4 important four-letter words for Christians

by Jim on October 18, 2012


Welcome to our sixteenth episode of the Ministry Encouragement Podcast.  This podcast will inspire you, encourage you in your faith journey and give you practical tools for being more effective in ministry with others.  I am very blessed that you have taken your time to allow me to share in your life today through Episode 016. I’m Rev. Jim W. Hollis, the founder and Executive Director of Proactive Ministries, the sponsor of this ministry encouragement podcast.  Thanks so much for allowing me to share in your life through listening today.

Today I will be discussing in some depth four of the most important “four-letter words” for us to use in our daily lives.  As we love Christ and desire to have Christ use us to make a difference in the lives of others around us, great frustration can occur.  We may be seeking to share wonderful truth with those we are with and they may be impatient with us.  We may encourage folk to consider being reconciled in relationships they have which have suffered from division or great conflict – they may lie and tell us “there’s no problem.”  Or we may be involved in a church circumstance where some originally well-intentioned soul has come to believe that they are the self-appointed “church police” about policies, gifts or decisions being discussed in the church.

We can often feel like using some very choice four-letter words which would do anything but honor Christ!  So today I want us to think about four other four-letter words that are far better and more significant spiritually than others we may be tempted to speak aloud or think.

These four words are: 1) Hope;  2) Love;  3) Stop;  and 4) Next.  These words when used and applied in the right context of ministry can truly make a profound difference in the outcomes of efforts being made or blocked by others.  Churches are not houses of saints without issues – my goodness no – they are hospitals for sinners.

Often on Delta airlines, which I fly very frequently – I meet people who say to me, “Jim, I don’t do church because churches are so very full of hypocrites!”  I look at them and sometimes reply, “You’re absolutely correct my friend.”

Then they say, “But you work with churches all over North America.  How can you possibly take that position?”

And I reply, “All the more reason for me to share with you that every church I know has a percentage of hypocrites in them.  And if we are a church of excellence, we always have room for one more hypocrite.”  Needless to say, this peaks interest in the whole “church” discussion. But church can be hard.  Some today are against all forms of what they refer to as, “organized religion” which is not what we are going to talk about today.  There is a tremendous need for us as Christians today to employ these four very important four-letter words.

Hope comes to us through our faith.  Perhaps part of the ground of hope for us as Christ-followers is in knowing Jesus personally as the risen, living Christ.  We have both hope in Christ and through Christ at work in our lives personally.  Churches have hope because they are called to be grounded in Christ.  If Jesus is the center of our life and the center of our churches – there is hope that we can have authentic Christian Community.

Community precedes commitment.  More often than not, we get this mixed up!  Community is much more desired than commitment.  Yet, in too many churches today, you can get “hammered” with commitment talk, lessons, sermons and teachings.  In many points in life we know (all too well) the truth that changes are needed in our lives but we don’t find ourselves motivated spiritually to make the changes we can and turn the others over to God.  And at times getting hammered on about our lack of commitment to a creed, a membership, vows, a promise, etc… only drives us further away.  If we truly want to have people around us experience hope – we do that primarily by loving them unconditionally and having them experience authentic, Christian Community where the unconditional love of Jesus Christ is consistently prioritized and freely given with no fear of reprisal, judgmental attitudes or harsh criticism.

God has given everyone of us a phenomenal gift: free choice.  And we can exercise it by choosing to give and receive hope, which inspires us and motivates us to be more Christ-like.   Once we have hope, then we can move on to love, the second of our four letter words, love.

Love is the greatest of all according to the life and teachings of Jesus.  Faith, hope and love abide we are told, but the greatest of these is love.  Now this is not mere human love, but God’s love – Divine Love, Agape Love. The Apostle Paul in the New Testament of the bible is perhaps a man who was perhaps farther away from God’s love than any other human being in his day.  He was a religious leader, a zealot and was on a mission to torture, persecute and destroy Christ-followers.  He felt that as a Pharisee in the Jewish religion, Christians were an insult to God.  We have many accounts in the New Testament about Paul.  His name was Saul before becoming Paul after an amazing conversion experience and his transformation to start serving Christ.  This is in Acts 9:1-9, in the New Testament.  He began a life of loving others through discipleship in Jesus Christ, giving up his former life of religion.

