10 Things I’ve Learned About Gossip – And Why I Hate It So Much

Young woman telling a secret to a man

I hate gossip.

I realize hate is a strong word. But it’s the one I prefer here. I’ve seen so much negative results caused by gossip.

Gossip happens in families, in the workplace – wherever two or more are gathered – gossip will be among them. And, gossip is always destructive to building healthy relationships. I hate gossip in any setting – but especially in the church.

Relational gossip – especially among believers – shouldn’t even exist. We have to violate a lot of principles of God’s plan for the church and believers for it to exist at all.

Gossip is destructive and has no part in our lives or in the church. I’ve counseled with families caught in drama after the loss of a loved one and gossip is fueling their division. I have witnessed gossip destroy a healthy work environment. And, I have worked with so many churches where gossip – drama – is a leading cause of why the church isn’t healthy – isn’t growing – isn’t accomplishing all God has for the church.

(I expanded this from a previous post where I addressed drama in the church. I decided gossip was the broader issue – and it applies to all relational settings.)

And, I’ve learned a few things about gossip.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned about gossip:

Not all rumors are true. In fact, most aren’t – especially not exactly as they are presented. When we repeat things we shouldn’t we seldom get all the facts straight. There is usually something we don’t understand.

People like to expand on what they think they know. People love to speculate, add their opinion to what they’ve heard. When they do the story gets further from the truth. People enjoy telling others “the good stuff”. With practice, some have even learned to make things “bigger” and “better” than reality.

There is almost always more to the story than what you know. Whenever multiple people are involved there will be multiple sides to the story. Even in stories involving only one person – if we aren’t hearing it from them – we only know what we know. We don’t know another person’s thoughts, history, or individual circumstances. And, it may or may not be what your mind stretches it to be.

Sometimes people don’t consider the ramifications of what they are doing. This is so true and so potentially damaging. I have seen gossip destroy a person – even seen it run people from the church – and some of the people involved in creating and furthering the drama wonder later what happened. They honestly didn’t realize the damage their rumor-repeating was causing. It’s so easy to get trapped in drama without considering the damage being done to others. I’m convinced, people don’t always intend the harm they cause.

Gossip is fueled by reaction. When someone tells you something you shouldn’t even know – the way you respond often determines how many times it’s told again. If you gasp with wonder and interest – the person sees they have something and are motivated to seek the same reaction in others. If, however, you appear not as interested or intrigued the person may feel disarmed somewhat from sharing it more.

Some of the juiciest gossip is disguised as a prayer request. Be honest. You’ve done or seen this done many times. People do this to pastors all the time. “Pastor, please pray for the Jones family. I’ve heard their son is really causing them problems. Just wanted you to know so you could be praying.” And, actually, many times they just wanted me to know so they could be telling.

People often stir drama for personal advantage. It could be to advance their own agenda. They may be on a power play. Sometimes people talk about others thinking it will make them feel better about their own life. And, sadly, I’ve known people who seem to get a “cheap thrill” out of creating drama. (I’ve never understood this one – but it’s true.

The only reliable source is the direct source. Every. Single. Time. In fact, a good discipline would be to not repeat anything which wasn’t from a direct source.

Thumper’s mom was right. If we can’t say something nice – we really shouldn’t say anything at all. If we all lived by this principle there would be far less drama. And, far less pain caused as a result.

Gossip destroys. Gossip can bring down a person’s reputation quickly. Start a tale about someone and watch their character unravel in front of you. It happens to celebrities and politicians. I’ve seen in happen to pastors, individuals, and entire churches.

The point of this post is awareness. Most of my readers are believers. Some non-believers, however, will likely share my distaste of gossip in relationships. If you’ve made it this far in the post – you and I can make a difference in stopping gossip from spreading by how we respond to it.

You may want to read my post 7 Ways to Stop Gossip Or, even better, read the Book of James in the New Testament. Or maybe Ephesians. (Specifically note 4:29).

What Is There to do the Day After Christmas?

open christmas gift

And all they that heard it wondered at those things, which were told them by the shepherds. Luke 2:18

It’s the day after Christmas.

Presents are opened. Trees are coming down. Reflecting is in full force. Plans are being made for a new year.

