“My Pastor’s Not Always Right, But He’s Never in Doubt.”

The pastor who is never in doubt, no matter whether he’s right or wrong, is part of the problem. In fact, he is a huge problem.

Such a minister will attract a certain kind of church member, the kind that likes pure certainties with no grey areas and nothing left undecided. This church member prefers someone else do his thinking for him. When asked what he believes or why he believes a particular doctrine, he replies, “See my pastor.”

What the know-for-certainty-in-all-areas pastor does, however, is to drive away anyone with a critical faculty, the kind who thinks matters through and asks uncomfortable questions. Luke found such Christians in Berea, who examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

Let’s address this tendency in some of us preachers to be the court of last resort, the final word on all things theological, for our people.

Woe to you experts in the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge! You didn’t go in yourselves, and you hindered those who were going in! (Luke 11:52)

The scribes started out as copyists of the Word when it was hand-written on parchment or skins and costly to possess. The scribes filled a helpful role and provided a needed service. In time, however, they ended up as self-appointed experts whose word was law.

Not good.

I’m tempted to say, “Beware when anyone calls you an expert on anything.” But worse than that–and this is where we’re focusing today–is when you think of yourself as an expert. That was where the scribes had landed the day Jesus castigated them.

When you start thinking of yourself as an expert on any matter that concerns ministry, a number of things happen. None of them good.

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20 Essentials to Tell People About the Church

According to the Spring edition of “OnMission” magazine, published by the SBC’s North American Mission Board, 90 percent of unchurched 20-29 year olds believe, “I can have a good relationship with God without being involved in a church.”

That sounds new. But it’s as old as Methuselah.

Some of us can remember the so-called “Jesus Movement” of the 1960-1970s when the beaded, bearded, flower children carried signs announcing “Jesus Yes; Church No.”

No one will be surprised that we who have given our lives to serving God through His church believe in the church. We believe in it passionately even though quite a high percentage of us bear scars from our years of service.

Believers in the church’s essential role in God’s plan are not the “establishment.” We were not brain-washed and are not duped or deluded. We are not mouthpieces of some denominational hierarchy somewhere. Neither are we defenders of the status quo. (No one who ever sat under my ministry even once accused me of defending the status quo. Quite the opposite, in fact. Many have wished I could be satisfied to leave well enough alone.)

Most of us have had a love-hate affair with the Lord’s church. We have loved it when it did well, been blessed by it when it was faithful, grieved for it when it got off-track, and sometimes suffered from our proximity to cancerous members.

Our convictions are not shallow or lightly held. They have been through the fires and come through stronger than ever.

Each of us has our burden for the church. Here are mine. Twenty things I wish we could say to every church, and repeat them at regular intervals until they take hold.

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God Calls People Into the Ministry: Here’s Why

Next month brings a milestone for me: exactly one-half century since the Lord called me into the ministry. I remember that moment like it was last week. Our Birmingham church was on the second week of a two-week long revival. I was a college senior, in love with Margaret, and planning on a career of teaching history in some college somewhere.

The choir was singing the invitation hymn, the same one we’d sung each night: “Jesus Paid It All.” It was a Tuesday evening, the house was filled, and Newman McLarry was the preacher. Larry Andrews led the singing. And then, suddenly.

It was like a curtain was pulled back. One moment the thought was not there, the next moment, there it was, filling my mind. “I want you for the ministry.”

Was it audible? No, it was stronger than that.

Time stopped as I began having a little conversation with the Lord.

“If this is really from the Lord, it’ll still be there tomorrow night. I’ll go forward during the invitation tomorrow night and share it with the people.”

“This is the Lord and you know it’s the Lord. There is no point in waiting.”

“That’s true. No argument there.”

So I stepped out of the choir loft and made my way to Pastor Bill Burkett to inform him that the Lord had just called me into the ministry.

Note that I did not say the Lord had called me to preach. At that point, His call could have been in any direction–missions, youth, pastoring, teaching. Anything but music. I ended up preaching, pastoring, teaching, working with youth and college students, and doing administration. The word “preaching” doesn’t begin to describe it.

It turned out that I was the only one surprised by the announcement that God had called me. Even Margaret seemed to like the idea of being married to a preacher. She told me later she had “felt the call” to be a missionary as a pre-teen. Her uncle Harold Shrauger, a longtime Baptist pastor and what we used to call “associational missionary,” was delighted too.

That’s my story.

In these fifty years, I served 39 as pastor of six churches, 3 years and six months as a staff member of a church, and 5 years as director of missions for the Baptist churches of metro New Orleans. That doesn’t add up to 50, I know. Remember, “50” represents the time since I was called into the ministry. It was nearly 2 years before I started pastoring and when I was 49, I spent one year without a pastorate, but preaching everywhere.

The call of God. There is a great reason why He calls men and women into His service. In fact, many of them.

Here’s my list. You’ll think of reasons to add.

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Humility: It Has a Power All Its Own

Like many large cities that are what’s called “tourist destinations,” New Orleans has a sizeable gay and lesbian community. They tend to congregate in the French Quarter and with their “Southern Decadence” festival each Spring, they attract two kinds of people: those joining their activities and those who want to demonstrate against them.

A local preacher of unknown (to me) background has made a name for himself for his public protests against the G/L community. He would use a bullhorn–yep, you read that right–and blare out his preachings and condemnations upon the paraders and onlookers.

Not a very pleasant way to bear a witness, if you ask me. (No one did. But, hey–it’s my blog.)

And then, on Monday of this week, that preacher was arrested in a park where children go to play (ponds, carousel, etc) and charged with a public act of indecency.

In his defense, the preacher said he mows lawns and does landscaping and–you’ll pardon the expression–carries a “pee jar” with him to relieve his physical needs. And that that’s what he was doing.

Witnesses claim he was being more active than that. He was arrested and charged.

Tuesday, he held a news conference. He holds to his story as to what he was doing, but added that he admits he has a problem with pornography.

He was humiliated. And he was humbled.

That’s so painful. But it might be the best thing that ever happened to him.

In Wednesday’s newspaper, his apology was printed.

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The Best Thing the Bible Has to Say on Servanthood

The New Testament is clear that the model for the Lord’s people in this world is servanthood. The texts are numerous and so clear they leave no room for argument. We have the Lord Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and telling us to do likewise (John 13). We have His testimony that He is among us as One who serves (Luke 22:27) and He came not to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:28).

Jesus said, “He who would be great among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:27).

In epistle after epistle, Paul identifies himself as the servant or even slave of Jesus.

But no text speaks as pointedly to our being servants–and how to do that well–as Luke 17:7-10.

But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say to him when he comes in from the field, ‘Come straight in and sit down to your meal.’ Instead, you will tell him, ‘Get something ready for my supper; gird yourself and serve me till I have finished my dinner. And after that, you can have your own meal.’

Does he thank the servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.

And so with you. When you have done all the things commanded you, say to yourselves, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have merely done our duty.’

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