For reasons not entirely clear, these days I seem to be getting invited to do a lot of high school assemblies. The principal will gather the several hundred youngsters into the gym (on one side only, so everyone can see my easel), introduce me as “Mr. Joe McKeever from New Orleans. He’s a cartoonist and has a message for us today on ‘lessons in self-esteem he has learned from drawing 100,000 people. Let’s welcome him.”
And that’s how we start.
But I had started 10 minutes earlier. After setting up my easel on the floor of the gym (with cardboard under the metal feet), I began sketching teenagers as they entered the gym. Kids love this sort of thing, and soon a crowd had gathered. I can do one drawing per minute, so a fair number have been sketched by the time the school leader settles everyone down and gets us started.
The teens already know what I do, since they’ve seen the drawings, and are excited.
Earlier, the principal or his/her assistant has given us names of several teachers, the coach, and a couple of boys and girls to call out of the stands to be sketched. The best students to draw are the ones who, as soon as we call their name, everyone screams. They think, “This is going to be fun.”
And it is. It’s all about fun, but with some important lessons thrown in for good measure.
For the first half of the program, I sketch these adults and youth, then for another 12-15 minutes, launch into my talk about “lessons on self-esteem I’ve learned from drawing 100,000 people.”
What are the lessons? There are five.
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child.” (I Corinthians 13:11)
Yesterday, filling the pulpit for a pastorless church near my home, I told the congregation, “The best thing that can happen to your new pastor is to discover that the leadership of his new church is made up of mature and godly adults in the faith. He’s going to get some good work done here.”
“And the worst thing that can happen to him–something that will frighten him as badly as anything imaginable–is to learn that the leadership of the church is immature. Getting anything done is going to be slow and difficult and at great risk.”
A friend was telling me about her parents. “I had the misfortune,” she said teasingly, “of being raised by two adults.” That is, as opposed to immature parents who were still working out issues of their own identity and life-purpose. Such a child is blessed indeed.
Every church needs a healthy portion of immature members. After all, new believers start out as spiritual babies with a world of learning and growing ahead. No one is born fully grown.
What your church should never do, however–what no church should do–is to place spiritual babies in positions of leadership. Do that, and the news is all bad. The pastor will grow old before his time, the congregation will be in a constant turmoil from the bickering of these refugees from the church nursery, and the church’s outreach ministries will grind to a halt.
Never elect a spiritual baby to anything. If you must give him or her an assignment, see that they are surrounded by a team of godly and mature members who will keep the ship on course.
“Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation….” (I Peter 2:2).
The bane of the church today is immaturity.
A Sunday School class is asked to relocate so a growing class can have a larger room and it sets off a firestorm of belly-aching.
A longtime church leader does not get the recognition he feels is his entitlement and his family threatens to leave the church.
The pastor teaches a rich lesson from Romans or Hebrews and the congregation isn’t capable of understanding it. The sermons they prefer include “four reasons to be saved today” and “the sin which God hates above all others.”
The preacher brings a message on the tithe and church members criticize him for emphasizing money. At the monthly business meeting, they gripe because the church’s income is lagging.
The church hears a missionary’s report on a great harvest of souls in Singapore and balks at being asked to receive an offering on its behalf.
The pastor is asked by an influential group in the church to invite a flashy, carnal evangelist whose message is God-wants-you-to-prosper. When he hesitates, they grow critical and threaten to have him fired.
When the city leaders enact a policy that upsets the church, the congregation’s main response is to write hostile letters and stage a protest. Prayer and acts of love never enter their mind.
When the church does something of a truly generous nature, the congregation insists they they must get recognition for their largesse. When they see that other churches have done less than they did, they become inflated with pride.
Some of the sharpest pastors I know read novels. They are sharper for having read those books.
And, some of the sharpest ones do not. They could be sharper if they would.
A pastor friend told me this week, “I just don’t care for them. I love to read spiritual books and articles, the kind that make me think and draw me closer to the Lord.”
I’m all for his reading uplifting books and articles. It’s just that I think he needs to add an occasional novel to his reading diet. Not to replace anything he’s enjoying presently, but to supplement it.
By no means am I suggesting that he fritter away his time on the sex-oriented, profanity-saturated trash which is so available today.
A few minutes ago, I asked an interesting assortment of people known as my Facebook friends to help me think of reasons pastors would benefit from reading the occasional novel. See below at the end of this piece for their insights..
In a recent issue of The Alabama Baptist, state leader Dr. Rick Lance tells of a foreign exchange student who was completing his education in the United States and about to head home. To his roommate, he said, “You can have this suitcase and everything in it.”
The friend said, “What’s in it?”
The exchange student said, “When I left home for America, my family filled it with gifts to be presented to families inviting me into their homes. But no one ever invited me, so everything is still in the suitcase.”
Rick says this is just about the saddest story he has heard in a long time.
The Lord Jesus envisioned the day when He would hand out accolades for those who had served Him well. To the faithful He will say, “I was a stranger and you took me in” (Matthew 25:35). Those who welcome strangers are doing a Christlike thing.
Hospitality is one of the bedrock ministry activities of the faithful, right up there with feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the prisoners.
A New Orleans pastor wrote me a note on Facebook this morning. The recent trouble Hurricane Isaac inflicted upon our area reminded him of the days, weeks, and months in late 2005/early 2006 when we were recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
One thing in particular we did he says he is missing.
We convened the pastors each Wednesday morning from 9 to noon. This weekly meeting began while most of us were in evacuation and continued for over two years before we began to slack off as life started to return to normal.
I said to the pastor this morning, “We did a lot of things in those meetings—conveyed information, connected the needy with helpers, we worshiped and prayed, and perhaps best of all, we fellowshiped.”
That’s what we need after a major disaster: to meet with others experiencing the same trauma for understanding, affirmation, guidance, and assistance.
We need fellowship.