I can imagine the “wonder” happening in Bethlehem shortly after the birth of Christ. There was great wonder in the naming of this baby. Jesus, which means “salvation of God” – it was not something someone like Joseph and Mary typically would have named their son. Talk about high hopes for your children!

With the excitement going on in the town because of the census, it is probable that few took notice of Jesus’ birth. Therefore, when the shepherds go about joyfully, almost ecstatically, proclaiming the Good News, people most likely wondered “what baby?” “I didn’t see a baby”. They were so busy with their own celebrations they had missed the birth of a Savior!

What about you? As you clean up the torn packages from yesterday, and you pack away all the new gifts – as you travel back home or prepare to head back to work – as you explore how to spend your Christmas cash – what difference has Christmas made in your life?

Did the fact a Savior was born make a difference in your life this week/this year? Are you living a life that reflects that truth? Or – are you still wondering what all the excitement is about?

Many celebrated Christmas this year. How many really understood the why behind the celebration? Was it the center of their celebration or part of a checklist or after thought.

The parties are over and the gifts are open, and many will be sad the celebration is over, but the celebration alone will never completely fill a person’s heart. Only the true gift of Christmas, the one they named Jesus, can fill the void in a heart, which often dwells at the end of a Christmas celebration.

After the dust settles from the hustle and rush of buying, wrapping, opening gifts, stuffing ourselves with holiday treats and enjoying the company of friends and family is over, perhaps you and I should pause and wonder – pause and truly reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. 

Perhaps after Christmas is more important even than during.

A Savior has been born. He is Christ the Lord! The Savior grew, lived a sinless life, died on a cross, rose again, and now intercedes between God and man on behalf of those who believe. 

He wants to be a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He wants those who are weary and heavy-burdened to come to Him. He wants to bless our lives with true peace. Hope was born at Christmas.

And this part of the Christmas season – will last throughout the coming year – and throughout eternity!

5 Suggestions for Finding More Joy at Christmas

Christmas package

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. Luke 2:10-11

As I read the Scriptures, the ability to have joy is a gift. We may not always be “happy” with our circumstances, but we can have joy. Joy is a condition of our heart beyond the situations life may bring. It was “good news of great joy” the angels announced at the birth of Christ.

For many, however, living in the reality of joy at Christmas is harder than other times of the year. Memories of loved ones, financial struggles, health issues, and relationship woes often make for a very difficult celebration. And, have you spent much time watching the news recently? It’s enough to depress anyone.

Do you ever wonder why everyone else seems to find it, but you’ve been “left out” when it comes to “good news of great joy”?

How do we find the joy of Chrismas? (You may want to read my previous post 10 Ways to Overcome a Sense of Christmas Loss. This post come from another angle.

Here are five suggestions to greater joy at Christmas:

Lower expectations of others

We falsely expect others to respond as we want them to respond – or thin we would. We expect them to react to our gift as we felt when we bought it for them. We thought they’d remember us and they didn’t. We sent a card – they didn’t. We tried to be nice – and they weren’t so nice. We shouldn’t hold others to an expectation we set for them. People, even the best of people, will disappoint us. And, people are different from us. We aren’t responsible for the reactions of others. We are only responsible for our actions.

Increase your investment in others 

If we aren’t careful, Christmas can become so commercialized, even within our own families, we unintentionally become selfish towards others. Something supernatural happens when we share with people. Giving has an intrinsic value, which can’t be duplicated in any other way. This includes extending grace, as it was given to us – this includes granting forgiveness to those who disappointed us. Giving frees our heart of selfishness and self-centered tendencies we all have at times.

Examine your life and address sin

You can’t experience complete joy with a holy God if you are living contrary to His desires for your life. Where does your life need a realignment with God’s purposes and plan for you? Chances are good you already know. Is it an unforgiving spirit? Are you holding on to anger? Do you have continued, repetitive sin in your life? Christmas is a great time to make new commitments, and re-dedicate your life to Christ. Then you have a whole year to strive in this area of personal growth.

