If You Have to Live by the Rules…

Write better rules…

That principle came to me recently in a personal illustration.

Cheryl and I love to travel, and we have done a lot of it together. Several years ago we realized that we were getting close to visiting all 50 states. Friends of ours had that as a goal of theirs, so we adopted it. Again, our goal was simple: visit all 50 states together. Since then we’ve planned many of our vacations around trying to get to all 50 states. At present count we are missing 9 states.

Cheryl needs a plan, so we needed some criteria in her mind for the visits. So we developed the “rules” for a state to be considered “visited”. There were only two rules:

  • We had to be in the state together.
  • We had to spend the night there.

 

Pretty simple, right?

Recently we were on vacation attempting to cover a few more states. Our plan would allow us to mark four states off our list. As we started planning, however, we realized we could mark five states off our list, if only we didn’t have to “spend the night there”. Our own rule got in the way. As anxious as we are to mark off all 50 states, especially since we are so close, we still had a rule to follow.

Then the thought occurred to me. They were our rules. We could change them if we want to. We could say we had to eat a meal there. Or we could say we had to spend 6 hours there. But, the point I’m making:

We could change the rules and still not alter our original goal…to visit together all 50 states.

It was a huge relief. Cheryl agreed. We added the fifth state to our list. As it turned out, we were able to spend the night there, but not out of the pressure to obey a rule, but because we wanted to.

Now that’s a silly example, but it illustrates a much bigger problem we face in many churches and organizations.

Sometimes we confuse our rules for our goals.

Rules aren’t goals. Goals aren’t rules.

Rules are meant to help us attain goals, not keep us from them. We need rules. They guide our way to progress.

As much as rules are a part of the process…

Why live by rules that keep us from accomplishing our goals?

Many times we limit ourselves to doing things strictly according to rules we’ve set for ourselves, or others have set for us, but they actually hinder progress. Instead, we don’t need to change our end goal. We don’t need to lower our standards. Many times we really just need to write better rules.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ron Edmondson

Ron Edmondson

As pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church a church leader and the planter of two churches, I am passionate about planting churches, but also helping established churches thrive. I thrive on assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. My specialty is organizational leadership, so in addition to my role as a pastor, as I have time, I consult with church and ministry leaders. (For more information about these services, click HERE.)

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In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

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