Am I a Doctor’s Helper Who Is Allergic to Sick People?

how do we work with diseased people and churches?

A response and question from my blog post of August 1, 2017: “Brother I liked your article Do you know a sound congregation? I know why I would write an article like this, but I am curious why you did? Just curious…thank you and love you.”

I don’t think I serve the cause of unity by making breaks in fellowship before God makes them. If I get angry and accusatory at people who have different views and encouraging others to stay away from them, either by my command, example, or necessary inference, I’m promoting divisiveness.

If I cannot work with churches and people less than perfect, I’m not following the example of Jesus who ate with sinners, selected imperfect men as the cabinet in His kingdom, and attracted misfits to Him.

When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mark 2:17, NKJV).

My experience in the past ten years of interim ministry is that churches in the worst trouble are the easiest to work with. When they see their mess and don’t know where to turn, they’re teachable. When a church “has it all together” and an image to protect and project, they aren’t in learning mode.

Churches in the worst trouble are the easiest to work with. Click To Tweet

Imperfect people and churches need to be corrected—not condemned and abandoned—until they persistently show they have no intention of correcting. I don’t think that needs to be done in the first two weeks of hearing they did something I don’t like. When and if the divide comes, the door needs to be left open, shoes prepared, calf fattened, clothes clean, and the party prepared when individuals can be seen in the distance coming home. Dead churches can have live Christians in them (Revelation 3:1-4).

If I condemn them to hell, withdraw fellowship from them, and publish warnings in brotherhood papers and on Facebook when they clapped after a baptism or one elder reads KJV only and encourages others to do so, I don’t think I’m following what I read in the Bible about Corinth and the seven churches of Asia. Most of those churches were in a mess, but they still had candlesticks.

I push people away and solidify the divide when I shoot first and ask questions later. Click To Tweet

The point of my post, Do You Know of a Sound Congregation…? is not where we go to services on vacation.

My suggestion is labels of “sound” and “unsound,” indicating that anyone in that church and the church itself is not recognized by the Lord may not be accurate. It is my observation that many reasons many brethren label a church “unsound” and warn others about them do not promote unity and encouragement to grow.

The Holy Spirit through Paul had not written off Corinth when Paul wrote his letter to them. Yet they had attitude problems, moral problems, worship problems, maturity problems, marriage problems, and doctrinal problems (resurrection). Paul wrote to correct the problems they had. He addressed those problems. But he began the letter: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2).

Most of the seven churches of Asia had serious problems. Yet when John wrote Jesus’ messages to them, they all had a candlestick.

Who came out better in the end, the One who ate with tax collectors and sinners or the ones who thought Jesus was “unsound” because He did?

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

How do you work with people who are less than perfect (including yourself)?

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What Are Your Rules?

how do you act when you aren’t thinking?

I am intrigued, guided, informed, strengthened, weakened, and sometimes made wiser by observing, making, breaking, and changing rules.

I’m not discussing in this post rules in the Bible.

Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind (Philippians 3:16, NKJV).

I want to obey the will of Jesus.

[tweetthis]I like to be aware of my habits and evaluate them.[/tweetthis]

What are my rules?

One definition of rule is “a guide or principle for conduct or action” (Merriam-Webster); “have as a habit or general principle to do something” (search bar dictionary).

What is the way I do things? How do I respond when I’m not thinking? What is natural for me?

Our rules, individual, family, church, and business, are often unconscious, unspoken, but understood. We rarely think of our habits as rules. We rarely talk about our rules and consider changing them. But when someone breaks one of our rules, or when we break someone else’s rules, there are often consequences. This leaves us confused, perhaps angry, and self-righteous. Doesn’t everyone know my rules are better than yours?

We get our first rules from our family. I assumed the Barbers did everything the best way. I don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t understand the right way as I do.

However, there’s a possibility the Barbers who lived in Centerville, Tennessee, in the 1950s didn’t do everything in the right or best way.

