Does having a better theology really make that big of a difference?This post originally appeared on ministrymatters.comThere’s a phrase — a mantra — a complaint, if you will, that is often expressed by my more progressive United Methodist colleagues (m…
We need to be more than just welcoming in our churches.This post originally appeared on ministrymatters.comI was listening to a sports radio show on my way to church one morning. The two DJs were doing their usual bit of asking each other trivia questi…
We don’t need more heroes. We need more disciples.
Note: This was a sermon that was given two Sundays after Harvey.
Who doesn’t want to be a hero?
Who doesn’t want the accolades and the admiration that comes from being a hero?
A hero saves the day.
… but what about the days that follow? The weeks? The months..?
Heroism is situational.
The desires of being a hero seeps into the life of church.
Most — if not all — churches engage and often excel in compassion ministries
We go to different countries or cities for a week or so to help that community;
We come once a month or once a quarter to feed the homeless;
We once a month or so get together and assemble blessings bags;
We show up once a year to be “the church” to our community.
Don’t get me wrong — compassion ministries are important and necessary and good work…
However, churches rarely get involved in justice ministry. We have a plethora amount of churches involved in compassion ministries but not nearly enough involved in justice ministries.
Compassion ministry gives a hungry person a blessing bag and we say, good luck, God bless, have a good day — and we go on. Maybe even give ourselves some props for doing a good thing.
Justice ministry asks, why is that person hungry to begin with and how can we end that?
Compassion fills a temporary need
Justice works to solve the issue.
So — why am I bringing this up…
Because heroes have moved on from Harvey and are preparing for Irma.
There are other disasters that will need the call of a hero.
But the work of rebuilding Houston still remains.
This is the hard work. This is the long-road ahead. This is the work that’s not sexy and won’t give you the glory of swooping in and saving the day.
This is the dirty; the nitty gritty; the smelly; that needs to be done. The often hard and unnoticed work.
This is the work that needs to be done while we want to move on from these catastrophic events because we’re okay; we’re dry; we weren’t affected.
The desire to help now has fierce competition with the need for life to resume to normal. So someone else will help those who are in need because my kids school has started; I’ve got deadlines from work that were pushed back…
This is why we don’t need heroes in this part of our lives.. someone who can come and save just the day. Heroism is a one-act; one-event; one-time thing. Situational at best.
We don’t need heroes;
We need disciples. Because discipleship is a lifelong commitment. It’s a lifelong decision to be the best we can be; to do no harm, to keep doing good, to staying in love with God. It’s a daily decision to pick up the cross; a daily decision to follow Jesus.
To go wherever and whenever and to do whatever Jesus is calling us to do.
I’m reminded of the call of Peter from Luke’s account.
Peter spent a whole night fishing with no luck.
They pulled up to the shore and were cleaning their nets.
Peter probably was exhausted and frustrated. They weren’t fishing for sport. It was their livelihood. He lost a day’s worth of wages and is probably itching to go back fishing in the evening to make up for the lost wages. (I learned that if you fish with nets, you need to go after the sun goes down so that the fish can’t see the nets.)
As they were cleaning their nets, Jesus was preaching nearby.
Jesus sees Peter and his boat; Jesus sees the crowds growing — so he just steps into Peter’s boat and asks him to row out a bit so he can speak to the crowd.
Jesus and Peter already had a relationship. Jesus had stayed at Peter’s house and also healed his mother-in-law from a fever.
So Jesus probably figured, I know this dude. I need a boat and simply invited himself onto Peter’s boat. I find it fascinating how many times Jesus simply invites himself to places.
Peter’s probably groaning in his heart. He wants to go home and get some rest. Now he has to listen to Jesus’ sermon. On top of that — he has to look engaged because his in the eye line of all those who came to hear Jesus speak.
When Jesus was finished, he didn’t let Peter go home. He told Peter to row further into the water then he said, “let down the nets for a catch.”
