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7 Ways the Church Is Bad at Communication – And How to Fix It

7 Ways the Church Is Bad at Communication – And How to Fix It

As a greeter at church, I can say with absolute confidence that a certain conversation plays on rewind every Sunday. The conversation starts something like, “Hey. How are you?” “Good,” the other person responds, “How are you?” “Good,” the first person says, as though echoing the second. Neither are being honest, just what they deem as polite, but lying is never polite.

How are they really?

No one takes the time to find out. With the brief exchange, they each go their separate ways. I’m no longer guilty of starting such conversations, but I am guilty of participating. That’s why I wasn’t totally surprised when someone I work with dropped some heavy news on me recently. Despite my occasional “How are you,” she had not taken the time to be fully honest. She was used to the rhythm that plays out every Sunday at my church, encountering the same at her own.

But I wanted to know how she was really, and so I asked why now. The answer – the problem became too big for her to keep to herself. That led to a conversation about communication that all of us Christians can stand to hear.

If we are to be a church, or even a family, as pastors often say, then we should treat each other accordingly. Not standing on our own, but together. And not by the standards of our own families, but of the kingdom of God.

Too often are we focused on the next place to be, the next thing to do, and not being present where we are or who we are with. We’re hyper-focused on ourselves. Everyone else blurs into the background. That means we’re not loving in the way God commands. Today that should change.

Here are seven ways the church is bad at communication, and how to fix it:

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Annie Spratt 

1. Being Superficial

One with many friends may be harmed, but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

Most people wouldn’t say they act superficial, but the aforementioned conversation describes most people. Another common saying is, “Hope you’re doing well.” We say this despite the fact we could simply pause, and ask how the person is doing. Though this would require time, effort, and intentionality, and that’s why we don’t. Not naturally anyway.

And if our words weren’t bad enough, we’ve lost the meaning of the word friend. Social media and cultural norms have led us to call just about anyone a friend, yet we don’t treat them accordingly! When we look at Scripture, we see that not everyone was a friend of Jesus, nor did He call everyone friend. Still, He loved them.

That leaves us with the question, what is a friend? Once we reconsider the meaning as a church we can bring back the word acquaintance, and thus, bring back the true definition of the word friend.

2. Keeping too Busy

In vain you get up early and stay up late, working hard to have enough food—yes, he gives sleep to the one he loves.” (Psalm 127:2)

As Americans, we take pride in our busyness, but our busyness is not always Christian. Sometimes we define ourselves not by our faith, but by our work. If we’re doing things, making money, then we have worth. If we’re not, then we are without worth. Meanwhile, as we take pride in busyness, we don’t put as much stock into our relationships. Our family ties and friendships fall by the wayside. We close ourselves off from any new relationships because we don't have the time. Rather, we don’t make the time.

If we’re keeping that busy, we should consider whether our busyness is to honor God or simply to benefit ourselves.

Those who could use our presence suffer when we’re too busy. When people know you as the busybody, they think to themselves you are not someone to go to for support, even when they’re in need.

Counteract the busyness by being in the moment. Appreciate people when you’re with them. Don’t tell people you will pray for them later, pray right then and there. And don’t wait for people to fit into your schedule. Set work aside for time. Invest in your relationships with God and others. Be present.

two women sitting on couch with crossed arms looking upset and angry, how to forgive when you don't feel forgiving

3. Being too Sensitive

“A person’s insight gives him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11)

“Don’t pay attention to everything people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you, for in your heart you know that many times you yourself have cursed others.” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22)

One major problem of the modern age is the problem of sensitivity. Everyone is offended by everything, or as the youth say, “triggered.” When we become overly sensitive to how someone looks at us, talks to us, or talks about ideas, we become unapproachable. And if unapproachable, our ability to converse as a church has been hindered. This has become very apparent in the political divide within the church. Once a person knows what another person thinks, the relationship is over. On certain subjects like transgenderism or abortion, the choice makes sense. We feel strong convictions on matters of life and death.

