Listen Well

Effective Listening Is A Critical Part Of Healthy Communication.

Ross Sawyers
Jul 26, 2020    1hr m
Has there ever been a time in your life where you haven't felt heard? If so, you understand why effective listening is a critical part of every conversation. This message of hope explores how effective listening becomes even more important when you are having conversations about difficult and emotional subjects. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Ross Sawyers: 00:00:06 It's always a privilege as we say to gather to worship, and it really is when we have these opportunities. And our prayer is that as people gather all over the metroplex, all over the state, all over the nation that the kinds of things we just sang are being sung all over the country and all over the world. What a beautiful day for God, for people to be singing his praise in a way that honors him and glorifies him. And we're grateful to be a part of what God's doing.

Ross Sawyers: 00:00:42 I just wanted to express to you is one more time, if you weren't able to be a part of my brother's service yesterday. Just for Brandy and I, we want to express our gratitude to the church, and you've been incredibly strengthening comforting to us in these last several days. Our staff has been phenomenal in caring for us in just so many different ways. And, you know, we just want to say, thank you. Lloyd was a part of the very beginning of 121, and so not only our brother, but we've just been serving together for 20 years. And he's usually right there worshiping on a Sunday morning, and that's already just a gap and a miss for us. But I just wanted to say, thank you. And then I'm just so grateful for my brother, Randy, and the privilege that we've had this week to work together in hopefully honoring our brother well, and even more than that advancing the gospel through him. And so we appreciate that. So many people came yesterday or were online attending.

Ross Sawyers: 00:01:59 John Sager, he's one of my best friends since college, and he came in from Harrison, Arkansas to be with us. And I thought, well, since he's coming, why don't we just teach together on Sunday morning, he's led some of our men's retreats, so several, our men are familiar with him. He's helped me in numerous occasions here, and you've heard me tell stories of his insight and his love for the Lord is phenomenal, and I lean into him often. And so I think it'll even make more sense to you when we speak this morning, of why it's okay that two white guys are talking about a perspective on race. What do we really have to offer? And I'm excited for you to hear what God has as we move through the morning.

Ross Sawyers: 00:02:47 And so, John, the things that we talked about last night about racism, and just kind of where you are today and the kinds of things you and Sharon have experienced. If you'd just share that to give a little context before we jump in.

John Sayger: 00:03:01 Okay, I just want to say, I'm glad to be here, and just blessed to be here, and I love this family. These guys have impacted my life for a long, long time. And I just, I've been following the series that you guys are doing on race, I've loved it. And I need to tell you my story. In my teenage years I was growing up in central Arkansas, and I was not raised to be a racist, that's not how we rolled in the Sayger family, but I lived in a very racially divided part of the country. In fact, the town that I lived in there were no black people, it was all white people. And so that was not even a issue there as far as just every day, just how to deal with it, it was just non-issue, but there were some things that were inside of me that were exposed later, when I ended up going to Washita, where I met this beautiful girl named Sharon Ines. And man, she was just gorgeous, and she grew up in Tanzania, and went to school in Kenya. And so we start dating, and one night we were saying goodnight, and we're outside of her dorm, and she made this statement. I don't know how we start talking about this, but she made this statement. She said, well, I just don't have a problem with black people and white people dating. And just looked at her like, what are you like smoking crack? What is wrong with you? And I just draped my head over the steering wheel, and I was like, Oh, wow, this is bad. And as I'm sitting there doing this, she looks at me and se goes, alright, if this is a deal, me and you can be done. And I was like, God, she's too hot to let go like this, I think I can change my mind. So, it wasn't a real spiritual thing, but what the Lord did with her was expose my heart to me. Like 21 year old, and she's like saying those words, and no one's ever been that straightforward with me about that. And I was just like, wow, so I started having to deal with that. So that was the beginning of the Lord, beginning to deal with me and how I saw people of color.

John Sayger: 00:05:31 And I had no idea at the time where the Lord would take my wife and I, because we did get married and we got five kids, four sons that we raised. But the Lord was preparing me for 2010, where we took our daughter in, Julissa, and she's black. And it was like, okay, all right, Lord, thank you. And when she came into our home it was like just crazy because it was like, here is someone that we love and we're taking in and she's not like us, and we're going to have to learn each other. And then on top of that, in 2010, the Lord gave me the opportunity to begin working with South Haven high school, where several of the principals and coaches came to all the pastors and said, guys, we need you all's help, we're losing this generation, will you all come mentor these guys. And so that began a journey of about 10 years with South Haven football, and other sports at South Haven, with my little seven foot friend John Engstrom in FCA. Where God just used us on a weekly basis, where we served in a primarily black team, and God just had prepared my heart for that. And then not only that, but at the church I was serving at was reaching into the black community, and I was in places, I was with gang members. And there were times where I was like in places in Memphis Tennessee, and in South Haven, when I was like, dear God, please protect me, I don't know what's going to happen in here. But the Lord allowed me into that community, and just flooded my heart with love for those kids. And when we left South Haven just a few months ago, my wife and I both, man, it was just like, ah, we're just getting torn away from our kids.

