3 Kinds of People Who Need Your Help

“And we exhort you, brothers: warn those who are irresponsible, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

(1 Thessalonians 5:14 HCSB)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that people often don’t perform to expectation (I know because I’m one of them). Sometimes that’s because expectations are unrealistic, but in his letter to the infant church at Thessalonica in Greece, the Apostle Paul identified 3 common kinds of ‘extra care required’ people. Probably we’ve all fitted into one of these categories at one time or another, so there’s really no room for judgment, but they do need different kinds of responses.

1. The Irresponsible. Paul tells us to warn those who are irresponsible. Fact is, in life and in  church, some people just need a slap around the head. They know better but they remain undisciplined, selfish, wilfully immature or rebellious in spite of wise and loving counsel from others. Like unruly children they make life difficult for the community. Sometimes we molly coddle people or tolerate them because we don’t want to judge, but such behaviour is destructive to the person and those around them and we need to warn them out of love. The goal is not to punish but to see them become mature and responsible adults.

2. The Discouraged. Nearly everyone gets discouraged at some point. These are good people who reach breaking point. It might be ongoing health or relationship trouble in the family; conflict or stress at work; financial pressure; burnout; disappointment with life and with God. Maybe it’s a case of ‘hope deferred making the heart grow sick.’ Some people just need encouragement and emotional or practical support while they work through the current crisis. When our resilience is low, we can start to behave badly, but this isn’t like the first category, the irresponsible, this is a drowning person flailing around in panic, trying to stay afloat. If we don’t see the warning signs early and give them the support and help they need, the danger is they will drop out of community altogether or fall into serious sin. The goal is to help them cope with the crisis and get strong again.

3. The Weak. In some ways, this group is the most challenging, especially for less compassionate and more capable people. Paul’s language in all these categories is quite non-specific and open, but the idea may be people who don’t have the resources to cope with life. There limitations may be physical, intellectual or emotional and, consequently, material (poverty). Some people experience trauma early or later in life that permanently scars them. Some are born with physical or intellectual limitations. Some struggle with ongoing temptations that ‘the strong’ may grow impatient with. It’s not a case of encouraging them through a difficult patch or giving them a kick in the posterior, they just don’t have the resources within themselves. They need ongoing love, support and generous helpings of patience, and always will. They teach those of us who may have less patience or tolerance that they are not the issue, we are! In a hard world these are the people who get left behind, but in a loving church they discover a family, and a God, who love them unconditionally. The goal is… love.

Who in your church or circles do you identify? Is there someone you need to warn, comfort or help? It takes discernment to know the difference, but do it in love and you’re half way there.

Why We Control Small Group Curriculum

At ECC the leadership decides what our Connect (small) Groups will study for the coming term. Church Consultant Thom Rainer explains why this is necessary:

  1. Because preaching is held to a higher standard, the perception becomes that the small group teaching is just not that important.
  2. The vision of the church could be distracted or derailed.
  3. It opens the door for heretical teaching.
  4. It takes away from the unity of the church.
  5. It does not allow for strategic teaching.

So it’s not because we’re a bunch of control freaks! And, of course, we’re open to suggestions. You can read the whole article at the link below.

Five Dangers of Unaligned Small Groups.

Openness, Closed-ness and Blogging

Open Sky and Sea

I’ve done very little blogging over the last few months. Part of that has been busyness, part because I haven’t felt like I have a lot to say (so I told myself) but, I’ve come to realise, a large part is fear.

On the one hand I have online privacy concerns – everything from Facebook privacy scandals to Prism. So I’ve been on a constant, and largely futile, pursuit to secure my online life. As a result, like the American government, I’ve become quite suspicious and opaque in my online dealings. Care must be taken of course, there are too many tales of identity theft and fraud. But ‘closed’ is not who I am or who I want to be. (That said, I have found a few useful tools along the way!)

On the other hand, some of my views on matters of faith and life have shifted from the ‘the right’ to ‘the centre’. I still believe in the foundations, but with so many fundies and cranks on the web it’s easy to become a target, or at least paranoid. Better not to rock the boat. The problem is, as a pastor, lecturer and disciple of Jesus, it’s not healthy, honest or helpful.

So, I’ve decided it’s time to get over it, and part of getting over it, I think, will be blogging. So you’ll probably see more of me here… or I may just run out of things to say. But consider this a first step.

Disagreement Between Eye-Witnesses Proves the Titanic Didn’t Sink

I had to post this from Scot McKnight:

Christianity is based on the historicity of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, not whether or not its chroniclers messed up on a detail or two. All biographers and writers of history err, but this does not mean that we discount their value or discredit their entire testimony. The classic illustration of this is the sinking of the Titanic. When we look to the historical records, we find that the eyewitnesses who survived that night were divided as to how the Titanic went down. Half said it broke in two and went down, while the other half said it went down intact. Someone is wrong. However, no historian would say that the Titanic must not have gone down at all simply because there is a discrepancy in the details.

Rest of the post is here. Update: Oops, here’s the original article McKnight was quoting.

For the record, I believe in the inerrency of Scripture and that most of the ‘contradictions’ and ‘inaccuracies’ can be reconciled. I think McKnight is mounting an apology for the resurrection here, not arguing against Scripture.

Mega-church Arrogance

Today, returning to the church livestock metaphor, a shepherd (or pastor, in its latinate form) with only 100 sheep would be considered a failure. And how could any “successful” shepherd be expected to know all of “his/her” sheep.

I’m not against large churches at all, but if size is your mark of success, you have nothing to say to the church of Jesus Christ.

Source: Are We Really Sheep? by Bill Kinnon – ChurchLeaders.com