Change your perspective

Choosing to be joyful is not based on circumstances, but often comes by perspective. Where we stand always determines what we see. Stand in faith and we will see the world from a different and more positive viewpoint. The Apostle Paul wrote one of his most joy-filled letters – Philippians- while chained in a jail cell. (Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8) The fact is – joy is a gift. It’s not based on what we have done or could do, but on His grace towards us. It’s based on the hope of the righteous, not the reality of the moment. We can choose joy. And, then choose it again. And again. And again.

Set your eyes on the prize

If you’re struggling to find joy in life, set your eyes on Jesus – the author and perfecter of your faith. (If indeed He is your Savior – if not choose His grace by faith now.) Set your sight on the glory to be revealed through your trials and circumstances. God will write the final chapter of your story – and He’s not finished yet! You can trust Him. Look again at the manger – Jesus, the One who existed before time began, set the stars in place, lowered Himself in the form of a baby and was placed on a feeding trough, so He may give us access (through the Cross and resurrection) to a Holy God! I can find joy in this fact! Can you?

What suggestions do you have for finding more joy at Christmas?

10 Ways to Overcome a Sense of Christmas Loss

Christmas tree gifts

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. As the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year“.

But, for some people, Christmas can be a miserable time.

Many have lost a loved one, suffered the end of a significant relationship, or even had a severe personal loss of income or health. For the, Christmas is a just another reminder of what they no longer have. If we aren’t careful, the joy of Christmas is covered over with the emotions of loss, and rather than appreciating what we have or looking forward to what’s to come, we find ourselves in Christmas misery.

Several years ago, to prepare for a Christmas message, I consulted with two professional Christian counselors in our church Jennifer Degler and Elizabeth Ellis. With their advice and some of my own, I’m offering some practical ways to overcome a sense of Christmas loss.

Ideally, Christ is the answer. Apart from Christ there is no Christmas and there is no peace. These suggestions are not designed to take the place of that truth, but rather to give some practical tips to help you deal with loss at Christmas.

Here are 10 ways to overcome a sense of Christmas loss:

List your losses – Death, divorce, injury, finances, children moved out this year – whatever they are – write them down. I’ve personally found journaling to be helpful. Admit the pain – write them down.

Share them – Certainly with God, but with a close friend, or with people who have experienced your loss. Don’t be ashamed to see a professional counselor. Find support in a Bible study group or prayer group. We were designed for community, especially for times like this.

Grieve the loss – Every loss must be grieved. The intensity of the grief may be determined by the intensity of the loss. Some form of depression is a normal response to grief. We’ve almost created a culture where we think suffering is abnormal. Don’t be afraid to grieve – even publicly at times. It’s okay to be human.

Resist falling into despair – That’s where you live in a false reality that all hope is gone. It’s not. By the way, you don’t do that by ignoring them.

Take care of your physical body– Eat well, exercise, and get adequate rest. It’s more important during a sense of loss.

Be aware of negative thinking – Catch the negative thoughts and replace them with thoughts that are positive and true. See Philippians 4:8.

Do something for someone else – There are many opportunities during the holidays to help people. Helping other people reminds us loss is universal and other people are struggling with you. Plus, something about giving fuels positive emotions.

Force yourself to participate in social activities – You won’t feel like it, but social support is critical in recovering from loss. No one benefits by becoming a recluse. In fact, you actually increase the likelihood you will become clinically depressed.

Avoid the comparison game – Don’t compare your losses to other people’s losses. Significant loss naturally makes us focus inward, but that never works. And, it’s dangerous.

Honor you losses with new traditions – Begin some new family rituals that will help you reflect on the good things you experienced with the person you have lost or will help you remember happier days to come.

In my Christmas message, I shared one more suggestion – one I believe is the most powerful of all. It’s this:

We have to learn to worship in tears. You have to learn to worship even in pain. When you realize God is good – even when it doesn’t seem life is good – you are better equipped to face the storms of life, which are sure to come.

Obviously, Christ is the peace of Christmas, and He can fill your brokenness. You can trust Him. This Christmas, let the Christ of Christmas fill the void and loss you have in your heart and life.

You can find all my messages on my Vimeo page at vimeo.com/ronedmondson. The message referenced is titled Obstacles to Christmas Joy: Loss.