John Sayger: 00:07:29 I had a young black man who was a rapper, and he was telling me, we're talking about the gang situation. He said, bro, your 13. And I was like, I'm what? He said, your 13 to them. I'm like, what, what does that mean? He said, that means you're safe, you're a safe person. And I was like, thank you, Jesus, that I get to be an ambassador for Christ in this community, because of the work the Lord started in me because of the boldness of my wife. Y'all, that's what people need, they need us to be ambassadors, and so that's my story.

Ross Sawyers: 00:08:11 I love it. And what a cool picture of...wouldn't it be? Amazing if all of us were 13, that to any person of color that we would be safe for them in Christ. But we've been thinking these weeks about leading with love, and a biblical perspective on race. It's important that we know that we're looking at a biblical perspective from God's lens, and he sees it, and that's going to run counter to a lot of what we hear in the culture and a lot of conversation that is happening. So we're looking at what does God have to say about race? And we know that God desires us to lead with love in any relationship. We've looked over these past few weeks, at been made in the image of God, that every person is. And we see with that kind of lens, every person is of value. And then we looked in Ephesians 2, and realize that there's actually one human race that is descended from the same human parents, and then sin has separated us out from God. Christ comes, he's actually the second Adam, and now every person in Christ is reconciled to God. And the way God talks about it, is we are one new and unified human race, and it's ultimately a heart issue and a heart problem that separates us. But our identity is in Jesus, that's our primary identity, it's not in anything else, it's in Christ and in Christ alone as Christians. And then last week Jermaine, and with all the events in our family, I wasn't able to watch, but anyone I've talked to said what he did last week was phenomenal. And I know the big idea is to love without limits. We turned a corner, we hashed it out practically, how do we engage people of color for all of us? How do we do that? And to love without limits, Jesus said to love your enemies. It's not just about loving an enemy, because Jesus also said, what good is it if you love those who love you, anybody can do that. Are we willing to get outside of those who are just like us and love us, and to love without limits, to widen our hearts for people of color, and people who are different than we are. And we want to continue in the vein of Martin Luther King, that we'd have tough minds, that we'd have strong minds, that we'd be strengthened biblically, and we would have tender hearts towards people.

Ross Sawyers: 00:10:56 And a way that we can continue to think about leading with love, and what we want to think about this morning, is to listen well. The black community has made it really clear that we don't listen well to them. And I think it's true, especially in a number of conversations I've had over the last several weeks. There's just new insight, new perspective, if we just take the time to listen. And we just want to spend some time thinking about how, as Christians, a way that we can love people and love people of different races, at least in that social construct, is to love well and to listen well, following that that love.

Ross Sawyers: 00:11:46 Let's start in James chapter 1 verse 19 and 20, we'll look at some Proverbs as well. But we want to anchor in a right here under that idea of listening well, "This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God." Let's get back into verse 19, it says, "This you know, (you know this) my beloved brethren." He's speaking to other believers, remember, we're looking at a biblical lens, this is a way that we would want to communicate in the way that God has for us. "But everyone must be quick to hear." He's not saying some people should be good listeners, but everyone must be quick to hear. John, do you have any thoughts about being quick to hear?

John Sayger: 00:12:35 So when Ross and I were seminary, Southwestern, standing in the rotunda, I could take you to the spot it happened. I look at Ross and I said, Ross, am I good listener? And he looked at me and he said, no, you're terrible, you're horrible. I was like, ow, I needed that. Thank you.

Ross Sawyers: 00:12:56 And hopefully I've grown over the years and I wouldn't do it quite like that in the future.

John Sayger: 00:13:01 You might. But anyways, so this lady taught me something that I just latched on to about listening, and I thought this is brilliant. And you know, it's like, there's a C, so just make a C with your hand. Just everybody get your C's up. Get your, C up. This represents your mouth, and when you're talking to somebody, it's like, you know, your C's open, but when they're talking, close the C. All right? Now I usually do this with my hand down here, you know? Because it's like, I don't want to have my hand like this. It's like put it down here. But like, when I started doing that, it changed the game for me, it's like, okay. And my son tested me on this? One of my boys tested me on this, like, I call him on the phone and I let him talk for 20 straight minutes. Like, and I had to leave my C closed, and I was like, Oh, he needs to shut up so I could tell him what I'm thinking. But it forced me to listen to him. I don't know if you need a C or whatever, but it is a good discipline to listen to someone, instead of just thinking, what am I going to say next? Because when you're thinking, what am I going to say next? You're not listening to that person, you're just talking.