Peter is probably thinking, “Bruh. You’re a carpenter. I’m the fisherman. My dad’s a fisherman. His dad was a fisherman. His dad was a fisherman. I know more about fishing than you. I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I’m getting grouchy. I need coffee. Besides, the suns out and about. The fish will see the net. This is useless. This is pointless. You have no idea what you’re talking about Jesus. Please leave me alone. Let me go on with my day.”
Wouldn’t similar thoughts run through your mind?
Haven’t you had similar thoughts when you felt Jesus was inviting you to do something?
But instead of vocalizing any of those thoughts; even though he was tired — Peter responded:
“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Because you say so…
What is Jesus inviting you to do? How is Jesus inviting you to engage?
Faith is a contact sport; an active commitment. It’s about being out there and getting our hands dirty. It’s about working for the greater good whether we receive the props or not for it.
Faith is not about sitting at church and waiting for people to come to us. The book after the Gospels is called THE ACTS of the APOSTLES
Not the Sitting of the Apostles; the Waiting of the Apostles
ACTS. ACTING. ACTION.
Also consider this — do you know what the official name for a group of vultures are called? committee.
Let that sink in next time you’re in a committee meeting.
Hear me out — I’m not saying that committees are bad; organization is good and a powerful tool.
But if we’re not careful, we can make the church be limited to committees and meetings. We can make the church into nothing more than meetings that one must attend.
What is Jesus inviting you to do? How is Jesus inviting you to engage?
Don’t think that you have nothing to offer; don’t think that what you can help is too small; don’t think any work is beneath you.
Great opportunities often disguise themselves in small tasks.
I am convinced that Jesus’ ministry was filled with small moments that are easy to miss and skip over.
The miracles that Jesus performed? Yea, they were amazing. But miracles faded.
The 5000+ folks Jesus fed? They got hungry again.
The people he healed? Probably got sick again from other infirmities.
The ones that he raised from the dead? They eventually died again.
But more important than the miracles, it was how Jesus made people feel.
He touched the lepers when no one could/would.
He engaged the lepers when they were forced out of their communities.
He ate with the sinners and made them feel human while people went out of their way to let them know they’re worthless.
As Maya Angelou once said:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
It’s easier to be a hero.
Because a disciple is a lifelong commitment; it’s about waking up everyday and praying: into your hands I commit my spirit.
What is Jesus inviting you to do?
How is Jesus asking you to engage?
And may our response be like Peter’s:
But because you say so…
Who knew that Malcolm Gladwell’s thoughts on ESPN would hit so close to my heart…
So I rarely write something and then publish it the same day.
It’s usually a safe-guard measure — to at least make sure if I’m writing something that’s close to me that my emotions are in check.
It’s also a practical measure to correct any spelling or grammatical mistakes. (I do proofread my stuff before posting. I know often it doesn’t seem like. But yo, English is hard).
So I was making my way to check out a coffeeshop in Houston (Through Good Coffee — my quick review? Great place. Great atmosphere. Great coffee) and was listening to Bill Simmons podcast. He was doing something live from NYC’s Advertising Week with Malcolm Gladwell and they briefly discussed Jemele Hill.
Gladwell said something about ESPN that I’ve felt about the church for … well forever — and this past month, I’ve spent hundreds of words trying to articulate what’s been on my heart (The Church and I; JJ Watt, Harvey, and the Church; Guardians of the Status Quo).
So Gladwell goes on to say:
Malcom Gladwell: I’m always struck by — I feel like ESPN has kind of lost its way. One of their problems is that they established a brand identity as young and edgy and sort of out there. But every time anyone who works for ESPN is either youthful or edgy or out there, they freak out. So it becomes pretty clear that they actually — they wanna be edgy without being edgy.
This brings up this larger thing — I’m always amazed about corporations how when they get large enough just become chicken shit. I mean they just — where are their balls?
… I feel 20 years ago they would have an easier time with this.
They get so big and they get so conservative. They get so — they forget they’re in the entertainment business, right?
And what they are trying to do — they are trying to stop the people who work for them from being interesting.
When you’re confronted with that contradiction you have a problem.
Bill Simmons: it’s an identity thing.
“They wanna be edgy without being edgy.”
