He must increase, but I must decrease. –John the Baptist. (John 3:30)
The speaker said, “As you know, I urge people to walk by the Spirit, to obey Him. But I need you to know I am not anti-intellectual, not against education. In fact, I am so much pro-education that I have my bachelor’s degree from a college, I have my master’s, and I also own a doctorate. In fact, when I was working on my doctorate, the dean said to me that my dissertation was so profound that I should turn it into a book. That book, you’ll want to know, is on the market right now and you can purchase it in the foyer at the end of this meeting.”
Another time, the visiting preacher, an older fellow, wanted our church to know that he was somebody, I suppose. Early in the service he told how he had started a church many years ago and stayed with it through the years until his retirement, that during this time he had baptized so many, and had enjoyed seeing the membership climb to (whatever). He showed a photo of the huge plant on the screen. He must have talked about his former church for five minutes. We never did know why. We did not need to know of his successes to hear him. In fact, his scars probably made him a better preacher than his awards.
(In our experience, most of the Lord’s people are wonderful and most of His churches are filled with sincere and godly workers. But once in a while, pastors come upon sick churches led by difficult people who seem to delight in controlling their ministers. When they find themselves unable to do this, they attack. Pity the poor unsuspecting preacher and his family. What follows is written just for them.)
“But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the courts, and scourge you in their synagogues….” (Matthew 10:17)
You and your wife–please adjust gender references herein as your situation demands–went into the ministry with heads high, hearts aglow, and eyes wide open, idealism firmly tucked under your arm, vision clear and focus solid.
As newly minted ambassadors for Christ, the two of you were ready to do battle with the world, eager to serve the saints, and glad to impart the joyful news of the gospel.
Ministry was going to be great and noble and even blessed.
That’s what you thought.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable….that the man of God may be complete” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Those who demand a Scripture verse for everything they do place an intolerable burden on the Christian life never intended by the Heavenly Father.
Some among us have all the answers about the Christian life and have solved all the mysteries of doctrine and theology.
Is there a verse of Scripture on that?
These “super-apostles” write me, taking issue with many of the positions we hold in these articles. They have it all worked out and find it incredulous that we do not see matters their way. The only explanation, they conclude, is that I must be a) unsaved or b) willfully blind.
I wrote something about tithing for this website.
In “The Story of Ain’t: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published,” David Skinner describes the hostile reaction that greeted the release of “Webster’s Third Edition” in 1961. The incident provides an excellent lesson for all of us, particularly church folk.
But first, the context.
Skinner’s book traces the development of dictionaries in this country and their struggles to determine what goes in and what stays out. Then it chronicles the work of G. and C. Merriam Company to produce a new kind of dictionary, one unlike all the others.
The editors had arrived at the interesting conclusion that no one had made them the authority over the English language. No one had put them in charge of English as spoken and written in America. In fact, they decided there is no authority.
This must have come as a shock to every teacher I ever had in elementary and high school. Invariably, they would fault students for some breach of the language and add, “Check the dictionary.” Yep, there it was, in black and white.
“They will be full of sap and very green” (Psalm 92:14).
The December 2014 issue of “The Progressive Farmer” asked whether to “Keep or Cull?” Subtitle of the article: “High prices have changed the rules about when to cut one loose from the herd.”
Farmers who want to keep their herds young and viable know the importance of culling certain animals that get too old, consume too much resources, are no longer producing, or are a detriment in other ways.
Pastors cannot cull.
More’s the pity, we say with a wink.
I’ve never meant much to any team I’ve rooted for.
I grew up in Alabama and went to quite a few Bama games during the Bear Bryant era. When I moved to Mississippi, I learned to love Ole Miss and State. Later, living in the New Orleans area, I became a fan of LSU and Tulane.
Those schools make no money from me. They do not know I exist. I’m on no mailing list for alumni or anyone else. I just watch them on TV. I cheer when they win and hurt (a little) when they lose.
On one occasion, LSU was playing Alabama and it was a huge game. I cut off the television and went to bed at halftime. Sunday morning, I got up and drove to the church where I ministered all morning, and did not learn the outcome of the game until the afternoon. Some fan, right?
Personally, I’m good with that. It does not bother me one iota that I no longer live and die by the fortunes of any team.
Sports are not reality . They are called games for good reason. Granted, the fortunes of teams affect the livelihood of a lot of people and the economies of their host cities. But that would be true of t-shirt factories or ice cream parlors if the city invested its hopes in them.