However, simply knowing someone belongs to a different political party or does not support a particular activist group is hardly reason for a relationship to cease.

As Scripture admonishes us, we should be somewhat sensitive to the words of others, but not overly sensitive. Listen to what someone says, take what you like, leave the rest. Work through differences where possible, and only when obstacles are insurmountable do we let the relationship go.

4. Making Assumptions

“Don’t take a matter to court hastily. Otherwise, what will you do afterward if your opponent humiliates you?” (Proverbs 25:8)

“The one who gives an answer before he listens— this is foolishness and disgrace for him.” (Proverbs 18:13)

Most people know the saying of what happens when you assume something. Though, not all of us, myself included, recognize just how much we assume. Whether we wonder why someone dresses the way they do, speaks improperly, or acts what we deem as weird. We don’t ever truly know why people do what they do until we ask.

This is a truth to keep in mind also when interacting with the opposite sex. Sometimes men misinterpret attention as attraction, and women do the same with friendliness. If you’re wondering, just ask. There may be awkwardness and discomfort, but we grow closer the more we know about each other. And the more we know, the less we assume.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Antonio Guillem 

5. Being too Tolerant

Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

Similar to the issue of sensitivity, our secular society preaches all too much about tolerance. Sadly, the church has listened. As body positivity and related ideas continue to gain traction, Christians have grown too tolerant of the wrong ideas, tolerant to the point where we are no longer tolerant, but accepting. Homosexuality became a norm in the church, and transgenderism is heading that way in certain places too.

We should always accept people who come through our doors, but we shouldn’t delude ourselves into believing that sin is not sin just because the person we care about commits the sin.

If we don’t admonish one another, then we don’t grow and ultimately, have both sinned.

6. Not Listening

My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” (James 1:19)

A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2)

Take a moment and consider, when you enter into a conversation, how much of the conversation is about you? Or how much of the conversation are you talking as opposed to listening? Those of us inside and outside of the church have grown all too accustomed in our age of social media of talking about ourselves. Narcissism has become quite trendy, and contagious. Whether the topic is about work, politics, or anything else under the sun, we know how to make ourselves the focus.

This way of speaking runs contradictory to Scripture where we are called to esteem others as better than ourselves, and be quick to listen, not speak.

When we engage in conversations God’s way, we better serve people and better serve Him, and ironically, ourselves.

Would I be allowed to hyperlink to the NY church with the drag queen guy walking down the aisle and being applauded?

mother and daughter looking tense

7. Fear of Conflict

Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3)

Poor communication skills is one reason believers fail to reconcile today. The other, an overriding fear of conflict. Instead of addressing issues with one another, we prefer to sweep problems under the rug. And when we don’t sweep, we decide to ghost the person because running away is easier than having a conversation.

By shying away from conflict we never get to the root of the issue. If the issue is us then our problems will never change.

We should be thankful Scripture presents us with a clear way to handle conflict. First, we have a conversation to achieve mutual understanding. Once wrongs have been identified, we can forgive and rebuke. Then comes growth. Without conflict, there can be no growth.

If we don’t grow, then how are we becoming like Christ?

Conclusion

One of my favorite worship songs have lyrics that go, “If we can just labor together, and learn to love each other, then perfect the church, we’re gonna be.” People talk plenty about building up and diversifying the church, finding new ways to reach new congregants. Sometimes though, I wonder if we look so far into the future, that we aren’t quite sure what to do now.

And we focus so much on what we can change externally that we neglect to figure out how to grow ourselves. If we spent nearly as much time talking about our own sin as much as we do others, who would we be?

Or if we spend more time listening instead of talking, how much would we know?

Would elderly people do more listening instead of talking to their young counterparts? Would rebellious teens realize their parents do love them despite what their anxious thoughts say?

The church is not perfect today, and surely we never will be, but where there is room to grow, what excuse do we have not to?

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/fizkes 


headshot of author Aaron BrownAaron D'Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. Check out his short story “Serenity.”

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