I mean, our churches want to change without changing; be younger without being younger; be missional without being missional; be generous without being generous; be community focused without focusing on community; be diverse without putting diverse folks in leadership positions; be open arms, open hearts and open doors without being inclusive;
And as Gladwell accuses of ESPN forgetting that they’re in entertainment business, we forget that we’re in the disciple-making business; the life-transforming-through-God’s-Grace business.
It is an identity thing.
And many of us have forgotten who we are and whose we are.
Why are so many of our churches so afraid of the future?
This is a continuation of the series the Church and I. It’s some of the angst I’ve been wrestling with and questioning ever since I’ve entered parish ministry.
Here are the previous post from this series:
The Church and I: Part 1
JJ Watt, Harvey, and the Church.
There are many times where I’ve frustratingly asked, “Why are we so afraid of the future?”
Not only are we afraid of the future — we struggle to live in the now.
What we do, instead, is we hold on to the past. We white knuckle everything, grit our teeth, stand our ground, and convince ourselves that what we’ve done for the past 30 years will continue to work.
All the while complaining why no one is coming to the church.
There have been churches where I’ve walked into and felt like I walk into some sort of time capsule.
Outside the church, it’s 2017.
Inside the church, it’s 1975.
What ultimately happens to a church like that is all their resources, time, energy, money, efforts is used to maintain the building; keeping the status quo the status quo; preserving the glory days; keeping the nostalgia alive; and driving out anyone who dares to rock the boat or ask questions. I’ve always compared it to the 50 year old dude who still wears his varsity football jacket and talks about “the game” like this dude (sans varsity jacket):
The sad truth is — God has left that building long ago. They’re not a church anymore, they’re a museum filled with relics of the past. They’re a nursing home with occasional visitors.
They’re sole purpose is to survive.
When the mission and purpose of the church is to survive we become useless to God.
When we’re in survival mode — everything is scarce; our resources are limited; we’re invested whole-heartedly to keeping things the way they are; we can’t share life with our neighbors because it’ll effect our bottom line and our livelihood; we can’t invite new people into leadership in fear that they might change things. We walk around gingerly and tenderly as if everything around us is a valuable historical artifact.
God invites us into a life-giving future — but instead of focusing on what we can gain from accepting God’s invitation, we focus on what we’re asked to give up; what we may end up losing. So we ultimately say to God, thanks but no thanks. We’re good right where are; doing what we’ve always done. But can you make our church grow because we haven’t had new members for about 10 years now?
And it’s these churches that are young clergy killers.
Because they’re convinced that a young pastor will get younger people into the church and that can once again return to their glory days.
But the problem is — they want to pour new wine into old wineskin.
They’ll fight the young clergy on every idea that she has and then they’ll be resentful towards the young clergy for trying to change things and not being able to bring young families to their church.
The young clergy will feel taxed and perhaps to the brink of burnout. They may gain some bad habits that will affect the rest of their vocation.
If the church can’t get their head out of survival mode — the best thing they can do for the Kingdom of God is to just die. I know, harsh. But:
In a faith that’s wholly dependent on Resurrection — we’re really afraid of death.
We won’t know — we don’t know — what God can do if we just get the hell out of the way.
And sometimes, a church has to die to make way for God to do new things in that community.
God’s intentions for a church isn’t to merely survive — but to thrive.
God’s intentions for a church isn’t to be guardians of the past; preservers of a local tradition — God calls the church to be live-givers; life transformers.
We believe that God is the God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
We act as if God is only the God of yesterday. So we ignore the today and fear the tomorrow.
As Erwin McManus writes:
I have found the church strangely walking backward into the future. The church has become an institution that preserves the past and fears the future. It is not an overstatement to say that the church has become more of a reflection of what we are running from than what we are running to.
No wonder we have lost our power to change the world. No wonder the church has lost its magnetism to a world searching for hope. We are seen as the guardians of tradition. The church is known for fighting the future rather than creating the future that humanity desperately needs.
What McManus wrote resonated with my soul.
