Boundaries are an essential for ministers today. To survive this technological age when any one can reach the pastor at any time via e-mail, text, Twitter…Church leaders need to develop a strong “no-muscle” and boundary system.
Dr. John Townsend continued Dallas Seminary’s Spiritual Life Conference explaining the obstacles and rewards of well-defined boundaries.Though his talk included conflict in marriage, he focused on the necessities of the positions most of the students would find themselves in after leaving DTS.
Boundaries establish a foundation for a leader to have character in the area of truth. Truth is, simply, “what is.” Ultimate truth comes from God’s word, the Bible. But each day, people make decisions to live in or out of the truth of reality. For example, boundaries determine the line between who you are and who you are not, what you are and what you are not.
Some may say that boundaries form out of a self-centered desire to have one’s space. Dr. Townsend tried to reorient that view. Instead of selfishness, stewardship values engender boundaries. When we guard our hearts as Proverbs 4:23 commands, we obey God; this is stewarding our inner-beings in response to what God would desire us to do.
Dr. Townsend, co-founder of Cloud-Townsend Resources, suggested two benefits of boundaries:
- Boundaries give clarity on what to say yes or no to. They ensure that we carry each others burdens but not each others responsibilities (Galatians 6:2-5).
- Boundaries help us to confront in love.
Much of the second half of Dr. Townsend’s talk focused on confronting in love. To live in the truth requires the willingness to confront others with conflict. But few are practiced at it. He reminded his audience of three obstacles many people face when attempting to bring up conflict:
- Fear of loss of love
- Fear of an angry response
- Guilt about the conflict
The application of overcoming these obstacles (and the homework as was given on the first two days) has two elements. First, pray through Galatians 1 asking God, “Make me a God-pleaser and not a man-pleaser.” The second part was to speak the truth in love with someone. Confront a good friend or spouse about a problem, bringing the truth to the fore. It could be a large issue or a small issue.
Dr. Townsend offered a personal story to remind us that confronting gets easier the more it is done. When he was first married, he needed to learn to reassure his wife before confronting her about some issue in their communication or actions. When he did not do this, she felt a total loss of love and insecurity in their relationship. He learned to say, “I love you. We are on the same page, and we are secure in our relationship,” before he launched into the topic. This helped immensely, and they could deal with conflicts effectively. After years of marriage and doing this, one day he entered the living room and began the usual reassurance. His wife cut him off, saying, “Just get to the point!” When a relationship lives so often in the truth, the truth becomes a comfortable and non-threatening place. This should be the goal of all leaders.