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Looking Beyond Face Value: Why WYSIWYG Doesn’t Work in the Church

“My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.” James 2:1.

Ever hear of “WYSIWYG?”   It is the acronym for “what you see is what you get.”  The full explanation may be boring, so let’s just say it’s a computer term for graphics and presentations.  But, it also applies to a host of people and social venues.  WYSIWYG provides great insight to the way we look at people.  I’ll show you how.

One of the most critical mistakes pastors make is to evaluate individuals in the church on the basis of what they see.  The minister may see the person sitting on the pew as merely that—a person sitting on a pew.  Or, he or she may see the person on the drums, the keyboard person, the greeter at the door or the usher passing the offering plate as simply those doing some particular and necessary job.  That’s called “face value assessment.” 

Face value assessment as a practice comes to us from the world of numismatists and philatelists—that is coin and stamp collectors.  A sixteenth century doubloon, for example, may bear a value on its face equal to two escudos, or two U. S. pennies.  That same coin is now worth anywhere from $100 to $5000 depending on its age and condition.  A one-cent stamp issued in 1840 by Her Majesty’s government may now sell for $300-$400.  In other words, only the extremely short-sighted person would mistake face value for real value of a coin or stamp. 

Pastor, that person you see as simply occupying a space on the pew may, in fact, be contributing far more to the health of the church than you realize.  He or she may be counseling people who have huge spiritual problems, helping them to wade through the mess to get to victory.  That person playing the keyboard may be doing much more than providing music for the worship service.  He or she may be encouraging, inspiring, motivating, training and coaching people in ways that you never see.  You may never know about some gigantic problem that has been averted, not by your preaching and teaching, but by the influence of someone you may have severely underestimated.  This is not to minimize your ministry, but it is an appeal to look beyond the face value of key people in your congregation.

The dynamics of any group of people will never be the sole function of formal leadership.  That may come as a shock to some leaders!  But the truth is that people feed off of each other.  When they see others working alongside them, they get affirmation and comfort.  These intangibles resist cold, intellectual measurement, but they often provide the real impetus to move forward.  And, don’t forget that there will always be people who have difficulty relating to the pastor, even if the pastor goes out of his way to accommodate them.  They remain in the church because they see a role model, an example, and a friend in the congregation who keeps them connected. 

What strategy does this reality suggest?  First, value each person in your church for attributes beyond their practical usefulness.  The teacher is more than a teacher.  The janitor is more than a janitor.  The groundskeeper is more than the guy who mows the lawn.  Each of these persons have associations, friends and family who care about them.  They want to be known for something more than just what they do in the church. 

Second, don’t callously ignore people, move them around or think of them as interchangeable cogs in a machine.  The larger the congregation, the greater the tendency to see people as pawns on a chess board, and not as significant contributors to the success of the assembly.  The pastor may not even know everyone in the congregation, but he or she can rely on assistants or “under-shepherds” who can help make sure each member is valued as important. 

Last, it is imperative to treat each person in the congregation with utmost respect.  Every group is more than a collection of individuals.  A group consists of people with potential, both positive and negative, who interact with each other.  They constantly monitor the moods, mindsets, attitudes, successes and failures of others within the group.  You cannot disrespect one person in the group without collateral damage to the group as a whole.  Loving one another is not just a piece of Bible trivia or a nice tip for interacting with people; it is a major spiritual concept that governs the health of the church. 

In the church, what you see is only a fraction of what you get!  Each person in the congregation may hide behind his or her face value, but it is the pastor’s job to see through the façade and assess the true value of every person.  We often say that all of our effort to reach the lost is worth it if we can see one soul saved from hell.  If we truly believe that, then it is also worth investing time, effort and vision into that one soul.  After souls are saved and sit in our pews, they do not lose their value.  Never love the church body more than you love the individual souls who make up the church body. 

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?”  Matthew 18:12 (NKJV)

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Reader Comments (1)

Excellent Article

July 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterP.Poling

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