I like to begin with rules — guidelines, expectations. Family rules are usually unconscious, unspoken, but understood. That means we rarely think about them, and neglect discussing them. But when someone violates a family (group) rule, he is in trouble! The group will discipline or shun a rule-breaker.
I think there’s a better way. Let’s discuss how we’re going to relate to each other. What do you expect of me? Let me tell you what I expect of you. Let’s negotiate. Then let’s hold each other accountable for what we agreed to do.
Some tell me they don’t like rules. But we still have them. There are things we like, things we don’t like, things we’ll tolerate, and things we won’t tolerate. It’s good to know them. The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) is a rule, a good rule.
My second Sunday in a new interim, I begin with my rules, expectations. I explain these same three guidelines in meetings and workshops.
#1: Try not to learn very much. This has been my aim since graduating from college and not having to take tests. When I read a book, attend a seminar or lecture, or listen to a podcast, I try not to learn much. I usually can’t recreate the outline. I probably missed several points.
Although I try not to learn very much, I want to get something helpful to make a difference in the way I think, act, and relate to God and others. I call it the “mustard seed” principle. Jesus told His apostles if they had faith of a grain of mustard seed, they could move a mountain (Matthew 17:20).
#2: You have permission to sleep. I don’t know how much sleep you’ve had. I don’t know what kind of medicine you’re taking. I don’t know how hard you’ve worked. Sometimes people nod and even take a nap when I’m speaking. I won’t be offended.
It used to bother me. I thought it was an insult to my preaching. But you can learn many things from the Bible. In Acts, chapter 20, a man was preaching. A young man went to sleep, fell out a window, and died. Who was the preacher? Paul. Good preacher or bad preacher? Good preacher. Someone going to sleep doesn’t necessarily mean the preaching is bad.
We can gain wisdom from reflecting on our experiences. I started preaching when I was sixteen years old. One Sunday, in November 1962, I was preaching at the Wolf Creek Church of Christ, in Hickman County, Tennessee. I was about half way through the sermon. I said, “In Hebrews 10:24, 25, we read…” I fell to the floor. I went to sleep during my own sermon. Two doctors examined me and came to the same conclusion: I was exhausted. I’d played a basketball game Friday night. Both teams kept a full-court press going the whole game. My father was building a rock house. I hauled rocks all day Saturday. I went bowling Saturday night. I arose early Sunday morning to study. About half way through the sermon, it was time for a nap, and I took one.
As I’ve thought about this, if I sleep when I preach, I shouldn’t be upset if other people sleep when I preach.
#3: Feel free to use the waste basket. We’ll have someone to empty it at the end of each session. I like to put a filter on the waste basket — the Bible. If God said it, don’t throw it away. And we’ll be reading much of God’s word. However, there’ll be times when I say, “I think; it’s my observation; this is the way I see it.”
I think it’s pretty good. But you may not think it’s worth taking home. Feel free to use the waste basket.
In announcing these three expectations, I’m recognizing what people are going to do anyway. What I’ve promised is I’m not going to get upset and angry.
- I won’t be giving tests. The Lord will do that. I’d rather a person get one concept that moves him closer to the example of Jesus than to be able to recite every point.
- People may nod or sleep. That’s their condition or choice. I won’t be monitoring the situation and making loud noises to keep them awake. Each person can be responsible for himself.
- A person may disagree with me. If he asks, I’ll explain. If he persists, my reply, “This sounds like this may be waste basket material to you.”
I’m working on defining myself and letting the church know what I expect and what responses I’ll give to different situations.