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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

ORTBERG: How to Deal with Difficult People

OrtbergRebecca Barnes writes about John Ortberg's recent presentation at the National Pastors Convention.  Here is part of her article from ChurchCentral.com:

After Maureen began attending our small group Bible study she began telephoning us nearly every day to discuss her problems. We soon learned every detail about her failed marriage, her wayward child, her overbearing boss, her health problems. It was usually a one-sided conversation that involved little more than several uh-huhs from me. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about her, I just didn’t want to have to care every day, and for someone who apparently gave no thought to reciprocating that care.

You probably have a Maureen in your life, too. If you are in ministry you probably have several Maureens. Difficult people seem to gravitate toward churches. That’s a good thing. Jesus said it is the sick who need a doctor.

John Ortberg spoke to thousands of pastors at the 2006 National Pastor’s Convention about ministry to imperfect people.

"It’s people that bring us the greatest joys, when lives are changed," Ortberg said. "And there’s no pain like the pain that people cause."

Ortberg referred to Jesus’ sayings about relationships with difficult people, i.e., turning the other cheek, walking a second mile, etc., as examples of how life in God’s Kingdom contrasts conventional wisdom.

"Maybe there is someone who has caused you to suffer deeply and you feel a lot of hurt, anger or fear," Ortberg said. "Conventional wisdom says avoid them, hurt back, hold them in contempt, or judge in your heart. Jesus’ teaching is there is another better way."

Rather than expecting a quid pro quo of favors or good deeds involving difficult people, Jesus called for a sort of generous injustice. For example, inviting people for dinner who are not friends or relatives and cannot repay you, is Jesus’ way of ministry.

"One of the best opportunities you and I will have to do this is with difficult people," Ortberg said. "They teach us the true condition of our heart."

Ortberg referred to Henry Cloud’s formula of grace, truth and time in dealing with difficult people through radical acceptance (grace), naming reality (truth) and patiently waiting for change (time).

Ministry how-to

How a ministry leader shows the grace of Christ is the most important lesson he or she may ever teach or preach, Ortberg said. "We can talk about [grace] but if we’re not actually living it then that’s what we’ll teach."

Rather than avoiding conflict, or suffering from what Ortberg termed, "terminal niceness," ministers should exhibit grace and truth together in order to accept people with authenticity. He warned against appeasing people to their face and gossiping to their back. Instead, he said ministers should courageously speak the truth.

"When grace and truth meet together, that’s a powerful thing," Ortberg said.

The third component, time, requires patience in ministry. Ortberg said that comes easier with a proper perspective. Rather than wait for change in others with frozen smiles and plastic masks, Ortberg prayed that pastors would acknowledge their own imperfection.

"All of us are as-is kind of people," Ortberg prayed. "We are so grateful, grateful beyond words for your grace, and your truth and your gift of time. Change, renew, melt us. Make our hearts soft and tender before you again, and make that grace and truth flow out of us into the people around us."

You can read more of this article here at ChurchCentral.com...

FOR DISCUSSION: What are your thoughts? What works for you in dealing with difficult people? Care to give some examples or ask for some advice on your most difficult person?

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March 21, 2006 in Leadership Issues | Permalink

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Is there audio or a transcript of this message out there?

Posted by: gib | Mar 21, 2006 10:30:47 AM

Not that I know of, unfortunately. :(


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Mar 21, 2006 10:38:17 AM

Okay. I'll bite. Advice pls?

Difficult persons say, "People in vocational ministry ESPECIALLY should not homeschool."

Posted by: Camey | Mar 21, 2006 12:24:54 PM

Question #1 "Why not?"

Posted by: Paul Davis | Mar 21, 2006 2:30:56 PM


Answer: It goes something like, "You ESPECIALLY should have your children out in the real world and not at home where they are sheltered." That's just for starters...
Oh.. I'm emphasizing the word "ESPECIALLY" because difficult persons do so.

Posted by: Camey | Mar 21, 2006 2:56:46 PM

I am jumping on the band wagon now. But first a joke..

Did you all hear the joke about the bed. Me neither it hasn't been made up yet..

Anyway... I have had these types of people and I am not even a pastor yet, just a lay minister.

Example: I had an employee who was working for me who was always complaining about her live in boyfriend. They have been together for a very long time with two kids. Everything was always wrong with her boyfriend, and her kids. They had all kinds of problems.
One day she gave me this sob story and I fell for it hook line and sinker. So she asked me for $100.00 to help with bills and groceries. So I generously gave it to her. Next thing I know she kept calling and calling and calling telling me the same story over and over and over.
One day she called me and asked me if I could give her $300.00. I told her no because in my business I would only alot them a $100 advance. Then I asked her where she was at and what she was doing... "Getting my fingernails and toe nails done." Right then I began to get a clearly picture of where the money was going. It was going to cover her pleasure's. So as Barney Fife always said to do, "I Nipped it in the bud."

Posted by: Clairvoyent 1 | Mar 23, 2006 9:52:37 AM

Camey: Homeschooler here (3 years into it).

I say "Yes, I shelter them while they are young and immature and incapable of surviving on their own. It is my job to shelter them and teach them in the ways of the Lord, so that when they are grown, they will not depart from it - IT having been their lifestyle and nourishment for 18 years.

They are sheltered from the violence and improper sexuality and vulgarity and disrespect and offensive worldliness and useless time-wasting that would surround them 7 hours a day for 9 months a year for 13 years.

I homeschool because I really LIKE to spend time with my kids and interact on a daily basis for an extended period of time, not just at the mercy of a school system. Homeschooling allows us in the ministry to orient our lifestyle around the values we espouse - ministering to others! If that alone isn't an education, equal to or surpassing book knowledge, then I don't know what is. Homeschooling allows our children to see and experience that we talk about on Sunday pervades our everyday life.

Whoa, off topic, sorry. Just got on my "don't dis homeschooling" bandwagon.

Posted by: Abbey | Mar 23, 2006 3:09:47 PM

Re:difficult people. My most difficult was the woman my age with obvious major baggage. She had ISSUES. We all included her and tolerated her, but she was difficult. New Christian, attention-seeking, malicious behind-the back stuff, gossipy, but all fronted with a weak, smiling, big-eyed, "I have mental problems" persona.

I realized with some folks reasoning with them just won't break the bonds of their prison. Encouraging, motivating, loving verbal tush-kicking didn't work either. It's so frustrating because I want to scream JUST STOP YOUR WRONG THINKING. JUST STOP YOUR WRONG BEHAVIOR. And not in love either. Difficult people can really bring out the non-Christian behavior, but I think some people (with issues) don't want to change they just want continual validation and sympathy. That's where this woman was and after a year of dealing with her she left for another church and brought her issues there.

Saw her at a community Harvest Festival and she had two women flanking her. Again saw the same thing at the joint Thanksgiving worship service. I mentally called them her "handlers". I guess that's good because maybe they can contain her behavior from negatively influencing others, and maybe get thru to her. That's the patience aspect the writer was talking about. I just hope they are being honest with her about the changes she needs to make (like seeing a professional Christian counselor).

Anyway, that's the most notable difficult person in my life.

Posted by: Abbey | Mar 23, 2006 3:22:34 PM

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