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Monday, November 14, 2005

What Will You Do With Your Stones?

Stones Do you anticipate a problem-free week?

'Huh', you say?  'I work in a church!'

All jobs have their high points and low points.  And church work is no exception.  There is no doubt that you will very soon (if it hasn't happened already this morning!) encounter some obstacle that will be a real thorn in your side this week.

Maybe it was a something someone said on a comment card yesterday.  Maybe it's a conflict with another staff member or church leader.  Perhaps it's just the stress of day-to-day ministry that really gets to you this week.

American scholar, pastor and teacher William Arthur Ward once said:  "We can throw stones, complain about them, stumble on them, climb over them, or build with them."

So... what do you do with the 'stones' that come your way this week?

Throwing Stones
Our first inclincation is to pick up these stones and hurl them back where they came from.  If the stone is 'critisicm', we can quickly respond back with our own criticism.  It makes us feel better; and it takes away the pressing need to consider whether or not the criticism leveled at us is at all founded.  When a stone is thrown at us, our instinctive reaction is to pick it up and throw it back.  Seems like Jesus had something to say about this 'throwing stones' thing.  As church leaders, you're sure to get your share of stones thrown at you... just remember that 'returning the favor' really should not be an option.

Complaining About Stones
OK... so you can't attack back?  The least you'll want to do is complain about the stone.  Somehow, complaining to others makes us feel better.  Canadian cartoonist Lynn Johnston says that, "Complaining is good for you as long as your not complaining to the person you're complaining about."  Complaining serves no purpose other than to make us feel better and to bring other people into our problem.  When we complain to others, we're really asking for their support, and for them to take our side of things.  Complaining really achieves nothing positive; but rather can spread a sense of negativity across your office or church body.

Stumbling on Stones
Sometimes when problems arise, we keep them to ourselves.  We sit.  We ponder.  We stew.  And all the while, our main job functions suffer because we're dwelling on the problem.  In essence, we allow the stone (problem) to grind all our positive work to a halt.  These stumbling stones have crippled many a church leader.  We stop, dead in our tracks, afraid to move.  We're afraid of more stones hitting us.  We're afraid of dealing with the initial problem.  We're paralyzed.

Climbing Over Stones
One other option is to steam-roll right over the stones...climb them, if you will.  Here's how this one works.  Let's say you have a problem with someone on your board who disagrees with you on a certain ministry proposal.  Climbing over the stone would be to line up the people who you do know support you to make sure your proposal goes through, while ignoring and not working on the board member who disagrees with you.  You ignore the problem, and climb over and around it rather than working through it.  This may work once.  But you'll find that this stone will soon re-appear, bigger (and harder to climb over) than before.

Building with Stones
The last option is taking the stones and building with them.  In order to building with them, you need to pick them up, inspect them, and decide best how they fit into the plan.  Rather than throwing, complaining, stumbling over, or climbing over your stones, you actually work with them.  That means you tackle whatever stones (problems) you have head on as soon as humanly possible.  It is only when you do so that these stones can be used as a positive thing in your ministry.

OK... here's the hard part.  Look around you this morning, and see what stones you have on the ground around you.  Did you get a negative comment yesterday?  Pick up the phone and confront it head on this morning.  Pick up the stones and build.  Build relationships. Build trust.  Build loyalty.  Build enthusiasm.

Do whatever you can today to at least build SOMETHING with your stones!

Have a great day!


FOR DISCUSSION:  What stones did you have to pick up today?  How did you deal with them?  Which of the five ways are you most inclined to handle stones and problems in your ministry?

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November 14, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink

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As a faithful member of a local church, I have seen and experienced the "force" of those stones in very recent days.

I want to build with them....I really do. But right now that seems to be the last thing on the list of possibilities.

Pray for me...please.

Posted by: Phil Hoover-Chicago | Nov 14, 2005 10:12:57 AM


Been there, done that, bought the T-Shirt. Remember that above all, God wins in the end. I often think of what Paul says about the thorn in his side, that he prayed for to be removed but got the answer back from God that His grace is sufficient... His grace will carry you through as well.

