There are certain things in life that seem to have greater power over a community of people than one might first expect. It’s as if their presence changes an atmosphere at the same speed as the turning on of a light switch brings light into a room. (Zubaz were one of those awful fads that worked that way too!)
I recently was talking with a girlfriend who was telling me that one of her co-workers had just taken another job at a different business. She commented about how suddenly the atmosphere of the office seemed completely different without her former co-worker there. In the words of my friend, “she just had this negative spirit about her. Everything she said was negative and it made the whole office feel negative.” Negativity is one of those things that literally infuses an atmosphere and sneaks in so quickly it practically goes unnoticed save a few really optimistic people who just don’t seem to have a negative bone in their body.
Negativity is like the attire in a work place. Do you ever notice how quickly the majority of people adhere to a certain attire in a workplace? In any office setting, most people are simply given the guidelines that they need to wear professional clothing, business casual or casual. When most people start a new job somewhere, one of the first things they do is update their work wardrobe to blend in, because after all business casual means so many different things. Don’t get me wrong, I do this as well. My point is that when you walk into a work place, you immediately know what’s appropriate attire because the majority of people are clothed in it. Negativity, in much the same way, has an affect on the whole work environment – it affects the things people say, the way people think and even the behavior that is condoned; when it’s part of the culture, it’s as if people are clothed in it.
As leaders, we carry the responsibility of making sure the atmosphere of the church, ministry, small group, home, etc. that we lead reflects the atmosphere of heaven. That’s the bottom line. Culture comes from the top down; it is set by the leaders. Whether we like it or not, we carry the weight of reflecting heaven in all that we do and say because it not only affects our lives, but the lives of everyone around us and the community in which we lead.
For the next couple of weeks I want to focus on what we can do about negativity because I think that it is critical for us to nip it in the bud before it becomes a huge problem within our churches, and communities. Come on, was Jesus known for His negativity and criticism?! Whenever Jesus was critical, it was because His heart was heavy that the standards the religious rulers were setting for the people didn’t reflect heaven whatsoever.
To get us started thinking about the importance of this topic, let’s look at what Proverbs 10:11 says about the words that come out of our mouths: “The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain; the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions.” What comes out of our mouths is to be nothing short of life-giving, always. I think we can all agree that it is culturally acceptable to be highly critical, extremely judgmental and frankly to not take responsibility for our own mouth and the things we say (and maybe especially the things we write on public boards all over the internet).
This world is filled with a defeatist mentality. Think about it. According to all the news and most of the people we all talk to, not only is this world going to pot, but depending on who you hang around with your church might be too. As Pastor Brian Houston puts it, “We’re surrounded by this Spirit of Negativity that says, ‘I dare not believe the best, so I will expect the worst.’” Think about it, when we are negative we tend to believe the worst, because we can’t expect the best. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that it stems from a place of inner defeat. And that’s the posture of most people in this world because they actually don’t know that this world is not as it’s supposed to be. They don’t know that they can have hope, that God has better plans for this world, and their lives, than they could dream of or even imagine. When they walk into our churches and communities, or even just our presence, what do they hear? Is it a reflection of heaven, or a reflection of the same doomsday messages they hear everyday in the world?
Next week, we’ll look more into how we can deal with this in ourselves as well as the communities in which we lead. I would love to hear how you have experienced “the power of the tongue” (either positively or negatively) in your lives and communities — please feel free to share below!