When we unconsciously act from our family script, our choices are limited. It tells us how to be angry, or how to hide, or how to protect others. We learned our lines as soon as we learned to talk (Leaders Who Last, by Margaret J. Marcuson, Kindle Locations 375-376).

I’ve found it helpful to consider other rules.

Take an inventory. What are my rules for

  1. Work. I haven’t worked out my rules for this. I like what I do. When I’m working, I’m enjoying the way I spend my time. In the past, when I became top-heavy in this department, it deprived me of a good balance in the next department.
  2. Family. Several years ago, some good elders instructed me to take more time with my family. I made a new rule. I set aside a family night each week. When someone asked for time on Family Night, I told them I had something scheduled. Could we meet another time? I never had anyone challenge me on that.
  3. Worship. Do I assemble for worship when there’s not something better, or does it have a priority?
  4. Rest. Thirty-five years ago I was having some health problems. I went to the doctor with my theory and prescription. He asked me how much I was sleeping. I replied, “Three to five hours a night.” His prescription was to sleep eight hours a night for thirty nights and come back for a visit. My symptoms cleared up. I made a new rule about rest: my goal is eight hours sleep each night. Although I don’t reach that target every night, each month my average is close. That’s worked better than my old rule.
  5. Recreation. I want to do something I enjoy different from the work I enjoy. When doing recreation, I’m rested and often have ideas about my other enjoyment.
  6. Money. By making a few rules, our finances have improved. Two examples: Gail and I write checks for our contribution a month ahead of time before a new month begins. We don’t have to scramble for a checkbook during the second song. Several years ago, we made a new rule about credit. We decided not to finance cars. We didn’t stop making car payments. We changed where we made car payments. Now on the fifth of each month, we make a car payment to ourselves. For more than two decades, we’ve had money to buy a car when we needed it with no strain. It was a simple rule change.
  7. Time. What are the most important things to do each day? I can plan those and work with the contingencies or not plan and let other people plan my time for me.
  8. Criticism (receiving and giving). In my early years of preaching, my rule was to avoid criticism and deny the validity of it when anyone gave it. Some severe criticism one Sunday  and an hour with a counselor on Monday changed my outlook and my rule on criticism. My rule now is: I love criticism. I invite it and encourage it. That one rule change has relieved much stress and anxiety. Six years ago, I added the “no anonymous criticism” clause to my contracts with churches. This has added to the pleasure in dealing with criticism. Small rules often made big differences.
  9. Anger. Do I choose when, how, to whom, where, how much, and within determined guidelines, or do I express my anger, or say, “You made me angry,” and blame my responses on others? In my early years, I believed the rule that anger was a sin. When I learned what God said, I didn’t have to deny my anger (Ephesians 4:26, 27). I now can spend my energy on thinking about how to deal with the anger I have and respond in a scriptural and wise way.
  10. Eating. I changed my rule in eating at buffets. For years, I had the rule I needed to eat as much as I could to get my money’s worth. Now, I consider the price I spend on a meal at a restaurant as rent for a place to visit with family and friends. What and how much I eat is my choice and doesn’t reflect on my wise handling of money. That change in rules has improved my weight and peace about finances.
  11. Exercise. For ten years, my rule was: if it wasn’t too wet, too dry, too hot, too cold, and if I had time and felt like it, I ran. My exercise routine was sporadic. For the past forty-eight years, I’ve averaged running 725 miles a year. So far, it’s working. If I felt better when I was twenty, I don’t remember it. I’ve spent some money and a lot of time running. I’m enjoying compound interest on investments I’ve made for nearly half a century.
  12. Confidentiality. For the first few years of ministry, I told people, “What we say here, stays here. My wife and I are one. If I feel a need to tell my wife, I will, and she’s dependable.” No one had instructed me on this. After attending two Christian colleges four years and majoring in Bible, I received fifty minutes instruction on how to deal with people, and I don’t remember what brother Huffard said about counseling. Years later, I realized I was asking my wife to do something I was unwilling to do: keep a confidence and not tell anyone. I changed my rule. I wasn’t treating her fairly. Now the rule is: what we say here stays here. I don’t tell anyone.
  13. Communication. I am 100% responsible for my communication with others. My rule is to tell others what they need to know in dealing with me. I’ll ask what I need to know in dealing with them. I won’t feel guilty when I didn’t know I was expected to do something, I didn’t do it, and someone wants me to feel guilty.
  14. Prayer. I rarely tell people, “I’ll be praying for you.” Often when people ask me to pray for them, I pray quickly and tell them I have prayed for them. My rule is to carry on a running conversation with God, thanking Him for blessings, communicating my awe and wonder at His wisdom, knowledge, and power, asking for blessings for me and others, and complaining when I don’t think things are turning out the way I think they should.
  15. Bible study. Nearly two years ago, I started reading the Bible aloud each morning. That rule has made a difference in what I hear God saying.
  16. Backing up computer work. I back up all current work to Dropbox. iCloud backs up much of my work automatically. I have a Time Machine external hard drive connected to my main computer at all times. I have three hard drives I rotate. The first day of each month, I bring a hard drive from my house to the church building and change. The hard drive I’ve taken to the house I take to Nashville the next time we go there and exchange it for the one there. In addition to what I do, I subscribe to Carbonite. This service backs up everything on my main computer without any effort on my part. Total time and effort on my part in backing up all computer work: about 10 minutes a month. The relief when I have to reformat my hard drive and reload my information, indescribable.
  17. Fasting. There are things I learn and ways I grow when I fast that come no other way. My practice is to preach about fasting and to fast sometime during the preacher selection process at each church where I work as an interim.
  18. Social media. I like the metaphor I read about checking in on Facebook and other media as other people take smoking breaks. That’s my rule. Facebook is my smoking break. It doesn’t clog up the lungs and I stay connected and communicate with thousands of people.
  19. Listening and talking order. Do I listen as soon as I get through talking or do I listen before talking? I’ll say more about this below.

