Church Involvement

Creating a Culture of Involvement in Every Church

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Fire Volunteers?

May Volunteers Be Fired?

The term “fired” is a pretty strong one.   It reminds one of Donald Trump’s show “Apprentice” wherein he fired folks every week until only one candidate for a job was left.

When it comes to volunteers, the idea of ‘firing’ is frightful and it seems to be extreme and unloving—especially in a church context.

I would suppose a better term may be “replacing.”   What I mean by that is that if a volunteer isn’t performing well, he/she should be replaced after an explanation of why the change needs to take place.   Also, a volunteer who is being replaced could be placed in another ministry more fitting for him/her.

John Williams gives some times when it is wise to replace a volunteer:

“Generally, a volunteer who doesn’t do the job well is 1) well-meaning but incompetent (in over his or her head), 2) well-meaning but has not counted the cost in time and effort (has too many other irons in the fire), 3) well-meaning but providentially hindered by some unexpected illness, family responsibility, or other personal problems, 4) well-meaning but who, over time, has lost enthusiasm for the job and maybe is ashamed to admit that by quitting.”

I think there may be other times when a volunteer needs to be replaced; these times would be extreme and do not necessarily need to be discussed herein.

I would suggest that when John’s examples occur, the volunteer should be approached lovingly and kindly.  A blog or text will not do.  It must be in person or at least a phone call.

Going back to our examples, if she/he is incompetent, you may suggest a ministry for which he/she is better qualified.   If time is an issue with the volunteer, you may ask him/her if they are struggling with the demands of the ministry and ask them if they wish to be relieved.   If they are providentially hindered from serving as the ministry demands, you can excuse them from serving.   And, if you see someone who has lost his/her passion for a ministry, you will have to take control, telling him/her what you have seen and heard about their lack of passion and offer him/her a break until the passion returns.   Most volunteers will response positively to your suggestions.

Trav

IMs Network in the Churches of Christ

Involvement Ministers Network

Between April 24 and August 27 of 2017, I took it upon myself to go searching for other folks that do what I do as an involvement minister.  My goal was to create an IM Network.  As of this moment, I do not have permission to share names and email addresses.  But hopefully soon, I will be able to share it.   Following is what I learned from over 242 calls (many of them repeat calls) to 242 churches of Christ.

First of all, I learned quickly (what I kind of already knew) that Involvement Ministers (IMs) go by different titles: Involvement Ministers, Family Life Ministers, Connections Ministers, Associate Ministers, Community Life Ministers, Discipleship Ministers, Equipping Ministers, etc.

I also found that many ministers wear many different hats and do many things other than involvement.   One brother was attempting to do youth ministry and involvement ministry at the same time; I could tell he was frustrated.   Many of these have transitioned to IM from youth, pulpit, missions, education or other ministries.   I’ve also talked with some people that have transitioned from being a member or a deacon and they are now in charge of involvement (among other things) in their congregations.

The criteria for my calls along with some findings are as follows:

  1.  Congregations of 300+ members in Tennessee and connecting States were called by phone.   (I assumed that most congregations could not afford two ministers unless there are at least 300 members). Several larger congregations had as many as four ministers (some even more) but none was an IM.
  2.    I found the ‘gate keepers’ very professional, friendly and helpful.   I am proud of the ladies who answered their congregation’s office phones.   In several cases, larger congregations did not have anyone to answer the phone and/or they didn’t have an answering machine.
  3. In many cases, secretaries did not know what an involvement minister was and a good majority of them did not know who was ‘in charge’ of getting members involved in the ministries of their congregation.   However, in at least one case, the church secretary was in charge of getting members involved.   I thought of this as an opportunity to educate these ladies about what so many of us as IMs do.
  4. I did not call Non-institutional or One Cupper congregations primarily because few if any of them have over 300 members.
  5. Many IMs were not in the office when I called.   I usually called in the afternoon (avoiding lunch hour) and in several cases left voice mails asking the IM to call me back. I would say about 50% did call back.   Those who were out of the office, were out doing the Lord’s work. One was becoming a grandfather for the third time when I called.
  6. The general reception by those who did the involvement work was good and some were very excited to be talking to another IM. When I told them about the “Church Involvement Conference” and www.churchinvolvement.com they were really appreciative.
  7.  I found 5 female IMs, one eldership of eight who did the involvement work, and 1 married couple did it.   Several IMs were former pulpit or youth ministers and had been with their ‘present’ congregation for many years (one brother had been with his congregation 27 years).
  8. The majority of our brotherhood congregations in these states (with a membership of over 300) appear not to have any intentional means of getting members involved in any sort of ministry.  This is a personal observation and it may not be accurate especially if the ‘gate keepers’ do not represent the leadership of the church.
  9.    Many of the congregations had deacons who got members involved. Several congregations use their small groups to involve members.

