I welcomed the pastor into my office and thanked him for coming.

“What’s this all about?”

I said, “Not unlike being sent to the principal’s office. Remember that?”

“Am I in trouble?” The very idea was foreign to him, since he knew I have no authority over him. Directors of Mission are the leaders of Baptist churches and pastors in a given area to the extent that they will let us lead. As with so much in Baptist life, it’s all about voluntary cooperation.

I said, “It’s more that you’re in a key position, being the pastor of one of our stronger churches, and–as it was reported to me–you have an attitude that is going to create a huge problem for you, for me, for our churches, and for your church.”

“By all means,” he said, “tell me what it is.”

“You tell me. I’d like to hear from you your personal view of the work of the association.”

“That’s all this is about? Well, this will be a short meeting.”

“Anytime you’re ready.”

He said, “The association exists for the benefit of the smaller churches. Our church is a large church. There might have been a time when we needed what the association offers, but that time is long past. We will participate in the work of the association from time to time, but not as much as under the previous pastors. We have too much to do that has nothing to do with the association.”

“That’s it?”

Continue reading

Blessing Upon Blessing


“Our state convention has money set aside to help people in your part of the world,” the e-mail said. The executive went on to say they had reserved these funds to assist their own churches that were heading this way to meet expenses. However, he said, none of our churches have drawn on this fund lately, so we decided we would just go ahead and send the balance of the money to your association.

He sent that e-mail to me and to one of our leading pastors, a longtime friend of his, asking us to come up with a list of needs locally, from which he and his staff would choose the ones they wanted to devote the funds toward. We had fun doing that.

Monday, the email came from the financial officer of that state convention. She needed our tax identification number and for us to sign some papers. And, she said, you will be interested in knowing that the money coming your way will be $158,000 and some change.

Stunned? Indeed. Blessed? Absolutely. Excited? More than I can tell you.

That wonderful executive of that generous state convention–they shall forever be blessed around here!–will be sending a letter alongwith the check, saying what they want done with the money. (Just in case anyone reading this starts thinking of ways to use the money.) The fact is we have individual churches that could absorb the entire amount and still need more to be rebuilt. Still, it’s a great encouragement.


Continue reading

LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE NO. 26–“Guard Your Integrity; No One Else Will.”

Integrity is simply doing the right thing. It’s being true to what you know to be right. It’s not sinning against your own conscience.

The word ‘integrity’ comes from ‘integer,’ meaning ‘a whole number.’ The person with integrity is a whole human being, not divided or splintered by conflicting actions and beliefs.

Egil ‘Bud’ Krogh served in the Nixon White House in a number of capacities, but notably as the head of a group called “The Plumbers,” created to stop the leaks of information from within the administration. He was not part of the group that broke into the Democratic National Committee’s offices in 1972 in the infamous Watergate Break-in, but he was caught up in the matter when he lied to the Justice Department. Later, he confessed his wrong-doing and was sentenced to six months in prison. Recently, Krogh has written a book about the pressures of working in high profile political positions, under the title “Integrity.”

Krogh advises those who serve high political figures that before giving a recommendation to the boss, they should ask themselves two questions: is this right? and, what will be the consequences of it?

It’s not just in politics where the pressure to say what the boss wants to hear is so strong. In any high level business or religious enterprise, underlings find the temptations to please their bosses so overpowering they frequently find themselves in danger of compromising their convictions, and losing their souls, so to speak.

Recently, a veteran minister told a group of us of an occasion when he had been “bought and paid for” by strong church members. A powerful deacon in one church gave him monetary gifts and made sure that he received a new suit from a fashionable shop from time to time. Then, when the minister found himself crossways with that layman over some church issue, he was reluctant to oppose him. He had compromised himself by taking those presents.

“You cannot be a prophet to people from whom you take a profit,” the minister advised his younger colleagues. “It’s best to say ‘no’ to large, expensive gifts, particularly if you think they come with strings attached.”

