Terminal vs. Relational Thinking
Academics are known for their good thinking. Hartman and Sutherland in their book, Guidebook to Discipleship, speak of two alternatives in thinking styles that influence our effectiveness in ministry. They remind us of the distinction between "terminal" and "relational" thinking.
"Terminal" thinking is the process whereby activity and knowledge are objectives and ends within themselves. It is thinking that does not relate daily activities to a larger, overall objective. It tends to be thinking that is short-range, static, seeks to please others around them, and is controlled by programs. Terminal thinking is how most of us have been trained to think. Now, not all terminal thinking is "bad" thinking -- it's just not "complete" thinking.
"Relational" thinking, on the other hand, seeks to relate activities and knowledge to a specific objective. It tends to be thinking that is long-range, creative, seeking to please God, and uses programs to accomplish a larger or more comprehensive objective.
Here are some typical activities in which you may find yourself involved. After each activity is a typical "terminal" (T) and "relational" (R) answer to the question. Before you read the answers, answer the question for yourself. How would you score?
* Why do you go to church? (T) - Because I always have and it is a good thing to do. (R) - To worship with the Body of Christ and become better equipped to serve Him.
* Why do you teach a Sunday School class? (T) - I enjoy teaching and they needed somebody to do it. (R) - To touch others and prepare them for an effective life and ministry.
* Why do you attend Christian Faculty/Staff Fellowship meetings? (T) - To see some of my friends. (R) - To interact with like-minded colleagues to be more effective in reaching our world for Christ.
* Why do you invite people to an outreach event on campus or to your church? (T) - I think I'm supposed to, aren't I? (R) - To bring someone closer to Christ, and to continue my relationship with them so that they can become a discipler of others.
* Why do you do [anything] that you do? (T) - Well, I... uhhhhhh. (R) - To bring glory to God.
Jesus was a master of relational thinking. Try it and it can change your perspective, making your everyday activities exciting, adventurous and life changing. The time to begin is today.
Scripture: I Corinthians 10:31 -- "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
Action Point: Begin to develop the habit of thinking relationally rather than terminally. When you find yourself planning for or engaging in an activity, ask yourself the important question of "Why?"
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