4 Ways To Cultivate Healthy Relationships & A Healthy Church

A Shepherd & His Sheep

The unique relationship between pastors and their congregations

The ultimate relationship we’re called to is a deep and personal relationship with Christ. But when we walk with Christ, we don’t walk alone. We walk alongside others. Community and relationships are a central part of our faith, discipleship, and growth.

In the creation story, the only thing God observed that was not good was the man living alone. Genesis 2:18 says,

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.'”

This verse’s context was the creation of the woman and the introduction of the God-ordained marriage relationship. Still, it points to an overarching principle that we were created to live in relationships.

When we are alone as an individual, we can feel small and insignificant. But united with Christians who challenge us to grow in our faith, we are strong.

And throughout the Bible, we see the importance of relationships with other believers. The New Testament has over fifty passages that use the phrase “one another.” The Word calls us to love one another (John 13:34), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16), and serve one another (Galatians 5:13).

We help each other in our walk with Christ. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ, and we’re in this together. As we mature in our relationship with Christ, we also see the value of the community. Consequently, we need to build and strengthen those relationships. 

If the relationships within your church aren’t as healthy as you’d like them to be, there is hope for improvement. Here are four ways to cultivate healthy relationships in the church. 

 

1. Set the example

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)

As a church leader, you have the opportunity to inspire spiritually healthy disciples. Your actions set an example for your staff and your flock. Together, we can make an impact for the kingdom of God by reinvigorating our church and local communities. So ultimately, we can all hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

 

2. Promote Bible study groups

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

The ideal way to build relationships is in a smaller setting. Small groups, Bible study groups, Sunday School, life groups, are all opportunities for relationships. When we are gathered together to discuss the Bible together can’t help but build relationships within the group.

 

3. Create opportunities for relationship building.

Encourage Bible study groups to do more than study the Bible together. Parties, mission projects, volunteering, and ministry opportunities can all bring people together.

Let a get-together or ministry project involve two or more generations. For example, as younger adults build relationships with senior adults, they can be mentored and disciple by someone with more life experience.

 

4. Ask for input and truly listen

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13

A good listener is the opposite of the fool described in Proverbs 18. He is patient, energetic, and focused, waiting to give his answer until after he has heard. 

As leaders seeking healthy relationships, we need to listen and work hard to understand the other person. Go out of your way to ask for input and truly listen to what wise counsel has to say.

 

These are just a few ways you can encourage healthy relationships within your church and congregation. If you’re not satisfied with the health of relationships in your church, do what you can to make an impact. Let’s create a space for healthy and God-honoring relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

By serving our fellow pastors and our community with humility, we can see clearly, lead confidently, and engage with immediate impact on the current church community.


A Shepherd & His Sheep

A Shepherd & His Sheep

A Shepherd & His Sheep

The unique relationship between pastors and their congregations

The image of the shepherd and sheep is familiar, seen throughout Scripture. The consistent imagery depicts the nature of pastoral leadership and relationships between pastors and their congregation. As pastors, we must view our church as a flock of sheep entrusted to us by the Father. 

Shepherds were responsible for their sheep and to the owner of the sheep. They protected the sheep from attackers, cared for wounded, and rescued them if they became lost or trapped. Shepherds spent enormous amounts of time guiding sheep to the places of nourishment and rest. The result was deep trust and a relationship that kept the sheep following the shepherd. 

 

Shepherding In The Old Testament

We see God as the Shepherd of his people in the Old Testament. He promises to one day set his “servant David” over his people under a new covenant and raise many shepherds to care for them.

In Psalm 23, David reflects on the confidence we can find in the good shepherds care, even in times of deep darkness. The purpose of this imagery is to describe the way God cares for his people. 

The image of God as our shepherd through the valley of the shadow of death is an image that comforts many throughout life and death.

 

Jesus As Our Perfect Shepherd

We see the Lord Jesus Christ as the true servant David taking on the same role as God of Chief Shepherd, and commissioning his disciples to feed his sheep.

The Bible teaches us that God, through Christ Jesus, is our great Shepherd, and we are his sheep. But this shepherding picture goes further, as we saw with the previous passages about elders/overseers. 

Also, Jesus commissioned his disciples, who then commanded the early church, to carry on the task of shepherding God’s flock. These stories layout the perfect example for faithful and biblical leadership in the Church today.

John Piper says

“This is the picture that God has ordained: that flocks exist, and shepherds exist, and that the shepherds have accountability for a particular flock; and that the flock should submit joyfully to its particular shepherd. This is a structure that no podcasting pastor can replace.”

We certainly need our good shepherd, Jesus. He is willing to care and sacrifice for us. Accepting that we are indeed like sheep is hard, but we must recognize our spiritual likeness to sheep and our need for a good shepherd as we lead others.

