We’re wrapping up a week-long series.  If you missed the boat, start here.

Let’s face it: sometimes you’re right, and your critics are wrong.  (You’ve been waiting all week for me to acknowledge the obvious.)  It’s easy to get caught up in the cycle of apology, the trap of people-pleasing, and the temptation to perform flawlessly.  Those three things will sometimes lead to us bowing to what’s popular rather than what’s right.

I can’t necessarily tell you the difference between the two.  It’s often situational, and you have to determine that based on scripture, what God reveals to you through prayer, the wise counsel of godly people, and the ministry direction that’s been dictated by your mission.  I can tell you this: you’ll never lack for people who will challenge that mission and arrive with their own agenda.  So what do you do when the right thing isn’t the popular thing?  How do you risk alienating people when it’s clear that you must follow God?  How do you stick to the plan without sticking it to the man?  (Sorry.  I got carried away. But if you want to print up t-shirts with any of the above sayings, feel free. And mail me a royalty check.)

There are five ways to honor people even when they’re dead wrong…

  1. Cast the vision at every opportunity. Pastor J.D. has a favorite saying: “When you’re sick of communicating something, your people are just beginning to get it.”  If you’re proactive with the vision – the “why” behind the “what” – you’ll silence many of your critics before they open their mouths.  People tend to question what they don’t understand.  We’ve made tons of changes over the years at the Summit, and the ones that were the smoothest were the ones where people understood the win before we took the field.
  2. Honestly listen to feedback. Even the clearest vision from God is going to have flaws.  Recently I had lunch with an older mentor.  I was sharing a current project with him, and his response was about three degrees off from what I wanted it to be.  Although my first reaction was to shut him out, I realized that his perspective was exactly what I needed to hear and heed.  It didn’t change the original mission, it simply clarified it.  Your people can carry that same wisdom if you just listen for it.  Don’t assume they’re against your mission, presume they have insight to the mission that you may not.
  3. Re-cast the vision on a personal level. Not everybody hears everything in a group setting.  Some of the most committed team members I have are those that first disagreed with the direction I was headed.  My options are always to dig in my heels and fight or to sit down over coffee and explain.  You won’t always win over everyone, but by answering the very personal “How does this affect me?” question, you can often gain ground with the nay-sayers.
  4. Know when to move on. Hear me: not everyone is going to like you. Some people will think you’re full of beans.  Others will be convinced that you’re going to drive your ministry into the ground.  It doesn’t matter how much you befriend or vision-cast or explain or argue, you simply aren’t going to see eye to eye.  And that’s okay.  You do a greater disservice to those who are on board when you spend an inordinate amount of time trying to drag others onto the ship.  Help them get plugged in to a ministry they love and support, and then leave ‘em alone and get on with what God has called you to do.
  5. Stay focused on what you’re doing, not on what they’re not doing. This is similar to #4, but it’s important to note that you can stay entrenched in the battle even when you’ve declared the battle to be over.  Don’t talk about how they’re wrong and you’re right.  Be Christlike to your detractors.  Be encouraging to your team.  Recognize that a ministry will never be built on the backs of those who’ve dropped off along the way.

A final word on this week’s series: we are going to screw up.  Before this day is over, you’ll do something do disappoint someone.  Whether it’s ministry, family, your job, or a friend, you’ll eventually blow it, and so will I.  When that happens, remember that we obey God first and honor people second.  Peter reminds us to “have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3:8-11)