The hardest job you will ever love: Serving on a Pastor Search Committee

To those who insist Scripture knows nothing about pastor search committees–or any other kind of committee for that matter–we respond, “Scripture was never intended to be a strait jacket hampering the movements and flexibilities of God’s family, but a light to our feet, nourishment to our souls, and the basis for all that we believe.”  Anyone saying committees are not found in the Word might need to be reminded that neither are cushioned pews, stained glass windows, and toilet seats.  But we have them and are glad to do so.

To friends newly assigned to serve on a pastor search committee, we say, “You can influence the direction of your church for generations to come by doing this job well.  It’s a  wonderful, scary assignment. So accept it gladly and go into it humbly.”

First, my credentials for speaking on the subject: In over 55 years of ministry, I have talked with a minimum of 100 pastor search committees.  Some were in an advisory capacity but most were as the object of their inquiry at the moment.  During one three-year period, I counted exactly 36 committees I’d had contact with. (Okay. I was in my early 30’s, on the staff of the greatest church in the state, and most of these contacts consisted of my telling the committee “thank you, but I’m right where the Lord wants me.”)

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My son and how the Lord roped him in!

As we approach Father’s Day, perhaps I could tell you about my number one son from his father’s perspective.  Incidentally, he’s an excellent father himself to Grant, Abigail, and Erin. 

Neil McKeever is a junior.  Joe Neil McKeever, jr., to be exact. He lives in Mobile and works in Pascagoula at the shipyards, in the HR department.  He and Julie and my three grands are faithful members of the great Cottage Hill Baptist Church, and Neil often teaches a Sunday School class.  Julie is the financial secretary for a nearby church.

Neil is a deacon and has been chairman (in their previous church).  He is a singer and has often taken leading roles as singer or narrator in pageants.

But he wasn’t always rightly connected with the Lord.  This is about two instances in his adult life where the Lord stepped in and remedied that. Big time, too.

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For Father’s Day: Most of us have spotted records

….you honor your sons more than Me….” (I Samuel 2:29). Eli was an indulgent father, and God held him accountable for it. 

“O Absalom, my son.  My son, my son Absalom.  Would God I had died in your place!  O Absalom, my son, my son” (2 Samuel 18:33).  David could be a wonderful father at times and an absentee parent at other times.  A lot like us. 

Often when doing the funeral of an older man, I’ll see adult children showing varying degrees of love and sadness and even anger.  So, sometimes in the service I will say, “Fathers are human.  Sometimes they get it right and leave great memories and bless their families.  And sometimes they get it wrong, just as the rest of us do.  May I suggest that you appreciate your dad for what he did right and forgive him for what he failed to get right.  Surely, you will want your children to do that with you.”

Love your dad.  Appreciate what he got right.  Forgive him where he didn’t.

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Does your pastor have an advocate?

“The laborer is worthy of his hire” (Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; I Timothy 5:18).  “Those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (I Corinthians 9:14).

The pastor deserves a decent income.  That is a given.  It is scriptural and reasonable.

In order to make that happen, some churches need to change their ways.  And for that to occur, every pastor needs an advocate. At least one, and ideally several.

An advocate: Someone who will stand up for him, speak out for him, be his voice.

Yes, we have an advocate in Heaven’s throne room.    “…we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (I John 2:1).  So, in Heaven, One is speaking up for us. Are we blessed or what?

We thank God for Jesus, our Heavenly Advocate.

However….

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When pastors do not know their Bibles

I assume it’s a given that no one knows all the Bible.  And therefore, we can say with a reasonable sense of certainty that while all pastors and Bible teachers know many parts better than others, they know some sections hardly at all. It’s certainly true in my case.  Yours too, I’m guessing.  And that’s what has prompted the following….. 

A pastor said to me, “You can say all you please about your supposed-doctrine of once-saved-always-saved, but my Bible says, ‘The soul that sinneth, it shall die.'”

I responded, “True, it does say that in the Old Testament (see Ezekiel 18:4,20).  But Romans 8:2 says, ‘The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.'”

Here’s what that means to all of us…

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The time I took a $32,000 cut in salary

This is a risky thing to write.  I’m well aware that what is a great salary for one person would be considered starvation wages for another.  But perhaps it’s a story worth telling. 

I’m in my ninth year of retirement now and can look back at some scary moments and see the hand of the Lord at work in dramatic fashion.

Take the time I went from a church paying me $80,000 a year to one offering a $48,000 salary.

“Do preachers ever go to a church that pays less?” people ask.  Sure.  They do it all the time.  In one sense that’s what I did.  In another sense, it’s not even close.

Here’s the story.

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Accountability: The missing element in a thousand ministries

“Why do you do such things?  For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people.  No, my sons! for it is not a good report that I hear” (I Samuel 2:23-24).

What do you think of Evangelist Jesse Duplantis’ asking the Lord (or more precisely, claiming from the Lord!) a jet plane costing $54 million?  We’re told that he has owned several jets, but this one would literally take him around the world without refueling.  “It’ll save money,” he assured his flock.

When friends discussed the pros and cons of this on Facebook, most were horrified.  However, a few “true-believers” accuse naysayers of attacking a true servant of the Lord, saying he saves a lot of souls, does a great deal of good, etc., etc.  A pastor who used to serve a church not far from the Duplantis ministry just west of New Orleans said he often had to answer questions from seekers about the excesses of that work before they would listen to anything he had to say about the Lord.  Duplantis’ home on the shore of the Mississippi River costs something less than that jet plane, but still an astronomical sum.  “It’ll save money,” he told his minions. “We won’t have to pay hotel bills for guests.”

My contribution to the Facebook discussion was two questions: “Does anyone know if Evangelist Duplantis is answerable to a board or group in his church?  And if so, have they ever been known to shoot down any of his grandiose ideas?”  The answer to these two questions will tell the story on his authenticity and genuineness, I’m thinking.

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When you suddenly realize the pastor’s sermon is missing something

My wife was commenting on a sermon she heard recently.  “It was a fine sermon in many respects.  It called for the right kind of actions and spoke of the Holy Spirit.  And then it hit me.  Nowhere does this person’s preaching deal with the gospel, mention Calvary, or call for repentance.”

She said, “I suppose the sermon works if everyone is saved and obedient and has a sincere desire to serve God.  But what if they aren’t?  What if we are rebels, what if our hearts are in rebellion against God? What then?”

“Preaching like this sneaks up on you,” she said, referring to what that sermon was missing.

Much has been said about the sermon delivered by the Episcopal bishop at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19.  Most of us enjoyed hearing the sermon, particularly because it was so American and so typical of the African-American tradition we’re familiar with but which presumably the British elite crowd is not.

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10 ways to know you rule your own spirit

“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32).  And on the other hand, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28). 

Self-control is a mighty good thing to have.  And as rare as Spanish doubloons in the Sunday offering.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).  So, the much-desired quality of self-control is found among the nine traits making up the “fruit of the Spirit,” which is also a pretty solid description of Christlikeness.

The ability to master one’s own spirit is not as recognizable as its opposite, the failure or inability to control one’s inner self.  That trait–a spirit out of control–is quickly on full display whenever its owner is offended, attacked, questioned, called to account for something he/she has done, or otherwise challenged. The uncontrolled spirit has no defenses against temptation, no muscles for hard tasks, and no patience with difficult people.  “Love one’s enemies”? (Luke 6:27)  The uncontrolled spirit has difficulty loving its own friends and thus nothing in reserve for its opponents.

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