As I have briefly shared at other times, my ministry where I am has been extremely trying at times. There have been times where I just want to throw in the towel, but I know that until God is finished with me where I am, He is going to leave me here. Thanks be to God! He is still forming me and molding me, as painful as that might be at times.

Todd, I think this topic is a great one because no matter what type of church each of us might be serving in, we're always going to be working with people who have their own agenda, be it a lay person or a staff member. Someone's always going to think that we said or did something wrong during the sermon; I take that as something I said from the Scriptures hit the mark and stepped on some toes. We are given the tools and the armor if we stay armed with the Truth!

Run the race for the glory of God!

In Christ,

Posted by: Tony | Nov 14, 2005 10:38:38 AM

This article is timely for me today. I've been trying to be diligent in using stones for building but it seems that some people are always trying to knock down the rock pile. My encouragement and help comes from Scripture (Psalm 40:9-17 has been helpful lately), talking with God and with those whom I trust completely.

I've struggled with calling people who make things especially difficult, and who attend church, enemies. We are called to unity and to peace. But sometimes it seems that I've never been disliked more than by people in church. This comment is coming from someone who has taught in public school and seen some pretty nasty behavior.

Scripture tells us to be strong because God is with us and that nothing can overwhelm us that is beyond His knowing and His strength (Haggai 2:4-5).

Posted by: Adam | Nov 14, 2005 10:53:25 AM

What a timely message on "stones". I decided that I am going to pick up the phone and build. It will be challenging and uncomfortable but necessary. Thank you.

Posted by: T.Brown | Nov 14, 2005 10:53:41 AM

Yesterday the local nay sayer said the service went wel and teh sermon was good. Now I have to determine was there a hidden meaning or was he just being overly nice. The stones will just have to be planned ot build but for now we just gather them up for the future.

Posted by: Lee | Nov 14, 2005 10:57:28 AM

I just want to say that this really gave me a positive outlook for today. I work in a small office with around 15 different businesses. I have a gentleman that leases one of the offices from me that seems almost impossible to please. It's sometimes seem impossible to be nice to him because he is so critical and demeaning at times.

I've decided this morning I'm going to smile when he comes past my office and just be over-joyed by his presence. Maybe, instead of throwing the rocks back his direction, and going over the normal daily hump, I'm going to face it head on.

Thanks for the encouragement,


Posted by: Tonya | Nov 14, 2005 11:10:17 AM

Perhaps the most difficult thing to admit is that sometimes pastors can be their own worst enemy. We want things to go our way and we may be insensative to those in the congregation who have invested many more years into the church than we have. So we set ourselves up to think changes will be accepted and even embraced whole heartedly. Ministry can be discouraging if our mindset is to work for an agenda instead of with the people.
I have made a lot of mistakes in ministry and building something with those stones is probably the greatest challenge because it can be an affront to my pride. So honestly, is it my own pride that prevents effectiveness and discouragement? If I'm not willing to lay down my agenda for the sake of unity and to be a blessing then how on earth can I expect that from others?

Posted by: KJ | Nov 14, 2005 11:26:18 AM

Well communicated, KJ. I appreciate your insight.

Posted by: Adam | Nov 14, 2005 11:39:11 AM


Posted by: Paul F. Howe | Nov 14, 2005 11:39:43 AM

Boy, this is a tough one, because everyday of my life has been a constant battle with this. In Church and in public work. I have tried my best to be so much like Christ in not hurling back the stones, but I have failed.
If I may, can I give you all my confession please. I have church people all the time hurling stones at me and I am not even a pastor, I am a lay minister and Evangelist. Over the past nine years of my living for Christ all I hear is negitive talk about me all the time. Then I get a double whamy at work, then I get a triple whamy from my family. You can't do this brother Jeff, or you can't do this, why that is crazy, this is crazy and so on. I have been hit with so many stones, that I have become comfortably numb to it, but sour and critical in spirit. I am now edgey with people, and my family. I sit and cry sometimes and ask God, "Am I just wasting my time, or am I in the center of your will." I am often reminded of Nehemiah when Sanbalot came to him, "I ain't got time for you today, I am busy about the Lord's work." It is not that easy for me because I have always been picked on and I a fighter, and want to fight back with words. I also still have to much Army/ Corproal in me also. But do not get me wrong you all, there are times I do not raise the sword to wack off a ear. Nor am I like Daivd wanting to destroy a Nabal. Sometimes I build with them,trip over them, and yes sometimes hurl them back. But I have noticed that the Lord has used these stones to school me. Because what use to bother alot, does not bother me at all. I reckon this is the Lord's way, of saying, "Welcome to Boot Camp Jeff, Boot Camp of Hard Knocks." Everyone please pray for my business I started and please pray for my family and I also, because the Lord has placed it upon my heart to start a church in our home on the Weekends. Talk about having stones throwed at you...

