How to write boring articles and preach dull sermons

My friends who read the title will think, “Well! Finally something he knows a little about!”

Every preacher, I imagine, knows about dull sermons. Anyone charged with turning out multiple sermons a week over decades will certainly produce his share of messages that are dead on arrival.

I’m thinking of a Christian writer of past years who turned out book after book and built a reputation as a leader/writer/professor of note.  He was off the scene by the time I was thirty, so I never saw him when he was in his prime or I in mine. But, repeatedly, I came away from his writings thinking, “How dull. Why was he considered such a wonder?” My quick answer is that the standards were different in the mid-1900s. Denominational publishing houses turned out books not for their sharp content or even sales figures but for other reasons. In a word, he was “safe.”

Now! The challenge on penning something about dull writings and boring sermons (or vice versa!) is to keep from being dull myself. But, always one for a challenge, let’s see how this goes.

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12 things I tell the deacons

No one is more surprised than I that the Lord has me leading all these deacon training conferences and retreats these days. (I’ve done five so far, with two or more to go. A couple had to be canceled for various reasons.)

I love deacons and treasure the relationship with quite a few from the six churches I served over four decades.. My oldest son is a deacon and served as chairman of our church’s group the last two years.


I carry a few scars from battles with deacons.  I encountered a dozen or so along the way with mental health of the worst kind, some with stunted and deformed theology, and one or two who thought they were rightfully entitled to rule over the universe.   This website carries some forty or more articles written on the ministry of deacons over the years. Frequently, those painful experiences and harshest collisions produced the  best lessons and, of course, the most interesting stories.

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Let’s get ‘er done, church!

(If we wait until we can do everything perfectly, we will still be sitting here when the Lord returns. Let us be up and doing.)

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Colossians 3:23).

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

A minister who was interviewing for a position on the staff of my church said, “If I come as your (whatever the position was), I would not make any changes for the first year, but spend that time building relationships.”

That was it for me.  We have work to do, I thought. Relationships are good, but they may be built and must be maintained in the midst of doing the work the Lord has given us.

Stephen Dill Lee, well-known Confederate general who later became the founding president of Mississippi State University and served as a deacon at nearby Columbus’s First Baptist Church, once resigned from the church’s deacon board. He said, “When I was in the service, my approach was always to charge, charge, charge. Go forward. But these deacons don’t want to do anything.”

The minutes of the deacons from those years, the early 1900s, indicate that some prevailed upon General Lee and he agreed to stay on. Then, he chaired the church’s building committee that tore down the 1838 sanctuary and built the 1908 edifice which still stands.  He was a get ‘er done leader.

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Recipe for misery: Dream up problems.

“The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain? (Jeremiah 23:28)”

Some people are so frustrated when nothing bad is happening around them that they manufacture it out of nothing.

They dream up trouble.

I don’t normally remember dreams, but this one I did.

A few weeks ago, I took an afternoon nap of nearly three hours. That week, I’d been attending the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston, Texas, some six hours away. After driving there Sunday and returning home Wednesday, in between, I had sketched nonstop for some 25 hours total and was worn to a frazzle.

In the dream, Margaret and I were adults riding the school bus home for some reason.  As the driver stopped in front of our house, Margaret got off while I busily set about gathering up all our packages. I told the driver I’d be just a minute.  As he pulled away, I called to say I was still on board and that I had asked him to give me a second. He said, “I didn’t hear you,” and  added that it was now against the rules for him to stop the bus and let me out.

That’s how I ended up riding with him back to the bus barn. While there–remember, this is just a dream–some employees of the school system came outside to inform me that they were entitled to “one-tenth” of the money I was supposed to fork over for my release.

I awakened with a strong sense of the unfairness of this system, feeling that someone needed to get in touch with the school board members because surely drivers are allowed to let people off at unscheduled stops. Besides, employees are not allowed to scam their captured riders.

“It’s just a dream,” I kept saying until the frustration dissipated.

That was so silly. “Where did it come from,” I wondered.

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Why we must have denominations (of one type or the other)

A pastor in New Hersheybar emails me. “Pastor McKeever, I read your articles. We need your help.  We are a struggling community of small churches trying to get established, trying to get financial support, trying to get our ministers educated. Can you come help us or send cash?”

