3 Ways for Christians to Respond to Tragedies

TV interview

I wrote this for a weekly update I do for our church in response to the shootings in Oregon. Some thought it was helpful, so I share it here.

Let me share three ways to respond to this week’s tragedies.

There are more. These are three which come to my mind this morning.

Pray. Pray for the victims and their families. Pray for the people who live in the area. Tragedies like this always shake a community even more than the broader world. Pray for the response of government and law officials. Pray for our world. These are desperate times. Pray for the Gospel to have opportunities to shine through darkness. “And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

Remember. This world is not our home. You believe that, right? We who believe are here on temporary assignment. We are pilgrims on a journey — passing through as we head towards our eternal home. Our God is on His throne. He is not surprised. He is not unprepared. “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:1-4)

Overcome evil. What if with every tragedy and every negative news report believers decided to do something good for others? Not requested. Unexpected. Just random acts of goodness in the name of Jesus Christ. What if we displayed peace and joy in the midst of sorrow? What if others who have no faith saw us who believe responding in faith? “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:21)

It is natural for children to respond with fear when they see these type tragedies. I wrote an article in response to this issue a couple years ago. I post it here in case it is helpful dealing with your children. http://www.ronedmondson.com/2012/12/7-ways-to-help-children-cope-with-fear.html

Top 5 Obstacles to Having a Great Christian Marriage

happy couple 2

I love marriage. I love the idea of marriage and the process of marriage.

But, marriage isn’t easy. It’s actually hard to have a good marriage.

One of the toughest verses in the Bible to obey is Ephesians 5:31 which says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

One flesh.

The process of blending two very different people is what causes stress to many marriages.

In my work with marriages, I’ve identified 5 of the major obstacles to making a great ONE out of two very different people. Sometimes simply understanding what obstacles exist and knowing they are common to most marriages — you are not alone — can help us learn to see them not as obstacles, but as God-given opportunities to grow a stronger “one flesh”.

The 5 major obstacles I have seen are:

Lack of Biblical knowledge about marriage

There is very little premarital training in churches today or even in most homes that are raising children who will one day marry. When my boys got their driver’s license we sent them to four Saturdays of classes. How much training do most of us get for marriage? The fact is that most of us are somewhat surprised by marriage and we don’t really know how to make it work. We need to do a better job training people for marriage.

Differences in Men and Women

Men and women are designed differently by God — not just physically, but emotionally. We look at the world differently. We process information differently. We expect different things from relationships. We have wrongly tried to equalize everything when it comes to men and women. I strongly agree we need equality when it comes to things like workplace treatment or educational opportunities, but when it comes to matters of the heart, and especially marriage, we better know that God designed a difference in men and women.

Communication styles 

Because of our differences, men and women communicate differently. Men tend to communicate thinking to thinking; while women tend to communicate heart to heart. One of the reasons Cheryl and I might have conflict is because I say things I intend for her mind to hear and it’s received with her heart. We need to remember that we communicate differently.

Outside influences

Every marriage has influences beyond their immediate control, but that have profound and direct impact on the marriage. Some of those influences include:

  • Children
  • In-laws/other relatives
  • Friends
  • Pressures of life/stress
  • Devil

All of these are normal influences in any marriage. Some of them are even welcome influencers in the marriage. The key is not to let ANY of them distract from the plan God has for the marriage to become one flesh.

Differing Goals/Objectives 

Remember every couple is made up of two unique, differently designed individuals. That means each one brings unique qualities, personalities and opinions to the relationship. Again, that’s part of God’s overall design to make two people one.

Some of the major differences include:

  • Outlook on life; usually one is more positive and one is more negative.
  • Differences in family backgrounds
  • Personality differences Introvert/Extrovert; Thinker/Feeler; Organized/Disorganized
  • Parenting Objectives

The overall goal of marriage is not to make both parties in the marriage like one of the parties.  It’s to make ONE new unit out of the two. Discovering how to blend one flesh out of two different people takes years and requires practice, patience and lots of hard work. Remembering that differences are a part of God’s plan and can actually help us build stronger marriages.

Remember also God didn’t promise this would be easy. In fact, the very next line after the difficult verse I shared in the opening of this post says, “This is a profound mystery” (Ephesians 5:32). If you are married, praise God for the mystery He gave you today.

What other obstacles have you seen to having a great marriage?

6 Reasons Why Anxiety, Worry, & Fear are Particular Problems for Christians

Desperate man holding his face in hands appears in a miserable state of unhappiness.

As a supplement to the message I did on anxiety and trust I asked my friend Dr. Jennifer Degler to do a guest post on my blog with her thoughts and observations on the issue of anxiety and Christians.

