When a pastor does not know his Bible

I’ve known of pastors who were basically ignorant of Holy Scriptures for one reason or the other, and who fed their sheep little to nothing from the pulpit.  In this day, however, there is no excuse for a pastor not knowing his Bible.  Resources literally bombard him from all sides, offering numerous ways to get help in learning this most precious of all Books.

When a pastor does not know the Word of God, he will….

One. Preach his pet scriptures over and over again.

Two. Surf the internet for catchy sermon titles and messages which he can recycle.

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Preacher, be careful about deceptive come-ons!

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly, nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock….  (I Peter 5:2-3)

If anyone on the planet should hold to the highest standards in dealing with people, it should be those who preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Alas.  The Elmer Gantrys have always been among us. Those who are in the work for the basest of reasons: money, recognition, other kinds of gratification.

Unto whom much is given, much will be required.  A warning if there ever was a warning to those who occupy the pulpits. (Luke 12:48)

Lack of integrity permeates our culture.

I had to cancel a credit card this week. The monthly statement showed six or eight fraudulent charges.  Where did that come from and how did it happen? I don’t know, but no one is surprised anymore.

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How God’s people stray and what He thinks of it

My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and they have hewed out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.  –Jeremiah 2:13

The Heavenly Father thinks His children do some truly stupid things.

And He doesn’t mind saying so, in no uncertain terms.

Put yourself in God’s  place….

God sees us turning away from Him–with the provisions and blessings of Heaven before us–and trying to improve on what He has given.

God said to David, “I’ve given you everything! And if that wasn’t enough, I’d have given you more. But no–you had to take Uriah’s one wife and destroy him in the process!”  What is wrong with David?  (2 Samuel 12:7-8)

Imagine how God feels, watching us…

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Worship: the ultimate DIY project

Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.  — Ecclesiastes 5:1

Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.  Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me.  –Psalm 50:14-15

If your primary worship takes place on Sunday morning at church, you are doing it all wrong and in all likelihood endlessly frustrated.

If the main worship you do takes place on Sunday morning at church, you’re putting too heavy a burden on your church’s worship leaders.  They cannot do for you in one hour what you should be doing for yourself seven days a week.

If the only worship you do takes place on Sunday morning at church, even at the best you are anemic and undernourished and will often find yourself faltering during the week.

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When you write a book

This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.  Psalm 102:18

People who write books are paragons of faith. They have no proof anyone will ever read what they write or if they will recoup the investment of their time and money.  And yet, they write on.

Aren’t we thankful for people who write books!

After all…

When you write a book, you give away a piece of yourself.  You have spent countless hours secreted away laboring over a pad with a pen or typing away on the laptop.  If you’re like me, you have wept and fussed, stopped to look something up, asked your spouse if this is the right word, and sent up periodic prayers that this would work and make a difference in someone’s life.

When they hold the book in their hands, they’re holding a piece of you.

When you write a book, you touch parts of the world you will never travel to, people you will never see, and make a difference you will not learn of in this lifetime.  This is a faith venture of the first sort.

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Things I did once–and never again–in a 58 year ministry.

On her Facebook page recently a friend asked, “Tell us something you have done which no one else in our group has done.”  She got the type of responses you might expect: hang gliding, jumping from planes, singing in Carnegie Hall, etc.

That started me thinking about these years of service to the Lord since He called me  in 1961.  I’m confident I’ve done nothing no one else has, but it may be worthwhile to reflect on some of the almost one-of-a-kind things that have taken place in my ministry. (I’ve not ever done this kind of reflection before, so we’ll see how it goes. Smiley-face here.)

For what it’s worth, here are some that come to mind…

I have drawn a comic book for the missionaries in Singapore. 

In the mid-1970s, I saw a note in The Commission magazine where they were looking for a cartoonist to draw an evangelistic comic for their work in Singapore.  While I mulled it over, the phone rang.  My wife said, “Honey, have you seen this? They need a cartoonist in Singapore!”

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For those who think “People are naturally good”—Are you serious?

There is none righteous.  No, not one.”  –Romans 3:10

A basic tenet of the liberal philosophy–at least with liberals I’ve encountered–holds that people are naturally good, and all things considered can be counted on to do the right thing.

You wonder what planet they live on.

In last night’s news, a man bought up a hundred nursing/rehab facilities across the country, then neglected maintenance and upkeep, drained their finances of millions of dollars, and holds that he did nothing wrong.

After the news, Bertha and I watched the 1939 James Stewart movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” an indictment on corruption in the highest levels of government.  I’m recalling that when a preview was given in the nation’s capital, everyone came expecting something good. Instead, they were highly offended. The very idea that they would be so depicted.  And then…

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The pastor’s principles of staff leadership and team management

From time to time, pastors run situations by me for my response.  Often it has to do with a conflict with a staff member. Particularly if either the pastor or staffer is new, conflict often arises.  That’s why…

I suggest that pastors have some tried-and-true principles to govern their relationships with ministerial staff and the office staff. That is–to clarify–some bedrock rules you go by in your dealings with your team.  In most cases, you have acquired these the hard way, by breaking them or being broken upon them.

Anyway.   Here are a few I have lived with, just to get you started….

One.  No leader  likes surprises.

That’s why we have weekly staff meetings, to talk things out, to plan the calendar, etc.  Once on a Sunday morning, the student minister announced to the church that the mission trip for next Summer would be to New Hampshire.  Next morning in staff, I said, “At what point did we decide the youth would go to New Hampshire next summer?”  He turned twelve colors, swallowed hard, and said, “Uh oh.”  We had a head knocking–in love, actually–and he learned an important lesson.  And yes, he took the youth to New Hampshire.

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The pastor wasted some time today; he doesn’t know which.

You do not know the way of the wind….  You do not know the works of God who makes everything….  You do not know which will prosper…. (Ecclesiastes 11:5-6).

Today the pastor did a hundred things, some of which are eternal and some not.  Some were gold, silver, and precious stones, while others were wood, hay, and stubble.

He visited three patients in the hospital, talked to strangers in the hospital lobby, to nurses in the hallway, to people he met along the way, and he studied for his sermons.  He dealt with administrative issues in the church office, had to reprimand the church custodian for doing a poor job of cleaning bathrooms, and returned a dozen phone calls.  He wrote something for the church website, accepted an invitation to speak at a civic luncheon, and had lunch with his wife.  A neighboring pastor ran by for a few minutes to confer about a project they’re working on for the association, he answered someone’s on-line query about tithing, and he took a walk around the block.  He leaves the Bible open on the table in his back office and stops by for a few minutes from time to time to read the text of next Sunday’s message or to look something up.  He prays there and often, throughout the day.

When his head hits the pillow at night, he has a hard time remembering what he did or knowing what he accomplished.

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The Jehovah’s Witnesses and me

I don’t have a good track record of my dealings with members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion.

First story. During my seminary years, while pastoring a small church on a Louisiana bayou, a man in my congregation asked me to accompany him on a visit with a neighbor who used to be a member of the JWs and was not going to  church. I was green, eager, and clueless. Even though that man was no longer a member in good standing of the JWs–for reasons I have long since forgotten–he knew all their arguments, bought into their philosophy, and was a master of their combative attacks on what we might call traditional Christianity. He was brutal in the way he mauled me.

I was savaged.

As we left, my companion, a fellow who was to put a few grey hairs in my head over the decades for other reasons, tossed it all in my lap. “You have to answer him, Joe. If you don’t answer him, I’m never going to believe in you again.” Something like that.

Thanks a lot, friend.

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