Posted by: Evangelist Jeff | Nov 14, 2005 11:45:56 AM

I am a lay person and have been reading the blog for months now. I find encouragement and reality in comments, sprinkled with a generous supply of negative on some topics.

Having lived my life with business, public school administration, and consulting for business, schools and churches I find piles of stones throughout the country. In recent years has it become so obvious that the underlying challenge is steadfast alignment with vision/purpose.

God's purpose and the ultimate completion of his plan, whether we understand it or agree with it, is going to be the end result!

Keep up the good work in your assignment for His work, and do not stray for the Kingdom vision.

Let the stones fall.

Posted by: Harold | Nov 14, 2005 11:58:06 AM

We must remember Matthew 18....Jesus Himself gave us GREAT instructions--not suggestions--INSTRUCTIONS, on how to deal with those who may have "issues" with us...or we with them.

I wish that had happened in my case. I may be leaving this local church over some of the things that were said about me...anonymously of course--and then I received 3rd hand information.

Pray for me.

Posted by: Phil Hoover-Chicago | Nov 14, 2005 12:02:33 PM

Obviously, throwing, complaining, and stumbling on stones is a definite no-no. However, I've seen more leaders struggle with climbing over the stones rather than buiding with them. My theory as to the reason for this is that leaders have simply found that it is easier to go around or over the problem than to face it. Its a critical balance that requires a risk on the leaders part and if things are handled incorrectly the result is more damaging than the alternative approach. So, a leader looks for support instead. Its a logical plan but not a people builder. In fact, it can create damage in other ways as well. Its says to your supporters that you would rather find a way around the problem than to resolve it. That of course, is a persona that says, "I cannot be trusted". If a leader looses trust then he has lost everything. Trust by definition really covers a broad spectrum of qualities and if missing it leads to a complete break down of the whole process. Trust is synopsis with dependability, integrity, predictability, and a fine judge of characer who can make good decisions. You see, if the leader has trust he/she will be able to stray from his consistent pattern of handling problems without damaging his character with the people. Because the outcome of handling problems is unpredictable and may require say a "Climbing method" then people will know that you had no other choice. The trust you have with your followers will surpase the difficult circumstances surrounding the conflict resolution. Being predictable, right as rain, and straight as an arrow is probably the biggest key to unlocking the challenge of working with others. Just a thought. God bless.

Posted by: Pete King | Nov 14, 2005 12:04:02 PM

I am not a staff member at a church.Instead the spouse of one. It is at times a very difficult position to be in. I was searching for a word of encouragement for my husband. I opened up our e mail account and saw this message. It could not have come at a more important time. It is truly amazing how God can speak to us the very words that need to be heard. Thank You

Posted by: Beth | Nov 14, 2005 12:06:05 PM

I am sometimes like David.
I throw mine.

Posted by: don | Nov 14, 2005 12:40:08 PM

Good image to work with, and easily accessible.

Posted by: Cory Kemp | Nov 14, 2005 12:47:12 PM

TO: Phil & everyone on the blog,
I want you all to know that I love you all very much, and you are in my prayers everyday. God bless you.

Posted by: Evangelist Jeff | Nov 14, 2005 12:47:50 PM

The human side of me REALLY wants to throw back! Lots going on...glad, once again, to see I'm not alone. The thorns come daily, from a "superior" that just doesn't know he's doing it. I think the best I can do is to keep praying for him...thanks for this insight, it helped me to hold my stones today!

