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Twenty-Six Steps To Self-Destruction
And Ten Steps To Ministry Renewal

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 221

1. Enter relationships that you know are bad for you.
 
2. Sacrifice character for short-term gain.
 
3. Enter relationships that are one-sided and that require you to put more of yourself into the relationship than the other person.
 
4. Whenever anyone criticizes you, believe that you are a deserving of it and that you should have known and done better.
 
5. Conceal information about yourself which, if others knew it, they would stop liking and respecting you.
 
6. Get frustrated and angry every time others don't listen to your advice.
 
7. Be as perfectionistic as you can be...no matter what the cost.
 
8. Don't ever say "no." After all, what if people don't like you anymore?
 
9. Do everything to avoid fear and failure.
 
10. Be excessively pre-occupied with your appearance.
 
11. Neglect your appearance.
 
12. Neglect prayer, Bible Study, and spiritual growth.
 
13. Learn to thrive on change and crisis. The rush is simply too good to refuse!
 
14. Don't play. After all, the ministry is an absolutely serious thing. Besides, it's disrespectful.
 
15. Avoid appropriate relationships, especially those that require long-term bonds (e.g. friendships, family).
 
16. Don't take vacations. They just interrupt the more important work of ministry. Besides, how will you make up for all that lost time since you can't keep up already?
 
17. Blame others for your current predicament. After all, you really are a victim, aren't you? Besides, guilt is a powerful and satisfying weapon--especially in the church.
 
18. Avoid conflicts at all costs. After all, doesn't everyone want to have an agreeable pastor?
 
19. Take both sides of every issue. If you're right, you have bragging rights as an excellent pastor. If you're wrong, you can simply change your position and wait for things to go wrong.
 
20. Always show people your deeply-felt emotions. After all, you need to let the people see that God's servants have a right to express themselves anywhere, anytime.
 
21. Take up a form of compulsive behavior. It makes people think you're busy.
 
22. Take up an addiction. After all, everyone deserves a break from the real world, don't they?
 
22. Make a place for everything and put everything in its place. If there isn't a place for something, get angry and make one quickly.
 
23. Break confidences regularly and often. Be sure to "embellish" the stories.
 
24. Yell at people whenever they do wrong. Ignore what they do well.
 
25. Fantasize about yourself and make everyone live your fantasy.
 
26. Add and implement an additional step to self-destruction at least once per day.
You Don't Have To Self-Destruct!
 
Having read through the above it might be easy to become despondent, depressed or just feeling a bit down. Admittedly, these twenty-six steps can be a real downer!
 
But the purpose of this listing is not to deflate individuals or ministries. Instead, the purpose is to point out that these steps to self-destruction can affect the church the same way they might affect one who recognizes some of themselves in this list. Indeed, there is a little bit of the above in everyone, isn't there?
 
Ten Steps To Self-Renewal

There are some things one can do to minimize self-destructive tendencies.

1) Take An Inventory of which of the self-destructive behaviors are most operative in your life and ministry. Discover how they affect your life and ministry. More importantly, assess their impact on yourself and others.
 
2) Recognize that many of these steps of self-renewal are the result of choices for behaviors. Choices can be changes, often instantly. Choose not to be under the influence of those self-destructive tendencies most prevalent in your life and ministry.
 
3) Put Away your psychological defense mechanisms like denial, projection, et al. After all, improperly used defense mechanisms often are the most self-destructive things one can use. They can also be the hardest things to discard when used to avoid the recognition of who we really are and what we really do.
 
4) Put Off these behaviors immediately! St. Paul wrote,
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body." Ephesians 4:22-25 (NIV)
The original Greek for "put off" in Ephesians 4:22  is based on "apotithemi." This means to "throw off" or "be done with." It is a command and denotes something that one should do as a one-time action. This word is used to describe the action of "taking off one's clothes" or "imprisoning" something. Take off those self-destructive ways...take them all off. Lock them up in a prison cell so that they don't imprison you! Better yet, consider them "rubbish" (literally, "dung") for the sake of Christ! (Philippians 3).