Paul later wrote in his communication with the Corinthians who had established a church, founded by Paul in his missionary journeys, I Corinthians 13.  In this amazing chapter Paul speaks through the Holy Spirit about Divine Love.  It could be considered one of the most sacred chapters in the Bible.  He defines it clearly in verses 4-7 of I Corinthians 13.

It is Divine Love that brings healing, hope, transformation, meaning, power, grace, forgiveness and newness of life in Christ.  As Christ’s followers, we are declared to be Ambassadors of reconciliation through this living out of Divine Love.  This teaching is contained in the book of Second Corinthians, chapter 5, verses 16-21.  God is making his appeal through each of us as Christians.  This is pretty incredible.

As we dare to love others, especially those in the church, we are led to the third major four letter word, much needed today: Stop.  Our enemy is a dirty fighter and destroyer of life.  Even the best of people can go in directions that can be hurtful and harmful to the community of faith.  At times we must call on Divine Courage to be able to say to one another in love, “We love you, but stop!”

Stop trying to control.  Stop micro-managing and wounding morale.  Stop hurting others with intimidation and guilt.  Stop criticism that is not constructive.  Stop making “being right” more important that loving others with grace.  Stop insisting on your own way.  There are many occasions in the context of life where we are called on to employ the word, stop.

Yet, many Christian leaders and pastors today avoid this word for fear of confrontation.  For some Christians, they would rather jump out of an airplane at 5,000 feet than be involved in confrontation!  A pastor of a very large church said to us while we were working with their church, “If any confrontation comes my way, I run in the opposite direction!”  Sometimes God’s love requires that we love each other enough to be honest and open IN confrontation – all of this through grace, love and serving for the good of the community of faith and relationships.

Rather than running from confrontation then, let’s realize that confrontation can be healthy.  There is healthy confrontation whose purpose is to bring resolve and healing, restoration and reconciliation.  And when we step up and into this, just saying “stop” is often not complete without the next four letter word we can use.

The fourth very important four-letter word for ministry is: NEXT.  At times we never get there.  Some churches have the hardest time with this word.  Why?  Because they are STUCK.  Stuck with the seven deadly words, “We’ve never done it that way before!” OR another variation of the deadly seven words, “We’re not going to do it differently!”  There are other variations as I am sure you who are pastors and leader know too well.  At times this is killing us both as individual Christians and as congregations because it is a MORALE ASSASSIN.  When people feel called to try new and creative ministry strategies that are effective, there can be leaders who simply stand in the way.   They are like temple police who see themselves as protecting what is right when they are defenders of the status quo.  We have proven so many times that the status quo is consistent in NOT working at growing the church but we cling to it like a diamond we fear losing.

For us to get to the word, “next” successfully, we must increase tangible accountability.  We suggest that local churches move away from a “permission giving style” where the pastor and leaders say “Yes” to any idea offered up because they don’t want to offend anyone.  If we keep adding activities and events, which are not directly related to our clear and declared ministry priorities as a congregation, we will soon deplete our potential and exhaust our leaders with being overwhelmed with being busy rather than being involved in life changing ministries.  So we need to progress to NEXT so we can change our priorities and focus on the ministries that reach others for Christ, grow disciples and send them into ministries that do likewise!  This is very hard for local churches and outside assistance can help tremendously in this area.

SO- what stories do you have about these four, four-letter words related to your own life and the life of your church or ministry?  We are committed to build community around this Podcast and would love your input.  I appreciate so much the Pastors and church leaders who are beginning to write in and say, “Hi Jim.  I’m listening and would love to talk with you about our church – we are having some struggles that you are obviously very familiar with.  Do you have solutions?”  Feel free to contact me personally and we can visit about your life, your family or your church. 

Blessings until next time.  And why not share this Podcast with others you know who could appreciate some ministry encouragement?  What about your Pastor?  Your Leaders?  Your youth?  Or others who you love and want to bless?  Let me know how it’s going.  Thanks for the time we shared on this day!  I am honored to be with you!

To contact Rev. Jim Hollis:  Proactive Ministries, Smyrna, GA  – Offices: (770) 803-9988 

Email Jim: jim@ministryencouragementpodcast.com

OR use the Voicemail button on this blog to leave a voicemail message with your computer’s microphone.

May the Lord go with you as you share this Ministry Encouragement Podcast with others.



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