Good pastoring requires good thinking. When you think about it, our thinking effects everything. How we think determines our feelings which are expressed in our actions. No wonder Paul said that we are to bring “every thought into captivity, to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
So how’s your thinking? Most of us could be described as either “above the line” or “below the line” thinkers. While, no one is always positive nor negative, we tend to either see the glass half-empty or half-full.
Below the Line Thinking. Let’s face it, it is easy to complain and go negative. While pastoring, whenever someone came to me and said they have some concerns about the church, I usually chimed backed that my list is probably longer than theirs. It is uncanny how we can receive several positive comments about a Sunday Service but the one negative comment derails us. According this popular TED Talk, we all can gravitate to the negative and get stuck there.
Above the Line Thinking. If we are people of faith, we should be spending our time “above the line.” Paul said that we must dwell on the things that are true, honorable, just, pure and commendable (Philippians 4:8). Studies show that such thinking broadens our sense of possibility and opens our hearts and minds for greater things.
So how does one move from “below the line to above the line” thinking? How can we minimize our stinking thinking? Dr. Charles Stone, in a recent blog, writes that we can all benefit using the S.T.O.P. process.
S: Stop. When you sense yourself going below the line in your thinking, catch yourself before the thoughts get out of hand. Literally stop what you are doing to attend to yourself.
T: Take a breath. After you stop what you are doing, take several deep breaths. Studies show that deep breathing calms our sympathetic nervous system (the body’s response to an activated amygdala).
O: Observe. Observe and pay attention to the thoughts in your mind. What’s happening in your mind, in your body, or in your environment at this very moment? Don’t listen to the narratives in your mind about how bad everything is, how wrong he or she was, or what may happen at the meeting coming up. What negative emotions are you feeling? Pay attention to them. When we name what we actually feel, we reduce the intensity of our emotions.
If you discover a pattern of thinking, develop a plan to replace your negative rehearsal with something uplifting. For instance, if you find yourself repeated telling the story of how no one understands the difficulties of ministry that you face, decide that every time you find your thoughts heading that way, you’ll recite 2 Corinthians 2:5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. Our thoughts and our words have power, but the Word of God has still more power!
P: Proceed. By now you’ve probably paused for a few moments. You are ready to move forward, probably having caught some of these thinking errors.
BEFORE YOU GO
As pastors, we should be thinking different that the world. Paul writes that we “shouldn’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). What purposeful steps do you take to renew your minds? I’d love to hear about your intentional practices to steer your thinking above the line and renew your mind!