Bullying the pastor into preaching your message

“The angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them forth, and said, ‘Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20).

Preach the Word.

Preach the Word as the Lord leads.

A denominational website reprinted an article of ours recently.  Most readers were appreciative but one guy left comments telling us what to preach.

“You ought to be preaching on racism,” he said.  “The churches are full of it.”

He came back later with a post script.  “After the church shooting in South Carolina, the sale of Confederate flags and guns went through the roof.  Yet the churches were silent. This is sinful.”

The writer is the kind of guy who probably thought our article on “godly mothers” was tame and harmless.  A real manly  preacher would roll up his sleeves and wade into the hot-button issues, wouldn’t he?  Enough with these sissy messages on love and humility, servanthood and Christlikeness.  Let’s stir up something, make some people angry, take a hard stand.

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The pastor considers hiring an assistant. Uh oh.

I have been an assistant pastor and as pastor, I have had assistants. They can be a great help in time of need.  And they can be a pastor’s biggest headache.

I wish I’d had one in a certain church.  I regretted having one in another.

In his book “The Twelve Caesars,” Michael Grant says these rulers of the Roman Empire were one-man shows for a long time.  Their burdens were heavy and their duties endless.  Most caesars worked very hard, he said.  They desperately needed advisors, consultants, and assistants.  But therein lay a huge problem.  How does one bring on board someone to be his assistant, an up-close and personal consultant, who is in on all the important issues of the day, without him being caught up in all the intrigue, the dramas, the personal animosities and rivalries.  How to find out who is loyal.

An assistant can be the pastor’s best friend; an assistant can do a great deal of damage.

I asked a pastor about a staff member he was having issues with.  “Are you afraid of him?”  He answered, “I’m not afraid of him, but I’m afraid of the damage he can do.”

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In the church you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer….

“In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

We were expecting hostility from the world.  But certainly not from the Lord’s people.

Church is where we get blindsided.

The Lord wanted His people to know what to expect.  The road ahead would be rough.  They should prepare for turbulence.

The Lord would not be bringing His children around the storms but through them.  We will not miss out on the tempest, but will ride it out with Jesus in our boat, at times standing at the helm and at other times, seemingly asleep and unconcerned.

The lengthy passage of Matthew 10:16ff is the holy grail on this subject, as the Lord instructs His children on what lies ahead and what to expect.  His disciples should expect to encounter opposition, persecution, slander, defamation, and for some, even death.  So, when it comes–as it does daily to millions of His children throughout the world–no one can say they weren’t warned.

But what about the church?  Should we expect opposition and persecution there also?

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How to Pray (fourth in the series) — “Ending your prayer”

“Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory forever. Amen.”

The end to the Lord’s prayer reminds us to commit everything to Him.  His will has supremacy and ultimately is the only thing that matters.

I was preaching a series of meetings in a South Carolina church.  On Sunday morning at the time for the offering, an older gentleman stepped up to the pulpit and led the prayer.  It was a fine prayer and was offered in faith.  But then, I noticed something.

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Why I could never “Love Lucy.” And what that says about this pastor.

“I have spoken openly to the world.  I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together.  I spoke nothing in secret” (John 18:20).

Something happened this week to remind me of why, as a young teen, I hated the typical television sitcom.  I could never say “I Love Lucy.”  And here’s why.

I was listening to the replay of a 1950’s radio program “The Life of Riley.”  William Bendix’ character, the husband and father of the Riley household and namesake of the program, was a bumbling, stumbling embarrassment to the males in the audience, always jumping to conclusions and misunderstanding what the normal people around him were up to.  He needed a good whupping, I always thought.  As a nine-year-old as well as today, I find that hard to listen to.

In the early 1950s, we had no television.  To watch anything, we had to walk down the country road either to my grandmother’s or to Uncle Cecil’s.  Now, Granny would watch whatever you wished–she was just glad to have the company–but at my uncle’s, you sat there and watched whatever they chose.  And the one program they loved above all others was “I Love Lucy.”  They even named their youngest child after the baby in the show.

