I am in a position in life where I “get to” and “need to” have difficult conversations on a regular basis. Any time you are in leadership you will have to discuss, evaluate and try to encourage improvement in yourself and others, and that process can be difficult. In my position, most of my difficult conversations have to do with life choices and heart issues and at times those discussions can be challenging. However, over the years there are aspects of these conversations that I have grown to appreciate and therefore I would say that I have a love/hate relationship with difficult discussions.
I think it’s pretty easy to understand why I hate hard discussions, however there are so many good things that come out of “well thought out” difficult discussions – and these apply across the board to way more areas than just church life! If you are married, on occasion you need to have difficult discussions. If you are an employee or employer, on occassion you need to have difficult discussions. If you are a parent, or a student or even just a friend to someone, on occassion you need to have difficult conversation. Now before I share with you why I both love and hate these types of discussions, let me define some situations that might fall into this category. When I say “difficult discussions” I mean: you need to talk with your spouse about spending patterns…that’s difficult. You need to talk with an employee about his refusal to meet your expectations…that’s difficult. You know that you should talk with your friend about the way that they are treating their kids and their spouse…that’s difficult. These are just a few examples, you likely have some of your own right now, but let me share with you why I love/hate these talks.
Why I hate these talks
I’d guess that it’s pretty easy to understand why I don’t like the responsibility of sharing my observations with others concerning their lives, but there are some pretty particular reasons that I struggle in this area. First of all, fear and anxiety makes it difficult to have these conversations. Fears about what others will think, how they will react and what will happen to our relationship are very real. Maybe you’ve experienced those feelings and it’s kept you from saying anything. I know I have! Second, all of the “what if’s” roll through my head as I am preparing to have a difficult conversation. What if they get mad? What if they don’t respond well? What if they quit? These are some of the things that we all experience when we need to step into someone’s life.
Reasons I love difficult conversations – Despite finding these conversations difficult, there are several reasons that I’ve grown to love them and would encourage you to embrace a gracious, loving and truthful approach to your relationships!
- Having difficult conversations allows both parties to grow and improve! It doesn’t matter if your conversation is revolving around work, school, home or spiritual life, everyone has room to grow and improve. I’ve found that we don’t tend to grow when we are allowed to coast! When we drift, we drift down stream…not up! I also think that each of us want to be the very best that we can be in the different aspects of our lives, therefore at times we need to be challenged and encouraged. Having difficult conversations can accomplish this as long as the conversation ends with help and hope!
- Generally, these conversations strengthen your relationships. Recently I had a conversation with my wife where I shared a few things that I had been thinking about. I was nervous about sharing these thoughts, however after we were able to talk and discuss them, our relationship was strengthened and even more trust was built! This is why I love these types of discussions. My closest friends are people that I can absolutely tell the truth to and they can do the same to me…and we do.
- Difficult discussions force both parties to check their motivations and fight drift! Whenever you are going to talk with someone about something you’ve noticed in their lives, you need to check yourself first. I think it was a famous philosopher (jk) who said: “Check yourself before you wreck yourself”. When I’m struggling with something and a friend talks with me about it, it guards me from coasting and vice versa.
- Difficult conversations cause me to pray and rely on God. I love difficult conversations because they make me uncomfortable, which causes me to run to God for help. This is a good thing for all of us to embrace. I am naturally inclined to taking care of things myself and so when I feel out of my comfort zone I am reminded that I need someone bigger than me!
Let me leave you with this: I know these discussions are not fun, but they are fruitful. Proverbs 27:6 says – “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” In other words, someone who tells you the truth in a gracious way is to be trusted over someone who simply says whatever we want to hear!
So…how about you? How do you feel about difficult conversations? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.
Tonight I enjoyed again one of the greatest privileges of my life: standing in my boys room as they were both peacefully sleeping and praying for them. Years ago, when my oldest child was born I developed a habbit of walking into his room while he was sleeping just to check on him before I went to bed. While I was in there I was often overwhelmed with an incredible sense of the privilege that I had to be his dad and it made me cry out to God for him. Since then, I have continued the practice, not every night, but on a regular basis. Once again, I stand here tonight and I am reminded of why I love being a dad. Don’t get me wrong, there are times that I don’t love being a dad, but I promise you I would never trade it and here is why:
- I love being a dad because it keeps me humble! Whenever I see how much my children are learning every single day I am reminded how much I need the help of our great God and the help of other people in order to point them in the right direction. I am so thankful for the amazing people at our church who reinforce what we teach our children at home. I am so thankful for the amazing teachers in our oldest son’s school who selflessly pour into the children (and it’s a public school). But most of all, today I realize how much I need God’s help in shaping and molding the hearts of my children. All of this shows me just how small I really am and just how much I need help.