[tweetthis]Our rules are often unconscious, unspoken, but understood.[/tweetthis]

I consciously establish rules that help me act a constructive way, without thinking. I do it automatically. That saves time.

Some of these are

  • My morning rituals of Bible reading, arranging my to-do list for the day, reading the word of the day in the dictionary, wishing FB friends Happy Birthday!, tweet a thought for the day.
  • Run 15 miles a week.
  • Read. I read five books at a time. I rotate after each chapter to the next book. For years I didn’t read novels. I read that reading novels was good for your thinking. Now I read novels of friends. I enjoy them and think they’re worth the time.
  • Record in my contact list every bit of information which may be helpful. Some of the most valuable information I have is contained in the 5,792 contacts I’ve collected for more than three decades.
  • Wear shirts and pants from the right side of the hanging rod in my closet; hang them up on the left side at night. I don’t stand and deliberate what to wear each day.

In doing my inventory, I see there are rules I need to change. For three years, listening was a rule I worked on changing. This was my goal:

Listening to others and valuing others is my emphasis this year. I have worked several years on the first commandment, and I want to continue it. This year: listen to others, learn about and from them. Be interested in what they value.

I’ve laminated pictures on my computer, dashboard, and money clip to remind me. I’ve improved that habit over the three years.

Periodically, I like to consciously interrupt my rules and evaluate. This is one of the things I do during the interim between my interims. During March this year, I didn’t read, post, or participate in Facebook and Twitter. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t addicted and could stop if I chose to. I didn’t lose sleep because of Facebook withdrawal. I’ve resumed my habit and continue to enjoy it. It’s helpful to me and others.

Questions to Consider

  • What rules do you want to keep?
  • What rules do you want to strengthen?
  • What rules do you want to change?
  • When do you plan to start?
  • By what date will you see progress?
  • How will you measure your progress?
  • Who will report their observations?

Here’s an article I read yesterday that relates to this topic: Willpower Is a Muscle—Here’s How to Make It Stronger. That article is sponsored by Grammarly, a grammar checker. They have both a free and paid version. One of my rules is that I check my writing with and Hemmingway editor. They’re both helpful.