I found 55 full time church staffers whose purpose is to get members involved in ministry; Tennessee has 22 of these.  I found none in SC, NC, and VA.   Kentucky and Mississippi both had one each.  AL and AR had 7 each and GA had 4.  A balance of 24 were deacons, church secretaries, elders or a member who had a ministry of IM.  These are volunteers and not paid full time staff.  All 55 do IM a little diferent.  Five of these IMs are female.

What I find interesting is that these stats mean that out of 242 churches of Christ, we can say that there are 55 full time IMs which is about 23% or 1 out of 5 of these 242 congregations. If you add the volunteers to this list, then you would have close to 1 out of 4 churches do involvement in some form.  Very impressive. I find this amazing and I am pleasantly surprised.

If you are an IM or you know of someone who is and/or if you have not talked with me, please let me know at travisirwin@att.net

Travis Irwin

Athens, TN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Efficacy of Ministry Manuals

Efficacy of Church Ministry Manuals

Most churches do not have ministry manuals.   Some churches have ‘involvement forms’ that are used to determine what members are willing to do (e.g. wait on the Lord’s Table, teach a class, greet, visit, prepare communion, lead singing, etc.).  Members are requested to ‘check off’ the things they are willing to do and these are put in a database and members are called upon as they are needed in these areas of service.

Involvement forms are popular because they are usually very simple and only include one page.   The downside of these forms is that they are not comprehensive and do not optimize the gifts, passions and life skills and experiences of the members within the church.    Churches that only use involvement forms may be churches that do not have numerical growth in mind.   Some may be maintaining the status quo and going through the ‘motions’ of ‘doing’ church.

On the other hand, there are “Ministry Manuals.”   The word “manual” sounds intimidating and cold.   It sounds like something you need to read to make something work.   But it is NOT an instruction manual.    I use the term here to refer to a booklet with several pages listing opportunities to serve including opportunities that promote both spiritual and numerical growth.  Our present Ministry Manual holds information about 40 ministries and over 400 opportunities to service in the local church.

Following is a list of its contents; possibly some of these may trigger some ideas for you as you plan to create your own:

  1.  A listing of every ministry with a check box next to each one.
  2.  A mission statement for every ministry (under the ministry name). A vision statement can also be valuable; basically the vision statement informs others on ‘how’ the mission (statement) of the ministry will be carried out through the opportunities of service within that ministry.
  3.  The name(s) of those directing the ministry with contact information.
  4.  A listing of opportunities to serve within that ministry.   There can be too few or too many listings.   However, all the ‘needs’ in the ministry should be listed.
  5.  A color-coded system according to giftedness; our first ministry manual had each opportunity of service color-coded according to a person’s giftedness.   A good example of this would be the “Education Ministry,” and the opportunity to actually teach a class.   Those with the gifts of exhortation and teaching would definitely be considered as teachers. Such a coding not only helps the education director; it also helps those looking for something to do.   They may desire to teach and yet not be gifted in that area.   They should look for an opportunity to serve that is color-coded according their giftedness.   There are kind-hearted members who are willing to do anything and yet may not be gifted in certain areas.   Using members who are not gifted in a certain area could adversely affect the quality of that ministry and its service to the local church.   To those who minimize giftedness, I would say that ‘passion’ is the closest thing that could ever come close to replacing giftedness.   I would prefer both giftedness for teaching and a passion for teaching (and children or adults) for a person to be in a teaching position.