Why do we keep fighting the future when we have an opportunity to create a future?
Why do we choose to be regressive when we have the option to make progress?
Why are we so absent from the present and so afraid of the future?
It’s because we choose to trust our methodology — our way of doing things — over trusting God.
It’s because we choose to live out a preference driven life over a purpose driven life.
It’s because we choose our past over God’s mission.
It’s because we fear instead of trust.
It’s because we desperately ask God to bless what we are already doing instead of asking what God may want us to do.
It’s because we focus on the life that God seemingly is asking us to give up rather than focusing on the life that God wants to give us.
Who better to engage in the here and now than the church?
Who better to create and shape a future filled with hope than the church?
Don’t get me wrong: our past; our history; the shoulder of the saints that we stand upon — they are vital to who we are. But our past is simply describes us. It does not define us.
In no way should our history shackle us from the future God has planned for us; a future God is leading us into.
Why are we so afraid?
We believe in a God that redeems, restores, and resurrects.
How much bigger is God than our fears?
What are we afraid of?
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
As Oprah once said:
We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds it.
That should be enough for us to partner with God in creating a future that is full of hope and love and life.
I want to be in a church that would rather risk it all in the face of uncertainty than hoard everything so tightly.
I want to be part of a church that would rather risk death in partnering with God than be the guardians of the status quo.
I want to be part of a church that thrives rather than survives.
For what’s the point of living if there’s no life?
We tend to excel at making the church resistible.
This is part two of the series of posts called, The Church and I.
Here is part one, if you’re interested.
When the church gets it right — it’s so empowering. And I cherish those moments and store them in a box in my heart to dive into when I get discouraged.
The Washington Times recently published a story about how Christians outpaced FEMA in aiding Harvey and UMCOR (United Methodist Commission on Relief) got a shout out.
In the words of Stone Cold Steve Austin: give me a hell yeah!
(or I guess the more appropriate response was, can I get an amen…)
The church — at its best — is irresistible. We are unstoppable — for there is no force on this earth that can stop a community driven by God’s Spirit and grace. Not-a-damn-thing.
The response from faith communities after Harvey has been incredible (and continues to be so).
In my local church, we had great number of people flowing in with a simple question, how can I help?
My friend’s church had volunteers offering free childcare from 9–5 so that the parents can return to work and/or work on their homes until schools were in session again.
People of different belief systems came together for the greater good; to help rebuild their communities, as my colleague Hannah Terry shared:
One of our leaders texted this to me tonight: “Mormons, Episcopalians, and Methodists helping at a Catholic home in a Jewish neighborhood…did a check-in call on one of the families and he told me he had photos to send me. He sent this and as I went down the line and realized the demographics it made me tear up and realize that no one can ever touch with this city has. I figured we pretty much break every narrative that is out there every single moment of every single day.”
So proud of my city and my community and my people. This is real life, folks. Let’s keep breaking stereotypes and tell a better story and seek scared and hungry and exhausted and vulnerable and forgotten folks who have yet to be reached
Then in Florida, there was the Nun with the Chainsaw.
In any other setting, this might make for a good horror flick. But it was an incredible, beautiful, and heartwarming sight. A physical reminder of faith in action.
Irresistible, I like to think.
It’s just that… we’re really good at making the church resistible.
I sat in a meeting with a bunch of pastors to see how we can help our greater community. We were working with a bigger organization.
Look — the bigger picture is that people are getting the help that they need. That’s the important part. That’s the part to fall back on; to fix my thoughts on.
But — one of the first things they said to us in the meeting was, here’s our statement of faith. Then it was shared that unless one abides and agrees to the statement of faith, they cannot help. We have to sign an agreement and then hear a 30 minute proselytizing message before heading out to help someone in need with this group.
Thankfully, they said that those who need help do not have to agree to the statement of faith to receive help.
I mean, I did not/could not agree to their statement of faith. But what does what I believe have to do with helping those who are in need? Why does that matter? Why should that matter?
And, yes, no one would be denied of help by this group — but what if — say — a Muslim family were in need of help… or a LGBTQIA family? Or someone that is fundamentally different from their Statement of Faith?