 

What Does It Mean For Pastors to Be a Shepherd?

Based on the metaphors used in both the old and new testament, to be a shepherd means that it is our responsibility to lead the sheep. 

Sheep are prone to get lost, getting injured, and are vulnerable unless they are cared for by a shepherd. So it is with the flock of Christ. 

God establishes leadership, and through His grace, He has called us to be shepherds to guide his flock. It is the chief responsibility of the pastor, who is the shepherd, to lead the sheep.

“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” 1 Peter 5:2-4

Like sheep, mankind tends to follow. Like sheep, we are endangered by those who prey on our vulnerability, the spiritual wolves. Like sheep, we are vulnerable to wander away from the care of the shepherd and safety.

As leaders and shepherds, we are called to lead, feed, and tend to the flock. We guide them as best we can away from dangerous ledges and pits. We feed and nurture them as they grow.

Our congregation and community must know that the shepherd of the flock is a shepherd: approachable, responsive, gentle, and genuinely filled with compassion. 

In every opportunity, we should aim to reflect the ministry of Jesus, who willingly gave Himself to His flock.

As pastors, we do many things, but in all our work, our primary purpose is to minister the Gospel for the sake of the sheep and give glory to God.


the power of no

The Power Of “No” - Protecting Your Boundaries

The Power Of “No” - Protecting Your Boundaries

As a pastor, we have a lot of responsibilities and people vying for our attention and a place in your schedule. We love God, people, and our job shepherding God’s people, but sometimes, boundaries get jumbled, crossed, or even worse — they don’t exist. 

 

The Power of No

For many people, it can be challenging to know how to set boundaries or say “no” to others. If you resist saying no to important people in your life, chances are you experience overwhelm. And this generates enormous stress! 

When we set boundaries and honor them by saying “no” to interruptions, we have more time and energy to put towards the things and people we love. So how do we establish boundaries and create boundaries that help us protect our work?

 

Following Jesus Example

The world has never seen a better pastor or leader than Jesus. He is our perfect example. How He dealt with and felt about people, the way He taught, and lived and loved show us how we are to live our lives. 

In Luke 10:41-42, Jesus said to Martha, “You are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is necessary…

Pastors are often tempted to juggle everything and carry the entire church’s weight without balance in their own lives. 

Jesus modeled boundaries several times during His public ministry. As leaders, let’s learn how to be like Him. We can do this by practicing healthy boundaries in relationships and saying no to protect those boundaries.

 

The Importance of Boundaries

Boundaries are the greatest gift we give ourselves in ministry. They lessen the complicated “yes” and “no” answers, and keep things from getting cloudy. Having clear boundaries is essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. They help everyone around us know what they can expect.

Without clear boundaries that are fiercely protected, we can’t expect longevity. Burnout is real. So for leaders who long to serve Jesus well, steady, and long-term need to set and protect these boundaries.

Saying “no” means you’re setting a limit. You’re setting a boundary, and stating that your needs and feelings matter.

 

Saying No

As leaders, sometimes we have to say no to good things so that we can say yes to great things. Choose your yeses wisely. The reason why saying no is difficult sometimes is that we are usually not conflicted about saying no to bad things—that choice is often easy and obvious. Saying no to good things, on the other hand, is hard.

 

Take your time before reaching a decision. Don’t give in to the natural knee-jerk inclination to say yes. Instead, reflect on the request, and say you’ll think about it or can have a response in 24 hours. It’s easier to politely decline the next day. 

 

Deliver your “no” with a solution. When you say “no,” you can offer another answer. Instead of thinking of situations as all or nothing, meet in the middle.

 

Start building healthy boundaries and say no so you can focus more on what God has called you to do and do it well.


When Hurt Runs Deep

“They should have to apologize, not me! “At some point in life we’ve all said this phrase. Whatever the reason, we understand that a conflict has occurred. And now, we have a choice. Do we freely forgive and forge ahead with love and acceptance…or do I fiercely fire darts of defense and fall back behind a wall of withdrawal, self-righteousness, and pride?

No matter who you are, you will cross paths with difficult people. Sometimes they have no intentions of hurting you, while other times…well they are just plain old disrespectful. So when intentions are meant for good, but signals are crossed remember, the best way in resolving conflict is not to take up an offense in the first place, especially when one was not intended.

But what about when there has been an obvious offense? Let’s look to Scripture for the answer. Whether we have been offended (Mark 11:25) or whether we have offended (Matt. 5:23-24), our admonition is to forgive and to love. The Matthew passage says we are to leave our gift at the altar—go make it right before we even come to worship. But how do these formal, flowery principles flesh out in the daily working out of our faith? We must forgive—and true forgiveness is a releasing.