Following is an example without proper form:

Name of Ministry:   Education

Mission of Ministry:   To teach the Word of God in order to make disciples Christ and transform lives into the likeness of Christ

Vision:   the means we will use will be Bible classes on Sunday morning and Wednesday evenings, VBS, Summer Reading Club, Youth Ministry, SPROUT ministry and other events designed with this goal in mind

Director of this Ministry:   David Smith    Contact:   423 000 0000

Opportunities to Serve:

___Teaching children                    ____Teaching high school

___Assisting teachers                     ____Teaching adults

___Research                                     ____Do crafts

What about the efficacy of ministry manuals?   Let’s return to the original question: how effective is a ministry manual?

The simple answer is “it is as effective as your design it to be and as you use it.”   It is my personal opinion that every member needs to have a comprehensive list of all the opportunities of service in the local church…

  1.  Because they need to know what is needed in their church: they are!
  2.  Because they need to know their place in the church (in my opinion according to their giftedness, passion and life experience.
  3.  Because they need to know God has placed them in that church to serve
  4.  Because most church members don’t have a clue what is happening in their local church—and coming to know it brings courage and serious contemplation to commit to serve.
  5. Leaders need to treat involvement as a matter of discipleship and must educate every member to use his gifts and other blessings to make the church strong numerically and spiritually.   Leaders should also have a database of all those enrolled to serve along with their passions, gifts and any other related information so the deacons and ministry leaders can find new talent for their ministries.

Trav

 

Why Do I Promote So Much?

Why Do You Promote Things So Much?

There are several ways to promote events and activities of the local church: word of mouth, personal telephone calls, email, phone tree, church bulletin, power point, Facebook (and other social media), snail mail, church announcements from the pulpit and in the classroom, and newspapers.

I try to use all of these and some folks probably wonder why.   Please allow me to share why I use so many avenues of promoting church events and activities.

Because church events and activities are important.   Any event or activity that is important is worthy of proper promotion.   Budweiser promotes the drinking of their beer and spends billions every year.   They think it is important.   I also think anything to do with the Kingdom of Heaven and the King is eternally and of utmost importance.

Because brethren are bombarded with all sorts of promotions.   Let’s face it: we are constantly barraged with information especially that of the promotional kind. We’ve got to work our way into the arena of promotions; if we do not, few if any will know much less care.   In reality, we are in competition with the devil himself.   We must be wise.

Because brethren forget.   We are so busy with so many things that we tend to forget—even the most important things.   Even the Bible recognizes reminding folk (2 Pet.1:12-13).

Because brethren are over committed.   Christians need to put the most important things on their personal schedules and yet many times they do not.   They are overcommitted with sports, TV, playing electronic games, extracurricular activities, travel, entertainment, etc.   Most of these things are harmless at face value but when we get too many things going on, the Lord’s things are usually the first to go.   We’ve got to promote the most important first and best.   Christians are to be committed to Jesus fully and first.

Because brethren don’t know.   I remember years ago, in my naïve youth, that members of the church said they needed weeks to prepare for an upcoming church event and “we” didn’t give them enough time to make ‘time preparation’ on their calendars.   Well, most of these folks won’t come to church events if you told them a year in advance, but then some are sincere and need a great deal of ‘notice.’     I’m not going to allow that excuse if I can help it.     Trav

Creativity and Ministry

Creative Thinking and Ministry

A few weeks ago my wife, our two best friends and I were in New England. On the way back home we stayed in Lancaster, PA.   We stayed in a new motel by the Hilton group called “TRU Hilton.”   It is intentionally designed to cater to the “millennial” age group.    Attached is a picture of the lobby.   The walls are multi-colored, the free breakfast is very ‘healthy’, there is a huge 55 inch TV in each room, there is no wood furniture, long tubes of shampoo and soap were attached to the bathroom wall (versus free small bottles) and wood floors (versus carpeted floors).   To an old geezer like me, it was shocking and to be honest, it was a bit uncomfortable.  My wife said it felt cold and industrial.   I must give the folks at Hilton some credit:  they are creative in their attempts to reach a younger generation of consumers.

