How to stay at one church 42 years.

My friend Pastor Dave has led a congregation in our neighborhood for two thirds of his life.  It’s a sweet fellowship and even though our denominational affiliation is different, he has kindly invited me to fill the pulpit in his absence on several occasions.

Recently, over lunch, I asked Dave how he managed to stay in one church over four decades. Were there not times when church members rose up and demanded new leadership? Did he not get the urge to try something new?

“Give me your top three ways to stay at a church for 42 years,” I told him.  He did not hesitate….

Continue reading “How to stay at one church 42 years.” »

Pray for the mothers: even the best sometimes get it wrong

I was sketching this fellow and as usual, asked him to smile. He said, “When I was 15, my grandmother told me, ‘You do not have an attractive smile.'”

“I went 20 years without smiling.”

I said, “What a mean old lady. What a cruel thing to do to a kid.”

Parents and grandchildren get this wrong sometimes.

They have been known to shrink the self-worth in a child, perhaps from a wrong-headed conviction that it was their calling to drive the child to achievement rather than to encourage him or her in that direction.

I’m thinking of my friend Kathy.

Continue reading “Pray for the mothers: even the best sometimes get it wrong” »

The most selfish reason not to join a church?

“No one spoke to me at that church.”

“That’s an unfriendly church.”

“I’m never going back there again.”

We pastors have heard it all.  Sometimes, it’s anonymous notes informing us that ours is a cold church, that not a single person spoke to them last Sunday. They will not be returning.

Usually, it’s hearsay.  A visitor told a friend who passed it on to a neighbor who told one of our deacons.

Church visitors, it would appear, can be a troublesome lot. Always demanding to be greeted warmly, seeing that as their right and as the confirmation that ours is a church founded on the Rock and faithful to the Word.

I beg to differ.

Continue reading “The most selfish reason not to join a church?” »

What submission looks like for the preacher

“Submit yourselves one to another in the fear of the Lord” (Ephesians 5:21).

Some church leaders think “submission” applies only to  “those other people.”

Leaders must submit also.

Submission can take many forms. It may mean to accept advice, to be teachable, to be willing to receive correction, and to follow your God-given shepherd.  When necessary, it may mean to stand up like a man (figure of speech, ladies) and apologize.

Continue reading “What submission looks like for the preacher” »

The chaplain thanked God for our perfect marriage. I smiled.

I started this article on Monday, February 2, 2015, but never finished it. Today, Friday, October 2, 2015, I found it and decided to finish it. 

We had my wife’s funeral today.  She would have loved almost everything about it.

And may have, for all I know.

We have no idea what the “dead in Christ” know about what goes on here.

I’ve been home from the funeral 4 hours and had a nap, and am ready to live again, I suppose.  (Note:  Blogging is a form of therapy for me, clearly.)

Continue reading “The chaplain thanked God for our perfect marriage. I smiled.” »

My bucket list: The revised standard version

A friend gave me a nice hardbound, spiral notebook the other day. The cover says “My Bucket List Journal.” At the bottom are the words “Write it down!”

Inside, the first two pages offer 100 blanks to list the places one plans to go, the experiences he wants to have, the mountains to climb, before “kicking the bucket.”

A few years ago, I compiled such a list and published it on my blog. It was picked up and reprinted by many other websites. By googling “bucket list McKeever”, I got this one:

However, as I told my friend who gave me the book….

Continue reading “My bucket list: The revised standard version” »

Sermon illustrations (maybe) from a book on crime

Michael Connelly writes the best crime fiction of anyone. His “Lincoln Lawyer” series, about Mickey Haller, and the detective series of Harry Bosch, are as good as they come.  But before he began a career as a novelist, he was a crime reporter for two major newspapers.  In his book “Crime Beat,” he tells of those early years of covering the dark underside of Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles. 

I’ve chosen three segments from “Crime Beat” as excellent jumping off places for sermons or articles or essays.

 It all comes down to moments.

Connelly’s fascination with detectives started with a single moment.  He was 16, on his way home from his shift as a hotel dish washer in Fort Lauderdale. The streets were deserted, with no person in sight, and when the red light caught him he thought of running it.  Before doing that, he looked both ways. And that’s when he saw something.

Continue reading “Sermon illustrations (maybe) from a book on crime” »

Joe is interviewed by Vanity Fair (sort of)

On the final page of Vanity Fair’s October 2015 issue, Whoopi Goldberg is interviewed. The questions are generic, sort of here’s-how-to-interview-anyone. So, I thought I’d give it a try and answer them myself. (At the end, I added a few more.)  Here goes….

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being in the place God put me, doing the work He gave me.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  Likewise, the best definition of hell on earth is to be out of His will.

What is your greatest fear?

Just that very thing: being out of his will.  I fear nothing so much as disappointing Him.  That could happen to any of us. None of us is immune to temptation. That keeps me on my knees every day.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Abraham Lincoln. I’ve been to his birthplace, the restored “New Salem” where he lived as a young man, to his hometown of Springfield, his burial place, and in Washington, D.C., to Ford Theatre and the house where he died.  I own many books on Lincoln.

Which living person do you most admire?

Continue reading “Joe is interviewed by Vanity Fair (sort of)” »

Why you may not want to marry a preacher

“Do not be unequally yoked…” 2 Corinthians 6:14 (a reference to Deuteronomy 22:10 where Israel is told not to plow with a team composed of an ox and a donkey).

We all agree that Scripture teaches believers should not marry unbelievers.

But, would it be an unequal yoke for one called into the ministry to be wed to a Christian who resents his calling and resists the demands that this life places on her?

Surely we can agree that not everyone should marry a preacher.

(The obligatory disclaimer: In our denomination, preachers are men. I know some women pastors in other denominations and respect them very much. But I know nothing of the pressures they face. Thus, for me to write for their situation would be highly presumptuous. Please do not write accusing me of sexism or prejudice against women. Thank you.)  

When I began this list a few days ago, mostly I intended it as a light-hearted piece since I’m a preacher and love pastors and their families.  Any woman who marries a called servant of the Lord should feel special to Him, I’m thinking, and she needs to know what she’s getting into. And then, I decided to ask for help.

I invited Facebook friends to suggest reasons why someone “might not want to marry a preacher.”  I expected soft answers. Oh my, the responses.

Continue reading “Why you may not want to marry a preacher” »

There are good reasons not to believe

“Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen…. By faith we understand….” (Hebrews 11:1ff)

There are good reasons not to believe in God, not to believe in Jesus, and not to believe in Holy Scripture.

A wise servant of the Lord will want to learn what they are and why people hold on to them. In doing so, he will better understand his own belief and will be able to respond to the questions/attacks of unbelievers.

This is far more important than the typical Christian realizes.

We cannot effectively counter the resistance of the unbeliever–whether he/she is a seeker, an agnostic, skeptic, atheist, or full bore antagonist–until we learn why they reject the heart of the message of the Christian faith.

Faith.  It starts with this and perhaps ends there also.

Continue reading “There are good reasons not to believe” »