A psychologist, life coach, author, speaker, wife, and mom, Jennifer is passionate about helping people create healthy, successful relationships. You can find Dr. Jennifer podcasting and blogging about marriage, sex, parenting, friendships, and spiritual and personal growth on the Healthy Relationships Rx website at http://healthyrelationshipsrx.com.

About 20% of the US population has an anxiety disorder. That’s about one in five people, or 40 million adults. If you were allowed to pick your psychological disorder, pick anxiety because it’s very treatable. Not every psychological condition is treatable, but anxiety responds very well to treatment; however, only about 1/3 of suffering anxious people ever seek treatment. If left untreated, anxiety can lead to depression.

When I was in graduate school in the 1980’s, depression was the common cold of mental illness. Now it’s anxiety. Americans live in one of the safest countries in the world, but after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the anxiety levels of Americans skyrocketed.

I think overexposure to and over-consumption of anxiety-provoking material, like 24/7 scary news stories and increasingly violent movies and video games, has contributed to the rise in anxiety disorders. You would think anxious people wouldn’t watch a lot of news and crime shows, but they tend to be heavy consumers, usually because they are subconsciously watching for what the victim “did wrong” in a misguided effort to keep themselves safe by avoiding similar behaviors. Unfortunately, instead of making them feel safer, overexposure to anxiety-provoking shows and news stories just makes them feel more unsafe and keeps their brains in a hypervigilant state.

Anxiety tricks our brain, and the amygdala in particular, into activating our fight vs. flight response when we aren’t actually in danger. For example, when we watch a scary movie, our brains are tricked into thinking we are in danger even though we are safe in the theater. So our heart pounds, our palms sweat, and we breathe faster—until the movie is over. Then we realize we are safe, and our brain and body calm down.

For chronic worriers or those with an anxiety disorder, worry about the future is the scary movie. Those “What If” worries about an uncertain future hijack the brain, trick it into activating the fight vs. flight response, and cause physical, emotional, and spiritual distress. Once anxious people understand this neural hijacking, they are much less self-condemning of their anxiety and better able to use body-centered techniques to calm their anxious brain.

Here’s my favorite quote to use in conjunction with teaching clients body-centered techniques, such as mindfulness or progressive muscle relaxation, which help them use their five senses to pull their anxious mind back into today. 

Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me today.” Elisabeth Elliot

And, most of the time, we are okay in today. Dry, warm, fed, roof over our heads–that’s today, and we are okay in today. It’s in the imagined future that we aren’t okay.

It’s so much better to live in the Land of What Is instead of the Land of What If.

In my opinion, fear, worry, and anxiety are particular problems for Christians for the following reasons:

1) Christians over spiritualize fear and anxiety. They tend to believe it’s all a spiritual thing and overlook the genetic, personality, and trauma contributors to anxiety issues. And when believers hear another person tell of their anxiety struggles, they tend to prescribe only spiritual solutions for a mind/body/spirit problem. If you have an anxiety disorder, you are unlikely to be able to “pray it away” any more than you could pray away diabetes.

2) Christians carry shame over their anxiety and fear because they tend to believe it always indicates a lack of faith or an immature faith. They believe lies such as “Good Christians never feel afraid or anxious” or “If I struggle with worry, I am a weak Christian.”

3) Because of the shame, they tend to cover over how much they are suffering from an untreated anxiety disorder. They gloss over it, call it being “stressed out,” and don’t share their stories in community where they could possibly receive support and encouragement to get treatment.

4) Christians can give each other truly unhelpful but sounds-so-spiritual advice for managing crippling fear and anxiety, like “Just let go and let God” or “Just give it to Jesus” or “Just lean into Jesus.” What in the world does this look like practically?

5) Christians can be suspicious of helpful body-centered techniques for managing anxiety. It’s like we are Gnostics who believe the body is evil and only spirit is good, when in fact, body-centered techniques work well to reduce anxiety because of the way God made our brain.

6) Because Christianity offers peace, hope, and a certain eternal future, it is particularly attractive to anxious people. So baseline, you’ll find more anxious people in a church than waiting in line to bungee jump. I don’t have hard statistics on this, but I think the incidence of anxiety disorders in a church congregation is higher than the 20% you find in the general US population. Plus anxious people tend to also be imaginative, deeply feeling, empathetic people–the kind of people who are drawn to the kindness and compassion found in good churches.

If you are the 1 in 5 persons who struggles with anxiety, worry, or fear, please get treatment from an experienced mental health professional. While treatment may not make the anxiety go completely away, it should help you suffer much less and be able to enjoy the abundant life and peace Jesus promises.


We Need A Labor Day – Frequently


The title of the day has always confused me. It’s called Labor Day and yet it’s supposed to be a break from our labor.

And, of course, some will work today. When I was in retail this was a busy day. Thank you to our emergency personnel and hospital workers and those that keep our commerce and lifestyles going today.