Ross Sawyers: 00:14:22 And the woman that he learned that from is my wife, because she learned it from somebody to help me learn to do that, so that I would be a better listener in our marriage. We're talking about something that I don't think either one of us are really great at, but we're working on it. So we just want you to know we're a work in progress with everybody else in communication. In Proverbs 1 verse 5 it says, "A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel." A wise man, someone that's wise, will listen well. Someone that's wise will be quick to hear, and they'll increase in learning, and become a man of understanding. In Proverbs chapter 18 verse 13 the writer says, He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him." If we start speaking before we've listened to what someone has said, it is shameful for us to do that. And Proverbs 15 verses 31 and 32 says, "He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding." Even listening to someone when they are correcting us, or they have disapproval towards us is considered wise. And sometimes people say things to us in a way that we don't really like the way that they said it, but we would be wise to listen to what was said, instead of being offended by the way it was said. So that we can see, does God actually have something in there for me. We want to be quick to hear. What are your thoughts on that.

John Sayger: 00:16:21 One of the things I love about Julissa, hey Juju, is I've been able to bounce stuff off of her, and to get insight from her, and just to listen to her. And it's been, sometimes, it's like wait a minute, hold up, no, I don't agree with that. And then she's like, oh, here's what's happening with this. And I have to listen to her, and she has given me insight that has been a rebuke to me at times. Where I've been like, oh, I never even thought about that. And then just simple things, like cultural things, that I had no idea. Like she told me that spaghetti is not a main course, it's a side dish. And I'm like, no spaghetti is a main course. And she's like, no, it's a side dish. And I'm like, okay. And that's a small cultural thing, but she has helped me understand things, where I had to listen to her to get that. Not by just giving her my opinion. I actually had to listen.

Ross Sawyers: 00:17:17 And that helps us to appreciate each other's cultures, across any ethnicity, in the way that people do things, and to enjoy the way that God designed the variety of it. And I think this is a really a big deal, right? Is to be quick to hear when we're thinking about a race conversation, and really trying to wrestle in our own hearts. And I shared a few weeks ago when racism's not in the Bible itself, you're not going to find that word. But what you will find is partiality, and that's really what sin is. It is being partial to someone else because of color, we can do that with rich and poor, we can do that with color. But partiality is a sin, it's rooted in pride, and then some kind of superiority or power over someone in the way that I see them. But if we're quick to hear and listen, then we can even have our hearts exposed. Just like John described, God may want to use something, just like what Sharon did with him. And it may not be initially strike you that it's a real heart change that happens there, but it stirs it, and you realize, gosh, there's something lurking in there that I had no idea was running around inside of my heart. This is really a heart issue that we're speaking of.

Ross Sawyers: 00:18:33 So be quick to hear and then be slow to speak, it goes together, right? So if I'm quick to hear, then I'm going to be slow to speak, deliberate and thoughtful. And in James chapter 3, he addresses more about the tongue. In verse 8, he says, "But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God." When we talked about the image of God, we spoke of this verse, that anytime we speak poorly of someone, anytime we speak negatively of someone, anytime we slander someone, gossip about someone, we are cursing someone who has been made in the image of God. And he says from the same mouth, come both blessing and cursing. In other words, we just sang beautiful praises to God, but this afternoon, we're labile to let something fly out to somebody else's that's made in the image God. The same mouth come blessing and praise, and then a negative kinds of things towards someone else. "My brethren, these things ought not to be this way."

Ross Sawyers: 00:19:40 In Ephesians 4:29, he tells us that when we do speak it's to be, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment." And we want to speak when we speak slow to speak, that when we speak, we're speaking, what's right for that particular moment. And then in Proverbs chapter 10 verse 19, the writer of Proverbs says, "When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise." I had a friend, Jerome Smith, years ago that mentored me and he was really quiet. And one time I told him, Jerome, you're just so wise. And he said, I just don't say much. He said, if you don't say much, people think you're wise. So whether you are not, if you restrain your lips, that's the impression that someone has. So when you think about being slow to speak, what would be your thoughts around it?

John Sayger: 00:20:42 I actually had thought, but it's gone, it just left me.

Ross Sawyers: 00:20:47 That's perfect.

John Sayger: 00:20:47 Sorry.

Ross Sawyers: 00:20:48 If I just look at you and make this awkward, will you think of it?

John Sayger: 00:20:51 Probably still not going to happen.

Ross Sawyers: 00:20:52 [inaudible} Let's look at what Charles Spurgeon had to say about this, he can pull us out of this, what we're in right here. Spurgeon was a great preacher of the past. He said, "Because it is by the word that we are begotten, let us be swift to hear it." We want to be swift to hear God's word, and slow to speak because there's so much sin in us that the less we speak, the better. That affirms what the proverb is saying, in the multitude of words their weight is not sin, great talkativeness is seldom dissociated from great sinfulness. Be quick to hear, slow to speak.

John Sayger: 00:21:29 Hold it, I remember.

Ross Sawyers: 00:21:31 Did you think of it? Perfect.