When I’m establishing a new relationship, I like to learn others’ rules and let them know mine. I take a few minutes each week in a new interim church to let them know my rules. This doesn’t mean I’m rigid, have always done it this way, or would be unwilling to change when I find a better way. These are my rules now:

These are my thoughts and some of the rules I’ve developed over the past seventy-two years.

If you haven’t thought about your rules, you might want to think about them. When you think about them and consciously work on them, you can do better without thinking about it.

[tweetthis]That’s what rules are — what we naturally do without thinking.[/tweetthis]

What are your rules about rules?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

Whose Heart Attack Is Most Important?

what doesn’t work in dealing with manipulators

He was the most powerful “head elder” I’ve ever met in more than five decades of preaching. When a meeting wasn’t going his way, he’d say, “Well, it’s time to go out and greet the people.” (We met before services.) Without a word, the rest of the elders rose and followed him out of the room without question or comment. If someone made a suggestion he didn’t like earlier in the meeting, he’d say, “When “you boys” get as old as I am, you’ll understand we can’t do things that way.” And that was the end of that.

It was the most depressing time of my ministry. We were stuck, and there was no way out with that kind of leadership. We were going to do things the way we’d always done them because that’s the way we’d always done it. Any class, project, program, or special emphasis was defeated before it was started.

One night after services, an elder started talking with me: “Jerrie, I know it must be discouraging for you. I know we shouldn’t let things keep going on this way. I know we shouldn’t let brother John Doe defeat everything. But I don’t think I can go against him. You know, he’s already had one heart attack. And I’m afraid if we didn’t go along with him he might have another heart attack. I just don’t think I could live with myself if we resisted him and he had a heart attack and died the next day.”

My reply: “Have you ever known of a man forty-six years old having a heart attack?”

Elder: “Yes.”

My response: “Why is his heart attack more important than my heart attack?”

[tweetthis]Why is his heart attack more important than my heart attack?[/tweetthis]

What did I learn from that?

  • This head elder got much of his power from acts of service years before. Some people said, “This man and his family helped us, gave us food during the depression.” That’s the way to be great in the kingdom. (Matthew 20:26-28) However, he used good will to dominate the leadership group.
  • All blame doesn’t go to the head elder. If a situation is chronic in a group, it’s because everybody likes it the way it is more than what it would take to change it. He didn’t dominate without permission from half-dozen other men who wore the title of elder. They cooperated with him to be dominated. Isaiah wrote:

But I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you,
Who have said to you,
“Lie down, that we may walk over you.”
And you have laid your body like the ground,
And as the street, for those who walk over (Isaiah 51:23, NKJV).

When someone tells me, “People are always running over me,” I ask, “When did you lie down?”.

[tweetthis]“People are always running over me.”
“When did you lie down?”[/tweetthis]

  • Strong leaders need to check often about how they’re coming across. They have the choice in not exercising all the power they have to invite other people to express their views and supply their leadership. This virtue is called self-control.
  • When one operates out of fear of what might happen — heart attack, suicide, nervous breakdown, or anger explosion — he doesn’t serve the person or the group well. That kind of manipulation and agreement to be controlled isn’t exhibiting the spirit of Jesus.

How have you dealt with toxic head elders?
How have you dealt with your tendency to become the head elder?
Please comment below:

Preventing Leadership Suicide:

we never saw it coming!

I hereby resign as a…of this congregation — effective immediately! There may be a nod of the head, his wife rises, and they exit the back door. Or a gasp when even his wife didn’t know it was coming. I’ve observed or heard of it happening from elders, deacons, and preachers. Without discussion or planning, an angry or discouraged leader expresses his frustration by leaving without warning.

There’s damage to those left behind after a suicide.