A bible will be given. A tract, maybe? A harmful prayer? An attempt of conversion?
Granted, I’m totally being unfair because I’m speculating.
But there was a representative from the Latter Day Saints church in that meeting and she received many glares and dirty looks when she shared who she was representing. She said she could just feel people just staring at her and the negative vibes being sent her way… if she — who was wanting to help with the rebuilding efforts of our community — felt unwelcomed and could feel the bad jujus and the glares ‘n stares of the pastors in our community… how would we able to behave ourselves when we were called to help someone who was fundamentally different from the statement of faith we had to sign and swear to adhere to? Again… I get it. Speculation.
I guess the ultimate question is — why put parameters on who can help?
I ultimately walked away from that meeting believing that, for this group, saving souls took precedence over saving lives and helping people.
So what does JJ Watt have anything to do with this?
I was never a big fan of JJ Watt and never a fan of the Texans.
But living in Houston, I learned and saw how involved JJ Watt was in the community. And then, this guy raises over 37 million dollars for Harvey relief.
He cares for the city he plays in, clearly. Can’t nobody deny that.
And darn it — I can’t help but like him a little and respect him a whole lot.
On top of that, since Harvey, I find myself (secretly) rooting for the Texans. Just a tiny little bit.
It’s super easy for the church to take a misstep — even a perceived one — because people are waiting for it. We’ve gotten such a bad reputation that it surprises people when we do good and it affirms/confirms their suspicions when we peddle fear and hate.
Take Joel Osteen for instance. For the first time in my life, I found myself defending Joel Osteen. He got dragged through social media because the biggest church in the States couldn’t open up their space to give shelter to the displaced.
But, according to Osteen, they were waiting to see if their building would be safe, because it got flooded before. And when they felt it was safe, they opened their doors. Or maybe you’re convinced it was the pressures of social media and the negative attention that forced Osteen’s and Lakewood’s hand.
It’s easy to dismiss the church and think of us as an outdated and dogmatic group that has nothing to offer society except to harbor the religious nutjobs.
And often times, we make it super easy for folks to think that.
Actions will always speak louder than words.
Our actions have the power to change the mind of people.
Or confirm their suspicions.
Our actions can show how irresistible God’s grace can be.
Or make it even easier to resist God.
Our actions can bring people closer to Christ.
Or let people know that Christ has nothing to offer to this world.
It’s just that we make it very easy and convenient for folks to use the church as a scapegoat for not believing in Christ.
If the church lives out God’s calling; embodying that irresistible force — then someone can choose to not believe in God because they simply don’t believe in God. And not use the church as an excuse/scapegoat.
I mean, I still don’t know if I like JJ, but I can’t deny what a stand up guy he is — especially when it comes to helping Houston.
Likewise, as Francis Chan writes, we should make someone say, I can’t deny what the church does, but I don’t believe in their God.
We should try our best to resist becoming resistible — because there are so many good things that God can do through the church.
Let’s stop giving people an easy out — blaming the church for their unbelief. Instead, let’s make people unable to deny the work that God is doing through us; the good that God is accomplishing with/through us; let’s make them say, I don’t believe in their God, but dang — I sure as hell can’t deny the great things that the church does.
Can I get a hell yeah… er… an Amen?
Here is the Church, here is the steeple. Open the doors, see all the people. But where is Pastor Joe, oh who the heck knows? 😂😅
Note: I am aware that when I bring thoughts like this from a personal journal to a (fairly) public blog — questions arise; offense can be taken. In the words of Aaron Rodgers R-E-L-A-X. My intention is not to offend you; my intention is to not have you concerned for me — though I understand how I may lead you to. My real intention is to keep this blog active; shake off this writer’s block; and continue to write for writing sake. We cool? I sure hope so.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
When it comes to work — I have a hard time answering that question.
Especially when I look at the people around me and I (feel like I’d) know for a fact where they would be in five years. I sort of envy that.
My senior pastor — 5 years from now, he may as well be retired but I’d be surprised if he’s not involved in a local church in one form or another.