John Sayger: 00:21:34 You know, have you ever been caught talking about somebody, has that ever happened to you? Like you're saying something, and they walk up. It's like, you're right in the middle of the sentence, and you're like...And you just freeze like, you know, trying to become a chameleon. When Ross read that Ephesians 4:29, you know, "Say only what builds up." What if we were caught talking good about people? It's so awkward when that happens, you know, somebody walks in like, hey man, we're just talking about you. What immediately pops into your head? Oh, y'all were talking bad about me. No, man, we were talking about this, about how God is doing this in your life, how I'm seeing this. That is uplifting, and you put that in a racial context it's like, not praising someone of color just because, hey, I'm on this kick. No, it's because that's what Jesus would do. He would build them up, instead of tearing them down with their words.

Ross Sawyers: 00:22:29 So quick to hear, slow to speak, and then James 1:19, "Slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. If we are slower to speak and we're quicker to hear. In all likelihood, we'll actually be slower to anger. If we actually take some space. And anger, as someone wrote, it leads us to jump to conclusions. We don't take time to understand what's actually happening, we just get mad about it and start expressing that anger. There is a place for righteous anger. In Ephesians 4:26 we're told to, "Be angry and yet do not sin; don't let the sun go down on your anger." And that's a fine line, isn't it? Of are we really angry because somebody is violating God's name and God's glory, or are we really angry because, as someone put it, of indifference to that which is right? Is that really what the root of our anger is, or is just a personal offense and I'm mad about it, and I'm just looking for something to be angry towards? Look in Proverbs 15:18, if you've got any thoughts.

John Sayger: 00:23:43 I do, last week when Jermaine was speaking and he was telling the story about riding in the car with a guy and man, it was just a punch to the face, and return a curse with a curse. What do we do when people are angry in our presence, you know, get angry back? You driving down the road, not that anyone in here has ever done this. And someone is waving at you with their tall finger. And you're just like, what do you do? You just want to, like, you just feel it building. And there's a quickness, even our speech gets quick when we get angry, we start talking faster. Why? Because we believe that what we're saying is more important than what the other person is, and we're not trying to understand what's making them angry. And we just jump in, and man, it's time to close the C and chill, and let the Lord do a work that we're not going to see if we just bust it.

Ross Sawyers: 00:24:37 Proverbs 15:18 says, "A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute." The calming presence in places, are the ones who are slow to anger, that's someone that can actually bring resolution to something. Martin Luther King Jr., is a great picture of the calming of things, and a way to go about things that brings real change along the way. And I would say here, in our culture, one of the things that's disheartening is all the violence that's happening. And we're talking about a biblical perspective, and not a cultural perspective. In a biblical perspective, violence is not God's way, that that is not the way to bring things about. So from a biblical lens, that's not something we would look at and say, this is a good thing that's happening around us. So we're talking about being quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, an angry man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

Ross Sawyers: 00:25:51 Let's look at Jesus, and ultimately, what do we lean into to know how to hear, and how to listen. In John 5:19 it said, The Son of man can do nothing of himself, but only what he sees his Father doing." And then in John chapter 8 verse 47, Jesus says, “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” And the primary place where we can become good listeners, is to lean into Christ in us who heard God. If you were going to describe the gospel, how would you describe the gospel in light of what we're speaking of here?

John Sayger: 00:26:43 As far as listening to God, and then sharing what the Lord says to us...You're not going to know what the gospel is, unless you look for yourself. You can hear Ross talk about it, you can hear preachers, but when you began to listen to the Lord and let him speak to you, then you have something to say to people in this conversation, that's deeper than racial tension. It is, God is using the Body of Christ to reach lost people, every tribe and tongue, that's who's going to be around the throne. In Revelation 7:9, "Every tribe, tongue, and nation will be around the throne worshiping. And so for us, it's got to be, I'm going to listen to the Lord, and then I'm going to move toward people like he's moved toward me.

Ross Sawyers: 00:27:43 And if you hear a verse like John 8:47, that say, "If you don't hear from God, then you're not of God." It's worth thinking about, is there a genuine heart change in me where I've believed what it is that Jesus did in dying on the cross, taking my sins, and giving me the opportunity to be free. And then God carried him all the way through, and emptied out the grave, so that we actually have the opportunity for hope in life in Christ, Jesus listened to his Father, and walked in complete obedience to him all the way to the cross, resurrected, ascended, and he'll come back one day. The question that we have to ask is, are we listening to God enough to believe that what he says is true? And once we know him, then we lean into his word, so that we'll know how to walk inside of the kinds of conversations that we're currently having. So the only way we can really be good listeners from a biblical lens, is for us to first hear from God, to be right here, and then to hear the truth through some reading, and then I can listen to the counsel of others. And when I listen to that counsel, I'll know because I'm in the word, if that matches or not. What I'm not trying to do is listen to what everybody else is saying, and see how I can make that fit God's word, I'm reading God's word, God's truth, and I'm sifting through everything that everybody else is saying to see if it matches the reality of this truth.

