What started this was something my young friend Josh said.
Josh, who grew up in my last pastorate and is now a medical student, is a veteran contestant on game shows and quiz programs. At the age of 11, he was a contestant on Jeopardy. As a student at the University of Southern California, he hosted his own television program on the campus station. Later he was a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? In between, he did The Wheel and several other shows.
The question that tripped him up on Millionaire went something like this: “At 7’7″, (name) is the tallest player in the NBA. But he is slightly shorter than what portion of the Statue of Liberty?” The choices were her right arm, her eye, the tablet she is holding, and her finger. Using his final lifeline, Josh asked a buddy to help him, and they missed it. Anyway….
Josh said veteran contestants (like himself) have a name for that kind of question, but perhaps he shouldn’t tell his pastor. I said, “Come on. Give.”
“We call that a Go To Hell question.”
Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46) “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).
Show us what you do and we can decide for ourselves whether you believe the Bible.
My friend Kristin 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,” Kristin said, interrupting herself. “I just remembered a time when my pastor answered that differently.”
Him we preach. –Colossians 1:28
–No one has been to Heaven except the One who came from there. John 3:13. How clear is that? He is the One who knows.
–No one can come to God the Father except through Jesus. John 14:6. How clear is that? He is our Mediator.
–No one can know God unless Jesus reveals Him to them. Matthew 11:27. How clear is that? He is the Revealer.
–There is no other name under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. Only Jesus. Acts 4:12. How clear is that? He is our Savior.
“They will still bear fruit in old age; they will be full of sap and very green….” (Psalm 92:14)
Here’s what happened.
As I was surfing through the program containing all the articles in this website from nearly twenty years of blogging, I came across an unfinished draft called “the last temptations of the aged.” I breezed right past it, in search of something else I was looking for.
A moment later, I was back. That was an intriguing title, I thought. Must have started that article a year or more back. Wonder what it says.
After reading it, I deleted the entire thing.
It was indeed written a few years back, and then left in the program and forgotten. But the strange part is that nothing it said applies to my life now.
Not a thing.
Here is a list that will stand the test of time, methinks, and may apply to a great segment of geriatrics as we move into life’s red zone. Let’s think of these as the last temptations of the aged….
But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine. –Titus 2:1
If you’re active on social media, you’ll encounter these platitudes often. Eventually, you will learn to ignore them or they will drive you batty.
Here are four that have my attention today….
One. “Christianity is not a religion; it’s a relationship.”
Sounds right, but it’s wrong. Ask yourself one question: As a follower of Jesus, someone in a (ahem) relationship with Him, would it be all right if I joined a religion and became a Buddhist or Taoist or a Jew or a Muslim? After all, as a Christian I’m not in a religion as such (according to this thinking) and there would be no reason not to. Of course those religions are incompatible with the way of Jesus Christ.
“The way of Jesus Christ”? That is what we call The Christian Religion.
Friend, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, well….
“I’ve got a secret!” –Popular television game show of the 1960s and 1970s.
A man I know once wrote of the secrets his family was harboring as they struggled to deal with an addictive, out-of-control relative.
“You know how the family gets ready to host a guest and the house is clean and in order and nothing out of place? The guest is impressed. He wishes his house could be this neat and organized with nothing out of place.”
“But what he doesn’t know is that there is one room where you have stored all the junk and clutter. If he were to open the door to that room, he would be amazed.”
That, he said, is how things are for a family that tries to keep up an image when they are about to come apart.
They push things back into that private room, whose door they dare not open.
It’s about family secrets.
My friend Pastor Dave led a congregation in my neighborhood for two thirds of his life. This was a sweet fellowship and even though our denominational affiliation is different, Dave graciously invited me to fill the pulpit in his absence on several occasions.
One day over lunch, I asked Dave how he had managed to stay in one church over four decades. Were there not times when church members rose up and demanded new leadership? Did he not get the urge to try something new?
Bear in mind that I work with pastors. I hear the tales of midnight deacons’ meetings, of forced terminations, of pressure groups, of bullies and rogue church officers and, in the words of one, “the devil in pew number seven.” Dave had none of this?
“Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46).
Somewhere around the house I have an old book with the wonderful title of “657 of the Best Things Ever Said.” It’s just one person’s opinion, of course, and it might not surprise you to know most of the quotes are silly.
As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, doubtless it’s true that the “best things ever said” is also arbitrary.
With one exception.
Literally hundreds of millions of people across this world agree with the judgement of those early Galileans that “No one ever spoke like Jesus.”
Our Lord spoke a solid one thousand mind boggling things never heard before on Planet Earth, all of them surprising and wonderful and memorable. And, let’s be honest, many who heard Jesus also found His words provocative, offensive, and even blasphemous.
When Jesus stood to preach, no one was bored.
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect….” (Matthew 5:48)
First, let’s get the theological argument out of the way.
Let’s make this perfectly clear: God knows you are not perfect and will never be this side of Glory.
And even clearer: “God does not expect sinlessness out of you and me. He is under no illusion about us.” See Psalm 103:14 “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” And Romans 3:10 “There is none righteous, no, not one.” Or how about, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8).
Got that? The illusion of sinless perfection is all ours, my friend.
Some power clique in the church is on your case. Some church member is leading a movement to oust you. The church has a history of ousting pastors every so often and it’s time, and some members are getting restless.
Or, perhaps, as the pastor, you did something wrong and it blew up in your face. People are calling for your head.
Or, you failed to act and some cancer has gained a foothold within the congregation and your job is in jeopardy.
What do you do now?
It would be foolish to try to offer a panacea here, a cure-all for what ails the church, a fix-all for what troubles the pastor. I will not attempt that. But here are 20 steps which many pastors can take to right the ship and set it back on track (to mix metaphors)….
1) Don’t hesitate to apologize if you need to.
“I blew it, folks. I’m sorry.”
Apologies should be as public as the act was public. If you did one person wrong and it’s known only to that one, go to him/her and admit what you did and ask for forgiveness. If your mistake was churchwide, stand in the pulpit and take your medicine.