How Now Shall We Live? – Acts Series, Part 1

Acts Bible

As I read the book of Acts, I have some questions for today:

  • Can God still do miracles today — and will He?
  • What are we doing which is totally dependent upon God?
  • Can the Spirit of God still empower a room of people?
  • And, will the church be the church as God intended it to be?

How Now Shall We Live from ron edmondson on Vimeo.

10 Random Things to Know about Pastors – Or At Least This One

image

I’ve learned pastors are often misunderstood. Especially by people who haven’t known a pastor personally, but we can really be misunderstood by many people. It’s surely a unique vocation. I can’t speak for all pastors. And, certainly – maybe since I was in secular work longer than I’ve been a pastor – I’m not typical.

But, I suspect I’m not completely abnormal either.

Here are 10 random things to know about pastors.

These are true for me, but I suspect they may be for your pastor too.

The temptations you face – I face. I’m not immune from temptation. I’m human. You shouldn’t be surprised when I make mistakes. I need lots of grace. I should be held accountable, but ultimately I’m accountable to God – just as you are.

The larger the church gets – the less I know about anything. But, this can be true of any church size where other people are empowered to lead. Ask me anything. I may or may not have an answer. Sometimes, however, you save both of us time if you email the staff or volunteer leader more likely to know – but I can always forward an email.

The better the message – the longer it takes me to prepare it. There are rare exceptions to this for me. If I am going to have a descent message I will have to take time away from other responsibilities to prepare. This could mean I’m not everywhere you hoped I would be.

Even though I’m teaching it – I may not yet have mastered it. Hopefully I’m working on it, but I teach the whole counsel of God – the Bible – and I’m still a work in progress in many areas of it.

I get nervous every time I start to preach – sometimes sick to my stomach nervous. If you didn’t notice – well, glad I’m getting better at covering. But, you do me a tremendous blessing if you whisper a prayer as I step up to preach.

Sunday is not the only day I work. Honestly! And, preaching is not all I do. I actually work 6 long days a week and even when I’m off or out of town, I’m often working. But, Sunday does come around quickly.

Your story probably won’t surprise me. I am never callous towards it, but I’ve probably heard similar or worse. And, I’m still going to love you.

To my family I’m usually not a pastor – just a husband and dad. And, I like that. I even like to be “just a friend” sometimes.

If you tell me something on Sunday morning – you probably should back it up with an email to remind me. My mind is distracted and I will forget. And, if it can wait until Monday – even better.

I can relate to you better than you think. I like to have a good time. Some would say I’m funny. I even know how to laugh. I don’t even have to be quoting Scripture to do so. We have struggles in our life too. Lots of them. And, the more you see me as a regular person, the more I can relate to the struggles you face and your friends who are afraid to come to church – partly because they think I’m not.

Pastors, any other random thoughts you would like to share?

5 Questions to Ask Before You Attempt Church Revitalization

White country church

It seems every week a church contacts me to ask advice about church revitalization. I also frequently hear from pastors who are considering stepping into a role in church revitalization. I greatly appreciate the Kingdom platform God has given me – but sometimes it feels overwhelming – as if I have something to offer.

Frankly, I am still in the learning process.

But, we have learned a few things. And, we have had some success — twice in church planting and twice in church revitalization.

And, I fully believe we need lots of church revitalization. Read some of my thoughts about the need HERE.

The problem for me is it seems people often start the conversation at the wrong place. They start with the how and I want to start with the why – or maybe the what.

When people start to talk about the how of doing church revitalization – the things we have done or haven’t done – I always feel like we are putting the proverbial cart before the horse. We need to talk about what church you are going to attempt to revitalize – and why you are considering the move in the first place.

I think before you consider revitalization you need to first consider some broader questions.

Here are 5 questions I would consider before I would attempt to help revitalize a church:

Can this church be saved?

There is actually a more difficult question. Is the church worth saving? I know those are difficult questions. They may even make me seem very arrogant. But, there are some toxic churches in the world. I know churches who have never held on to a pastor for more than two years. They are brutal to pastors. They don’t want someone to help them grow they simply want someone to maintain things as they are, fill the pulpit three times a week, and visit them when they are sick. And, if you try anything else they will remind you they were there before you came and will be there when you’re gone. What is the realistic potential even if the church is saved from eventual death? Will a pastor be able to lead? Can changes actually be made? Nothing of value happens in church revitalization – or really anything organizationally speaking – without some change. Chances are good it won’t be popular – in any church – but change is always necessary.