But, something tells me you need the day off — or a day off — as much as I do. If there is anything Americans are not good at its rest. It might be the one command of the 10 commandments we dishonor the most.

I wonder if that’s one reason we are so tense with each other all the time — but, I’ll save that thought for another post.

I read the following in this mornings Denison report:

Americans work too much. In the U.S., 85.8 percent of men and 66.5 percent of women work more than 40 hours per week. We work 100 more hours per year than the Japanese, and 250 more hours per year than the British. What about the work-obsessed Germans? We work 500 more hours per year than they do. We take less vacation time than other nations, work longer days, and retire later. If anyone needs a Labor Day;to cease from labor, it’s us.

(I highly recommend the Denison Report as a resource for pastors.)

Saddest of all — we often celebrate it as “the American Way”. We call it progress. Efficiency.

But, it may be causing more harm than good. Personally and collectively.

If I’m going to write a post like this I have to point four fingers back any direction I point one finger to others. I could easily be accused of being a workaholic.

Years ago, however, I learned a secret. It’s a secret about myself I believe is probably a secret about you. If I will shut down one day – and periodically shut down for several days – I am far more effective when I am working. It’s a key to long-term success.

When I go to long periods without resting I am more tempted towards burnout, anxiety, and even depression. I’m not as much fun to be around and I worry more than I pray. (Again, could this be a reason we are so tense with each other at times? — again, another post.)

It’s like God knew what He was doing when He issued the command.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m still very much American when it comes to my work ethic. I work far more than 40 hours a week. But, when I shut down – – I try to shut down. I’m not perfect at it (and I have to read this in case my wife still reads this blog), but I’m getting better with age.

Do you need a break? Do you need to invest in yourself?

I highly recommend the practice. Even if you have to work today – schedule your own “Labor Day” soon – and often. 

And, I can’t even take credit for the idea.

Happy Labor Day!

You may want to read how I protect my Sabbath.

Bro. Laida: My Interview with a 92 Year Old Pastor, Part 5

Bro Laida

This is part five of my interview with Dr. John David Laida.

If you missed the first four segments, click HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.

In this final segment, Brother Laida addresses:

  • Word of advice to young pastors
  • Word of warning to young pastors
  • Future of the church
  • Advice on handling change and transition

Are you impressed, as I am, with the insight Brother Laida has shared? Share a word of encouragement to him in the comments. I’ll see that he gets them.

Bro. Laida: My Interview with a 92 Year Old Pastor, Part 4

Bro Laida

This is part four of my interview with Dr. John David Laida.

In this video, you’ll hear Dr. Laida address:

  • How he prepares for messages
  • Weaknesses in ministry
  • Dealing with controversy
  • 5 things pastors ought to do
  • The most important thing for a pastor to do.

Love The People from ron edmondson on Vimeo.

If you missed the first three segments, click HERE and HERE and HERE.

What did you find interesting in this segment? Have you enjoyed these so far?

Bro. Laida: My Interview with a 92 Year Old Pastor, Part 3

Bro Laida

This is part three of a five part interview with Dr. John David Laida. Brother Laida, as we called him. At the time of this filming, he is a 92 year old pastor  (about to turn 93), who was still doing interim pastorate positions in area churches — preaching every Sunday.

If you missed the first two segments, click HERE and HERE.

In this segment you’ll hear Bro. Laida address:

  • The way pastoring has changed
  • Protecting family in ministry
  • Being active in the community
  • Worship styles and adapting to culture


Are you enjoying this interview? What impresses you so far about Dr. Laida?

Two more segments of this interview…and they’re good! Stay tuned.

Bro. Laida: My Interview with a 92 Year Old Pastor, Part 2

Bro Laida

This is part two of my interview with Dr. John David Laida — or as I call him — Brother Laida. He has “supposedly” retired once, but never quit working. He’s still serving a church full-time today.

If you missed the introductory video, catch it HERE.

In this segment, Dr. Laida addresses:

  • Where he learned to lead a church
  • Delegation
  • How he handles church conflict

What do you think of Bro. Laida’s answers so far?

Bro. Laida: My Interview with a 92 Year Old Pastor, Part 1

Bro Laida

This is the introduction video to my interview with Dr. John David Laida. These were filmed over 3 years ago and I posted them earlier, but decided to bring them forward. I’ll share them over the next few days. They are good!

Brother Laida, as we always referred to him, was my pastor growing up. He served as senior pastor for 28 years at First Baptist Church, Clarksville, Tennessee and under his leadership the church grew every year. He served as president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and was a respected man in the community.

After retirement, Bro. Laida has remained active. He has preached almost every week since and has helped dozens of churches in transition as an interim pastor. At the time of this filming, he was about to turn 93 — (now 96) years old and had just taken the interim job of my home church, First Baptist Clarksville. He’s respected highly in this region for his wit, wisdom and his faithful service.

