“I was afraid and hid your talent in the ground” (Matthew 25:25).
“Why did you fear? Where is your faith?” (Matthew 8:26).
The storm was raging, the sea was crashing about them, the boat was going down and they were going to die.
The disciples decided it was high time to awaken Jesus. He needed to do something.
Exactly, what they had in mind for Him to do, they did not say.
“Lord, save us! We’re going to die!”
Do something He did.
“And it happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a certain slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortunetelling….” (Acts 16:16)
Some culture writers and half-serious columnists do it for fun, giving forecasts on life in the future. Some, like meteorologists, work at it seriously to protect human lives. It helps to know the hurricane in the Caribbean may be headed our way or that the tornado season is upon us.
But then, there are those strange individuals who believe they are endowed with supernatural gifts of prophecy and fortune-telling.
If you have such a talent, I have a word for you.
Billy Joel gets it.
This veteran entertainer does something I find fascinating.
According to The New Yorker (October 27, 2014), Joel “grew tired of having to look out at the fat cats in the two front rows, the guys who’d bought the best seats, and then sat there projecting a look of boredom that (says)…’Entertain me, Piano Man.'”
It was dampening his own enthusiasm, and that of his band, to have the non-responsive on the front rows. He wanted the fans nearest him to be enthusiastic participants in the evening’s activities.
That’s why “Joel’s people stopped selling the two front rows and instead send the crew into the cheap seats before the show to hand out tickets to people of their choosing.”
“Joel believes it helps buck up the band.”
I can believe that.
Every preacher knows.
“I solemnly charge you: preach the gospel; persist in it whether convenient or not….” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).
I’m worn out this Monday morning. In the last 7 days, I have preached in Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama. (That would be New Orleans, Charlotte, Charleston, and Albertville.)
In the process, I logged almost 2,000 miles in my little Honda CR-V. .
I met a thousand new friends, and was able to visit with and encourage many pastors whom I was meeting for the first time.
They paid me, too, in case anyone wonders. Actual money.
Several questions linger on this (very early) Monday morning….
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).
“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).
I had been reading in our local paper that the New Orleans Museum of Art’s display of artifacts from the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 would be closing its run soon, and I wanted to see this. My wife was out of town, so this would be a good time.
So, that Tuesday afternoon, after finishing my hospital rounds, I drove to the museum in City Park, arriving around 4 pm. I made my way around the barricades that obstructed the newly completed entrance and prepared to buy a ticket. Signs said the museum closed at 5 pm. And yet, something was wrong.
The entrance was closed and the ticket booth was shut down.
I stood there a moment wondering if I’d been mistaken about the time.
Just then, a couple of young adults stepped out of the ticket booth. I said, “Are you closed?”
One of the men said, “The exhibit takes two hours to see, so we stop selling tickets at 4 o’clock since you could not complete it before the museum closes.” I was stunned.
“Shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).
You’re the captain of a mighty airship–a 747, let’s say. It’s a huge job with great responsibility, but one you are doing well and feel confident about. Then, someone alerts you to another plane that is approaching and has a message for you.
You are to transfer to the other plane and become their pilot.
So, you push back the canopy–I know, I know, the huge planes don’t have canopies, but we’re imagining this–and crawl into the contraption the other plane has sent over. You are jettisoned from your old plane to the new one.
As you settle into the captain’s seat in your new plane, you find yourself surrounded by an unfamiliar crew and you notice the controls in front of you are not the same as in the old plane. This is going to take some getting used to. Meanwhile, you and your crew and passengers are zooming along at 35,000 feet.
Your new flight attendants send word, “Captain, welcome aboard. Everyone is asking what is our destination? Can you tell us your goals for this flight?”
And you think to yourself, “You’re asking me? I just got here!”
This is an apt parable for what happens to pastors.
(Recently, we wrote an earlier article for “those just starting out in ministry” in which we made some suggestions on matters they should learn, skills they should have, and such. Here is that article http://joemckeever.com/wp/5-starting-ministry/ for which this one is the companion.)
I began pastoring churches when John F. Kennedy was president. That was a long time ago. Then, 42 years later I moved from pastoring to become associational director of missions. After five years in that (DOM) work, I’m now in my 6th year of retirement, mostly an itinerant ministry, speaking in scores of churches every year.
I love preaching and serving churches, encouraging ministers and counseling church leaders. It’s the greatest work in the world.
Do I wish I’d done some things differently at the start? You bet. And, I imagine most ministers feel that way for reasons unique to themselves. Here are a few of my “wishes” that come to mind, for whatever it’s worth to you who are at the front end of your call into the Lord’s service….
Someone left a stinging rebuke at the end of one of our articles that had been posted by an online magazine for people in the Lord’s work. The writer was perturbed that I had directed a piece to pastors’ wives but not one to the husbands of female preachers.
I pointed out that while I am well aware some pastors are female and their husbands need an article all their own, I am not the one to write it, having no experience of that nature. For me to write it would be presumptuous, I said.
But that wasn’t good enough for some people.
One guy blasted me for saying that, insisting that it was insulting to the women pastors.
I replied that when I write just for male pastors, some women take me to task for neglecting women pastors. Then, if I include a disclaimer saying I’m aware some are female but I’m Southern Baptist and we don’t have any in our denomination and I’m unqualified to write for them, I get ripped for that.
One woman pastor noted, “Joe needs a new editing team.” That one made me smile.
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46) and “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).
Let’s see what you do and I’ll decide for myself whether you believe the Bible.
My buddy Kris was commenting on meaningless questions some of our Facebook friends suggested should be put before pastor search committees (our previous article). Most, she said, are useless because they presuppose the answer.
Asking a search committee “Does your church believe the Bible?” is meaningless, because they’re all going to answer in the affirmative, and you’re no better off than had you not asked it.
“Wait a minute,” Kris said, interrupting herself. “I just remembered a time when my pastor answered that differently.”
After the committee has grilled the pastoral candidate and the tables are turned, what information should he want from them?
Pastors toss me this issue regularly. Somewhere in the archives of our website, I’m sure we’ve dealt with this subject. However, with over 2,000 articles and no index of these things, I suggest that they google “McKeever + (subject),” and see what comes up. Usually, if I’ve written on the subject, it’ll show up in the results.
That said, perhaps it’s time to say a few more things about this.
Here’s the situation. You, the pastoral candidate, are sitting in a room with a committee of anywhere from 6 to 20 people. They have spent the evening tossing questions, real and theoretical, at you. You are drained and everyone is ready for the evening to end.
But not yet. Finally, the chair says, “And pastor, is there anything you would like to ask us?”
You bring out your list.