Ross Sawyers: 00:29:31 So a question that we would have to ask is, with so much noise around us today, who do we listen to? And there's a story in First or Second Kings, one of the Kings...In Second Kings, thank you. So Solomon is King, he dies, and Rehoboam becomes King. And Rehoboam hears from the elders, and they come to him and say, your Father had a heavy yoke, basically enslaved the people to get all his work projects done, and you ought to lighten the load of the people and free them up. He rejected the council of the elders, and instead went to his peers and listened to the younger ones. And they said, make it even harder on the people, and he did. He listened to his younger peers, rather than the elders and their wisdom. And it says in the scripture, "That there was division in the house of David from then on." How do we know who to listen to? We know, as we listen to God, himself, immerse our self in his word so that we can discern truth as we hear the conversations that are happening in our culture.

John Sayger: 00:30:55 It is interesting, the word obedience, we're talking about this this morning. The word obedience, really the word shama, which is a Hebrew word. Is where in Deuteronomy 6:4, " Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one." My translation says, "Listen, O Israel." And the word obedience means to hear under, it means to hear under. And it's a two part meaning, it means to listen to, and to act upon. And so obedience to God in this area is, I hear your truth Lord from your word, and then I act upon it. You know, James, going on down from where we're at in James 1, he says, Don't just be hearers of the word, but be what, be doers of the word also. It's like a man looking at his face in a mirror. If God had showed me something, when I was 21 and I just chose to ignore it, he would not have allowed me to do what I did in moving forward. And so I have to go, Lord, I'm listening to you, and then you're going to give me audience with other people. And so I'm going to come up under you, and that allows me to hear other people as well.

Ross Sawyers: 00:32:11 So, let's think about some really practical ways as we continue, on how to listen well. One of the challenges I think we're finding our culture right now, and maybe it's a term that's been there for a while, it just seems to be more strengthened today, is the idea of a cancel culture. And that is as soon as we say something that disagrees with what the cultural train is right now, that we get canceled out, we get removed as a friend on Facebook, or someone gets their stuff, it gets deleted off of social media. And people are getting canceled out, you know. And if the corporation doesn't do X, then they'll be canceled out. So what do we do in cancel culture, when God's perspective will look different, perhaps, than a number of ways people are moving. And we still want to get in there, we still want to get in the conversation. And I believe a way we can have credibility in the conversation is to actually listen well to what people are saying, and that they know we're listening well. What are you doing?

John Sayger: 00:33:27 Sorry, I was just texting my wife.

Ross Sawyers: 00:33:32 Good, yeah. So we were talking last night, just about...

John Sayger: 00:33:36 This is a new phone.

Ross Sawyers: 00:33:38 Your red one, yeah, that's pretty.

John Sayger: 00:33:40 Thanks.

Ross Sawyers: 00:33:44 You know, these are some of the biggest conversation killers that we have. How many times have we been in conversations, and someone gets distracted and they either glance or they actually start typing it. Or, and I'm guilty of this, we can be on the phone and we're knocking out a text while we're on the conversation. Those, those things don't imply that I love you, and that I'm valuing you. And when we think about listening well, there's some things we can eliminate so that we can listen well. About a year ago my wife and I went to counseling for some communication help. And one of the things that I just had to put together for myself, in what the counselor had taught us, I made it an acrostic for myself. And this is how I can love my wife, L U V. The L is for listen, the U is understand, and the V is value. I want to listen to her, I want to make sure I've listened long enough to understand what she's actually saying, and then I want to value her as a person, and that's a way to love her. When I talk about that, what does that communicate to you?

John Sayger: 00:35:15 The Lord allowed me to serve with a young black pastor, Maurice. And when I would be dealing with kids and something would happen and I would go to him and I'd be like, Hey, here's what happened, or he would hear about it. And I would have to, I would sit there and we would just talk about this. And I'd be like, here's what happened. And he's like, well, John, here's what they were thinking when you were doing that, here's what they were perceiving. And I would argue with him, and it would be like a process of about, you know, 30-45 minutes to where I could get in a posture to where I could hear what he was saying to me. Where I was like, I had to just close my C and listen to what he's telling me, before I received it. And then I was able to say, you know, you're right, I understand what you're saying. And so he helped me in that, and then an understanding what I was actually dealing with. Because a lot of times I had no clue what I was dealing with, I was just ignorant of it, I just didn't have a clue. And he would tell me, he's like, John, here's, what's going on in their head when you're saying this, you can't say that. Or here's what you should do next time. Or sometimes I was just, I'm like what do I do? He's like, well, just don't do that again. And I'll be like, okay, you're right. But you've got to humble yourself to understand what somebody is talking about.

