Yesterday, I published a post suggesting “6 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor When He’s Preaching.” The very first way, as I humorously suggested, was to give the pastor some “feedback.”
Feedback. Don’t just sit there like a knot on a log when your pastor is preaching; give him some feedback! Say, “Amen!” Wave your hand. Throw a hymnal at the pulpit. DO SOMETHING! How is he supposed to know he’s getting through to you if you just sit there silently with a blank look on your face? At least nod your head in agreement once in a while.
Believe it or not, all I could think about the rest of the day, and this morning, was that word: feedback. It really bothered me, so I couldn’t help but do a little research.
Since this was a safe enough subject (not theology), I went to Wikipedia and, to my amazement, discovered that the word “feedback” has far more to do with economics and electronics than positive or negative reinforcement.
Feedback was not even the original spelling of the word. According to the brains at Wikipedia:
The verb phrase “to feed back”, in the sense of returning to an earlier position in a mechanical process, was in use in the US by the 1860s, and in 1909, Nobel laureate Karl Ferdinand Braun used the term “feed-back” as a noun to refer to (undesired) coupling between components of an electronic circuit.
It was not until much later did the terms positive or negative feedback enter into the context of social sciences.
The “Ministry” Context
But as I pondered the word feedback, especially in the context of ministry, the ideas of “circularity of action,” “looping,” and “the output of one affecting the input of another” took on a whole new meaning.
Ministry is never supposed to be a one-way street of communication and teaching. Those who teach and preach must, at some level, at some time, receive something back, whether positive or negative, in order to justify what they do. For example, what good is it to say a teacher is a good teacher, even called by God, if never once a student or disciple shows evidence of being taught? Positive feedback could be something like good grades, a successful career, or even a budding new teacher or preacher ready to reach the next generation.
To put it another way, those of us in ministry “feed” the sheep; “circularity of action” is when the sheep feed the shepherd. In other words, feedback is the congregation taking what has been poured into them and returning it, in some form or another, to the pastor, encouraging him, confirming his calling, thereby sustaining the loop.
The Big Picture
In the big picture of things, our ultimate source of encouragement and strength, the power behind our spiritual output, is the Holy Spirit. He is our Comforter, our Counselor, and our Friend. When we do what we’re called to do, when we obey Christ, the Spirit of God will confirm our work in some way.
But in the context of people – and that’s all preachers and pastors and ministers of all kinds are, just people – we are ALL sheep in His flock. Feeding back is nothing more than us sharing with each other some of the blessings and benefits of the green pasture where the Great Shepherd has led us.
What are your thoughts? How can feedback affect the minister, both positively and negatively?