“By this time you ought to be teachers (but) you need someone to teach you again the first principles…” (Hebrews 5:12).
Sherrie Waller, a member of our church and wife of one of our deacons, teaches math at the local Baptist seminary.
She’s training the next generation of preachers and missionaries how to count the offering, I suppose.
One “school” in our seminary is Leavell College, where people can get a four-year bacculaureate degree. And one aspect of that, as with any college in the land I expect, is that students/graduates have to have a certain amount of proficiency in a wide range of disciplines, math being among them.
I can appreciate that.
Most of what Sherrie covers is taught in high school, had these future preachers and missionaries been paying attention.
“These you ought to have done without leaving the others undone” (Matthew 23:23).
Ask the acrobat about balance. Walking the tightrope far above the circus ring or bouncing around the “balance beams” without a strict attention to balance, nothing works.
The lever is about balance. Riding a bike demands balance. Standing upright and walking. Weighing out gold on a scale.
A business will want a balance between credits and debits, income and outgo. It will try to find the right balance between research and development, between product and personnel.
Before our plane left the gate, the pilot made an unusual announcement. “Ladies and gentlemen, since we have so many empty seats, it’s important that we balance our load. We need ten of you to get up and move toward the rear of the plane. Take any seat past row number 15. Thank you very much.” (In nearly 50 years of air travel, I heard that announcement one time.)
Balance in nature is vital to survival of life on the planet. Plant and animal life must be kept in relatively constant proportions, we are told.
“There needs to be one more Beatitude: Blessed are the balanced.” –Warren Wiersbe
“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be…” (2 Peter 3:11)
The issue of faith–to believe or not to believe–says John Ortberg, “is never just a question of calculating the odds for the existence of God. We are not just probability calculators. We live in a burning building. It’s called a body. The clock is ticking.” (“Know Doubt,” p.32)
Ortberg doesn’t mind mixing metaphors. We live in a burning building; the clock is ticking.
Yes, and the Titanic which we call Earth is sinking (with too many people occupied with re-arranging deck chairs). The universe is winding down. The sun which supports life on earth and is the center of our solar system has an expiration date, scientists say.
The physical creation has a known shelf life. (Note: “Known” refers to the shelf life, not to the expiration date.)
“Lord, do you know the Pharisees were offended by your sermon?” –Matthew 15:12
Let me say up front that no church can long endure a steady diet of negative preaching. No Christian, no matter how faithful, can withstand an unending barrage of sermons directed toward straightening them out. On a regular basis, we need messages reminding us we are loved, God is faithful, Heaven awaits, and there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
But sometimes the minister enters the pulpit with a burdensome task: to attempt a diagnosis, surgery, and amputation all in a 25 minute message. At those times, the sermon must cut deeply.
At those times, the message hurts.
How the Lord’s people ever came to expect their pastors to declare the riches of His Word without offending wrong-doers is beyond me.
It cannot be done.
“Offenders will take offense.” Remember that. As columnist Dear Abby put it, “You throw a rock in among a bunch of dogs. The one that hollers got hit.”
Delivering the commands of Scripture on how to live and think, how to re-prioritize our lives and change our behavior, and bring every detail of our existence under the Lordship of Jesus Christ without treading on anyone’s toes is expecting a little much of the preacher.
George Whitefield, the great British preacher of the 18th century, gave us an unforgettable line on this….
“It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher.”
What follows is a blend of the funny and the serious, what some call “peanut butter and jelly,” the PB for nourishment and the J for delight. Please bring a sense of whimsy and expect to receive no sermon ideas from this! Thank you. –Joe
In the January/February 2015 issue of Preaching, executive editor Michael Duduit (and my longtime friend) tells of a fellow in Florida who carved out a slot in the Guinness Book of World Records with a sermon that lasted 53 hours and 18 minutes. Well, actually, it was 45 of his old sermons stitched together, not just one. Michael says the guy used 600 PowerPoint slides and basically covered the entire Bible, from Genesis to the concordance.
All of that tickled Editor Michael’s funny bone, as oddities in the ministry usually do. This started him thinking, “What other record-breaking attempts could be made by preachers?” After relaying his suggestions–with some parenthetical notes from moi–we will have an idea or two of our own.
Okay. Michael suggests the Guinness people might want to look at:
A friend messaged asking for my “take” on all the different pastors in the church these days. Senior pastor, student pastor, worship, adminstrative, children’s, and executive pastor–the list is endless.
He said, “Why don’t we have just one pastor?”
The quick answer, of course, is that pastor means shepherd, and these various ministers are shepherding a part of the flock. The larger the flock, the more shepherds are needed. It’s a noble concept and has the full support of scripture. Whether one could blame the Bible for the “senior” business or “executive pastor” thing is another question. (But if a church wants to label its ministers that way, personally I’m good with it.)
I do think it’s almost funny how the pastor of some tiny flock somewhere will list himself as “senior pastor.” But we laugh only to ourselves. It’s his business and not ours.
An angry commenter–responding to something someone wrote about the “administrative assistant” in their church–took off on the unscriptural nature of that position. “Show me an administrative assistant in the church,” he said, with the complete confidence they couldn’t do it.
He didn’t ask me, but I could have.
“That the leaders led in Israel, that the people volunteered, O bless the Lord” (Judges 5:2).
Scripture gems show up in the unlikeliest of places.
Deborah became a hero by default. She describes herself as “a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7). Earlier, she was identified as “a prophetess” and one who “judged Israel at that time” (4:4). She was thus a woman of great spirituality, excellent understanding, and keen insight. People trusted her.
Deborah summoned Barak to her location. She had a disturbing question for this leader of Israel. “Hasn’t God called you to lead His army against these oppressive Canaanites?”
For over two decades, the murderous Canaanites had run over Israel and God’s people had been praying for Him to intervene.
Now the Lord told Deborah that He had called Barak, but he was reluctant to obey. He was not the first and certainly not the last to need prodding to obey God’s instruction, to answer His call.
The sheepish Barak told the woman of God, “I’ll go–but only if you’ll go with me” (4:8). Is he saying “I’ll go if you will hold my hand?” Like the great warrior needs his mama along? It appears that way.
So, you’re new in the ministry? And you want to get this right, of course. You have definitely come to the right place, friend. Pull up a chair and get ready to take notes.
Some alternative titles for these ten little gold nuggets (aka, iron pyrite) might be “How not to rock the boat.” “How to last 50 years in the ministry without creating a ripple.” “How to please everyone and secure a good retirement.”
Tongue firmly planted in cheek, seat-belt fastened, sense of whimsy intact…..
1) You’re going to need sincerity to make it in the ministry. If you can fake that, anything is possible.
“I did not send these prophets, yet they ran with a message; I did not speak to them, but they prophesied” (Jeremiah 23:21).
What if we sliced off a bit of scripture here, pasted it in there, omitted a reference over yonder, and pretended the result is what Jesus actually said?
That happens. (Fortunately, it happens rarely. But it is done often enough to make it a concern to those who value God’s word and our integrity.)
Here’s my story….
At a preachers conference, we heard a stem-winding brother drive the several hundred of us to our feet in a shouting, hand-clapping final eruption of praise and joy. He was good, I’ll give him that.
His text was Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever.” His theme was that God’s people today have no trouble with Jesus Christ being “the same yesterday”–His birth in Bethlehem, His miracle-working ministry across Galilee and Judea, followed by His sacrificial death and His divine resurrection–and no trouble with Jesus Christ being “the same forever”–as we proclaim His return to earth, the judgment, and His forever reign.
The problem present-day Christians have, said the preacher, is with “Jesus Christ today.”