In this video, you’ll get an introduction into the beginning days of Brother Laida. It’s fascinating to hear his perspective on his earlier days of life and ministry.

This is a five part interview and this is the longest. Most will be 5 or 6 minutes in length. I hope you’ll enjoy learning from one of my mentor’s and spiritual heroes.

What did you enjoy most about his story this far?

Who is the oldest pastor you know still serving today? Honor them here.

10 Expectations for Supporting the Senior Pastor

senior pastor

Several years ago, I was asked to speak to executive pastors about a senior pastor’s expectations for their role. Part of a healthy organization is recognizing the individual roles and responsibilities of the others on the team. I felt it was important that I first help them understand the pastor better, so I shared 10 Things You May Not Know about the Senior Pastor. You may want to read that post first.

I continued my talk by sharing how other staff members within the church can support the position of senior pastor. I realize none of the churches where I have served would have been successful without the creativity, diligence and leadership of the staff with whom I served.

The question I was asked — and echoed repeatedly was this:

What does my pastor really expect of me and the rest of the staff?

A healthy staff requires a team approach. It requires everyone working together. As I attempt to lead a team, there are certain expectations I have  for those who serve on a church staff in supporting the leadership of a senior pastor.

Here are 10 expectations I have for supporting a senior pastor:

Have a Kingdom perspective.

It’s not really about either one of you — it’s about God and we get to play a part in His Kingdom work. The less you concentrate on your own “needs” the more we can work together to help other know the surpassing greatness of our Lord.

Know yourself.

Some people are wired for a supporting role and some are not. Simply put.  This is why so many are planting churches these days. They wanted to be able to do things on their own — lead their own way. You may be able to serve in a supporting role for a short time, but not long term. There is nothing wrong with that. Being in the second (or third) position in an organizational sense doesn’t always get to make the final decision. Are you comfortable with that fact?

Support the pastor.

That’s an obvious for this list, but unless the senior pastor is doing something immoral, you should have his back. If you can’t, move on as soon as possible. You should make this decision early in your relationship, preferably before you start, but definitely soon into the process. Resisting the leadership of the senior pastor is usually not good for you or the church.

Realize you are in the second (or third) chair.

If you don’t want to be, then work your way into a number one seat, but while you are in this position, understand your role. It takes a great deal of humility to submit to someone else’s leadership. Know who you are and how God is calling you to serve Him.

Don’t pray for, wish or try to make your pastor something he is not.

Most likely, the basic personality of your leader is not going to change. Your staying should accept the fact that some things you hope will be different in years to come — won’t.

Add value to the pastor and the organization.

Do good work. Even if you are not 100% satisfied where you are at in your career at the current time, keep learning and continue to be exceptional in your position. Be a linchpin. The fact is you may learn more in these days which will help you in future days.

Be a friend.

This is a general principle when working with others, but especially true in this situation. If you aren’t likable to the pastor, he isn’t going to respond likewise. Have you ever heard, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”? That works when working with a leader and on a team also.

Brand yourself in and out of the organization.

Don’t wait until you are in the number one position to make a difference in the church. This helps you, the pastor and the church. Do good work. In fact, do your best work — always.

Be a compliment to the pastor.

Most likely, you are needed for your abilities that are different from the senior pastor. Use your gifting to make the church better and improve the overall leadership of the pastor. Help fill the gaps the pastor can’t fill and may not even see. Take responsibilities off the pastor when you are able. Volunteer without being asked. This will serve you well also.

Pick your battles.

Even in the healthiest organizations, there will be conflict and disagreements. Don’t always be looking for a fight. Ask yourself if the battle is worth fighting for or if this in the hill on which to die. Be a supporter as often as you can.

Learn all you can.

Most likely, the pastor knows some things you don’t. Sometimes you will learn what not to do from your pastor. Let every experience — good and bad — teach you something you can use later to make you a better leader.

Leave when it’s time.

Be fair to the church, the pastor, and yourself and leave when your heart leaves the position, you can no longer support the pastor or the organization, or you begin to affect the health or morale of the church and staff.

Closing thoughts:

I personally understand the frustration of being part of a team, but not feeling you have the freedom to share your opinions or the opportunity to help shape the future of the organization. Real leaders never last long in that type environment. There are certainly leaders who will never be open to your input. Again, I recommend discovering this early and not wasting much time battling that type insecure leader.

The goal of this post is not to sound arrogant as a senior pastor, but to help the organization of the church by addressing issues, which will help improve the leadership of the church and the working relationship between staff members.

I’d love to hear from senior pastors and those who serve on a church staff. What would you add/or delete from my list?