My colleague — in 5 years, I see him moving his new church plant to the next level of ministry and community life.
My clergy friends — there’s no doubt in my mind that most of them will be serving a church 5 years from now.
But of course that’s just me assessing from the outside looking in. Who knows their inner monologues with God and their calling? Because — let it be known — we pastors also question and doubt and wonder and wander.
As for me, yes, I see myself working at a church 5 years from now. But there’s a restlessness in my soul asking, “why?”
But see, that’s always been there. That “why” existed from the moment I realized that seminary was the next chapter of my life. “Why?”
It was there when I realized my calling was leading me to a local church: “but, why?”
It was there after every decision to move: “why?” that evolved into “why am I here?”
Yes, there were times that question was a heavy burden on my heart. But most of the time, it has been helpful because it helped me assess and reassess and focus on what my purpose was/is.
So yea, 5 years from now I can see myself involved in the local church. And wrestling with existential questions.
I can also see myself 5 years from now, finishing up barber school and working at a barbershop and spending the weekends giving free haircuts to the houseless. And wrestling with existential questions.
I don’t doubt or question my calling. I can’t ever shake that off. Lord knows I’ve tried many times to Taylor Swift it and shake shake shake shake shake it off without any luck.
I do, at times, question my setting —the “where” of living out my calling. I wonder if I am where God is calling me; if I’m doing the best that I can; or if I’ve settled for the average life by shying away from risks and floating towards being the maintainer of the status quo.
There are things about the local church I’m very proud of; people who show extraordinary love, grace, and generosity; people who get it; people who go above and beyond; people who truly embody a sacrificial life; those who truly embody servanthood.
Then there are things that make me extremely restless about the local church. And I think I’m going to take a few posts to flesh this out.
But, as I stated above, note: this is my thinking out loud process; figuring things out as I’m processing them. Let it be known — I am doing well. I am okay. I’m not going through some midlife crisis. It’s something that’s always been in my heart and soul — from the moment I said “yes” to God’s call.
I’m not going to up and quit my job without notice. I’m just writing my thoughts out; I’m just putting my thoughts into words because I need to keep this blog updated and I’m tired of the “this post originally appeared on ministrymatters.com” updates (which will continue on until I’ve run out of ‘em). I want to write original stuff.
Also, I got a new bible and for the first time in my life, had my name engraved on it. Why is that significant? I don’t know, but coming home with that Bible with my name on it (legitimately excited because I’m a pastor nerd, apparently), it raised lots of thoughts and questions that began this journey of thoughts… so blame the Bible.
And also, I get it. My angst towards the institution of church — it applies to everything in the world; to any institution or company; to any job or vocation; to any person. There are things we love and there are things we can go without.
But man, I also don’t want to undermine all the good the church can do when we get our sh*t together; when we focus on our mission and on our purpose. When we look at how to serve our community — both within the walls and the neighborhood; when we eliminate personal agendas that do not benefit the community of faith; when we encourage one another for the good of the Kingdom; when we do no harm and do good; when we do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit; when we value others over ourselves; when we look towards the interests of others and not our own… We 👏 Are 👏 Unstoppable 👏.
How do we get there? How do we stay there?
… Focusing on the goal/mission/purpose
and most importantly with love, because if we don’t have love — as Paul writes in One Corinthians: if [we] have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if [we] have faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, [we are] nothing.
So here’s to a journey of posts that will lead you — for better or worse — to my thought process and insights of how my mind may work. The next post re: church will most likely have to do with Harvey, JJ Watt, and the Church.
Don’t be a jerk.
Be cool and do good.
And continue to stay in love with God.
So say we all.
There’s an undo send function on Gmail that I hope to never use.
(Note: This post previously appeared on ministrymatters.com)
I recently discovered that Google’s Gmail has an “undo send” function. Turn it on and you can have up to 30 seconds to unsend an email that you just sent.
Of course, I enabled it and thought, “This is a great feature! I’ll probably need to use it!”
Then I felt a little sad — ashamed even — that I believed I needed such a feature.