- I love being a dad because it shows me that some things are bigger than me! When I spend time with my three children I am quickly reminded that the biggest thing that I do everyday often involves sharing with them. They have way more potential than I do. They have a huge ability to impact others, a wide open life ahead of them and many, many decisions to make. This reality is much bigger than me and the potential that they have is much greater than me…I love it!
- I love being a dad because it shows me that some of the things that I think are big…really aren’t. Being able to come home at night and to see the amazing faces of my three children helps to put things in perspective. After a day of working through difficulties, putting out fires and investing in people, there is nothing better than coming home to three children who run into your arms (or two and one who is carried there :-)). Seeing their faces reminds me that people, especially the people that God has placed in my care are the most important things in the world.
- I love being a dad because it’s a privilege to invest in others. The fact that God would entrust these three little, impressionable children to my wife and me is an incredible responsibility and privilege. I love seeing my kids learn how to be gracious, be kind and how to care about others. These are some of the most important things that I will ever do. Teaching them about Jesus and seeing them grasp it, these are the most important “sermons” I will ever deliver. This is why I love being a dad. So, when I am tempted to grow tired of being a dad, I want to remind myself of why I love being a dad!
How about you? Are you a parent? If so, what are your reasons for loving being a parent? Let me know with your comments.
If you don’t know me very well, allow me to introduce one aspect about me to you: I am a passionate person. When I choose to get involved in something I am generally all in. Now, of course there are exceptions but for the most part, this is how I choose to live my life. This choice to be passionate about what I do shows up in many areas, but don’t let that confuse you into believing that I am equally passionate about all things. There are two key commitments that I am most passionate about and in fact I am willing to give my life to these two things…and I believe I am. Here they are (drum roll please): I am committed to helping people know Christ who don’t yet know Him as the Forgiver of their sins and the leader of their lives, and I am committed to helping others who already know Him grow in their relationship with and commitment to Him. These two commitments are the things that I am most passionate about in life. I spend hour after hour, day after day, week after week and now year after year in pursuit of these two commitments. With that in mind, when I talk about involvement in a small group as one of the best (if not the best) ways to grow in your relationship with God and others, and then I hear stories of small groups not working super well, or quite frankly stories of small groups failing, I am deeply saddened. However, this sadness is not terminal. Just like I wouldn’t stop eating if I had a meal that burnt my tongue or tasted horrible, I am not convinced that a bad experience means that the program is terminal. So, let me share with you 3 reasons why I believe small groups are still for you, even if you’ve had a bad experience or the group wasn’t all you hoped it would be.
- We don’t maintain, we drift! Generally speaking, people don’t do well in their walk with Christ when they choose to sit on the sidelines. I know, I know, sitting out of a small group or some sort of intentional relationship doesn’t mean you’ve stopped being involved in the church, but it does mean that you’ve chosen to try to pursue Christ on your own. Frankly, the people in Scripture who I find doing this don’t maintain, they drift. Here’s where the problem lies – we don’t tend to drift in good directions, we usually drift away from God. For example, when King David decided to seclude himself and send everyone else out on the mission, it was easy for Him to make isolated decisions that led him downhill quickly. Drift happens! This is why we need intentional relationships.
- We can’t love others and leave them alone! To love someone means that we take purposeful action and make sacrifices for their good. Sadly, I think that we equate hate as the opposite of love, and that may be true, but inactivity is also the opposite of love. Refusing to pursue and actively invest in someone is also the opposite of love. As Christians, how are we displaying the love of Christ to one another without this type of strategic, intentional activity?
- Someone else needs you! Whenever I hear stories of people having a bad experience in a small group it always motivates and moves me to make sure that I am helping to provide a great environment for life change and meaningful relationships. Maybe your poor small group experience will serve to enable you to help mold and remake a small group so that someone else can enjoy a better small group experience in the future. If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you have meaningful input that needs to be shared with other Christians and we need you to help with the growth that God is bringing to us.