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“You’re going to be needing this,” said the Holy Spirit.

“Do not fear, for I am with you.  Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you.  Surely, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Sometime around 1996, our minister of education installed a desktop computer in my office.  “You’ll be needing this,” he said.

He was more right than either of us could have ever imagined.

Then, sometime around the year 2002, my son Marty, knowledgeable about computers in ways and depths that elude and astonish me, emailed me. “I have reserved www.joemckeever.com for you.”  He added, “You’re going to be needing it in the future.”

I scarcely knew what a domain was.  But I thanked him.

The website sat there unused for 2 years.

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When church members insist on their rights.

“Why not rather be wronged?” (I Corinthians 6:7).

Ask any pastor.

We hear it all the time.  Variations on this theme are endless…

–“All these years we have belonged to this church and given our money to support these preachers, and now when we need him, he’s in Israel on a holy land tour!”

–“I went by the church.  I needed to see the preacher then, not the next day.  And you’re not going to believe this, but he was on his way out the door, headed to his son’s little league game!  And me a member of his flock.  What kind of preachers are we getting these days?”

–“The preacher needs to apologize to me for what he implied in that sermon on Sunday.  I know he was talking about me, even though he used someone else’s name.”

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Awakening the men of your church. It’s doable, but risky.

“Quit you like men” (I Corinthians 16:13 KJV). 

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (I Corinthians 16:13)

Men like challenges. Tough jobs.  Big assignments. Things no one else can do.  A little danger, some risk, to be pushed beyond their usual boundaries.

Women want a church with nurturing, good healthy relationships.  Men want a church that is doing something, making a difference, not protecting the status quo.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Oh, that it were universally true.

The truth is some women are plain spoken and blunt and care little for nurturing and relationships.

The truth is some men prefer to hibernate on the couch and watch endless ball games, to putter around in the yard and drink beer after beer all weekend.

Generalities are difficult.  Or, as the saying goes, “All rules have exceptions, including this one.”

Pastors need to know that by awakening the comatose men in the congregation, they run a real risk.  Men like to be active, assertive, adventuresome, always knowing they are making a real difference.

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How to waken a sleeping church. Aka, “How to raise the dead”

“Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14).

A pastor I know has a problem.  It’s not unlike that experienced by a large group of his peers, I imagine.

He has deacons who are undisciplined, church members who do not take care of the hurting in their midst, and in general, a congregation of unmotivated people.  When he preaches evangelism or discipleship or ministry in their community, the way they sit and stare makes him wonder if the language he’s using might be a foreign tongue to them.

Sound like your church?  Sounds like some I’ve pastored and a whole lot I’ve known.

The pastor of that unresponsive bunch asked for my advice.  Had I written anything on how to revive a comatose church?  Does our website have any help for him?

I asked him to give me a day or two to reflect on the subject and seek the Lord’s guidance.  (More and more, I keep thinking: This is an uphill task, wakening a sleeping church.  If it were easy, every pastor would do it and no church would be stagnant or declining. )

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The former pastor cannot help the new pastor much. But he sure can hurt him.

“May those who come behind us find us faithful.”  –Steve Green

The pastor who follows me at a church is pretty much on his own there.  Which is to say, there is little I can do for him, other than to pray for him.

The best thing I can do for a new pastor is to have served well during my tenure and done my level best to disciple God’s people, leaving behind a healthy congregation.  But after I leave, there is little more I can do for that church or its new shepherd.

My words of affirmation to the new guy are nice, but nothing more.  My words of commendation to friends in the congregation are basically meaningless since the pastor is on site and they are getting to know him for themselves.  From here on in, he will be having to find his own path, set his own agenda, work out his own relationships with key leaders, and find ways of dealing with those who want to exert influence they do not possess.

I can pray for him.  But there’s very little more I can do.

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