5) Put On the garment of Christ's righteousness for you. Having discarded the clothing of self-destructive behavior doesn't leave us naked. It gives us the opportunity to receive the robe of Jesus' righteousness. Righteousness is simply taking on all of Christ's totally perfect works and, by virtue of His grace in us, putting them on ourselves. Clothed with His works, we have victory over self-destructive works.

6) Remember that for Christians self-renewal doesn't start with ourselves. It starts with God. It's His gracious, undeserved, spontaneous cleansing action of His forgiveness and covenant promises that renews us. As His Word works in our lives, His Spirit works in us the total renewal of "new life" that we cannot bring about ourselves. After all, aren't these self-destructive behaviors rooted in the "old man?"

7) Consider The Reasons for your self-destructive patterns, habits, and mannerisms. Some may be related to unresolved developmental issues which seek resolution via avoidance of rejection, disapproval, incompetence, etc. Several Ministry Health Articles deal with these issues (cf.#83 "Knives," #82 "Sixteen Marks Of Shame-Based Ministry" et al). Christian Psychodynamic counseling, a form of counseling which deals with the influence of childhood on adults, may also be of great assistance. For others, sometimes the help of a trusted friend or confidant can help to identity these issues and help find suitable healthy alternative behaviors.
 
8) Consider Biological Components to the destructive behavior(s). This, of course, does not excuse the self-destructive behavior. Nor does it make it of less serious consequence. John Ratey and Catherine Johnson in their book Shadow Syndromes: The Mild Forms of Major Mental Disorders That Sabotage Us (Bantam, 1997), indicate that the most damaging behaviors are not necessarily clinically diagnosable mental disorders.
 
Often the greatest damage is done by those who have undiagnosed biologically or chemically based tendencies. These may include, for example, masked depression, hypomania, shame, intermittent rage, attention deficit and surplus disorders, masked anxiety disorders, obsessions, compulsions, et al. These very mild or partial disorders frequently become a part of a person's character.
 
Identification of these subtle manifestations of "shadow syndromes" and subsyndromal behaviors can be a very critical step in the all-important process of moving away from self-destructive tendencies.
 
9) Don't Dwell on the self-destructive. The Christian ministry is a ministry of the Gospel. It is as ministry which lives, proclaims and receives the grace of God. As long as we are in the flesh, we will continue to wrestle against the sinful, self-destruction-prone, flesh. We will, as St. Paul says, do what we don't want to do and vice versa (Romans 7). Paul's immediate response to this heart-wrenching conflict was, "Who can deliver me from this body of death!" Notice, however, that he didn't allow himself to brood. Instead, he immediately moved on to the recognition of God's grace even for Him.
 
10) Develop A Spiritual Reflex of grace. For Paul, it was a spiritual reflex. When brooding, when evincing an attitude of self-destruction, think "Jesus!" Think "Forgiveness!" Think "Grace!" Think "Victory!" Think "No Condemnation!" This spiritual reflex worked for Paul. In Christ, this reflex works for you too! 

"There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
Romans 8:1 (NIV)

Finally...
 
11) Live In The Renewal Of Grace. The benefit of Baptism, according to Romans 6:4, is that it makes us walk in "newness of life." As the renewal marks the beginning of our new life in Christ, it also is the chief characteristic of our daily life and renewed ministry for Jesus Christ.

In view of this renewal, Paul wrote,

"For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death [and self-destruction]. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." Romans 7:5-6 (KJV)

How appropriate how Paul describes how this renewal comes to be in our renewed lives! Having released (i.e "delivered," "made ineffective," "abolished the effects of" ) us from the restraining of the law, Christ triumphed over the law and graciously gave to us a path of new life, new living and new joy!
 
It is because this overwhelming and overflowing newness is yours that we can serve Him in "newness of spirit." Take a step--today--to step away from self-destruction. Enjoy the newness in ministry through a gracious renewal in a resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ!
 
Thomas F. Fischer  
 
The listing of "Twenty-Six Steps..." was inspired by and freely adapted from
Karen Randau, "Destructive Behavior Inventory," found in her book,
Conquering Fear. Dallas: Rapha Publishing, p. 70.

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:04:40 PM