Ross Sawyers: 00:36:40 So when were you're having a conversation with other people, this is a way to love them, and a way to love them well, is to really listen well, listen all the way through till we understand, and we're valuing them as we do that. I just want to show you a few things that might be helpful when we talk about listening, and understanding, and valuing, that are just really practical things. And the first, is to fully engage with eyes and body language. When we're having a conversation, we want to engage with our eyes, and with our posture, so that people know that we're engaged, we care, and we love them in the conversation. One way you can know, in posture, if you happen to be standing, having a conversation with someone, if your feet are aimed at the person, then that shows that you care, and you love, and you value, and you're present with them in that moment. If you start to see somebody's foot go out to the side, they're starting to communicate, they're done. And they're trying to figure out how to move on into another conversation, or just to move on from that one. There's just subtle things that we do in our body language that communicate to someone, whether we care, whether we love, whether we value them. So eye contact, look people in the eye, and then our posture, it matters.

John Sayger: 00:38:09 Can tell when someone's listening to you, can you tell? What's interesting in speaking in front of people, is that people sometimes feel invisible out there and it's like, I'm talking to y'all, you know. And have you ever noticed when someone starts talking about listening, you just like really dial in, it's like this. So people feel invisible sometimes, but with these masks now, with the COVID stuff. You know, Joe was talking about this yesterday, it's like, you don't have anything to look at but their eyes, and it freaks some people out because now it's serious eye contact because everything else is covered up. And you're looking at somebody, and the eye is the window of the soul, and it's like, man, we just want to look everywhere but in their eye. What am I going to look at? Their forehead, or their top of their head. It's forcing us to look at each other, which is it's socially weird, but it's like, that's it.

Ross Sawyers: 00:39:05 So that kind of eye contact. Then the second thing I think that's really helpful, that the counselor taught me last year, is the phrase, help me understand. When we're in conversation with someone, sometimes I know I do this, I'll assume something, or I come off as accusatory and the way that I say it. And if I say, help me understand what you mean by this, that totally changes it. Because now it's a question of curiosity, I'm really trying to understand. I'm not assuming I understood what just happened, and I'm not accusing you of anything, I'm just asking you to help me understand. And then Steve Mills, he's one of our elders, one thing that I've learned from him over the last few years, that's been really helpful. He'll really engage us on our emotions. If there's something that is a problem, he'll ask the question in this way, help me understand what emotions you're having right now, help me understand what you're feeling. And once we start getting there, we're getting to another level of the heart beyond the facts, and we're really understanding the effect of what's going on in this particular dialogue. So help me understand, is a really helpful way to hear someone.

John Sayger: 00:40:25 Proverbs 20 verse 5, it says this, "The issues in a man's heart are like a deep well, but a man of understanding draws them out." You might want to jot that down. Proverbs 20 verse 5, "The issues in a man's heart are like a deep well, but a man of understanding draws them out. " And so that's a good prayer for us to say, Lord, make me a person of understanding when I'm talking to somebody, but I just don't get where they're coming from. You know I was thinking about this verse, "We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is not from us, but it's from God." And so it's not you, just by your own strength, cluing in. It is God, by the Holy Spirit, showing you, this is what's happening in this person's mind right now and their life. And so when somebody is going for counseling, when my wife and I are going to see a counselor, or someone's going. My prayer for the counselor is, Lord, make him or her a person of understanding, to draw out the issue. Because it takes a while to get beyond the surface, it just looks like this is the issue. No, the issues down here, and so the person of understanding draws that out.

Ross Sawyers: 00:41:37 So help me understand. Third thing is clarify what they mean. I don't think we can really, in our cultural moment, not ask questions to clarify what someone means by particular words that they're saying. So often we assume we understood, cause it might be a word we know, but we want to clarify what that person means when they say that particular thing. And there are several words that I think have been introduced into our vocabulary over the last several weeks. And again, maybe they've been there for a while, but they're more prominent now. But if you're having a conversation with someone, a person of color, I think a great place to have this dialogue is to ask the question, what do you mean when you talk about white privilege? What do you mean by that? And what do you mean when you talk about white fragility? Or what do you mean by white guilt? What do you mean by white supremacy? Tell me what you're saying when you describe that. What do you mean by systemic injustice? Help me understand what you're saying, I want to clarify that I know what you're saying, when you say that. Defund the police, when you make that comment, what does that mean? What is that about? Critical race theory is something, if you're not familiar with, it's worth understanding today because I think it gives some of the underlying things that are going on in our culture. But we can just clarify with people. Now, when you say something like this, what is it you're saying? And I think that's a helpful way in good communication.

John Sayger: 00:43:15 Yeah, and I think instead of just owning everything, like when someone says something, it's because you're this race that you're automatically that. I don't think that's what this is about, it's like, okay, all of us have got blind spots. And if someone points one out that you have, that you literally have, own it. If it's the Holy Spirit of God, if it's the culture throwing it at you, they're throwing all kinds of stuff at us. So it's like, what is real, Lord? You know, as a 21 year old, when Sharon did that and said that to me. I could have been like, well, you know, I could have been really offended, and just been like, no. But I had to own it, the Holy Spirit convicted me. So I think sometimes we're owning sin that's not our own. I mean, I've heard stories of people that, you know, they're like, they have friends that are multiracial. And they're sitting there going, Oh, wow. I must really have something hidden in my heart towards my friends, and it is not there. So you have to say, Lord, you search my heart, you search my heart. Psalm 139, "Search me and show me if there really is something there."

