James MacDonald: How to Identify (and Handle) a Fool in Your Ministry

There are seasons of incredible joy in ministry, and there are inevitably seasons where conflict rears its ugly head and needs to be dealt with.  

I have come to believe that failure in the season of conflict—failure to deal with it, failure to learn from it, failure to move beyond it—prevents entrance into a new season of joy.  For that reason alone, I have tried to handle conflict in the best possible way.

Two verses tucked away in Proverbs 26 have been very helpful to me, and I have been reminded about them again just recently.  On the page, they look like a contradiction, but in real life, they work together like hand and glove, if you let them.  Here’s the first one to master:

Proverbs 26:5 “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”

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Answer the fool—he thinks he’s so smart, has it all figured out in his brashness, and needs to be set straight.  Do your job; don’t fear the fallout.  Tell him directly and with kindness what his folly is and why his insolence or block-headed pride or denial are destroying him.  Step up to the plate and take one for the team.  

There is nothing worse than a fool on the loose, and they can devastate any organization or ministry.  Do your job, stop the fool in his tracks, and set the fool straight. OK?  Just do it!

The problem is fools do not like to be set straight.  Which leads to the all-important balance of the proverb in closest proximity.

Proverbs 26:4 “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.” 

Fools are fools for a reason, and it’s not because they are deaf or blind; it’s because they are dull of hearing.  Just one verse earlier we are told, “A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools.”  And knowing that we cannot bring the rod to bear upon a fool in our churches, we try to ‘bring the rod’ with many words.

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James MacDonald
James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leads the church planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship, teaches the practical application of God's Word on the Walk in the Word radio broadcast, and is a gifted author and speaker.