January 28-29, 2006
I’ve got two suits, and the last time I wore this suit was at a funeral. So this morning, I was getting dressed and I thought, “You know what? I’m going to wear a suit.”
How many of you would rather be in church than in the best hospital in the area? All right! How many of you would rather be here than in the state penitentiary? All right! Well, let’s act it! (Ed begins clapping his hands) We’re in church! This is awesome, man! [Audience joins in.] This is great!
I love to look out at everybody here because all of us are different. And that’s good. Some of us are large, some are small; some have a lot of hair, and others here don’t have that much hair. But there is a kaleidoscopic range of people throughout this building. And we’re all different. We have different frames. Some have a big front porch. Others have a big back porch. And some have a room for rent upstairs, if you know what I mean.
And speaking of houses, a while back I was thumbing through a photo album. I love pictures and this photo album was interesting because it showed the evolution of a home that was constructed. One of my relatives built the house. And on the first page it showed a lot. It was just a piece of dirt with some trees. And then, as you moved throughout the photo album, it showed the foundation, the framing, the finish out and, finally, the last page was a picture of my relative and her family in front of this beautiful home. It was a very interesting photo album. She had pictures of all the sub-contractors working to bring the home to its ultimate destination.
And after I closed that photo album I thought about our lives because God is the architect. The Holy Spirit is the contractor, and we’re the sub-contractors. God is always building stuff in our lives. And he wants us to build stuff into other people’s lives.
Lately we’ve been in a series called Pronoun. We talked about the power of they, the sway of they. Who are the right they and who are the wrong they? We said that they reflect you and you reflect they.
We also talked about us and then we talked about He. What does God say about us? We talked about a healthy concept of ourselves, seeing ourselves the way God sees us. That’s the primary props. And then the secondary props would be the way they see us.
Well, today I want to talk to you about it. Say “it” with me. “It.” What is it? Build it and they will come. What is it? It is value and dignity in the lives of others.
Here’s the question I want to ask you because all of us are influencers. There are pastors here; there are politicians here; we have real estate executives here; we have students, coaches and teachers, administrators and CEOs, managers and sales persons. Here’s the question: Are you building “it” into the lives of others that you come in contact with? Are you building dignity and value and meaning and substance into the lives of all those you come in contact with each and every day?
Just for a second, do something for me. I want you to look in the eyes of the person seated next to you. Just take about five seconds and look into their eyes. Some of the women are saying, “This is the first time you’ve looked at me all day, honey!”
You just locked eyes with someone who matters to God. You just looked at a masterpiece. I’ve never locked eyes with someone who Jesus did not die for. So every person we see, every person we come in contact with, matters to God. And our opportunity is to sub-contract this stuff to help build the foundation, the framing and finish-out of a healthy self-esteem.
Let’s talk about construction for a second. How do we construct a healthy value in someone’s life? Well, think about that construction “sight,” because when I thumbed through that photo album, that’s what I saw.
First, there was a lot. And whenever you look at someone you’re looking at a lot. A piece of dirt. We’re made from dirt, right? That’s what the Bible says in Genesis. And we have all this potential. So, we can sub-contract and build stuff into others.
So when we look at people’s lives they are literally a construction sight.
S-I-G-H-T! Spell it with me. S-I-G-H-T.
SEE AND SUPPORT THEIR UNIQUENESS
“S” – see and support their uniqueness. We’re to see people’s uniqueness and we’re to support their uniqueness. How many parents do we have in the house? Parents, single parents, our hands are tired because parenting is tough isn’t it? It amazes me how kids are so different. My wife and I have four children, and the differences in these kids just blows me away. They are brought up by the same parents in the same house the same way, yet they’re different. That’ll mess you up!
Now, I have no problem with applauding my kids when they act like me, when they’re a chip off the ol’ block. I like that! That’s incredible. But when they’re different than me? “He’s just ‘different,’ Ed. She’s just ‘different.’” And we have a hard time seeing, don’t we, and supporting their uniqueness when they’re different than we are. That’s a tall order for someone like you and someone like me.
Think about those that we work with or maybe people who report to you. Maybe you’re a teacher. Maybe you’re a coach. Maybe you’re a pastor. Maybe you’re a manager. Think about the people that support you, who help you, who report to you. Do you, in turn, support them? Do you help them? Do you see their uniqueness? Because I have a tendency as a leader to sometimes try to make people like me, like I would react, like I would think, like I would do a certain thing.