  1. Shock. (What’s going on in this person’s life and/or with our relationship?)
  2. Grief. (How will we make it without this person’s leadership? I don’t know if we can go on without him.)
  3. Guilt. (I wonder if he did that because of something I said or did?)
  4. Anger. (How could he do that? He took the easy way out. He left in the middle of problems he helped create.)
  5. Deterioration of trust in the remaining leaders. (If he did this when I didn’t see it coming, who will be next?)[tweetthis]There’s damage to those left behind after a suicide.[/tweetthis]

When you know you have a terminal illness, it is kind, loving, and helpful to discuss your departure with those close to you. Observe Jesus:

From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day (Matthew 16:21, NKJV).

Jesus repeated this statement over and over and over. Even though there was a lack of faith and desertion of His disciples, Jesus didn’t disappear back to heaven saying, “Now they’ll miss me when I’m gone.”

In contrast, He continued to prepare His followers for His departure and provide for their strength and encouragement after He left.

I recommend that leaders have a “no suicide contract.” Each leader commits to a three-month notification of his departure to permit and encourage —

  1. Grief at his leaving.
  2. Reassignment of his responsibilities.
  3. Time for a reconciliation of any “old business” left in the relationship.

Exceptions for giving notice would be a fatal heart attack or dying in a head-on collision. It’s not loving to those left behind to exit without notification. Even in a secular job an honorable employee gives a two-week notice.

In one congregation where I served for more than a decade, we had a weekend workshop to discuss my departure. We talked about why I was leaving, when to make the announcement, and ways we could make a smooth transition.

God’s people deserve better than a frustrated leader relieving his stress by shocking the sheep.

The probability of that happening is lessened by mature Christian leaders discussing what would be best for the church before pressure mounts that might prompt this action.[tweetthis]I recommend that leaders have a “no suicide contract.”[/tweetthis]

What has your leadership group done to prevent “leadership suicide”?
Please comment below.

Do You Lead Like Your Daddy?

did you come from the perfect family?

You’ve probably heard the story of the newly married couple.  Both were trying to be the perfect partner.  The husband noticed his wife cut off about 3” of the ham each time she cooked that dish.  He didn’t want to criticize.  But she kept doing it.  He was calculating how much money she was throwing away.

He finally asked, “Honey, why do you cut off the end of each ham you cook?”
Her reply, “My mother taught me to cook and that’s the way she did it.”


“I don’t know.”

The next time they were visiting, she asked her mother why she threw away the end of every ham.  Her mother said, “My mother taught me to cook and that’s the way she did it.”


“I don’t know.”

The next conversation with Grandmother they asked her why she cut off the end of the ham and threw it in the trash.Her answer:  “I had a very small skillet.”

Many family rules had a good reason for their beginning but are not helpful now.

Several years ago, I heard a preacher say, “You may not believe it but I had perfect parents.  I don’t think either one of them ever committed a sin.”  And he was old enough to know better.

[tweetthis]Everything in any home is not always right and every right thing is not always the best. [/tweetthis]

People rarely evaluate how they grew up and what they learned.

Margaret J. Marcuson, in her book, Leaders Who Last:  sustaining yourself and your ministry, makes this observation:

Relationships are both the most delightful and the hardest part of ministry.  We all learn how to relate to others in the family we grow up in.  For better and for worse, this is what feels normal and natural…When we unconsciously act from our family script, our choices are limited.  It tells us how to be angry, or how to hide, or how to protect others.  We learned our lines as soon as we learned to talk (Copyright © 2009 by Margaret J. Marcuson, pages 370-376, Kindle edition).

Think of the power of that.  Each person on the leadership team has been preset to act the way their family taught them — unless they have thought and made choices.  Each person grew up in a different family.  Can you see how we often have conflict?

It might be good to find out why grandma cut off the end of the ham.  I might change my way of acting without showing any disrespect for the family tradition.  But the only way I’ll find out is to learn why my family does what it does.

I’ve found it helpful to talk to family members about what shaped them and through them shaped me.  You might like to try it to see what you learn from those who taught you.

For a list of questions to discuss with family members to improve your understanding of your background, go to this link:  Questions to Learn More About my Family .

What have you learned about your family that has improved your leadership?