I mention this experience for several reasons one of which is that the church is no longer creative.   We have lost our creativity and we mark anyone who exerts any creativity as progressive or a trouble-maker.   We are not creative in reaching the younger generations for example.    We are competing with the world which spends billions in being creative in promoting their products and philosophies.   We’ve got to rethink how we do things.   Doing the average or just getting by will not get it done.

One of the most helpful books that I’ve read in recent days is Howard Hendricks’ Color Outside the Lines.   Most of us know him as a conservative commentator, but he is also a genius on the topic of creativity.

In the closing chapter of his book, he lists the three stages of discipleship:  (1)Learning, (2) following and (3) sharing.   Many Christians I know are stuck in the first step and have been there since the day they were baptized into Christ.   Few have moved to actually emulating the Christ and sharing Him with lost friends and family.

Why is this?   I think the answer is simple: we have not been creative in showing how we are to emulate Christ and share Him.   We have equated Biblical learning (alone) with soundness.   However, if you closely study the lives of such folks as Jesus, Peter and Paul, you will see their creativity.   They were sound, but also creative in maturing Christians.

Our ministries should be creative in recruiting and training participants. We need ministries that have been created and based upon real needs.   We should encourage creative thinking among ministry leaders and members.   It is rather obvious that those who promote the use of

alcohol and other products (harmful or otherwise) are very creative.   It is past time for God’s children to be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves, and we can be as learn to be creative.   Our Lord can do beyond what we ask or think; He is the ultimate in creativity.   Look at His stories, parables, miracles, questions, the visuals that He uses (e.g. the Lord’s Supper is one of the most visual things He uses for our good), the very creation of everything, the variety is creation and the list goes on.

I strongly recommend, that each church and ministry leader read Howard Hendricks’ book and start to promote forward/creative thinking.   The payoff, in my estimation, will be continued spiritual and numerical growth.  I am not advocating changing the gospel.   However, I AM advocating changing much of our methodology in teaching the gospel and actually promoting following Christ (as disciples) and showing our brethren how to share the gospel with the lost.   It starts with elders and deacons who must learn to “color outside the lines” by being creative in their thinking.    Travis Irwin, Athens, TN

 

Is Your Ministry Important?

How Important is Your Ministry?

Recently, we had our first Ministry Fair.   I asked 28 of our 38 ministries to prepare displays for our Ministry Fair.    Twenty-six of the twenty-eight did so; everyone was given 7 months notice with many reminders.   We had 21 new volunteers for ministry and much interest.   To me, this effort was a great success.

I am giving you the background to this article.   It is written to all of our ministry leaders (before the Ministry Fair) in order to gently remind them of just how important their ministries are to the church.

If you are a deacon or a ministry leader, you may think this question is totally inappropriate and unnecessary.   However, I beg to differ.   From time to time we all need to be gently reminded of just how valuable and indispensable our ministries are.

How important is your ministry TO YOU?   Our first Ministry Fair is Sunday, July 16 during Bible class hours.     We have a total of 38 ministries and by purposeful design, 28 of them were asked to participate.   One ministry leader just showed me her display: it is out of this world.   Yes, she received expert help from a granddaughter, but it is marvelous.   Her ministry means a lot to her and she has gone to great lengths to promote her ministry.

Your participation and preparation for the Ministry Fair will send a strong signal to the church about how you feel about your ministry.   Yes, there are other ways you can send a similar signal, but the Ministry Fair is certainly one of the better ones.     Your creativity and the constant improvement of your ministry are other powerful signs of how much you value your ministry.

How important is your ministry TO THE CHURCH HERE?   What if Amy Littleton didn’t make sure the communion was prepared this Sunday?   What if Jim Ward decided to just sit down Sunday morning and hoped the guys got together to lead worship?   What if teachers were not in our classrooms to teach?   What if our guests had no one to watch their babies? You get the idea.   Every ministry contributes in some BIG way to the welfare and stability of the church here. Our ministries accommodate learning, fellowship and worship. There are also eternal implications to our ministries: they are priceless.   Your contributions of time and effort promote spiritual and numerical growth in this church.