Over the last several days we’ve had a Creative Church Conference. And we had 2,400 pastors come in from all across North America and the world. And one of the biggest questions they asked was this, “How do you hire staff? And how do you deal with staff?”
Well, my answer is this: I try to hire people better than me. I try to hire people who are smart where I’m stupid. I try to hire people who are strong where I am weak. But my temptation is to take people and sometimes try to make them like me. I’ve got to see and support their uniqueness. I’ve got to applaud them and give them the high fives because they’re different.
And, parents, it’s a tough deal. Managers, that’s a difficult, difficult situation. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT), “Love does not demand its own way.”
Whenever I think about supporting and seeing the uniqueness of people, I think about my close friend, Preston Mitchell. Preston is Executive Pastor here at Fellowship Church and he oversees the student ministry. He has a son named Cameron, and Cameron is pretty tall. He’s like 6’3 and he’s a sophomore. Preston loves baseball; Cameron does not love baseball. I’ve known them for 16 years very, very closely. And Preston had said a long time ago, “Cameron needs to be a baseball player.” And he exposed him to baseball. And that’s cool. But after a while Preston said, “Ed, Cameron likes music.”
Now, Preston doesn’t know jack about music. The guy’s tone deaf. He said, “Ed, help me, man. I like baseball; Cameron likes music.”
But I watched Preston as he supported Cameron’s uniqueness, and I’ve watched him get into Cameron’s world. I’ve watched him get outside of himself and applaud Cameron’s uniqueness, and this past Wednesday night I watched Cameron on stage in the Apex student ministry lead worship to over 1,200 high school and junior high students. And I said, “God, that is it! What an incredible example of supporting someone’s uniqueness.”
Are you always trying to make people like you? “I would have done it that way and well, I don’t understand what you’re doing, so forget you.”
Our kids and the people who report to us are dying to hear an applause. Their dying to hear, “You’re one of a kind.” That’s what God tells us. So we have to be mirrors and reflectors of that and do the same thing. See and support their uniqueness.
INSPIRE THEM WITH RESPONSIBILITY
“I” – Inspire them with responsibility. Inspire them with responsibility. Let’s go back to parents again. Parents, it could be swimming in the deep end. It could be saying, “Here’s the car keys.” It could be the first babysitting job. Inspire them with responsibility.
How about the managers and the coaches and the teachers and the pastors? We need to give the people who work for us responsibility. When we give them responsibility, what are we doing? We’re saying, “You matter. You can make it. You can do it. You’re unique. You’re one of kind.”
And with responsibility comes a better self-esteem. Think about the responsibility that Jesus Christ has given you and me. We’re to build this church. He’s given us finances; we’re to steward the finances. He’s given us all unique abilities and gifts; we’re to give those gifts and abilities back to him in the most developed way possible as an act of worship. So God is all over responsibility. And we should be as well.
I love basketball. And it’s very easy to see a good coach and a bad coach. There are a lot of great coaches that I know and there are a lot of sorry coaches I know. Well, how do you find a sorry coach? It’s very easy. Just go to a high school basketball game, guys’ game or a girls’ game, and watch the coaches. If a coach is always pulling someone out of the game whenever they make one little mistake or one errant pass, that’s a bad coach. If you see a coach that does that to where the players are so scared, they’re so paralyzed and tyrannized with fear, that they’re afraid to even dribble or chew gum or even think about shooting, then that’s a bad coach.
Do you do that to people who work for you? “Get out of the game! Get out of the game! Get out of the game!” Do you do that with your kids, parents?
Give them responsibility. You’re building their self-esteem. In John 20:21 (NLT) Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
Over-protection is a form of rejection. “I don’t trust you. You don’t matter.” Think, think, think what would happen if we got serious about this stuff and began to support people’s uniqueness and inspired them with responsibility. The confidence and the stuff that people would have in their lives will be amazing.
GIVE CORRECTION CAREFULLY
“G” – give correction carefully. Sometimes people think, “Well, I’ve got to build value and dignity and self-esteem in people’s lives, so everything’s got to be happy and peppy and bursting with love. And if it’s not, then I’m wrong, I’m a sinner, I’m somehow not walking in sync with the Savior.”
That’s a bunch of bunk! We’ve got to speak the tough words many times. The Bible says in Ephesians 4:15, “Speak the truth in love.”
