detailed instructions on how to remove his own appendix. The man looks very nervous as he says, “Shouldn’t you be doing this?”

He is wiser than most of us; we think God gave us instructions from far away and all the work is ours to do.

So, what do you think? Is YOUR assembly really saying what God wants it to say?

in HIS love,


About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 7 May, 2008, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I was at a church service in another country when one brother said before the Lord’s Supper: “If you are not a baptized member of the Church of Christ you CANNOT participate in the Lord’s Supper.” The tone was that of a policeman ordering spectators to move along at a crash scene. I wanted to crawl under the pew, especially because there were a good number of visitors there that day.

    What does THAT communicate?

  2. I was at a service a few months ago where one of my brothers in Christ said before Communion, “If you don’t take the Lord’s Supper, you will burn in hell forever and ever.”

    That morning, I came as close to standing up and leaving the assembly as I’ve EVER come. Looking back, I wish I HAD walked out. Which is worse: a brother’s condemnation or participation in such a twisted ritual?

    We think that the Lord’s Supper is still the Lord’s Supper, no matter what the presider says about it. Certainly we can’t demand agreement on ‘every jot and tittle,’ but what we say about what we are doing truly affects the nature of what WE are doing.

  3. Good thoughts. I’ll share one horror story. A visitor told a sister, “I’m a member of X church.” The sister responded, “I used to be a member of that church, but now I’m a real Christian.” I never saw the visitor again.

    On one hand, we think the problem is a lack of tact, but it goes deeper than that to the heart. The arrogance that some have is incompatible with discipleship.

  4. This makes complete sense. I have met with a couple individuals that visited with us but decided to place membership elsewhere. They both said the same thing — that they were made to feel wanted. They admitted that the people where I serve were nice, but that is all they heard or saw. They did not get calls or cards. When they visited somewhere else, they did.

    How do I convey this message without people getting defensive? Is it possible?

  5. The prophetic message is a dangerous one.

    It always makes its audience uncomfortable, because no one is comfortable when they realize their own guilt.

    For some, the “thou art the man” moment produces repentance. For others, defensiveness.

    I don’t know your community, brother. But two things stand out in your message: 1) the perceived superficial nature of the acceptance of visitors, and 2) your expectation of defensiveness.

    Those two things considered, I would confront them with a parable. Have you ever watched the movie ‘A Time To Kill’? The defense attorney’s closing argument leads the audience right where they want to go, and then flips the script on them. That’s my idea: ‘imagine you were looking for a church home’ etc etc…, then describe their failures as the imaginary failures of this hypothetical congregation, and then bring the surprise — “Now, what if that happened HERE?”

  6. jimjonesdrinkscoffee

    THat is a great idea.
    I can predict defense from some because of repeated behavior.

    Its been years since I watched A Time To Kill — I guess I need to get on Netflix!

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