SAN FRANSICO- Communication in churches can be improved when people seek reconciliation around the gospel, as a workshop at the Bay Area Sunday School (BASS) Church Workers Convention suggested.
Last Saturday, Art Hom, an Oakland-based psychiatric social worker and a Sunday school teacher from the Chinese Independent Baptist Church (CIBC) Oakland, has presented the workshop with the theme "Are You Meeting More and Communicating Less?" The workshop addressed the challenge of effective communication in churches and the possible solutions.
Ineffective communication in church meetings is not only a waste of time, but in many cases, it has even led to arguments and dissensions among church members. Hom pointed out that many people going to church meetings with what they have learnt from the workplace and that do not necessarily reflect biblical patterns.
"The burden to me is that when we go to church business meeting, it’s not just a business meeting, but it’s God’s business. Therefore we need to have more reconciliation. We often went into argument in the workplace, [but] in God’s community, we don’t aim to win argument but to talk with the heart of love," said Hom. "The challenge is how to practice greater love in our meeting assembly."
"Another challenge is to listen to each other. When you are in the world, you win an argument by preparing something in your head and challenge that person. We are here not to win an argument, but to find reconciliation around the gospel," he continued.
Coming from a Chinese church background, Hom admitted that even though conflicts and arguments are quite common in churches, but for Asians, they tend to stay silent and if they cannot get an agreement, they will give up solving the problem.
Hom suggested some solutions to conflicts and arguments by quoting Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Community Workbook.
"Stop trying to win arguments. Instead, make it your goal to love those who disagree with you. Go for the love, not the win. Jesus tells us love always win; he guaranteed that when he walked out of the tomb," Warren wrote.
When two believers went into argument, it is suggested that they must look for God’s presence and let God determines the truth. In addition, they must lay down human weapons such as manipulation, gossip, slander, ridicule, threats, blame, nagging, deception and silence; and they must learn to use spiritual weapons.
"The Bible tells us that prayer is a powerful spiritual weapon. After we put on the whole armor of God, we are to pray in the Spirit in all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Many Christians never think to pray together when an argument breaks out," quoted from Warren’s book.
Most importantly, believers are urged to forgive one another as the ultimate spiritual weapon in conflicts.
Looking beyond the arguments that may occur in church meetings, more of the issue is the major differences in the frame of references that church members have. Hom cited a very typical example in the Chinese churches in the United States- the differences between the American-born Chinese and Oversea-born Chinese.
Acknowledged the cultural differences, Hom said both groups must learn how to use God’s grace to listen to each other and to try to understand each other, rather than always trying to push their own opinions on others.
Again, spiritual-wise, when each individual relates his will to God’s will, that is also when the entire community relates to God’s will.
"In Chinese churches, we try hard to love brothers and sisters in Christ and to have sense of ownership. Because this is the only way, not by humanly love, but by the Holy Spirit," said Hom.