Thursday, March 1, 2012

Setting the Tone - How I Speak Matters as Much as What I Speak

A friend recently asked me of my opinion of Mark Driscoll, pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. I replied that while I don't know the guy at all, my honest opinion of him isn't entirely positive. Now, I don't want to get into a blogging debate about Mark Driscoll or the neo-Reformed movement. But my friend's question made me wonder--why do some leaders rub me the wrong way, and others don't? Scot McKnight recently asked this question on his blog:
Why do statements and claims made by John Piper, Mark Driscoll and Albert Mohler set off such a barrage of emotions and visceral responses and bold counter-statements, but when Tim Keller, who basically believes the same things, teaches or writes similar things there is a completely different response? 
The answer is simple: It all has to do with tone.

Driscoll, et al. often have a tone of condescension, a sense of "I know I'm right on this one" that comes off as arrogant. Keller, on the other hand, is both firm in his convictions and quietly gracious in his tone. He comes off as humble, despite holding to some very conservative beliefs and saying fairly bold statements. These leaders have similar positions but very different postures.

How I speak matters as much as what I speak.

McLuhan put it one way: the medium is the message. Colossians 4 puts it this way: Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyoneMy communication should be wise, patient, and full of grace and empathy. 2 Timothy 4 speaks of correcting, rebuking, and encouraging with great patience and careful instruction. (Key phrase: with great patience.) James 1 tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

If what I am saying to you is 100% true and beneficial for you, but my tone and posture are ones of judgment, condemnation, or self-centered frustration, then I am adding the static of arrogance to my message. I come across as quick to speak and anger, while forgetting the patience required for listening and being present. On the other hand, if my posture and tone are gracious and gentle, yet I cannot speak without conviction or truth, then perhaps my message isn't worth hearing in the first place.

In the ways you communicate--speaking, writing, preaching, etc.--what is your tone? Are people hearing your message, or are they losing it through the static?

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