Continue reading

LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE NO. 25–“Watch Your Reputation.”

Warren Wiersbe says, “He who has the reputation of rising early may sleep til noon.”

The difference in reputation and character is that the latter is what you really are; reputation is what people think you are. If you have to choose, go for character every time.

But reputation is important, make no mistake. Ask any business owner.

No matter what great service a business produces, if its reputation in the community is not a good one, the enterprise goes under. That’s why companies go to such extremes to build positive reputations. They buy expensive media ads and have customers–or actors pretending to be such–tell of their great experience with this company. They pay big money to have their name on the stadium where football or baseball is played. They contribute to charity, but never secretly; they need the publicity. They’re trying to build a good reputation.

When Houston’s Enron Corporation went sour a few years back, one of the first things to happen was that the company’s name was removed from the Astro’s baseball stadium. The team could not afford for their image to be tied with a corrupt and bankrupt corporation.

Bible students will recall that even the Lord values His reputation.

Continue reading

Not As Easy As We Thought It Would Be

Before this season started, Saints fans thought this might be the year. After last year’s excellent achievements under new coach Sean Payton and his all-star cast of players, starting with quarterback Drew Brees and running back Reggie Bush, this year looked to be a cinch. Even the prognosticators agreed. The talk shows were saturated with Super Bowl talk.

Alas, then the season started. The Indianapolis Colts handed us our head on that Thursday night before a national TV audience. We licked our wounds, picked ourselves up off the mat, and said, “Well, after all, that’s Payton Manning and the world champions; they’re supposed to be good.” Bring on the next opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The last few years, the Saints have not had a lot of trouble handling the Bucs. “To get to the Super Bowl,” the radio guys said today, “You have to be able to win games such as these.” And we certainly have the talent to do it. Not to say the will; we have that in spades.

I turned the game off three-fourths of the way through. It was pitiful. Our guys were dropping balls they should have caught, fumbling balls they should have held onto, and missing assignments like a bunch of rookies. Final score, Tampa Bay 31, Saints 14. But it wasn’t even that close. We got whupped.

The only good thing about dropping the first two games of the year is that it will end the noise about going to the Super Bowl. From now on, I suggest we have a rule that no one down here can even mention the Super Bowl until the season is half over and we have won 2/3 of our games.

Fans will recall that former coach Jim Haslett had a great first year too, just like Sean Payton, with both rookie coaches being named NFL coach of the year, and everyone making stellar predictions. Alas, it was all downhill from there.

The overwhelming thought that lingers with me is: “If going to the Super Bowl was as easy as we were expecting, everyone would be doing it, and we’d have accomplished it before now.”

But how about them Bengal Tigers. LSU appears to be the real thing. Next Saturday’s contest against Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks will answer a lot of questions.

Sunday morning, I called on three of our churches: the First Baptist Churches of St. Rose, Norco, and LaPlace. None of them are having an easy time of things.

Continue reading


A pastor I know put in over 40 years of ministry. On the day of his retirement, the church celebrated in a big way and gave him a new automobile and many expressions of their thanks. A few days later, he announced he was leaving his wife. He divorced her, moved to another state and married a lady who had been his secretary. His abandoned wife was left in the town where they had served so many years to face the world and deal with the broken hearts and disappointed friends.

Anyone who spends Saturday afternoons watching football games has seen this happen. A team starts strong, moving the ball, scoring points, intimidating the opposition and impressing the fans. But after a quarter or two, they begin to fizzle. Either their first team grew tired or the reserves were unprepared or the other team figured out how to counter them. They lose the game which they had started so well.

No one gets credit on the scoreboard for having started well. It’s how you finish that tells the story.

The fun thing about pulling in an Old Testament story–particularly one from II Chronicles–is that so few people are familiar with them. To many, they’re hearing these tales for the first time. The account of King Asa is a perfect illustration for our point. It begins in II Chronicles chapter 14.