How important is your ministry TO THE LORD?   It is He who has given us these ministries:   we are managers or stewards of them.     We are familiar with what the New Testament teaches on the organization of the church (e.g. elders, deacons, evangelists, teachers, etc.).   But He has also gifted every member for ministry and this was not an accident; it was done purposefully and when we operate the way we are designed, great things happen.   Our ministries are important to HIM.

This is not meant to be criticism: really the opposite.   I hope it has encouraged you to continue to stimulate others to love and good deeds (cf.Heb.10:24) through your ministry.

Thanks for all you do.   Trav

Is IM as Important as the Pulpit or Youth Ministry?

Most congregations (that can afford two ministers) usually have a pulpit minister and a youth minister.   I have been both.   I enjoyed 30 years of full time pulpit work and about 5 years of part-time pulpit ministry.   I have also done youth work.   I mention this so no one misunderstands what I’m about to share.

I have also done “Involvement Ministry” for 9 years and I am convinced that it is just as important as pulpit and youth ministry.   Why would I say such a thing?

For the following reasons.   Involvement Ministry (IM done well) is important to a local church because

It helps members discover how God has designed them for service.   It intentionally seeks to inform members of their spiritual gifts, passions and other things that show members how God has designed them for service as individuals.   Who is going to do this?    For all intents and purposes, this is not being done in local churches.

It assists members in becoming fully fruitful.   Sitting in a worship service or a Bible class does not make one fruitful (by merit of the sitting and listening).   IM educates brethren how to bear fruit for the Lord in at least four different ways:

Authentic character, decisive living, vivid worship and courageous sharing.

It promotes proper church organization and ministry.   Much emphasis is upon leadership in most churches.   However, IM promotes the priesthood of believers: that is, every member is a gifted servant of the Most High God.

It allows for more ministry not less.   Depending where you worship, a large majority of your congregation probably is doing more than just attending and listening.   IM trains and coaches members for ministry.   Opportunities to serve the church and community become more numerous when IM is done well.  We can actually do more because more are serving and using their gifts.  New ministries can emerge.

Most congregations have maintenance ministries that are church centered. With IM, the local church starts ministry that is evangelistic in nature and externally focused.

It gives glory to the Lord who gifted us.   ‘Nuf said.

It can show a congregation direction.   Many of our congregations have no future plans for numerical or spiritual growth.   IM motivates the local church to plan and work with its future in mind; it sets goals.

It restores, promotes and perpetuates congregational excitement. There is seldom a dull moment in churches that have a spirit of expectation. These are churches that have weekly if not also daily baptisms and new members coming in all the time.  Members are stimulated unto love and good works. IM promotes and perpetuates excitement in the local church.   Trav

Always Being Prepared for Something

God is Always Preparing You for Something

One of the most impressive (to me) Bible stories is the story of Moses.   Think about this:  he was born into a hostile environment, found by the Pharoah’s daughter, raised in the palace, nursed by his mother, a favorite son of the Pharoah and then murders an Egyptian.   That’s the first 40 years of his life.

Having run for his life, he ends up marrying a shepherdess and becomes a shepherd for 40 years.   I mean, what kind of highly educated man would want to do that?   But he humbly shepherded sheep until He encountered God in the burning bush.

Those first 80 years of his life prepared him for his ultimate calling:   to lead God’s chosen out of slavery and into a new land.

One of our retired brothers has worked in the jail ministry with drug dealers and addicts.   I recently learned that he had been a drug head when he was younger and had struggled with it all his life.    He also shared with me his feelings about it all:   “The Lord has prepared me for this ministry.”    I agree.   It’s difficult to argue with that.    His female counterpart is a mother of two fine young folks and works in a factory.    She works long hard hours and has opened her home to more than one female addict.    I ask her ever-so-often, “Are you ok?”    Her answer?   “I love this.   This is what I should be doing.”   I agree.    I believe that God has prepared her all her life to do what she does week after week in our county jail.