Is this the right location?

Look at the demographics of the community. Does it — or are the people willing for it to — represent the community? If the community has changed demographics around them they may need to make changes for the community to see them as a vital part of the community. The message doesn’t change, but the demographics of communities change over time. People move. New people move into the community. If the church isn’t willing to embrace the unique needs of the community maybe there is a more receptive area elsewhere. Are they willing to ask such hard questions?

Is this the best use of resources?

Would Kingdom dollars be better spent elsewhere? And, again, hard question, but the longer a church has been plateaued or declining, the longer – and harder – it will be to help the church grow again. Another hard question – how many churches could be planted with the same resources and efforts? Is there a wiser stewardship for the Kingdom than this? Now please understand – I believe in revitalization. I think established churches still play a huge role in the Kingdom – for so many reasons – but, you should be willing to ask the difficult questions or your chances of seeing progress are limited.

Is everyone willing to pay the price?

It will be hard. Change will be difficult for some to accept. Revitalization is harder than planting – in my experience. Will change be accepted? Can you take the hits? Are the leaders of the church going to stand with you? Does your family fully support your decision and are they up for the challenge?

Are you the right leader?

Does your experience, passions and skill sets prepare you for this role? Would you be more effective elsewhere? And, the bottom line question here: Is God calling you to this? I have often said I believe God gives tremendous latitude at times in where we are to serve. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. We need more church planters, more healthy leaders in growing churches, more missionaries, more people to be solid, missional believers serving in secular positions – and more people to revitalize churches. But, sometimes God calls us to specific places, even if only for a season. If God is calling you to this then nothing else matters. Obey quickly!

Answer those questions – then we can discuss the how questions.

7 Damaging Sins Which Can Cripple Every Marriage

couple in distress

Did you know there are sins which can cripple every marriage?

Yes. There are.

You realize there are no perfect marriages because there are no perfect people.

Right?

Let me repeat that.

There are no perfect marriages because there are no perfect people.

Every marriage will have seasons which are more difficult than others. I often encounter couples in our church who think they are unique. Because we tend to put on our happy faces at church, they believe theirs is the only marriage in a bad season.

In fact, I’m convinced not understanding how many couples have weathered through these rocky places in marriage may be a reason many couples give up on their marriage. If they understood how normal they are they might be more willing to raise the white flag – ask for help – and work to restore the marriage.

I have observed over the years there are some issues in marriages which, if not addressed, can be crippling to the marriage. These are the “biggies”. They may manifest themselves in other ways, but if you could trace back to the origin you would find these to be at fault.

And, let’s not sugarcoat. They are sins. And, we have all sinned. And, we all sin. Every marriage is comprised of two sinners.

And, this is the real reason there are no perfect marriages.

Left to fester on their own, these sins will eventually be the destroyer of the marriage or certainly keep it from achieving the oneness God commanded.

So, what are these damaging sins? I’m glad you asked.

Here are 7 damaging sins which can cripple every marriage:

Selfishness – Marriage won’t work without mutual submission. Read Ephesians 5:21. Marriage is not a 50/50 arrangement. Ideally it’s to be a 100/100 bond – where both spouses willingly yield their all. (And, I used the word ideal, because your marriage is not there and neither is mine.) When one spouse demands their way or will never work towards a compromise the relationship can never be all it should be. One person is happy – the one who got their way – the other is miserable.

Discontentment – I’ve said before – boredom is perhaps the number one destroyer of marriage. There will be seasons in every relationship which aren’t as “exciting” as others. Some days you will “feel” more in love than other days. But, the key to a long-term relationship is a commitment beyond emotion.

Pride – When one spouse can never admit they are wrong or see their own flaws it opens the door for a wedge of bitterness in the other spouse. Pride is also destructive when the couple is too proud to admit their struggles or get the help they need.

Unforgiveness – Holding on to past hurts not only damages the marriage bond it destroys the person who refuses to forgive. Trust can’t be developed until forgiveness is granted. And, isn’t grace received expected to be extended?