Ross Sawyers: 00:44:25 I like that. A few things that I think are also, I've heard people say okay, we're supposed to listen, but what if we don't see it the same? Do we get to talk about what our view is? How does that work? And I think these last questions are helpful, and I think every conversation is different. And we have to be careful to follow the lead of the Spirit, to know what this particular conversation calls for. And it may be one conversation, or multiple ones, that I have with someone that's a person of color. That I'm the listener, and I'm trying to understand multiple perspectives from them, and how they view it, and then what does God have for me as I listen. But I think helpful questions are, how did you arrive at that conclusion? When we're having these conversations about race and different aspects of it, how did you come to that? And we're trying to understand different people's worldview because we're coming from a biblical worldview, well, what is it that's someone else's worldview, what’s the lens they look through? And then I think ask permission for questions, then we know if it's okay to really dialogue about it. Would it be okay if I ask some questions? There's things I heard you say, that I need to further understand. And then the last one would be okay, if I share some thoughts that are different than what you've said, that I see some of this in a different light. Could I share with you those things? And when I share that, then I welcome you showing me where my blind spots are, or maybe God wants to use this to be a help to the other person. And so see, some of these things are practical ways that we can ever really gracious and respectful conversations.

Ross Sawyers: 00:46:11 Now over the last several weeks I've shared with you, I've had multiple conversations with black people, with white people, with brown people, different socioeconomic backgrounds, different experiences in life. I've had conversations with police officers. And one thing I want to say in the midst of this dialogue, that's a challenge, is I just want you to know I'm grateful for the police officer that standing in the hallway right now, that is here every week and protects us. I'm grateful for officer O'Neil, who is out in the parking lot in his police car and doing the same. You're actually going to hear officer O'Neill on Thursday night in our panel discussion. And I've sat and I've listened to the policeman, and that could be a really cool conversation for everyone to have, is to sit down and actually have a real conversation with a policeman or police woman, and just listen to them share with you what it's like. And I think we can be grateful for those officers that do a fantastic job and protect us, and then we can also speak about police brutality and where things are not done well. We can do both. But we want to make sure that we are having conversations, and that we're listening to different people, with different experiences, it brings a whole other picture. And our culture has a problem with hard conversation, we don't do it well.

Ross Sawyers: 00:47:53 I know different people have different opinions, I'm just giving this as an example. Candace Owens, I listened to a podcast that someone sent me that she did, with a Temple PhD professor. An hour and 20 minutes, and she said at the end of it, it was a very respectful dialogue they had, and at the end of it she said, I do not agree with one thing that I heard him say. And I'm 99.9% sure based on listening to what he said, he didn't agree with a thing that she had to say. But she said, we have to have dialogues like this, where people can just hear different sides. And then people can wrestle through that themselves, because they've clearly heard it. There was no mistake what she was about, there was no mistake what he was about. Now you can walk away from that, and wrestle that through. And from our perspective, you can wrestle that through with God himself, and how does it match with scripture, either side. Even at the end, she said, you get two minutes to say whatever you want to say to sum up what you just said. And then he was able to promote his book, which I know she didn't even come close to agreeing with. Could we as Christians, if they can do that in that environment, couldn't we as Christians in our life groups, and our families, with our friends, wouldn't it be good if we could have good hard conversations so we can develop good, tough biblical minds, while being tender, hearted, merciful, and compassionate with one another? Wouldn't that be a beautiful conversation to have? And wouldn't more and more people engage our perspective, if they saw us lead with that kind of love? Any thoughts?

Ross Sawyers: 00:50:09 A few resources for you. I mentioned a second ago that there's a lot going on today, it's not simply race. That is a big thing going on, and has been for a long time. But there's multiple cultural issues that are challenges, and Christians are going to increasingly come under persecution, if we hold to what our biblical values are. Two resources that I've found helpful are Break Point, and Denison Forum on Truth and Culture. Both of those, if you sign up for them, daily, Monday through Friday, you get current thoughts on current events, in biblical responses to them. So it's a way to keep up with what's going on in the culture, things you might see or might not see, but a biblical perspective on it as well. It's a way to help us engage and prepare, and to love our culture well. When understand at least a little bit of what's going on, and then biblically how to respond. So, these guys are really helpful, so I'd encourage you to take some time with those, if that would be a help. Anything else before I wrap up?