What is (and what has) the Lord preparing you for?   If you’re a recovering addict, he may be preparing you to work with addicts.   If you have survived cancer, he may be preparing you to help others who are struggling with cancer.   If you have been through a divorce, God may be preparing you to minister to divorcees.   If you have lost a loved one, He may be preparing you to help others in grief.   If you are extraordinaire with computers, the Lord has prepared you to help with websites and computer issues for others (and maybe even the church).   If you are in medicine, the Lord has prepared you to help those who cannot afford health care (home and abroad).     If you have the skills of a carpenter, he has called you to share that expertise with those that need it.  The list can go on and on.  God is always preparing us for something now and later.

When I was in undergraduate school I prepared to be an educational director.

The Lord sent me to Ohio to preach for 30 years.   I now do involvement work.  I am convinced that my service in pulpit work prepared me for what I do now.

Hindsight is always 20/20.   It is usually when we are older that we can look back and see how God prepared us for some special ministry.    It is sobering and humbling, too.

More recently I have survived a rare deadly cancer.   God has prepared me to help others going (or about to go) through the same experiences.   My wife and I started a cancer support group.   Last evening we had our largest group meet.  I believe that the Lord is not done with me yet and that He is still preparing me to serve in other ways.

I have lived long enough to see that God is always preparing others and myself for something.   It is usually something bigger than any of us!     Be open to His leading and be sensitive to his preparing you for service even in the difficult times.   I promise you that He is always preparing you for something.  Trav

Valuing People Intrinsically and Extrinsically

Do We Value People Intrinsically or Extrinsically?

Several years ago our church secretary contracted MS.   I can think of few diseases more humbling and devastating than MS.   This MS attacked this mother of two school girls and wife of a good church leader.   She was no longer able to be our secretary and soon she could no longer drive.   As the disease digressed, she could no longer cook or do any of the domestic duties that she had loved doing for many years.   Her husband took early retirement to care for her.

When she was struggling greatly with this ‘new norm’ she felt useless and even worse, she felt worthless.     I can relate with this in some small way:   when I was fighting cancer over the past eight months, I was weak: I couldn’t work, I could barely walk, I spent the majority of my day getting up, getting dressed, taking meds, eating and exercising, taking treatments and going back to bed.   To say the least, what this mother experienced was very painful—much more painful than what I experienced.

In a feeble attempt to help this Christian sister, I did some study about valuing people; I learned that we either value people because of their intrinsic worth or because of their extrinsic worth.   What’s the difference?

When we value people extrinsically, we value them only because of something that makes them valuable to us:   their looks, money, intelligence, athletic ability, their friendship to us, their work—in other words they are valued for things external to themselves.   Their value is based on who they are, what they can do (for themselves, us or others) or for other obvious reasons.

On the other hand, others of us value people because of their intrinsic value (not so obvious). What is this?   Simply put, this is the value of a person because of their pricelessness.   A person is valuable ‘in and of themselves.’   They are valuable because they are created in the image of God.   This secretary was valuable to her family and the church for many extrinsic reasons but some of those reasons went away with her physical abilities.   But I assured her of her intrinsic worth.   This is one of the many reasons that we value human life no matter the age or physical or mental condition of the person.

How do we value people in the church?  Even though we are not to value people as the world does (cf. Romans 12:1-2), we do.   Sometimes we value only those folks who can give us something, or do something special or those with whom we have a relationship. Sometimes we unintentionally and unknowingly devalue people who are not our age, our gender, our race, etc.  I’ve seen several folks in the church overlooked or not befriended because ‘they have nothing’ to offer (a form of judging).   But we are to love (value each other intrinsically) each other unconditionally (cf. John13:34-35) and accept one another (Rom.15:7).   In spite of our sin, Christ knew our intrinsic value and died for us.   My point?   Everyone is valuable in the world, in the community, and in the church.   We need to treat everyone as valuable because God does.   Many lonely souls sit in church pews because no one values them as does the Lord.   People continue to be lost because we do not value their souls as does the Lord.