Asa reigned over the Southern Kingdom of Judah for a total of 41 years. In introducing him, the writer says rather ominously, “The land was undisturbed for ten years during his days.” (14:2) He started right.

From the first, Asa earned the approval of the Lord by tearing down the pagan altars, fortifying his cities, and building up the military. He spoke words of faith and trust and seemed to have been a good man. He was humble. When he heard a good sermon, he obeyed it. In chapter 15, the prophet Azariah preached to the king and the nation about faithfulness. At the end, Asa responded to the altar call. “When Asa heard these words and the prophecy which Azariah spoke, he took courage and removed the abominable idols…and restored the altar of the Lord….”

Asa led the people to make a great sacrifice to the Lord and led them into a covenant of obedience to God. He put his wicked grandmother out of business, removing her from the exalted position of queen mother due to her idolatry.

For the first 35 years of Asa’s reign, things went well. The enemies left the little nation alone and Asa was like a father to his people.

Then things went downhill.

Continue reading

Louisiana Politics…No Excuses

Last week, the jury in St. Francisville acquitted Sal and Mabel Mangano, owners of St. Rita’s Nursing Home in Saint Bernard Parish, of homicide for the 32 deaths patients in the days following Katrina. No one questioned that these people died; no one seriously questioned that most would have survived had they been evacuated. At issue was the conflicting announcements from various levels of government leaders about evacuation. It turns out that a number of nursing homes in the metro New Orleans area did not evacuate. The fact that only St. Rita’s had the large number of deaths made the Mangano’s the most apt target for prosecution, but the only thing that kept other nursing homes from being defendants is that they did not have the high level of flooding which drowned so many people.

The culprit in all this was the government, the jury said. And this time, they did not mean the federal government, but the local, parish, and state leadership that should have spoken early, clearly, and forcibly giving instructions to the community on hurricane preparation.

One aspect of this trial that has drawn a lot of talk is that Attorney General Charles Foti personally prosecuted it. This was a personal thing with him, we’re told, as he put the State of Louisiana and its resources into the case. To have it handed back to him in this way–his head on a platter might be a fitting way of putting it–was a great embarrassment. Furthermore, this is not the first such embarrassment Foti has suffered as a result of his post-Katrina prosecutions. Last year, he announced with great fanfare that Dr. Anna Pou and two nurses would be charged for homicides in the deaths of patients at the Memorial (Baptist) Medical Center in New Orleans. It got national coverage, and he was in the spotlight for months. Eventually, the New Orleans District Attorney and the grand jury considered Foti’s evidence and dropped the charges. The egg on our Attorney General’s face will never come off.

Filing for the governor’s race closed last week and New Orleans’ celebrity mayor C. Ray Nagin was not among those signing on. The odds-on favorite to win is U. S. Representative Bobby Jindal, a Republican who represents Kenner and this area. Polls show him at something like 60 percent. Walter Boasso, millionaire businessman from St. Bernard Parish–the state legislator who called for and eventually got the multiplicity of levee boards in our part of the world consolidated into just two–is a candidate. A number of other lesser knowns are running.

Jindal was a boy wonder in the state government in the 1990s. Governor Mike Foster put him in charge of the state hospitals, and Jindal only 25 years old. From all reports, he did excellently. Congressman David Vitter says years ago when he interviewed Jindal for some kind of scholarship program, he came home and told his wife that he had met someone who made him feel dumb. No question about Jindal’s brain power. There are other questions about him.

Continue reading


“Are you teasing me? This couldn’t really happen.”

“It did. I walked out into the back yard and found a church member going through my trash. I said, ‘Bobby, what are you doing?’ He said, ‘I want to see what my pastor and his family are reading. Make sure you’re who you claim to be.'”

I said, “Pastor, that is rather incredible.”

He said, “Tell me about it. Unfortunately, that kind of attitude is fairly typical for my church.”

“There are other instances?”

