Why Improve Your Writing? A Real Life Example, Part 2
When I served the topic up, he volleyed back…
What do you mean, ‘huh?’, I thought. Is this some kind of joke?
Wait. Let’s rewind. I shared part one of my expensive life lesson with you in the previous installment because I want you to have it for free. Why is it imperative that you Write Less, Better as a church planter or pastor? What is at stake? Should it matter to you, particularly if, by nature, you are no friend of writing?
Spoiler: Yes, it matters—but only if your intent is to be heard.
You have just stepped into the middle of my real life example, which serves as my plea. To recap last week’s episode, I have engaged Operation Double-Trouble—the infamous email + snail mail combo to ensure our church family is informed of some critical information. However, I have just discovered something went awry with my fail-proof plan. While eating lunch with a friend, our conversation drifted to the ‘critical information’ aforementioned. And in that instant, I was betrayed by a friend…over tacos de carñe asada. (Ok, ‘betrayed’ is overstated, but is so biblically thematic that it is begging to be used.) Thrice the rooster crowed. (Last time, promise.)
And now, the rest of the story…
What do you mean, ‘huh?’, I thought. Is this some kind of joke? Or something more serious. Treason, perhaps. Are you suggesting you are somehow beyond the king’s reach—that his messengers never arrived at your outlying village?
With our two-pronged approach, we turned the volume to ‘11.’ Was he deaf?
In God’s culinary providence, at this moment I became distracted when my tongue turned into a torch set aflame with jalapeño seeds from the salsa verde. Had it not been for this spicy interruption of grace, I was destined to fumble the next few moments in epic, beauty-pageant proportion. But with it came the gift of time needed to regain my composure, while the beads of sweat on my brow were associated with the famous green pepper, rather than my fury that the message had been ignored.
Convinced that we had placed the communication baton squarely in the palm of his hand, what caused the mishap? Where did the break in rank occur? Why were orders issued but not received? (Was a court marshall necessary?)
What I discovered after a brief inquiry was alarming. Not only was I confident this must be some kind of mutiny or wartime mistake, I assumed it must be an isolated event.
The mystery was solved in a flash. He chose not to read the email. He chose not to read the snail mail. The cause, on the other hand, had grown over time, like the dark army of Mordor.
The cause was clear: our leadership said too much, particularly when writing. Over time, we had unknowingly conditioned the troops to tune us out. Messages would arrive at the mailboxes and inboxes of our people, and warrant, at best, a glance from a gracious few. Many were discarded altogether. As shepherds, we failed to notice that these sheep have a remote—a remote with a bright, red mute button. And when do we use the Mute button? When things are too loud, when we are disinterested, when the commercial interrupts. Our written communication had become a distraction rather than a delight. An unwanted menace instead of a helpful messenger.
We had a habit of blabber. We often wrote with little value for the edit, the prune, the hard work of taming the pen (or keyboard). Sure, we removed the obvious grammatical error or the accidental “there” instead of “their”. But in general, we said it…and presumed they read it.
Too busy to care, the effect was clear. My not-so tech savvy friend had unconsciously employed a manual ‘email rule’ for his inbox. Here is how it worked. We would send an email (and on occasions such as this, a corresponding snail mail). He would ignore it, because he had opened enough of them to determine their length was not worth the effort. ‘If it is that important, I will hear about it.’, he concluded. Brilliant, really—even if a bit Darwinian. Edit or be edited.
Edit or be edited.
Welcome to church planting in the real world. A busy employee, an engaged father, a devoted husband, a faithful leader in our church plant…and one of many who tuned out our written communication.
Two Saving Graces (And a Free Lesson for You)
The two saving graces from this real life example are clear:
- This all played out over tacos de carne asada. Delicioso.
- I have never forgotten that I am responsible to communicate in a manner that serves others more than it serves me. History has a way of writing the future. I.E. Abuse written communication in the past and risk turning a deaf ear in the future.
Presuming, assuming, and buffooning our way through written communication serves no one. We carry on under the delusion of our own importance. We lean on the planter’s trump card of, ‘If you loved Jesus, you would read it.’ And we remain immune from turning the question on ourselves first—‘If I love Jesus and those he has entrusted into my care, why would I write with such little effort to begin with?’.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:1-5 ESV)
Jesus brings amazing grace to church planters who sit in coffee shops, pound out emails and support letters, and grumble that recipients do not hang on our every word. He sees us—logs protruding from our eyes. He is the manly lumberjack to our log jam. He never looks at us and says, “I am busy, and they are not worth the effort.” He sees the tattered schedules, the lack of effort, the pass of responsibility onto the ‘reader’ rather than the writer, and he steps in with tender, powerful grace. He relates to the pressure. He understands the stakes. He knows the temptation of passivity. Beyond mere sympathy, he can loosen the schedule, empower the effort, and shoulder the responsibility.
The work of the gospel, and church planting, is sacred enough that we do not want to ‘make the hearing, deaf’, but to ‘make the deaf hear.’
We do not simply need Jesus to make our deaf audience hear, we need him to have mercy on us!
And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (Mark 7:32-37 ESV)
May he grant us the ears to hear the good news and be changed.
PS How wonderful to one day boast in Jesus and say, “My Savior cares so much that he actually made me a better writer so that I could better share him with others.”