~by Pastor Mike Middaugh
In late September I attended a conference in Texas. One of the main points I heard over and over again from various speakers doing ministry in a wide range of places, from New York to Lebanon to Houston, is that Christians have to be a humble people. We cannot assume we know where someone else is coming from. We should not pretend we have all the answers. And the first step to building relationship is to be willing to learn from and listen to others. Matt Popovitz, a church planter in New York said that “the message to the person who comes in the door needs to be seasoned with humility.”
Here are three ways humility changes our conversations:
It shows that we are open to learning. One of the biggest critiques of the Christian Church is that it is antiquated and old fashioned. Christians sometimes have a reputation of being ignorant. But as we enter into conversations with humility, people will begin to sense we are open to learning – that we don’t think we know everything (because we don’t). It is true that as believers we hold onto a Truth that has the power to save, but we have to remember this Truth is not our truth it is God’s Truth. He is the giver of the Truth and desires for us to be a part of delivering it to others. We can only do this if we are first willing to learn about them, where they are from, what they value and what they believe. Only then might we be able speak into their lives with credibility and authenticity.
It displays love. Humility is a low or modest view of one’s own importance. In lowering ourselves we naturally raise up others. This shows them we value them for them, not just in what they might be able to do for us. A great example of this comes from Carl Medearis who spent years doing mission work in the Middle East. During his time there he was able to speak publicly about Jesus in surprising places such as Arab League meetings and mosques. He spent years proclaimed the gospel to an audience we would have never expected to be receptive. So how was that possible. He first loved these people and got to know them. He moved to Lebanon for 12 years, he learned Arabic, and he grew to understand their views. He was eventually able to talk about what he believes, because he spent many years loving other people first. That’s a humble heart at work.
It softens hearts. Nothing can build a bridge as quickly as admitting our own weaknesses. Another conference speaker, a pastor in inner-city Detroit, said there was a time that his teenage son was becoming rebellious and distant. This pastor made the decision to share some of these family challenges with his congregation’s leadership. They understood, and rather than blaming him they embraced him. One of the women even confided with him, saying that for the first time she felt like he understood the pain experienced by so many mothers and fathers in that neighborhood who watched their own kids stray. This pastor could have managed his family situation and never let on there were problems. Instead, he chose to be humble, he opened himself up to others and the result was deeper friendship and heightened credibility.
Humility can change our conversations. It can prevent us from alienating and offending, and if we look to Jesus’ example we see humility lived out in His life. He put others first, He desired to really know them, He showed empathy for their plight. He then gave his life out of love for His people becoming the way of salvation that we receive but never earned.
Humility can change our relationships, and when tied to the gospel it has the power to change our world.