5 Marks of Immature Behavior

13888675-caucasian-man-unshaven-portrait-sulk-bored-isolated-studio-on-black-backgroundI handled the situation poorly.

In a word, I acted immaturely.  My wife had made a request.  Perhaps my response was due to my own self-centeredness or maybe I just reacted without thinking.  Regardless, my response was immature.

Far too often, marriages become stuck in immature behavior, with the relationship regressing instead of growing.  Sometimes families struggle as extended family members behave immaturely instead of maturely.  Church leaders sometimes sabotage their own influence due to consistent immature behavior.

Immature behavior from others can be very frustrating.  After all, immaturity is a natural characteristic of a child.  A 40-year-old should not be known for his or her immaturity.

Ministry Inside.93

Ministers can be very fearful people and yet never acknowledge their fears.

Fear has a way of becoming the elephant in the room in ministry. A minister, out of fear and insecurity, finds ways of reminding others that he is an important person and is needed by the congregation.  He may become fearful when he is not “in the know” about a particular family or issue.

Ministers can cripple their ministry and severely limit their influence by not addressing their fears.

Ministers can be imprisoned and bound by fear:

  • What if people see how inadequate I really am?
  • What if the people in the congregation stop liking me?
  • What if I fail in this congregation?
  • What if my ministry peers see that I am not as competent or skilled as they are?
  • What if I lead this initiative and it fails?
  • What if people find out that sometimes, as a church leader, I don’t know what to do?
  • What if I remain in obscurity for the rest of my life?
  • What if I am never seen as significant, important, or competent?
  • What if I never move beyond my fears and my insecurities?
  • What if I should be doing something else with my life besides “full-time” ministry?
  • What if I’m fired?
  • What if others see me as fearful instead of a person of faith?

Maybe you identify with at least one of these thoughts.  I wish I could say that I’ve only had one of these fears.

If not met head on with the power of God’s Spirit, fear has a way of taking over one’s life.

The following has been helpful:

1.  God can and will deliver us from our fears (Psalms 34:4).

2.  Pray, trusting in the Holy Spirit, for God to give you the power and courage to take the next obedient step.  This is critical.  After all, fear can be paralyzing and cause you to be immobile and unresponsive to what God wants you to do.

3.  Thank God for his powerful presence.  Throughout Scripture, he reminds his people (and his leaders in particular): “I will be with you” (Genesis 31:3, Exodus 3:12, Joshua 1:5, Judges 6:16).

4.  Voice your fear aloud to God.  ”Lord, I am afraid that ….”  Sometimes we allow the restless rumblings in our hearts to dominate.  Articulating your concerns to God in prayer instead of quietly brooding can sometimes help in claiming the promises and power of God’s presence.


What has been helpful to you in dealing with your fear?

Ministry Inside.88

CoffeeBar_rephotography_011Each Thursday, I write a post that is designed with church leaders in mind. Many of these Thursday posts, however, are applicable to those who are not church leaders.  Church leaders and lay people both may find today’s post useful.

During July, I sat in a restaurant with a wonderful man in his 80s.  He is a former college professor, administrator, and minister.  He continues to think, grow, and make a difference.  I asked him to lunch because of particular questions I had about life as well as ministry.  I have always valued his wisdom from a distance.  This conversation, however, would be in person and last about an hour and a half.

My friend was generous with his time, his insight, and his wisdom.  After the conclusion of the lunch, I wrote several pages in my journal, carefully recording his answers to my questions.  I have read through these notes several times.  The conversation was one of the most valuable experiences I had in July.

One of the most important practices of my ministry has been creating the opportunities to learn from various people by simply asking questions.  I will ask someone to coffee or lunch and then ask questions about life, ministry, or leadership.  I have learned so much from these conversations.

I continue to seek out people whom I can learn from.  Let me encourage you to do the same.

How to Pay More Attention to Character than Image

woodenmirrormuseumThe Penn State scandal has underscored a fundamental issue that is present in far too many of us:

Some of us are more concerned about the image we project than the kind of person we really are.

I once heard the story of a couple that purchased a house in an exclusive neighborhood north of Dallas.  They moved into the house and immediately put up coverings over each window.  Months later this couple was arrested and indicted for their participation in some fraudulent scheme.  Authorities came to their home and discovered that the house was basically empty.  They had a cardboard table, a couple of folding chairs, a television, and a single mattress.

The story revealed that the couple had sold their previous home and belongings.  They moved into this exclusive neighborhood to create the impression that they were doing quite well financially.  This home was way beyond their means, and they were able to live there only after selling all their belongings.  Neighbors noticed they never opened their blinds or curtains.  That was because they didn’t want anyone to see that the house was practically empty.

Some people are willing to do most anything to create a particular kind of image.  Image, however, is not a substitute for character.

Image people want to appear cool wherever they are.  If they are on the road traveling with business associates, they want to appear totally with whatever is happening.  If they are at church, they want to appear to be the devoted family person.  Image wants others to know they are “in.”

Image people want others to think they are not lacking in any way.  They may make statements to their family members such as:

  • You don’t want people to think we can’t afford to buy nice things.
  • You don’t want people to think we buy cheap clothes.
  • You don’t want people to think we can’t go on great trips.
  • You don’t want people to think we don’t get invited to nice parties.
  • You don’t want people to think we live in an old neighborhood.
  • You don’t want people to think our kids are not as good as theirs.

Image people are far more concerned with the way they appear than the way they are.  Their Facebook status always communicates that they live one awesome, glorious life every moment of the day.  Really?

They are more concerned about the way others perceive them than the reality of their lives.  This is one reason why a person’s public and private persona can be so different.

