The Loudest One in the Room…

John 8:3: The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.

I have to profess a sincere and perhaps unhealthy addiction to gangster movies. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, I stop the standard button-pushing on the remote whenever I see GoodFellasThe Godfather (I or II), and Casino. Probably not the healthiest or most spiritual practice, but maybe I’ll work on that for Lent NEXT year.

Another one of my favorites is American Gangster with Denzel Washington playing an imaginary version of real-life Harlem boss and drug king Frank Lucas. In a complete fabrication from the real Lucas, Washington’s character chastises his berates his brothers who work with them because they’re too flamboyant.

In one seen, he grabs his brother, looks him in the eye and says to him, “The loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room.” Sources say that this was a fabrication. But the fiction possesses a strong element of wisdom.

As I said in my last blog, attention-getters are often not the best leaders. Taking that a step further, we need to realize that making a lot of noise is not necessarily a characteristic of Christ-centered leadership. Sometimes, those who say the least speak the loudest.

Preachers love to hear themselves talk (and honestly, I’m no exception). It’s part of who we are, part of our job. If you don’t believe that you have something to say, then don’t get in the pulpit.

But we often forget ourselves and take that too far. We talk without anything behind it and we forget that Jesus is the basis for what we say and do.

It’s easy for leaders–and followers–to forget that Jesus often spoke loudest when He said little or nothing. Most of his longest sermons were delivered to His own disciples, as He tried to prepare them to be leaders in the world.

Then, there were times like this one, where Jesus said only a couple of sentences. We’re not sure about what He wrote in the sand (plenty of preachers have speculated over the centuries), but He did not SAY anything. Didn’t yell, mount a spirited defense, didn’t verbally abuse or physically assault the angry mob.

He just wrote in the sand. Oh, after they kept annoying him, he finally responded with one sentence:

 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (NIV)

One sentence. Jesus offered one sentence, and broke up faster than the third quarter at a Charlotte Bobcats’ game.

During my 10+ months at Augusta Heights Church, I’ve noticed an interesting aspect to the congregation’s dynamics. There are not many outspoken leaders in the church. Interestingly, things are generally more peaceful than some other churches I’ve served.

But if you ask people who they most respect, they will often name people who are soft-spoken or say almost nothing at all. You will rarely hear them during a church business conference, and almost never here them at “the meeting AFTER the meeting”. But when they speak, everyone listens–and you would do well to heed their words.

That is leadership.

Whether you are striving to be a better leader or choosing whom to follow, Denzel’s Frank Lucas unintentionally gives us a message for Christian leadership. If all you do is make noise all the time, that’s not leadership. It’s the one whose words are carefully chosen and rarely spoken that may be the most effective leader.

The loudest one in the room may be the weakest one in the room. The best leaders quite often accomplish the most while saying the least. Don’t necessarily look to the person who has a lot to say, but who makes the greatest impact with what they say.

Kind of like Jesus.

**NOTE:  Some modern Bible scholars question the authenticity of the story in John 8, “Woman Caught in Adultery”. This article takes the passage to be accurate and true, as reflected in English translations of the text.

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