Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

What did you just say to me!?

Written by: on September 20, 2018

When discussing my father as a minister in my youth, I will often say, “He was not a good preacher, but he loved God.” The comment is never meant as an insult to my father’s ability to preach the gospel, but rather, my father’s ability to preach in general. He is an ex-marine; gruff, tough and determined. Many of his sermons were delivered exactly that way; as though the congregation was in boot camp, and he was training the troops for war (though the Christian soldier analogy works great here). It seems that the average church-going Christian actually does not want to be yelled at every Sunday; nor do they feel comfortable with clinched fists from their preacher. I remember taking my first speech class, my freshman year of high school; the very first lesson we learned on day 1 was all about body language. As the teacher discussed the “DO NOTS” of public speaking, it was like a checklist of my father’s preaching. Later that week, I went to the church building while he was practicing one of his sermons; his fist must have pounded on the pulpit a dozen times before I walked up to the pulpit, and calmly opened up the fingers on his massive hand. My father just looked at me confused for a moment, then I said, “With an open hand you are offering them the message; with a fist, you are shoving it down their throat.” When Sunday morning came, I waited to see if he had learned anything. It was amazing!! The lesson was more loving, gentle and kind; furthermore, after worship, it may have been the most compliments my father had ever received from a sermon up to that point.

In this week’s reading, Glaser wrote, “Words are not things—they are the representations and symbols we use to view, think about, and process our perceptions of reality and they are the means of sharing these perceptions with others[1].” The problem comes when our words do not match our actions, and as the old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” I was very appreciated to Jay last week when he tackled the sensitive subject that he did; though soft spoken and kind, his words were very precise and effective. I think I always see Jay with this very soft, quiet nature, and it was probably that nature that made him the perfect person for presenting that topic. In personal reflection, I know that there is an aggressive demeanor lying just beneath the surface; I get frustrated when trying to express my own point, so I have to be careful of how I word myself…A LOT! It is that ability to not role the eyes, smirk, or even pop off with some stupid comment (it happens), which becomes a hindrance to our conversations rather than a support.

I have always been fascinated by how important it is for our body language to match our words; without it, the message we are trying to project can become distorted, or worse, offensive. My oldest son went for a job interview yesterday; when he came downstairs ready to leave, he was wearing a black pair of sweatpants with cat hair on them and an ugly polo shirt; his hair was a mess and his beard was straggly. I said, “Let’s try this one again!” His reply, “I heard it was a really casual dress code.” We had a loooong talk about presentation and respect for the person you are trying to get to hire you. The outfit turned into black jeans, clean beard trim, brushed hair, and a dress shirt. He got the job. Isn’t it amazing how we can send out messages just by walking in the door sometimes. Sheila Butt addressed this in her book, “Seeking Spiritual Beauty,” by writing, “The way we dress is a reflection of our hearts and inner spirit. The way we dress portrays whether we are striving for inner beauty of sordid attractiveness. The way we dress tells the world a lot about our souls[2].” Now, I’m not focusing on the dress, but rather, our non-verbal presentation as ministers of the Gospel.

I was driving through town a few years ago when I saw a woman in a mini-van run through a red light, and then extend her hand out of the window and flip-off the person that almost hit her as a result. As I shook my head in amazement, I was even more shocked to see the “Jesus” sticker with the fish logo on her back window. Needless, to say, she was the product of my sermon the following Sunday; can you imagine what it was about? “What message are we sending?”

For some reason, this reading prompted my to think about our graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang. In the beginning of the story found in “Boxers,” we see a holy man come into the village and exact his own justice upon the villagers. In the story, the man says, “Here! Take! For Justice![3]” The words sounds as though he is a just man, fulfilling righteous deeds; however, the story shows him steal from one to give to a liar and a bully. I know our desire is always to take the loving, peaceful message of Christ to the world; sadly, I also believe that too often our desires and passions against sin, create barriers in how we address others that fail to achieve our initial goal. “When we create conversational rituals that enable us to honor and respect others’ views of the world—especially when these views are very different from our own—we create a space for better conversations and for new ideas to emerge[4].”

I believe my father is a much better minister today; his heart is softer and his hands are almost always open. I know that we are all in a molding process by God, and the greatest obstacle to that masterpiece is ourselves. I made a comment in bible class last night regarding an encouragement Christ gave to His people; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also loved one another.[5]” The very nature of the verse used to puzzle me; primarily, because “love” has always been an expectation from God by His people. However, then I made the connection; Jesus was telling us that we needed to improve on it, because frankly, we were terrible at it. So, He became our example of true LOVE; though it wasn’t just by His Words, but rather when His actions completely mirrored the words that He spoke to us.




Butt, Sheila Keekler. Seeking Spiritual Beauty.Huntsville: Publishing Design, Inc. , 2004.