Focusing on our image while we neglect our character is like having a manicured lawn around our home while we neglect the cracking foundation.  The house may look appealing at first glance but may be in serious trouble due to a neglected foundation.

Ministry Inside.87

puzzled“One of the biggest problems with pastors is their lack of self-awareness and inadequate relational abilities.”

This quote caught my attention.

I was reading a transcript of a presentation given by Dr. Rod Wilson, president of Regent College. The presentation was entitled “Why Emotional Intelligence Is Missing in So Many Churches and Christian Institutions.” In the message Wilson quotes a pastor who is on his denomination’s ordination board. Wilson says that if a person is intellectually bright, we often conclude that such intelligence will lead to a certain kind of behavior.

Of course, “We all know that intelligence, in the traditional sense of the word, is no guarantee of emotional strength and appropriate behavior.” Churches and ministers have seen this again and again. A person may be highly intelligent but particularly inept in relating to people.

Good leaders need what Daniel Goleman refers to as “emotional intelligence.” Consider the two categories often used to describe emotional intelligence.

Personal competence – This involves self-awareness and self-managment. Do I have a sense of who I am? Do I have an awareness of my wounds or vulnerabilities? Am I aware when I am lonely or angry? Do I have a sense for my patterns of behavior when I am tempted to make poor, unethical or immoral decisions?

Social competence – This involves an awareness of what is happening in relationships. It is social awareness. Do I have a sense for how I am coming across to people in a one-on-one setting or in a group meeting? Do I tend to say what is appropriate? Am I often surprised by how others perceive me in conversations?

Far too many ministers pay little attention to their emotional intelligence.

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Recently, I was at Regent College and had the opportunity to hear Dr. Rod Wilson one evening.  Rod Wilson serves as the President of Regent and is also Professor of Counseling and Psychology.  His talk was helpful, informative, and encouraging.

The video is from another talk in which he discusses humility and leadership.  His words are helpful in thinking about what it means to have a healthy sense of self in a Christian context.


(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)


It is everywhere! No, I am not talking about the fear of the Lord. Nor am I talking about any sort of healthy fear.

No, I am referring to another kind of fear — an unhealthy fear.

She sat just outside the main doors to our auditorium (sanctuary, worship center, etc.). She was in her late 40s, had alcohol on her breath, and looked as if she had been crying for days. The doors were open and the service was about to begin. She sat in a chair and refused to go in. She said something about not being worthy. She sat in that chair, legs crossed, and rocked.

I knew this woman and some of her family. She was an alcoholic and had lived in much pain and had caused much pain for many years. She had lived a sad life.

Deep within this woman was much fear. She was fearful that God no longer loved her. She was afraid to stop drinking and afraid to continue. She had been hurt deeply by others. She had been through one broken marriage and wondered if she would be loved again.

21 Ways to Upgrade Your Relationships (Part 4)

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

Need to “upgrade” your relationships? The following suggestions might be helpful:

10. Come to grips with any anger and rage issues in your life (Colossians 3:8). Who knows how many relationships have been damaged and even ended because of uncontrolled anger? Years ago, I was in a meeting and watched a guy have a meltdown. People were talking in this meeting and there was some kind of disagreement. This man’s face turned beet red and then he just lost it. For a few seconds (that seemed like a long, long time) he exploded and chewed out the group. Later, he acted as if nothing had happened. No apology. No remorse. Nothing. Life went on until some months later, he had another fit of rage. This happened again and again. This man lost much of his influence and damaged numerous relationships over this behavior.

11. Be honest in your relationships. Paul says, “Do not lie to each other, . . . .” (Colossians 3:9) Lying is a part of the old self and not the new self. Lies are absolutely destructive in relationships. Once a friend or a spouse discovers that you have been lying to them, it is very difficult for that relationship to ever really go anywhere. After all, relationships are based on truth, openness, and transparency. Not long ago, I spoke with a person who realized that a good friend had been lying to her for many years. There had been so many lies that she wondered what she could believe. The relationship has been severely severed now that these lies have been discovered.

21 Ways to Upgrade Your Relationships (Part 2)

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)


Upgrading relationships is not about fixing other people. Rather it is about being intentional toward others.  

Consider these possibilities for upgrading your relationships.

4. Be intentional about loving another. After all, loving God and loving others are the greatest commandments according to Jesus. One place to begin loving others is your relationships with your spouse, children, co-workers, and friends.


5. Receive these individuals just as they are. In contrast, some people, in their relationships, are constantly critiquing and evaluating others.

I once looked for another car, a used car. (Perhaps I should use the language of the car lots. I was looking for a pre-owned car.) After weeks of walking through car lot after car lot, I finally found a particular car that really caught my interest. I began to give serious thought to buying this car. Before buying this car, however, I inspected this car several times. I drove it. I walked around it, keeping my eyes peeled for any dent, nick, or blemish. I inspected the inside of this car, carefully looking for any cut or tear in the fabric or any sort of spot. I did not want to purchase this car and then get home only to realize that I had not inspected it close enough. Inspecting a car like this can be very helpful when buying a car. It is not good to practice this in relationships.

My wife, children, and friends do not need my constant critique and evaluation. Rather, they need for me to receive them and love them just the way they are.

21 Ways to Upgrade Your Relationships (Part 1)

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

I was once in a conversation with a man who was very critical and derogatory toward another man. I gathered he had experienced something very negative with this man and now he resented the guy. Sometime later, I saw these two men together. The man who had made these cutting remarks was now smiling and behaving as if they were good friends. It was a strange contrast with what I had witnessed earlier.

We are in a variety of relationships with others including:





Extended family members

People in our church

Yet, many of our relationships rock along, year after year, with very little attention or energy invested.

This series is about upgrading our relationships. What are some practical ways to invest in the relationships that really matter