So often, the truth is not easy to swallow, is it? The Bible says that Jesus disciplines those he loves. Who does he love? You and me. He disciplines us. He doesn’t punish us. Christ took our punishment on the cross for our sins. But Jesus does discipline those he loves. He disciplines us so we can improve and get better and better and better.
I’ve read one business book, one leadership book in my life. I’ve written one, but I’ve only read one, not counting my book of course; I’ve read that one, too. I’ve read a book called “The One Minute Manager” by Ken Blanchard. Have you ever read that before? People are like, “Oh, Ken Blanchard is incredible. He’s revolutionary. “The One Minute Manager” is unreal. It’s off the hook!
All Ken did was plagiarize Scripture. All these business books are just Scripture out of context. They’re ripping off the Bible. The cool thing about Ken Blanchard is that a friend of mine, who was here at our Creative Church Conference, led Ken Blanchard to Christ years ago. Ken’s a believer now. But the book is awesome. I highly, highly recommend it. The book is simply about how to give correction carefully. You affirm the relationship, you spend some time talking to someone as your correcting them. “You’re one of a kind, you’re cool, I love you, blah, blah, blah.” Then you reprimand, and then you affirm the relationship again.
But it’s not always going to be happy and peppy and bursting with love. There’s going to be tears sometimes; there’s going to be difficulty sometimes. Kids are searching for boundaries. They want boundaries. They want guidelines and sidelines and guardrails.
I was speaking to a group of students years ago, and this big football player took me aside and he said, “Ed, can I talk to you?”
I said, “Yeah, man.”
This guy started crying and he said, “My parents don’t love me.”
I said, “What? I know your parents, man. They love you.”
He said, “No, no they don’t.”
I said, “How can you say that?”
He said, “They let me do anything I want.”
Wow! It’s important to give correction. It’s important to discipline. It’s important to speak the truth in love because that builds self-esteem. Our kids are crying out for it. You show me a kid who’s a discipline problem, and I’ll show you someone who is crying out for discipline. Creativity emerges out of order. But you never create your way into order. So give correction carefully.
HEAR THEIR MESSAGES
“H” – hear their messages. James 1:19 (NLT), “My dear brothers and sisters, be slow to listen, quick to speak and quick to get angry.” No, I’m sorry, that’s the way I read it. That was the Ed Young translation. That’s what I do sometimes. The verse really reads, “My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.”
Quick, slow, slow. Say it with me…quick, slow, slow. Quick, slow, slow. That’s what we’ve got to do. We have got to hear the messages. How do you hear someone? Well, you listen to them.
I was watching television years ago and my oldest daughter, LeeBeth, was probably 5 at the time. I was watching ESPN, I remember, and she said, “Dad…Dad…Dad…Dad…” And finally, she took her hands and grabbed my chin and turned my face toward her and said, “Dad, listen with your eyes.”
Wow, that hurt! You know the people I love to talk to; you know the right they in my life; you know people that build self-esteem in my life—they don’t have to say a lot. All they have to do is just give me eye contact. I don’t mean crazy eyes. I mean eye contact. When I have eye contact with you I’m saying, “You matter. What you’re saying is important; let me stop and listen to you.” And then, while you’re talking, I can repeat back in a summarized fashion what you just said. But as I’m listening I am affirming you and giving you dignity and value. Hear people’s messages.
I have a friend of mine who lives here in Dallas and he’s the worst listener ever. I love the guy, but if you’re at a party or a social setting, he’s talking to you and he’s always looking over your shoulder. He’s always trying to improve his conversational lie. (That was for the golfers here. You get it? You might get it this afternoon.) He’s always trying to talk to someone, maybe better, maybe more important, maybe someone who can do more for him than I can.
How do you treat the person who can’t do jack for you? That’s a good question. How do you treat the person who can’t do a thing for you? How do you treat the person who can’t make you more money or give you a great pat on the back or move you to the corner office or develop some kind of contact for you? How do you treat those people? That is the mark of someone who has a great self-esteem. That’s the mark of someone who is building a true construction sight, s-i-g-h-t, into someone’s life.
TOUCH THEIR HEART
“T” – touch their heart. Appropriate touch. Go to the gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—and see how many times Jesus touched someone.
There was a study several years ago by UCLA and they found that men and women need eight to ten meaningful touches a day. But some people are just too touchy-feely for me.
Someone came up to me the other day and they said, “Can I give you a hug for my daughter?” No! Appropriate touching—a pat on the back, a handshake. It just says, “Man, you can make it. You can do it.” It’s powerful. We have to have touch.