John Sayger: 00:51:22 Man, I would say this to you guys, just to encourage you and all of us that, Romans 5:5, "But he has poured his love out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.", and to give that away. Our world is on fire, and there's one true need, and that's Jesus. That's it. Even if they don't ever think like I think, or I don't ever think like they think, they need Jesus, he is the answer to the situation. And how are they going to know that we're disciples of Jesus. Jesus said, they're going to know you're my disciples by how? By our love. So you've got to fight for love, man. You just got to say, Lord, I'm not feeling it, but it ain't about how I'm feeling. I need you to transform my heart, so that the fragrant aroma of the knowledge of God in Christ can spread through my life to people that are not like me. And when you do that, they know you love them. They're not going to be wondering, you know, do they really accept me? No, man, I love you. And it's not because of, you know, something forced on me by our culture right now. I love you because our master said, this is how the world is going to be changed. We're the light of the world, and we bring that to people through our love.

Ross Sawyers: 00:52:51 That's awesome. The other question that I hear often is, what if I don't have people of color in my life, we're talking about having conversations with people. And so what if I don't know someone that's a different skin color? Well I think that's where we ask God to see as he sees, and my guess is they're all kinds of people of color around everyone. We're asking God to help us see with different eyes. And maybe it's a family on the team you're on right now with your kids, and you just haven't really leaned into them because there's someone else that's more comfortable to lean into as a friend. It could be where you work, and ask God for a wider look at where you work, for those relationships. I believe if we ask God, will you place more people of color in my life that I can build relationships with and genuinely love, that you'll be stunned how quickly there'll be in your life, this is people of color all across the board.

Ross Sawyers: 00:54:11 My brother Lloyd, in 1995, Lloyd, and Randy, and I, and my mom, were at Baylor-Dallas with my dad who was dying of lung cancer in the ICU. I lived in Florida at the time, so they were mostly, they were here. And then when it didn't look like he would make it, then I came. And we were in the waiting room at Baylor on the ICU floor, and it was this really big waiting room, at least the way I remember. It was 25 years ago, so in my mind it was a big room, and then there was a small room. And all the white people were in the big room, and a black family was in the small room. And another black lady in our church, she said, you can't assume things, you need to be careful not to assume what's going on in [inaudible], they might simply have just wanted to be in the smaller room. That really wasn't my sense of what was going on, my sense was they didn't feel like they would be welcome in the room with all the white people. And so I said to Lloyd, I said, do you see what's going on in here? And this is when Lloyd was really just starting to follow the Lord, and his life was starting to really be transformed that way. I said the black family is in that room, and all the white people are out here. And if you've ever met my brother Lloyd here, you know what his next move was without thinking twice, he was in that room with the black family. And he got to know them, and he listened to them, and he loved them. And they told him about their father, her husband, whatever relative or friend he was, his name was Willie. And Lloyd offered, and he said, brother's a minister, and he'd be glad to pray with Willie if you want him to. Well, several hours later that day or the next day, I can't remember when I was gone, Lloyd was there and they were ready for me to go pray with Willie, and I wasn't there. And Lloyd went up, and he wasn't really, in that time confident, to pray with someone, but he did. And so Lloyd prayed with Willie, Willie ended up coming out of ICU, and Lloyd actually kept up with the family beyond that time at the hospital. But it was such a beautiful picture to me, and each time we've been in hospitals and in waiting rooms, we're asking God to help us see with his eyes and see who he sees in there, and he sees something beyond our immediate crisis. And we've had so many conversations, unfortunately for all our time in waiting rooms, we've had a number of conversations, Randy, and Lloyd, and I, with black people in waiting rooms. But so grateful that 25 years ago, God opened our eyes to that. If we'll just ask God to open our eyes, as John said, let us see as he sees, it's amazing what we'll see and the kind of dialogues we'll find ourselves in.

Ross Sawyers: 00:57:59 Let's pray together, Father, thank you. John, would you pray? That'd be great.

John Sayger: 00:58:06 Lord, thank you so much for this conversation. And Lord, our prayer is that your kingdom would expand because of it, Lord. God, that you would give us the courage to say to you, search my heart O' God, see if there's any hurtful way in me. And Lord, that we would be like Jesus in how we treat people. O Lord, we all fall so far short and, God, we've got so far to go. But Lord, thank you that you love us, and you continue to mold us, and to shape us. And so Lord today, Lord, for every single one of us to look into our heart and let you just to say, son or daughter, I need this. And so Lord, help us to be honest with that. And Lord, help us to have the courage to start conversations. Lord, I'm just blown away at your love for us, Lord.

John Sayger: 00:59:19 I want to pray for Ross, Randy, and their family, God, and for this church, Lord, that you just continue to use them as light. Bless them, Lord. God, thank you for my brother Lloyd Sawyers, God, the impact he had on my life. God, I pray that you would raise up other workers, thrust them into the field, Lord, there's still so much to do. So please do that, Lord. All glory and honor to you, and we thank you in Jesus' name. Amen.

Ross Sawyers: 00:59:55 Let's be quiet before the Lord for just a moment. And I'd like to have this time just to give at least a brief spot to think about the things that God might be saying that we might want to be obedient to, you know, as we take off. So let's just do that briefly.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051