5 moves to prevent a pothole from becoming a sinkhole
Fallible humans can't avoid every pothole. Most of them are just a bump in the road, a momentary rough spot to navigate past. Some reveal a soft place in the roadbed and can quickly morph into a sinkhole. it swallows and engulfs us and therefore takes control. We must learn to prevent sinkholes.
Self-indulgent humans are wired for drama and conflict. We're masters at creating potholes but amateurs when dealing with them. This is perhaps the underlying reason so much of the New Testament is about Christian behavior. Do a word study some day on the "one another" passages in the Gospels and Epistles to get some sense about the pothole life in a first century church. It's perhaps more so today because there are more of us and our play toys are somewhat more advanced. So, learning to deal with potholes is an important spiritual discipline, especially when there's a danger that the bump can turn into a crevice. The question is, how can I as a spiritual leader prevent those potholes from enlarging to sinkholes with the potential of engulfing us? Here are five suggestions----
1. Decide if this pothole can actually grow?
It's a world of hyperbole. Sometimes the potholes aren't that noticeable
and have little capacity for growth. If I've told you once, I've told you a million
times not to exaggerate differences. If the thing isn't really significant, read
Proverbs 19: 11 and fughedaboudit.
2. Don't talk about it. Deal with it.
Potholes grow when they are not properly filled. The sooner it is filled with
substance the sooner smooth travel can resume. Talk is often a delaying tactic
to keep us from dealing with potholes and other troubling factors. Once the
facts are known the pothole should be repaired. The less talk the better. You
know, quick to listen, slow to speak, as James would say.
3. Repair and restore.
Rough spots in the journey are most often people related. It's true at church
too. Because people are involved our repair work should be restorative. All of
the Scriptural instruction about reconciliation, speaking truth, confronting
error, dealing with brokenness, repentance and confession, settling disputes,
and resolving conflict reference love, grace, forgiveness, compassion, mercy,
and the fruit of the Spirit. Without redemptive character the repair work will be
temporary. Be sure restoration is the goal of relational repair.
4. Be transparent.
Most of the human discord mentioned in the New Testament was the result of
prideful arrogance and hard heartedness. Spiritual leaders must express their
personal ownership of potholes under their watch and demonstrate
soft-hearted transparency when seeking resolution. I love what John wrote to
Gaius: "I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to
put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority" (3 john 9). Let's not be
modern day Diotrephes.
5. Keep moving.
Linger over a pothole and it can become larger. So, even when repairing and
restoring the trouble spot, it's best to stay on mission. I know some churches
whose mission has become to dig out of potholes, one after another. Maybe
it's time to change direction.
The church at Corinth was dealing with some potholes that could have been sinkholes. They wrote to Paul seeking his guidance through them (see 1 Corinthians 7:1). His instruction was wise, Godly counsel on dealing with some complicated matters that could have driven them apart. He reminded them that they were a body and that a body was equipped to navigate the hazardous paths of life. In Chapter 13 he provided them a guidebook for repairing potholes. You know it, the Love Chapter. Read these verses. Pay attention to what love does and doesn't do----
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice
at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all
things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends
1 Corinthians 13:4-8, ESV
These are the words of pothole repair and restoration. They keep us out of sinkholes.