Before I move on, I think we should value people extrinsically also.   Is this a contradiction?   No, this is just stating a fact and recognizing that God wants us to honor those to whom honor is due and appreciate those who do the will of God.   To totally not recognize or appreciate extrinsic value in the church and community would also be wrong.   There needs to be balance.

A lesson for involvement ministers:  If we are not careful, as involvement ministers, we may only value those in the body who are active members.   I confess that I get frustrated, angry and disillusioned with members who would prefer to sit in a pew than to serve in the kingdom.   However, they are just as valuable as those who are involved in a half dozen ministries.  They are intrinsically valuable and always will be.   God loves (intrinsically values) them as much as He loves me.

The Lord really emphasizes both values systems.   If you think about it long enough, you will realize that the Lord set up both value systems (in pure form) and follows them both; this simply means we should too.   We are created in His image (intrinsic value) and we are created by Him (his workmanship; Eph.2:10) for good works (extrinsic value); in some very real sense we become more valuable to the kingdom, the world and our families as we use the gifts and blessings God has given us. Either way, we and our souls are worth more than the entire world. We are precious in His sight.

We simply need to recognize our worth and the worth of others in these manners and when we do, we will all be happier and love life more and glorify the Father who loves us just the way we are.   The world will be a better place and the kingdom will grow and grow and grow.

(see an excellent article that touches upon this topic in the latest “Christian Chronicle” by Jonathan Holmes)  http://www.christianchronicle.org/article/are-ministries-reflecting-society-more-than-jesus

Travis Irwin

Athens, TN

Respond or React?


I remember a Bible class years ago wherein my teacher said something that sticks with me years later.   He said,   “Jesus never reacted; He always responded.”   I’ve studied the life of Christ since that day and that saying is 100% true.   Even with the Pharisees He didn’t react:  He responded by teaching truth and revealing truth about His accusers.  His answers and even His descriptions were meant for teaching not as a means of reaction.

I suggest that reaction leads to more reaction while response many times squelches potentially volatile times (see Proverb 15:1: a soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh answer stirs up wrath).    I also suggest that reaction can start a chain of reactions and events that can lead to hard feelings, people taking things personally, people leaving your congregation, one time friends turning their backs on you or things worse.

Here are some ground rules for preventing causing reactions in others:

  1.  Don’t be reactive yourself.   No matter what is said or done, don’t react. Don’t stoop to the same unchristian behavior of others.
  2.  Expect others to be reactive.   I have found that many Christians to be some of the most reactive folks in the world.   Don’t expect the majority of your brothers and sisters to respond; most will react. This is why point #1 is important.
  3.  Before speaking, think and pray things through.   I’ve written letters and later tore them up and threw them away because they were written in anger.   Give yourself at least 24 hours to think something through before writing about it or talking to others about it.  What if you are suddenly attacked?   Granted, this is the most difficult time to not react.   However, you can pray that you will not be reactionary when sudden attacks happen.
  4.  Get counsel.   Sometimes a good friend, spouse or impartial third party can listen to you and be totally objective and give good advice.   Be as impartial as you can when sharing with others and do not seek sympathy; seek counsel.   An impartial person can tell you if you are over reacting or if you need to forget the whole thing or how you need to respond.
  5.  Some things just aren’t worth the time or trouble.   We usually realize this if we think about it for a while.   We learn that some issues aren’t worth talking about and we just need to leave them alone or deal with them later when our emotions have calmed down.
  6.  Timing is everything.   Others are under great stress and they seem to always be under a time crunch.   Also, their lives are very full—in fact, most folks are overcommitted.   Their fuses are short and they don’t like foolishness especially if/when they interrupt something you said, wrote or did as ‘foolish .’   When you verbalize or write on an opinion that may stir the emotions of others, take timing into consideration.  I remember one older preacher suggesting that preachers preach on immodesty during the winter when people are not being immodest.   Proper timing is not compromise, it is wise.
  7. Learn to listen.   A lot of disagreements are because people don’t listen well and misunderstand others. Find out (listen and don’t interrupt until he/she is completely finished) exactly what a person’s complaint is and why and then answer that. Ask questions for clarification. Another person may not understand you, but this is no reason for you to misunderstand him/her.

Trav

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