I know preachers who are delighted no longer to be pastoring in the heart of football-land where a large segment of their church members have lost sight of the dividing line between fantasy and reality and bring their school loyalties and animosities into the fellowship. I know pastors who need to take down all the fan stuff hanging on the walls of their offices and replace it with something about Jesus.
There are church members with deeper loyalties to a college team than to the Lord Jesus Christ.
If that does not concern you, well…it should.
“…you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold…” (Revelation 3:16)
Mediocrity is a warm blanket.
Mediocrity is remaining with the bunch that finishes neither early or late, that turns in work much like everyone else’s, that is satisfied with pretty good.
Mediocrity is the head in the sand when the storm is raging around us.
Close your eyes until it all blows over.
Mediocrity is the coward’s way out when life-or-death decisions are being made. “Well, let’s give this some more thought.” “Let’s not be too hasty here.” “We don’t want people to think we’re extremists.”
There’s the appearance of safety in mediocrity. We’re like everyone around us. We don’t stand out. No one criticizes us. They don’t even see us. We blend into the landscape.
Our English word mediocre comes from two Latin words, medi meaning “halfway,” and ocris meaning “mountain.” Somewhere there is a list of everyone climbing to the crest of Mount Everest. But no one ever bothered to note those who got half way up and turned around for home.
We all carry scars. Like old lions lying in the sun. Like old warriors trying to get it together one last time.
No one emerges from this life unscathed.
At age 80-plus I lie in bed in the early morning hours all finished with sleep but knowing it’s still too early to rise, just thinking about things. My mind travels back to errors I have made along the way, mistakes of all kinds, big and little, consequential and not. I try not to beat myself up over them, but frequently I offer up a prayer for the one I may have hurt or disappointed or neglected.
I’ve told here how my father in the last few years of his lengthy life (over 95 orbits around the sun!) dredged up something from his 18th year that still bothered him. His mother had ordered him to leave home and live on his own.. (Grandma had a houseful of children, they were a coal-mining family, the boys were constantly fighting, while Carl–my dad–had been earning his own living for years and she needed some peace. I suspect I’d have done what she did.) Nothing we said eased Dad’s mind. It bothered him that his mother did something so unfair. Eventually time became his friend and as he eased into the sunset of life (I’m smiling at such an apt but dumb depiction of death!), this ceased to bother him.
When I lie there thinking of the past, my mind does not fixate on failures of others or my mistreatment by them. I’ve been the recipient of blessings and grace galore. No complaints here. (When my Bertha–we will celebrate four years of marriage on January 11–brings my favorite dinner in, I sometimes say, “I must be one of the most deserving people in the world. Either that, or I am daily showered with grace!” I know the answer to that one.)
Over breakfast in a Cracker Barrel a few miles west of Nashville, Frank and I talked about his new job. After a quarter century of pastoring Southern Baptist churches, he had become a chaplain in industry. When we talked, he had just gone full-time.
“Basically, we walk the plant and talk to the workers, four or five minutes each. We’re not promoting a church or a denomination, but trying to get to know them.”
“Our object,” he said, “is to gain their confidence by showing them we aren’t selling anything or promoting anyone but Jesus.”
He works with everyone, he says, from Muslims to Jehovah’s Witnesses to Baptists to atheists.
“When we first start inside a plant or company, the workers are suspicious. They think we are a part of management.”
“Gradually, they learn we’re not. In fact, we cannot tell the boss anything they tell us without their permission.”
“Confidentiality is the rule,” Frank said.
You get your chaplains from the pastorate? I asked.
“We do. But first we have to train them, to detox them.”
He who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? (I John 4:20)
Luther Little was a pastor any modern preacher could admire and look up to. I became pastor of the church he had served early in the 20th century, some 40 years after he was off the scene. The more I learned about him, the more I admired him.
In the 1920’s, he became the first pastor in America, we’re told, to broadcast his church services over radio. For a time, millions of people up and down the East Coast considered Dr. Luther Little their radio pastor.
To my delight, I discovered this preacher was a novelist. Somewhere along the way–in a used bookstore, I think–I ran across Manse Dwellers, his novel about a pastor and his family. Clearly, he was following the number one dictum for novelists: write about what you know.
I confess I was disappointed to see that the pastor-author was strictly a man of his day with a glaring sin-problem he did not even know about.
Luther Little had a blind spot.