Anger – The Scripture is clear – we should not go to bed in anger. And, there is a reason. Anger is a wedge – one which only grows wider when not dealt with over time.

Complacency – As soon as you think you’re marriage is above the problems of other relationships you’re in trouble. The enemy loves to attack the unaware.

Coveting – Couples who compare themselves to other couples will almost always be disappointed. There will always be people with more – and it likely isn’t making them as happy as you think it does. And, keep in mind, many times people disguise their struggles well. The couple you think has it all may wish they had what you have. Every couple is unique. Comparison only leads to frustration.

Ask yourself this question: Which of these is most prevalent in my marriage today? Which is causing the greatest harm? Which of these, while it may not be an issue today, could be if we don’t get serious about it soon?

Be honest with yourself — and ultimately — with your spouse.

7 Ways to Respond to Negative People In the Church

Shouting

One of the most frustrating things about being a pastor is the number of people who are negative about everything. Thankfully, I deal with this less often the longer I am with the church. In the established church, most of our negativity comes from a few people. When I was in church planting it came from outside our church. Either way, dealing with negative people has been a huge part of my work. I talk with pastors every week who tell me they have large groups of people who are always negative about something they are doing.

I have learned – when a church reaches genuinely hurting people, when people in the church lead messy lives, when the church actually begins to reach such people, or simply when change comes to reach people — the complainers will rise — often among the most religious of people.

And when these type people talk their negative energy spreads fast.

As Jesus taught His disciples how to build the church, a chief command was to love people no one else loved. Since they were to love even their enemies, this included loving people when they were not very lovely. Even people who are always negative. (That’s a hard command sometimes, isn’t it?)

I have tried to lead a church with this philosophy. Along the way I have discovered what Jesus experienced in working with religious leaders in His day.

With this in mind, how do we respond to those who choose to complain and remain negative towards reaching people for Christ?

What do you do with constant negativity towards the mission God has called you to?

Here are 7 ways to respond to negative people:

Filter negative talk. Ask yourself if what they are saying lines up with truth. Is it true? If not, dismiss it quickly so it won’t begin to control you. When you own falsehood about yourself or the church you validate the person offering it. And, you fuel them for further negativity about you or the church.

Learn when necessary. We should not refuse to listen to any criticism. There is an element of truth in most criticism, even among things you need to ultimately dismiss. Let’s not be arrogant. Be humble and teachable always.

Surround yourself with some positive people. Some people are negative about everything and would never encourage anyone. That’s the reality of working with people. Every leader needs to find a core of people who can encourage them to walk closer to Christ, to believe in themselves in Christ, and who genuinely care about their best interest.

Remember negative people spread things about others too. It often helps me reconcile what a negative person says about me when I realize they are always spreading something negative. If it were not me being criticized, it would be their next victim. Do not give as much weight to the voice of the consistently negative person. Sometimes we tend to give them the most attention. The only way you will ever shut down the person who is always negative is to refuse to give them an audience for their negativity. The fact is if they are given a continued voice they will bring people into their negativity. If the same attention is placed on people who are a positive influence then they will bring people along into positivity.

(What I’m not saying is the avoid the negative person. Most likely they are negative for a reason. They are hurt, angry, broken, confused, or simply sinful in their attitude. Either way – we have to love them. That’s our calling as believers. Many times I’ve found if we love them we can actually begin to temper their negativity – at least lessen its volume.)

Confront untruth. You do not have to go on a witch-hunt for untruth — nor should you — but you should try to stop the spread of falsities if you hear them being repeated or told to you. This is especially true if it is going to get in the way of doing what you know God has called you to do. Don’t be bashful about doing so. Don’t embarrass people or treat them harshly. Treat everyone with love. Be an example of how to handle disagreement Biblically. But, don’t ignore it either.

Be truthful and positive around others. Decide you will always be a positive influence. Don’t repeat untruths and avoid being a hypercritical person. Look for the good in situations. A positive attitude is equally contagious.

Remind yourself of truth. Ultimately you are looking for truth, not one person’s opinion on truth.

What ways do you have to deal with negative people?