If you take a baby in a hospital and don’t touch it, that baby will die. We have to have touch, meaningful touch, appropriate touch. And in the marriage, guys, that’s non-sexual touching. There is such a thing, I’ve heard.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT) says, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”
It takes ten positive things to erase one negative thing. That’s why we always remember the negative stuff. It’s because of our sin nature. But if you tell some positive stuff, it’ll take ten of those comments to erase one negative one. That’s why most of the stuff that comes out of our mouths should be positive.
So we’re talking about a construction sight—S-I-G-H-T. And if you go back through this, that’s what Jesus has done and is doing in your life and mine. Okay, does he support my uniqueness? You better believe it. Does he inspire me with responsibility? Yes! Does he give correction carefully? He disciplines those he loves. Does he hear my message? Yes. When I’m praying, when I don’t even know what to pray, he understands it.
The Bible says Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father interrupting my moanings and groanings and stuff I can’t even articulate to God the Father. Does he touch my heart? Yes! He speaks my love language. And we must speak the love language of others we’re around.
Construction sight. You’re looking at a lot. You’re a sub-contractor and so am I.
Jean Thompson taught the fifth grade. She was an excellent teacher and she prided herself in treating all of her students the same. The first day of school she gathered them around and said, “Class, I love all of you equally. I play no favorites.” But so often, we all play favorites don’t we?
There was one student in her class that she didn’t like. His name was Teddy Stoddard. He had this attitude about him, this look about him. He had an unkemptness about him. When she’d ask him questions, he would respond with one word answers. And he had a stench about his clothing. She did not like Teddy Stoddard. When she was talking about something interesting in class, Teddy would be staring out the window, totally uninterested.
If only Jean Thompson would have delved deeper into his life. If only Jean Thompson had read the transcripts.
His first grade teacher said, “Teddy shows promise, but he has some difficulty learning.”
In the second grade his teacher penned, “Teddy is a good boy, but he is so serious. He has trouble connecting with the other students. His mother is terminally ill. His father doesn’t seem to care.”
In the third grade the teacher said, “Teddy is suppressed. He’s falling behind the rest of the students. His mother died this year.”
In the fourth grade, “Teddy is helplessly behind all the other students. He is a deeply disturbed young man. He needs psychiatric help and I don’t know what to do with him.”
The records were there, but Jean Thompson didn’t read them. She didn’t understand Teddy.
It was the last day of school before Christmas break and all the students brought Mrs. Thompson beautiful gifts wrapped in bright paper. Surprisingly, Teddy Stoddard brought her a gift in a paper sack. The students laughed at the paper sack. Mrs. Thompson opened it, and inside was a rhinestone bracelet with half the rhinestones missing and a used bottle of perfume. The kids laughed even more. Yet Jean Thompson had the wherewithal to put the rhinestone bracelet on her wrist and to spray the perfume. Then she held the gifts in front of the class and she said, “Isn’t this wonderful? Isn’t this beautiful? Isn’t this gift amazing? Thank you, Teddy.”
The bell rang and the students filed out of the classroom, all except Teddy Stoddard. For the first time, he walked up to Mrs. Thompson’s desk and said, “Mrs. Thompson, that rhinestone bracelet looks beautiful on your wrist, just like it did on my mom. And,” he said, “Mrs. Thompson, I like the way you smell. You smell like she used to smell. Thank you,” he said, “for liking my gift.”
Then he turned and walked out of the classroom. Jean Thompson said she hit her knees and began to pray, “God, forgive me because I’ve only sought to be a teacher of facts and not a lover and understander of students.”
After Christmas break the teacher came back with a new vision, a new intensity. She took more and more time with the students, especially Teddy. And by the end of the fifth grade he’d caught most of the class. But after the fifth grade, she didn’t hear from Teddy for a long, long time. Then one day she received this note:
Dear Mrs. Thompson:
I graduated high school today, second in my class. I thought you might want to know.
Four years went by and she didn’t hear from him, until she received this note:
Dear Mrs. Thompson:
I graduated Valedictorian. The university was tough with working and studying, but I liked it.
Four more years went by and she received another note:
Dear Mrs. Thompson:
You can now call me Theodore J. Stoddard, M.D. Would you have ever believed it? By the way, I’m getting married on July 26th and would love for you to come and sit where my mother would have sat. You’re all the family I have. Daddy died this year.
Jean Thompson attended that wedding and she sat where his mother would have sat. Jean Thompson knew what a construction sight was all about. Do you?