There’s something about a screen and keyboard that helps us feel detached from the people we’re communicating with. It gives us a false sense of security, and we feel like we can express anything from the depths of our minds. Thus trolling has become a big part of Internet communications.
It’s probably safe to say that the majority of us would think twice about the things we say on comment boards and in emails if we were face to face with the actual person. (What always drives me crazy is when I reach out to someone [in person or over the phone] who sent an angry email and they totally play it off. “Oh, you got that? It was nothing really. Don’t worry about it.” No, it obviously was something.)
I know a colleague who has a habit of firing off emails and then apologizing for them later. But who hasn’t sent emails that we later regret and/or have to apologize for? We’ve all been recipients of those emails, too.
And if you’re anything like me, the first thing you want to do is to send a response that is equally scathing and sarcastic and shaming. But the recipient of that email usually fails to see your humor and intelligence. Now they’re even more offended and the likelihood of them responding with an even nastier email has increased.
So then we receive another email … and the situation escalates from there. The maddening thing is that the majority of the drama, ill feelings and misunderstanding could be avoided with a phone call or (even better) a face-to-face.
My goal is to never have to use the “undo send” feature.
Before I knew it even existed, I came up with some personal guidelines to follow when writing an email or blog post in response to something I don’t like:
- I always write on a word processor, because the temptation to push the “send” or “post” button is often too much to resist.
- Sleep on it. Contrary to popular belief, not everything has to be FAST and NOW. Sleeping on it helps clear your mind and spirit and helps eliminate the initial strong emotional reaction. 24 hours usually works best.
- During that time of sleeping on it, I often do something to work off built-up stress. Sometimes it’s a walk. Sometimes it’s a quick round of whatever is in my PS4. Sometimes it’s getting ice cream with the family. Sometimes it’s a quick workout. (When I do go to work out, all of my workouts are quick). In all that I’m doing, prayer is involved. Anything to ground me back to the here and now; to reframe my thoughts; to remind myself of grace.
- After some time away, I reread the email/post and edit it.
- Then I sleep on it again, but this time I ask myself: a) can this email help make things better? b) would (and could) I say this to the person’s face? If the answer is no to either of the questions, then I know I should not send it. If the answer is yes:
- I read it one more time and send it.
Are these steps fail-proof? Absolutely not. But the point for me is to eliminate the knee-jerk reaction that usually does the bulk of the damage.
While I hope to never have to use the “undo send” feature, the one absolute way to guarantee that is to reach out to the person in, well, person. A phone call at minimum but a face-to-face conversation is the best way to resolve conflict, even if there is no resolution.
You’ll at least be proactive in keeping conflict to a minimum and decreasing the chances of misunderstanding and miscommunication. Being reactive rarely helps defuse tension.
Yes, a lot of the times, you’ll have to be the “bigger person” to refuse to continue the dialogue in email and to continue it in person. And usually it sucks to have to be the bigger person. But most of the time, you’re better off for it in the long run.
This post originally appeared on MinistryMatters.com
I was always careless with words. Always looking for the quick joke at the expense of others, more concerned with if the joke was funny than if it was hurting someone.
After all, it’s just words. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” right?
One of the many childhood lies I believed. Because not only do words hurt, that hurt stays with you for a long time. Bones mend. Cuts heal. The words cut at the heart, mind and soul.
I think it would be more accurate to say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will have such a lasting effect that I may have to go see a counselor for the rest of my life, so thanks for that.”
I remember having a conversation with an elderly gentleman who could still vividly recall how kids called him “Droopy Pants” in the 6th grade (nearly 6 decades ago) because his family couldn’t afford pants that fit him right. Words have great power and I don’t mean to get nerdy with you, but Uncle Ben was right: With great power comes great responsibility.
In the beginning, God brought forth our world with words. Throughout the Gospels, you see Jesus healing people by using only words. When he raised Lazarus from death, it was with words.
Perhaps emotional and spiritual healing took place for those seeking physical healing because Jesus actually spoke to them. Many of their ailments would cause them to be ostracized, and here was this man, this renowned teacher, the Messiah, speaking to them like an actual human being.
