Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Sentenced to death?



Three sentences that can basically destroy you" was the title. The article continued, "When these utterances start to become commonplace around the office, it just might be the beginning of the end." The story originally appeared in Inc. Magazine and was reprinted in Time in 2014.

The article presented three sentences about organizations that may indicate "you may be heading down a dead-end path."

Reading the article, I asked myself if I had heard those sentences in church.

The third sentence of destruction: "We’ll make it happen…somehow."

That sentence betrays an unwillingness to make difficult choices and attempts to make everyone happy.

It is a strength to be positive about things. But mere wishful thinking will reap destruction. It can drag the church through the darkness of high hopes based on a false view of reality.

The second sentence of destruction: "But that can’t be true!"

Churches sometimes have a hard time defining or accepting reality. We have a tendency toward "confirmation bias." Simply put, confirmation bias exists when we see what we want to see. And what we want to see blinds us to what is there.

Confirmation bias blocks our ability to adjust, because we hold on to the view we want.

And the No. 1 sentence of destruction? "We’ve always done it that way."

I love the analysis in the article about this sentence. "Clinging to what’s ‘tried and true’ leads to pursuing wooden-headed strategies long after it’s clear that those strategies aren’t working."

Since I first discovered the article a few years ago, I’ve detected a fourth sentence that can also destroy. It says:
"We are already doing it."

That sentence betrays an unwillingness to examine what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how we are doing it. It assumes that we have the right answers within ourselves and need no outside perspective.

These four sentences can basically destroy a church when they become commonplace.

How does our faith tradition respond?

Contrast those four sentences with one that the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: "This saying is reliable and deserves full acceptance: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ — and I’m the biggest sinner of all." (1 Timothy 1:15, CEV)

Paul’s sentence frames our missional perspective and mutes the destructive sentences. The missional perspective moves us from sentences that can "basically destroy" and ponders things that point to life.

Also in his letter, Paul wrote, "The goal of instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Because they missed this goal, some people have been distracted by talk that doesn’t mean anything." (1 Timothy 1:5-6, CEV)

Sometimes in our haste to fix things around us, we say destructive things. But the scriptures point us to the things of life.

What we hear and speak matters. Replace sentences that can "basically destroy" with words that bring hope and life.

What are we hearing? What are we saying?

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