“Not that, exactly. He’s the only one I found going through my trash, but we do have a number of suspicious and strange people in our congregation.” .

I didn’t say anything, so he went on. “There is this old lady who wrote my daughter a letter the other day. Now, my little girl is eight years old, and she’s a typical kid, I suppose, although I think she’s wonderful. So, when this letter came from an older woman in the church, we thought, ‘How nice. She’s writing a letter of encouragement to our daughter.’ Not hardly.”

“She took the letter to her room and read it. A minute later she was back and wanted me to see it. I could hardly believe it. This lady–she must be 75 years old–had written my daughter to complain about her not speaking to her at church last Sunday. Said she walked right by and did not say hello, and that pastors’ daughters should be better than that. She was cruel.”

“How did that make you feel?”

“How do you think it made me feel? Like going over there and strangling the battleaxe!”

“What did you do?”

Continue reading

Posted in DOM


“I feel like I’ve struck gold. Or won the lottery.”

“You are enjoying your new church, I gather.”

“Honestly, they are wonderful. I’ve just been there six months, but already they have shown themselves to be a classy bunch. They’re so different from the other two churches I pastored, I don’t know what to think.”

“I love hearing this. And hear it all too seldom.”

He said, “You know my father has been ill. He lives in Tennessee, and they’ve called in Hospice. That means six months or less to go. Well, my church told me to go up there as often as I feel like I need to, to spend time with my folks. I’ve taken them up on it, but I’m always back for Sunday services and usually Wednesday nights too.”

“They sound understanding.”

“That’s not the half of it. They even took up a special offering to help with my car expenses with all this traveling. I mean, I’ve never heard of a congregation being so kind.”

“How’s the church doing?”

“That’s the other great part. It’s thriving. We’re adding new members almost every week, and everyone is so excited. I can’t wait to get there on Sundays.”

I said, “Do you know why this church is that way?”

He said, “Well, the short answer seems to be that they’re Christians.”

I laughed and said, “I don’t have to tell you of all people that not all Christian churches do church right. Some of them are really hard on their preachers and staff, demanding a lot and giving very little in return.”

He said, “I’m not sure what you mean.”

Continue reading

Reading Over My Shoulder

This woman goes into the pharmacy. “I want to buy some arsenic.”

The druggist says, “We can’t sell you arsenic. Why do you want it?”

She says, “I want to kill my husband.”

“You want to buy some arsenic to kill your husband? May I ask why?”

She says, “Because he ran off with another woman. And, sir, that woman is your wife.”

The druggist says, “Why didn’t you tell me you have a prescription?”

That little joke from Dr. Bill Taylor, keynote speaker at our annual “Ridgecrest on the River” event held today on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, opened his message. Bill has a prescription for what ails many of our churches.

I sat in on several conferences throughout the day, then introduced Dr. Taylor at the plenary session at 2 o’clock. Here are some of my notes. You will thank me for not printing all of them out here; I’m a pretty thorough notetaker and it runs to several pages.

Bill Taylor: “Someone has written a book ‘New Ideas from Dead CEOs,” about Mary Kay, Walt Disney, Ray Kroc, and others. I’m thinking of writing a book ‘New Ideas from Dead CE’s,’ referring to Christian Educators.” Using powerpoint, he threw on the screen photos of some of his predecessors at the helm of SBC education for Lifeway: Arthur Flake, Frost, Barnette, Washburn, and Harry Piland.

“All the CEO’s in that book and all the CE’s in mine have one thing in common: NEXT. They were interested in ‘what’s next?’ They embraced the future. They were not looking back to 1900, they were not criticizing the new guys.”

“Christianity is the fastest declining religion in America,” Taylor said, quoting the North American Mission Board. “If we are to turn things around, we absolutely must change. Expect change, embrace it, enjoy it, and execute it.”

He listed five major changes that will be required of the churches of the SBC and much of America.

Continue reading