Words can build, restore, affirm, and heal. Words can give life.
But words can also destroy. Words can mar the image of God in a person.
Perhaps we often simply forget that our words have such great power. Or we do remember and therefore try to add a phrase to absolve us from the hurtfulness that accompanies our words (“Just saying” or “Bless his/her heart…”)
Let’s remember the teachings of our parents and teachers and think twice before we say anything. Scars of the heart and soul don’t mend and heal as quickly as broken bones.
May we be mindful of our words and use them not to belittle, deny and destroy but instead use them to uplift, build and give life.
This post originally appeared on MinistryMatters.com
So there I was, on my knees in the office bathroom with the carpet squares soaked in only God knows what. I had to peel off the carpet squares because our toilet had overflowed for the umpteenth time and the squares were probably dangerously contaminated. I had three rubber gloves on each of my hands, but they weren’t holding up. My fingers were breaking through and making contact with the carpet squares, as were my knees because there was no other way to get leverage to rip out the squares.
I didn’t want to do this job. In fact, I felt that this job was beneath me. I’m the pastor of the church, don’t we have someone else to do this? But an 80-year-old parishioner originally volunteered to remove the carpet squares. There was just no way I could let her do that. So I begrudgingly — of course with a big smile — volunteered to do so.
With my fingertips and knees soaked in contaminated water, I couldn’t help but laugh.
I struggle with ego and pride. And God has a way of reminding me of humility through painful, embarrassing and/or humiliating ways.
When my first Converge Bible study, Practical Prayer, was released, a lot of my church members wanted to do a small group study on it. I was excited and proud. I put a lot of work, prayer and thought into that study and was ecstatic that my folks were just as enthusiastic about doing the Bible study as I was about writing it.
After the four-week session was done, I checked in with the person who led the group asking how everything went.
“Joe, we’re so proud of you! This was a great study for us. But really, the best part of the study, hands down, were the questions you asked after each session. They really were thought-provoking and started great conversations! Those were some good questions! Awesome job!”
Everyone who participated in the study came up to me and said the same thing — they loved the questions that followed each session.
Except… I didn’t write any of the questions. That was done by the editors. When I told them that, every single person responded:
“Oh… Well don’t get me wrong, the content was great, too!”
That kept me in check. God always has a way to keep me in check.
For me, to keep a grounded head, I learned to try not to expect anything. This may only apply to me, but I found that the line between expecting and feeling entitled is very, very thin. As a pastor (and as a person of faith), I fully believe that rather than being entitled to anything, I’m entrusted with everything.
I’ve stopped expecting people to give me praises and compliments, as well as criticism. In my heart, I know how I did. And those who are close to me, those whose opinions I trust and take to heart, they’ll let me know how I did. And that’s enough. I don’t need to go fishing for compliments or projecting false humility by seeking criticism.
I try not to expect deferential or preferential treatment. I grew up in hierarchal culture. Titles meant something. And oftentimes, folks would abuse their titles of pastor, elder or deacon. My friend’s wife worked at a dentist office. One day, her pastor brought his entire family in to get some dental work done. At the end of the visit, he didn’t pay the bill because not only was he a pastor, he was her pastor. She could do her part in serving the church by waiving the bill. Unfortunately, I have many more horror stories like this to share. So it’s rather easy for me to fall into that line of thinking: I’m a pastor. But I don’t need to be doing that.
Titles aren’t something for us to exploit or hide behind or lord over others. As John Ortberg wrote, “Titles are only opportunities to serve.”
When I take that sentiment to heart, there is no task too small for me. Nor is there anything that is beneath the office of the pastor. After all, the Messiah didn’t think twice to get on his knees and wash the dirt off his disciples’ feet.
And perhaps, constantly reminding myself that I’m called to serve will continue to keep my head and heart in check by keeping my ego and pride at bay.
As for the bathroom, once I let go of the idea that this work — or any work — was beneath me, ripping up those carpet squares became easier and therapeutic.