Well, maybe it’s never worded exactly like that, but that’s the gist.

How to know.

Is this guy for real, and is this a genuine opportunity to make a difference for the Kingdom of God?  Or is this fellow preying on the (so-called) rich Americans who in addition to having lots of spare cash also have zero discernment?

I tell him to contact our International Mission Board at  If we do not have missionaries in his country, we surely have a department with responsibility for his part of the world and someone in that office will be delighted to hear from him.  Maybe someone there will know somebody who can assist him.  And once in a while, we have a “representative” or “consultant” (as they are frequently called these days) living right there in his village.

Usually, that’s the last I hear from this fellow. Whether I discouraged him or exposed him is hard to know.

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Why pastors say dumb things

“Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers” (II Timothy 2:14).

The desire to be clever has tainted many a good minister, sabotaged many a fine sermon, and probably messed up a few marriages along the way.

Yesterday, for instance.

On the way home from somewhere, I was listening to a radio preacher. He was local, sounded “live,” and was clearly a biblical conservative, meaning I liked most of what he had to say.  Then, he spoiled it all and said something that “got my goat.”

He mentioned a well-known Southern Baptist evangelist who once preached in his church. “I asked him, ‘Brother, how long does it take you Baptists to disciple a new believer?'”

“He answered, ‘I don’t know. We’ve never done it.'”

Then he, the radio preacher, said, “Shameful!”

From that launching pad, he proceeded to disparage churches for not discipling people while tellling how it ought to be done.

I found myself wondering two things.

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The funniest thing in the Bible

“And He told them a joke: ‘Two scribes went into a bar mitzvah…”

Okay. There’s nothing like that in the Bible.  And that is all good, believe me.

The Holy Scriptures are not about the humorous side of life and was not given to entertain us. It deals with issues grander, more urgent, deeper, more lasting.

But, since God is the Author of the human personality, and since He used humans to pen the Scriptures, we are not surprised to find humorous–if not outright funny–incidents and aspects to this great book.

Here are a few of my favorites….

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Whether it’s worth the price, pastor

Once in a while, a pastor has to made a tough call.

Do you speak out on a controversial issue or not?

Yes, you could come down hard on the latest political correctness issue that is dividing the country and enraging both halves.

You could address the racial matter that is driving the liberals crazy and inflaming the conservatives to near-incineration.

You could take a public stand on what your community is experiencing, knowing that many on both sides of the issue are upset with the others.

Some will insist you should take a stand.

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When the church gives sanctuary to its enemy

“I came to Jerusalem and learned about the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, by preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God; and it was very displeasing to me. So I threw Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. Then I gave an order and they cleansed the rooms….” (Nehemiah 13:7-9)

My story starts with a dream. It ends with someone else’s dream.

As a rule I don’t dream, and when I do, I usually attach no importance to it. (Good thing the kings in the Bible called for Joseph and Daniel to interpret their dreams; had they summoned me, I’d probably have said, “Dreams are just your mind trying to settle down from a stressful yesterday. Go back to sleep.”)

One hour after waking up, the Lord showed me what this dream meant.

In the dream, I was in a hotel room. As I entered the bathroom, I spotted a hole in the wall. Inside lay a huge boa constrictor, curled up.

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Myth: Some people like church dull.

“Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new….” (Isalah 43:18-19)

Let me tell you two stories, both sad, the first more than the other.

James and Cissa are leaving their church.

This couple is one you want in your church. Pastors would, please pardon the expression, kill to get them. They are young parents, beautiful, committed, sharper than you and me combined, and talented.  They have hearts for serving, a willingness to hang in there when things go bad, and a submission to leaders even when they disagree. And they tithe.

But after years of frustration in their church—a congregation that is dead-set on dying, even when the Lord planted them in a thriving community and sent them several dynamic couples like James and Cissa–they have finally received the green light from the Lord. It’s time for them to find another church.

I hate, hate, hate this for their church. The decision-makers brought it on themselves by refusing to connect with their community, by ignoring members who wanted to do something innovative, and by their commitment to the church of yesteryear. The community they’re trying to reach existed during the Eisenhower years and hasn’t been seen since.

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