I am a senior adult. Finally.

“They will still bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:14).

For reasons unknown to me, I have never looked upon myself as a senior.

I’ve smiled when host pastors would welcome everyone to our senior adult emphasis, then say something as outlandish as “If you’re 50 and above, you’re a senior.”  Why, I have children who would qualify by that standard, but they’re barely out of their teens.

I’m smiling.  This is serious but with a wink.

The other day, while riding the train from Concourse D to Concourse B in the Atlanta airport, I entered the crowded car and spotted an empty seat toward the rear.  As I settled into it, I noticed the sign read “for handicapped and seniors.”  My spirit smiled at that.  “I’m a senior.”

It felt good, actually.

Continue reading

The Effective Pastor will not say certain things.

Third in a series on The Effective Pastor.

Every parent, every teacher, and every pastor has things they believe strongly about, lines they will not cross.  Call them pet peeves or strong convictions, the leader will not go there.

As a pastor for over four decades and a minister for five-and-a-half, here are some statements you will never hear from me:

1. Will you lead us in a word of prayer?

The expression “a word of prayer” is a putdown.  It minimizes the value of prayer and the effectiveness of praying.  So, you will not hear me saying it.

Continue reading

Why I participated in the work of the local association (even when pastoring the largest church in the city)

In our Southern Baptist Convention, the SBC churches in an area form themselves into an association. Usually, it’s the churches within one county, but often several counties (in Louisiana, counties are called “parishes”) go together to form an association.  Our New Orleans Baptist Association (called NOBA) comprises churches from the tip of the Mississippi River, 100 miles northward into New Orleans and beyond, which takes in the parishes of Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson, St. Charles, and some in St. John the Baptist.

Here’s what often happens, as it did recently.

I’ll be preaching a revival in a middle-sized town somewhere in the South.  Often, I’ll meet with the pastors’ in the city and speak to them, maybe give them copies of one of my books.  At some point, I’ll ask the host pastor, “Does the pastor of the First Baptist Church attend these meetings?”

You would be distressed to know the answer is frequently, “Never.  They don’t participate in anything the association does.”

Big, big mistake.

Continue reading

The effective pastor: Teach the congregation how to pray.

Second article in a series on The Effective Pastor. 

Now, it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray as John also taught the disciples.’  (Luke 11:1)

The Lord’s people want to pray.

Most of the Lord’s people want to learn to pray.

You are the one to teach them effective praying, pastor.

You do know how, don’t you?

Granted, none of us do it very well. Even the great Apostle Paul said, “We do not know how to pray as we should” (Romans 8:26).  So, we are not saying any of us do it as well as we should, only that we know enough to be able to help others.

Here are some thoughts on the subject….

Continue reading

What laypeople need to know–and seldom do–about speaking in “big church”

By laypeople, I mean non-preachers.

By speaking in church, I mean before large groups of the Lord’s people.

Many non-clergy are outstanding on their feet in front of large groups. Schoolteachers come to mind.  But the typical church member, even one who teaches a Sunday School class, is out of his element when suddenly asked to deliver a talk in front of the whole church.

Marlene said to me, “I’m sorry I took the entire service, Pastor. But the Lord was leading me.” Translation: She really got into her talk and couldn’t control it.  As a young pastor, I had invited church members to share testimonies in the morning worship service, something along the lines of 5-7 minutes.  (Later, I learned to interview the individual and retain hold of the microphone the entire time!)

Since Marlene had not prepared adequately, once she got going, she couldn’t find a convenient stopping place. She kept on for a full 40 minutes.

Personally, I would not blame my failure to prepare on the Lord.

I see it happen all the time.  It’s almost embarrassing.

Continue reading

The effective pastor: Be the host.

(This is the first of a series of article on “The Effective Pastor.” )

This morning as I had breakfast in the hotel dining room, a tall blonde lady entered the room and called out, “Good morning, everyone.”

I figured she had to be the manager.

She was.

Terri told me later–as I sketched her–she had been on the job just two weeks. “Before, I managed a hotel in Opelika,” a few miles down the interstate.  I complimented her on the way she greeted people. And I told her something.

I work with pastors. And I have to remind some that they are the manager of this enterprise. They are the chief greeter. The mood-setter.  The actual worship leader.

They are the host.

Continue reading

Eight things I like about the church…and five I hate.

One: I like the idea of church. A regular gathering of the redeemed to worship, remember, nurture one another, hammer out questions, and hold one another accountable.  After all, “it is not good for man to be alone.” We were made needing one another, and do not function well in isolation.

Show me a Christian who can please God better alone than with other believers and I’ll show you a one-of-a-kind, something never before seen on planet Earth.  The Lord thought you and I would be needing each other, so placed us in a church fellowship when He saved us.

Two: I like the people in the church.  Two things can be said of the people who make up almost any congregation on earth:  They are a cross-section of humanity, of the very type found in a grocery store or in a schoolyard, and they contain a special group–the cream of the crop–of the best people on the planet.  Jesus said a sure sign that we are His is our love for one another, i.e., fellow Christians.

Show me a Christian who does not like church people and I’ll show you someone backslidden, out of fellowship with Christ.  This is a no-brainer, as sure as the sun rises in the east.

Continue reading

If I were reading the Bible for the first time

If I were just beginning to read the Bible, I would expect it to be difficult.  After all, if the God of the universe puts His thoughts into a book, it makes sense for some of it to be beyond us.

If I were reading the Bible for the first time, I’d get a modern more readable translation.  How to do that? Go to Lifeway Christian Stores and spend an hour checking out all the versions.

If I were reading the Bible for the first time, I’d enlist a great friend or two to take my occasional phone call so I could say, “What does this mean?”

And, if I were reading the Bible for the first time, I would do this:

–Move to the New Testament first.  This means ignoring (for the moment) the first two-thirds of the Bible.

–I would begin reading at Matthew chapter one and read large portions each day.

Continue reading

Why we make so much of Jesus

Jesus Christ was the First. The Most. The Best. The Last. The Everything.

Scripture ransacks the human language looking for superlatives enough to give mankind some kind of idea who this Person was who was born of a virgin, lived without sin, taught us of Heaven, and died in our place.  His resurrection and ascension forever secured His place in the history and thought and conversation of this small planet.

Earth has never seen another like Him.  He is unique.

Christianity and the Christian life are all about Jesus.

Regardless of what they tell you, the Christian faith is not about love.

It’s not about morals and doing good.

The Christian faith is not about helping one another and be ye kind and see you in church.

Continue reading

The cross was no after-thought from God

“No one is taking my life from me; I lay it down of my own accord.”  (John 10:18)

“Now is the judgement of this world; now is the ruler of this world cast out.”  (John 12:31)

It was the moment Jesus had come for.

He was headed to the cross.

For Jesus, going to the cross was not Plan B.

God did not shake His head in disgust at mankind’s messing up His pretty plans and decide He would have to take drastic action.  “This is not how I had planned it, but those pesky humans leave me no other choice!”

Didn’t happen.

Continue reading