I don’t think that writing this post will necessarily change anyone’s mind, but I do want to leave you with a few questions if you find yourself saying: “Small group just isn’t for me.” First: what is your strategy then for the clear commands of Christ to invest in each other? Second: who gets to ask you strategic questions so that you don’t drift? The answer to those questions are really something that I am passionate about and I want to invite you to be passionate about them as well.
On Sunday, April 5th, a day known to many as Easter 2015, we experimented with something that I was extremely nervous about: 2 services on a Sunday morning. This endeavor is something that we have been thinking about, praying about and working towards for several years as we have been growing. I was still nervous! What happens if no one shows up to the 1st service? What if we don’t have enough volunteers to do this well? Will people show up at 7 am in order to be ready for an 8:30 service? All of these questions were swirling around in my head.
Thankfully I was reminded over and over of Jesus’ words to us:
So..we did it, we took the plunge and experimented with 2 services on Easter knowing that last year we were 5 parking spots away from being full! How did things go? Well, in a word, they went great. But along the way we learned a few lessons and here are some thoughts in the wake of our great “2 service” experiment:
- Our volunteers are my heroes – I was totally amazed and overjoyed by the involvement and the investment of the people here at Oak Grove. Not only did you pray, invest and invite but you also showed up early, helped clean, set up and held doors for others who are new to Oak Grove. We had people here at 6 am on Sunday morning and we had volunteers here on Saturday night preparing for the opportunities ahead. So…Oak Grove volunteers, you are my heroes!
- Attend One, Serve One helps us – The fact that you can attend a service and then serve during a second service really helped us on Easter. No one should miss Easter and everyone should be able to be with the people that they invited. Having two services helps us with that. If you serve in the nursery, Power Up or any other ministry during the first service, now you can attend the second service! This is great!
- Some people like an earlier service…even one that starts at 8:30! This fact totally surprised me. I did not think that people would attend the early service but we had over 120 people just in the first service and many of them thanked me for having an earlier service. For some it was helpful to their work schedule. For some it helped them with family plans. Whatever the reason, some people enjoy the earlier service!
- 2 services multiplies our impact – Having two services allows us to double the impact of one service that takes many hours to prepare. Every week there are literally hundreds of hours that go into preparing a service so that we can teach, lead and inspire people to love and follow Jesus! When we utilize two services full-time we will be multiplying the impact that we can have on our community and this is a good thing.
- We can do this when God opens the door – The last observation that I had is this: when we need to, we can do this full-time and we will be able to do it well because so many have caught God’s vision for the church: to make more and better followers of Christ. Will there be challenges, yes! But Easter showed that we can do it.
Thank you all for your participation and for believing that God is going to use us to do the same works that Christ did and also even more!
First of all, I want to say thank you to the church at Oak Grove for embracing God’s mission of pointing people to Jesus. That you have embraced the vision and the mission was so clearly seen in the events of this weekend as we had 370 people here for the 2 services and so many of you were loving on and serving your friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers who were here! Thank you.
Second, you need to know that we are not done! There is much work left to do and so today I want to share with you 4 reasons to keep inviting after Easter. While we are thankful for the victories of this week, better days are still coming!
We will continue to pray, invest and invite because:
- Our goal isn’t just to see people attend a service. This weekend was great seeing so many people here. Many of you prayed, invested and invited and many came with you. This is exactly what Christ called us to do, however our goal isn’t just to fill seats here. We are working to see changed lives and to see people begin to follow Christ. Now, since our goal is to see changed lives, we realize that this won’t happen overnight and so we need to continue to invite.
- There are people who agreed to come but then couldn’t at the last minute. I personally had several friends who agreed to come, were excited about coming to the service and then at the last minute were unable to attend. Maybe that same thing happened to you. If so, now is the perfect time to continue to invite because God is opening doors.
- The hope of the gospel is worth telling people about. We are committed to partnering with you here at Oak Grove so that people can come here, hear about Christ and also feel very comfortable, but when you stop and think about it, what kind of things do you make sure and talk to people about over and over? The Royals and Chiefs? The new project at work? Your favorite restaurant? All of those things are wonderful but your friends, your family members, your neighbors, your co-workers hearing about Jesus is imperative.
- While we’ve already seen many come here and trust Christ…there are still many more – so don’t stop inviting now. Now is the best time to continue praying, investing and inviting because we truly believe that every weekend can be Easter weekend here!