(Do not miss the personal testimony of a pastor friend at the end.)
Someone asked, “Why do pastors not weep at funerals? My pastor didn’t even weep at his own mother’s services.”
Interesting question. I think we know the answer.
In my case, by the time we laid my wonderful mama to rest, I was in my early 70s and she was nearly 96. She was so ready to go. If it’s possible to prepare to give one’s beloved mother back to Jesus, I think we were that. And yes, we still miss her every day, and it’s been almost eight years.
But there’s another reason for the lack of tears. Starting early–my mid-20s–I began doing heart-breaking funerals, one after another, the kind that will tear your heart out and stomp it and leave it writhing on the pavement. Do enough of these, and eventually you run out of tears.
It’s not that you do not care, do not love, or cannot feel. It’s just that you care and love and feel without tears.
A neighbor who had been out of town for a week or two with her elderly mother has returned. She brought to us a huge package of toilet tissue and several rolls of paper towels. Do we have a nice neighbor or what?
A friend who goes to Alcoholics Anonymous tells me that in his large city there are now 40 chapters meeting online each evening. (Do they call them chapters?) He added, “A lot of people are learning technology who never thought they would.”
I’m one of them. Now, I have done this website for nearly 20 years, so I know a couple of things. On Facebook I can post cartoons and photos and such. But there is so much that is foreign to me.
How many churches have stopped growing in this country, in your denomination, of your church-type, in your county or parish or town?
Depends on who you ask.
Go on line and you’ll soon have statistics coming out your ears on this subject.
In our denomination–the Southern Baptist Convention–the most significant number, one that seems to have held steady for over three decades, is that some 70 percent of our churches are either in decline or have plateaued.
Plateau. Funny word to use for a church. One wonders how that came to be. Why didn’t they say “mesa,” “plain,” “delta” (ask anyone who lives in the Mississippi Delta–flat, flat, flat!), or even “flatline.”
In the emergency room, of course, to “flatline” is to be dead. No one, to my knowledge, is saying a non-growing church is dead, only that some things are not right.
Healthy churches grow. Non-growing churches are not healthy, at least in some significant ways.
If it’s true that 7 out of 10 pastors in our family of churches serve congregations that are either in decline or in stagnation, this is a situation that ought to be addressed.
Everyone is addressing it. Everyone has an opinion.
“For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:18).
“Did I fail?”
Every man or woman who ministers in the Kingdom of God is immediately struck by two great realities: The perfection of God (and thus the desire to present to Him worthy offerings of worship and service) and the imperfection of mankind (meaning anything we offer Him will be flawed, even at its best).
As a result, we are often tormented with feelings of inadequacy and hounded by the knowledge that our efforts have not been enough, our devotion has been too weak, and our ministries a far cry from what we had hoped.
“I feel like a failure.”
Those words and that feeling are voiced not just by those who literally are failures. Some of the (outwardly) most successful pastors and spiritual leaders on the planet deal with the same sense of futility.
I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous or extortioners or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. (I Corinthians 5:10)
They accuse me of stirring the pot, of introducing subjects sure to draw fire, of intentionally being controversial. Nothing I say convinces them otherwise, even when all I did was to state something God’s people hold dear.
Almost all the key doctrines of the Christian faith someone will find objectionable and some will take offense at.
I love God’s Word. Love to read it, think about it, talk about it, and preach it. Oh, and yes, I love to “do” it. Jesus said, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” That’s John 13:17.
Even so, I wonder some things about God’s Word.
This might be a good time to pass along something given me a generation ago from a New Orleans lady who had a lapful of questions: “The Lord knows I’m only a wondering child, not a wandering one.” There is a huge difference.
One: I wonder if the Lord ever wants to put beside particular scriptures the Facebook line: “Just saying.”
I sometimes wonder when to take a teaching literally and when the statement in Scripture was intended to be less than a command, or even simply a side remark.
It’s not hard to get old. Just keep breathing and having birthdays, and one day you’ll wake up and wonder where the time went and why everyone is looking at you as if you were ancient. You have arrived.
The eightieth is one of the big birthdays of this earthly existence….if you can get one. I just experienced mine, with no one here to sing to me except my wife.
The backstory to that is that my older son Neil, living in Mobile, AL, had made plans to have a family-type shindig on Saturday and invite in extended family and close friends. A couple of weeks ago, however, they shut that down. I completely agreed with the decision.
“Somebody ought to do something!”
I was second in line at the traffic light. My lane and the one to my right were all turning left onto Dauphin Street in Mobile. The third lane was turning right.
Nobody was moving.
We sat through three sequences of lights. Meanwhile, the line of cars behind us grew longer and longer.
Clearly, the light was malfunctioning, but only on our side. Traffic from the other directions was receiving the correct sequence of lights. Our light stayed red.
I was traveling back to New Orleans from a revival in Selma, Alabama, and had stopped for a late-morning breakfast at a restaurant in Mobile. After a fairly demanding week with 1500 miles of driving, I was actually relaxed and willing to sit there in the traffic without getting impatient.
But not all day.
Finally, I had had enough. The light was not working and the cars in front of me were showing no inclination to move.
So, I got out of my car.
We each do what we can.
One thing I have done is take out cartoons from my huge stock (from 50 years of drawing for Christian publications!) and tweaking some of them, then posting on Facebook. I’ll photograph one, then make a few minor changes on it and photograph that, then post both cartoons with the caption: “There are 4 differences in these drawings. Can you find them?” People are playing along with this and telling me it’s great fun. A nice little diversion.
These days, we can use all of that we can get.
I asked Facebook friends to help me come up with the TOP TEN LESSONS FROM THIS PANDEMIC.
I did the first two, and they suggested the rest…