Glaser, Judith E. Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build   Trust and Get Extraordinary Results. Abingdon: Bibliomotion, Inc, 2014.

Yang, Gene Luen. Boxers.New York: First Second , 2013.



[1]Glaser, Judith E. Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results.Abingdon: Bibliomotion, Inc, 2014. P xiv.

[2] Butt, Sheila Keekler. Seeking Spiritual Beauty.Huntsville: Publishing Design, Inc. , 2004.

[3]Yang, Gene Luen. Boxers.New York: First Second , 2013. P 17.

[4]Glaser, p. 63.


About the Author

Shawn Hart

10 responses to “What did you just say to me!?”

  1. Mark Petersen says:


    Welcome back to our fall cohort! I look forward to learning with you once again.

    That was a fantastic blog post, full of acute observations, and well communicated. I really loved your “intervention” with your dad and how it softened his homiletics going forward.

    As I mentioned in my post this week, I’m at a conference where my preoccupation is digging into familial relationships and how our conversations or lack of them influence one another. Your post brings up the father-son relationship – both for you and your dad, but also you and your son. How much we need conversational intelligence, and the gentle love of Christ in relating to one another!

    • Shawn Hart says:

      I have tried to give my family “permission” to give honest feedback of my sermons, because I know a congregation will not always do that; sometimes that feedback hurts. I know how much it meant to me as teenager to see my father actually allow me to teach him things when it came to public speaking. Later, my father actually listened to me as we studied the Bible together, and for the first time, did not treat me like the student, but instead told me that I had taught him something. For this reason, I am trying to be open to the idea that there are going to be times in my life when I will have to swallow my own pride and listen to constructive criticism or direction; I only pray that I am always willing to all God to grow and teach me.

  2. Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Shawn,

    So glad you dove deep into the nonverbal part of communication. I was going to do that, but now I am really glad I didn’t, because you did it way better than I could have!

    What percentage of communication do you think in non verbal? I have heard it is somewhere between 70% and 90%, is it that high in your opinion?

    See you soon, with our Fantastic Four with Dr. D. in Hong Kong!

    • Shawn Hart says:

      I often tell the story about the elder at this church that kept giving me these awful, mean glares every Sunday as I preached my sermons. After a few months of going home and inquiring from my wife what I might have said wrong, the frustration finally forced me to confront the elder. You see, the problem was that every Sunday, that same elder was telling me how great I was doing and how pleased he was that I was their choice for a minister. I thought he was lying to me!

      I finally pulled him aside and I said, “What am I doing wrong?!” This shocked and confused look crossed his face, completely disrupted by my question. I told him that every Sunday I saw the looks of disdain and disapproval he would give me, even if he didn’t realize it. Well, you can imagine my relief when he started laughing and said, “OH NO! Shawn…I cannot hear you…I need new hearing aids. That is the look I make when I am straining to listen.” So what percentage? I believe our non-verbal cues to others are far more impacting than any verbal ones. Sometimes I practice in front of a mirror to make sure that I have not started any new facial movements I did not intend on.

  3. M Webb says:

    Great reflection and transparent story about you and your Dad with the “clinched fist” lesson. Wow! PTL that he softened to you and the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
    I took 3 years of Toastmaster’s International to get over my fear of public speaking and to learn the lessons on how to know your audience and tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them formats. In God’s economy, nothing goes to waste.
    You are so right about body language. I studied it and practiced it a lot during my career in law enforcement. God uses those experiences and lessons and gives me discernment about people, events, and outcomes that I would not otherwise be wired for. Again, God knows and uses “all things” for our good and His glory.
    See you in HK.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • Shawn Hart says:

      I have heard of Toastmasters before, but am not really familiar with it. Maybe you can tell me more about it in HK. We are about to participate in the LTC (Leadership Training for Christ) program for our youth soon; I am hoping it will help us to grow our young people in to better leaders.

  4. Jason Turbeville says:

    Thanks for the insight on your father and how he has changed. I agree that body language can be a great hinderance in how others perceive us. As a bigger guy I have had to work on my body language as well. I can be intimidating to others when I meet them so I have to move slowly and with grace. It’s hard to do.

    Thanks again brother.


  5. Greg says:

    Thank you for allowing us to know your heart better. I loved the vulnerability of your journey with your family that you share. I believe Christians often forget as important as conversations are, that what we do is (I think) more important. Great examples of this in you blog this week.

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Thanks Greg. I can honestly say that though I may not agree completely with everyone in our cohort, that does not mean that I believe their hearts are not desiring to serve God. Our challenge is to do that to the best of our ability, and sometimes, that requires us to challenge ourselves to get better.

      Looking forward to Hong Kong bud.

  6. Kyle Chalko says:

    Shawn, excellent example of the importance of building trust in the pulpit. I need to start thinking as all my communication moments and teachings venues as trust building opportunities.

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