“And his master’s heart was moved with compassion, and he released him and forgave him (canceling) the debt” (Matt.18:27 Amp).

The Greek word in the Matthew 18 passage for release is apoluo which means to free fully, release, let depart, loose, set at liberty. Forgive and forget? That is the tough part.

It is not humanly possible for the memory of the offense to be forever erased from our minds. We are not commanded to develop so type of spiritual amnesia. We are commanded to hold the offense against the person no longer. It is a releasing of the person who has hurt us to the Father — trusting the Father to deal with the situation. We are not to keep the offender in our personal prison of anger, stress and hurt.

Because the Father has forgiven each of us personally, it then becomes my responsibility to extend that forgiveness to others. Scripture says “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).

“So what about the pain? You just can’t erase the pain I’ve felt through forgiveness.” For the pain you have felt acknowledge it! David cried out to the Lord in the Psalms. Job aired his complaints. Jeremiah recorded his hurt as if it was a journal. So express your hurt in prayer in writing or to a friend. But then release it to the Father and let it go. If we do not make an attempt to resolve conflict, seeds of bitterness will begin to form deep in our souls.

The hardest offenses to forgive are situations that are just plain wrong. Perhaps an injustice has been done to us, our name has been been slandered or we have been falsely accused. No matter the act, still, we are to forgive.

The way we response to conflict is critical. The correct response is not to fire back with our own slanderous talk and actions. Nor does it necessarily mean that we rebuild and reunite with our slanderer as best friends. What it does mean is that we must forgive. And once we have forgiven, then we forge on with our lives in love! Col. 3:12-13 says “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity”

Today release one thing that you’ve been holding on to back to God for healing. Bless Everyone!


The Definition of a Leader

What does it mean to be a leader? How should a Christian leader carry themselves? There is no finer example for Christian leadership than our Lord Jesus Christ himself. He declared, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). It is within this verse that we see the perfect description of a Christian leader. He is one who acts as a shepherd to those “sheep” in his care.

When Jesus referred to us as “sheep,” He was not speaking in affectionate terms. In truth, sheep are helpless but do not realize it. A stray sheep, still within earshot of the herd, may become disoriented, confused, frightened, and incapable of finding its way back to the flock. Unable to ward off hungry predators, the stray is perhaps the most helpless of all creatures. Entire herds of sheep are known to have drowned during times of flash flooding even in sight of easily accessible higher ground. Like it or not, when Jesus called us His sheep, He was saying that without a shepherd, we are helpless.

The shepherd is one who has several roles in regard to his sheep. He leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects and protects. The shepherd of the Lord’s flock leads by modeling godliness and righteousness in his own life and encouraging others to follow his example. Of course, our ultimate example—and the One we should follow—is Christ Himself. The Apostle Paul understood this:
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
The Christian leader is one who follows Christ and inspires others to follow Him as well.

The Christian leader is also a feeder and a nourisher of the sheep, and the ultimate “sheep food” is the Word of God. Just as the shepherd leads his flock to the most lush pasture so they will grow and flourish, so the Christian leader nourishes his flock with the only food which will produce strong, vibrant Christians. The Bible—not psychology or the world’s wisdom—is the only diet that can produce healthy Christians. “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

The Christian leader also comforts the sheep, binding up their wounds and applying the balm of compassion and love. As the great Shepherd of Israel, the Lord Himself promised to “bind up the injured and strengthen the weak” (Ezekiel 34:16). As Christians in the world today, we suffer many injuries to our spirits, and we need compassionate leaders who will bear our burdens with us, sympathize with our circumstances, exhibit patience toward us, encourage us in the Word, and bring our concerns before the Father’s throne.

Just as the shepherd used his crook to pull a wandering sheep back into the fold, so the Christian leader corrects and disciplines those in his care when they go astray. Without rancor or an overbearing spirit, but with a “spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:2), those in leadership must correct according to scriptural principles. Correction or discipline is never a pleasant experience for either party, but the Christian leader who fails in this area is not exhibiting love for those in his care. “The LORD disciplines those he loves” (Proverbs 3:12), and the Christian leader must follow His example.

The final role of the Christian leader is that of protector. The shepherd who was lax in this area soon found that he regularly lost sheep to the predators who prowled around—and sometimes among—his flock. The predators today are those who try to lure the sheep away with false doctrine, dismissing the Bible as quaint and old fashioned, insufficient, unclear, or unknowable. These lies are spread by those against whom Jesus warned us: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Our leaders must protect us from the false teachings of those who would lead us astray from the truth of the Scripture and the fact that Christ alone is the way of salvation: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).