Posted by: dc | Nov 14, 2005 1:16:06 PM

there is one option that was forgotten - and that's probably because of the nature of the reaction: it's harder to detect, but still quite damaging. Here it is: Burying the stones. Some people have stones thrown at them and they just bury it because they don't want to deal with it. This is avoidance. It grows a deep root of bitterness and distrust. This one's a tougher one to deal with but still very important. We have some stones buried deep down. There are also stones that we've thrown that we don't realize were stones and can't try and resolve the problems because the recipient has buried it. just my two cents.

Posted by: Helena | Nov 14, 2005 3:12:15 PM

Helena has a good point. Sometimes we do bury the stones and other times we cast stones that we do not realize. I face a situation that a few people are perceiving as stone throwing when it is actually Spirit-Led tough decision making. Leaders (Pastors) are called to make the right decisions which are not always the most popular. These decision sometimes can be considered stones that are being cast, when in reality, they are decisions, that in the long run, will have a very positive outcome. I find comfort in Psalm 121 because my help does come from the Lord. I really appreciate this MMI today...

Posted by: Morton | Nov 14, 2005 5:11:46 PM

Sometimes it's an ego/pride thing. The enemy moves in wherever there is an opening. Hurting people hurt people! -Even in the church. Many times it's a cry for help. Try to consider the source and test the validity of what's being "hurled". Christianity is not measured by our actions, but our reactions.

Posted by: Tom | Nov 14, 2005 7:55:00 PM

Ouch! Stop throwing them stones... What a refreshing group of replies, right on the target and right in there edifying one another. As we pray for Bro. Phil and each other, remember that every time we throw those stones it gives our rivals (not enemies) more ammunition to cast back at us. Now that we have the stones, don't build walls between yourself and others, but bridges to unite and "heap coals" upon the one who finds joy in casting construction materials our way... Build for the Kingdom and some day the Lord will use that bridge to reward the faithful servants who attempted to use evil for good. RevJay

Posted by: RevJay | Nov 14, 2005 10:42:16 PM

someone said i was not committed, it hurt me and i thoufgt may be he was right. i decided to be more loving and lool for ways to be more effective

Posted by: nancy | Nov 15, 2005 8:42:24 AM

Great insights. I'm getting to be what you would call an "older guy". I pastored for numerous years and served as a military chaplin as well. There is another perspective that must be addressed, that of the shepherd. Growing up on a farm, I know that there are times that sick animals must be seperated from the healthy ones or an epidemic will break out and the entire flock will be brought into danger. When dealing with the rocks that come flying our way discernment must be done. There are times when those doing the slinging are not willing to be part of the body in a positive way. There are those whose presence in the body is determental. One writer (I forget the name of the book) terms them "well intentioned dragons". It is important in dealing with these people that the comment previously posted concerning Matthew 11 is followed. The purpose behind it is reconciliation, but poeple do not always want to be reconciled.

Posted by: Paul the Denverite | Nov 15, 2005 11:58:18 AM

My husband and I have been youth ministers at our church for 11 yrs. We had what was to us a boulder thrown at us that devastated us on several levels. Three of our youth (relatives) that we'd known for yrs. lied about us to their parents, who in turn added to the lie and met with us and our Pastors to discuss it. (Yes, deliberate lies.) Their son accused my husband of getting in his face and yelling at him for a long time over inappropriate behaviour. Another adult youth leader was present and said that it wasn't true. The parents said we had lied to them and then conspired to cover up with our other leader. We took these accusations very seriously. What if the accusations had been sexual? We could be in jail.
All of us are members of the same church and we'd seen this family manipulate and attack secular authorities in their lives and make lying accusations against 2 other church members, but it still took us somewhat by surprise. Our Pastors voiced support to us privately, but said they had to be "pastors of all of the people" and never brought this matter to any real conclusion. The family continues to allow their youth to choose to come to our youth activities, which they do,even to our camps. We are careful NEVER to let these youth ride in our cars or to be the sole adults responsible for them being aware that other false accusations could be levied. These are not people of the world. They are people in our church of about 125 people who we are "serving the Lord" within "community". They have made sure that their story was passed on to a few other people, as well. Since then there have been a few smaller events, but we just press on. Time has now passed since this occurred and we have forgiven, but we are still affected . The advice to build with stones is good. The only way to do this is to depend on Jesus, especially when the stones are too heavy to pickup on your own.

Posted by: darlene | Nov 15, 2005 11:58:35 AM

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