“As his share who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage: they shall share alike” (I Samuel 30:24).
When Roland Q. Leavell returned home to the States from the “Great War” in Europe–what would come to be called the First World War–he had a problem. People wanted to hear stories of the war, of battles, of heroism. The problem was he didn’t have any.
Roland Q. Leavell was in his 20s, single, and with a bachelor’s degree from seminary. He had pastored small churches and had been sent to “the front” as a representative of the YMCA. In those days, there was no USO to take care of American troops overseas, and fledgling organizations and ministries were still trying to figure these things out.
According to Dottie L. Hudson’s book “He Still Stands Tall: The Life of Roland Q. Leavell,” based on her father’s diaries, Roland did a hundred small things in his efforts for the Y: He led Bible studies, he counseled soldiers, he ran a canteen, he taught French to a few soldiers, and he drove an ambulance. At one point, he inhaled poisonous gas the Boches sprayed into the air. The one time he shot a gun was as a joke, pointed into the air across no-man’s-land. “I guess I didn’t kill over 50,” he remarked in his diary.
And when he got home, people wanted to hear his stories.
Many a pastor and/or staff member would still be in ministry today had they sought the counsel of church leaders on some practice they were contemplating.
Can the pastor start a business on the side and still receive full pay from the church? Is it all right if he markets something to the church? Or to the members?
May the pastor’s wife be paid for all the hard work she’s doing? How much should the pastor be reimbursed when the allotted money did not cover his expenses for a church mission trip? What if a company doing business with the church offers to build the pastor a swimming pool (or garage or bird house!) in appreciation?
Get advice, pastor.
Recently, when I sounded forth on how pastors should conduct funerals for saints, a friend pointed out that a harder assignment is officiating at the services for an outright unbeliever. He looked forward to my points on that.
I was tempted to say, “Yeah. Me too!”
But, as always, I appreciate a good suggestion for an article in this blog, particularly something that would help pastors and other church leaders.
We will begin with questions which pastors frequently ask among themselves concerning the funerals of unbelievers…
“Your words have helped the tottering to stand; you have strengthened feeble knees” (Job 4:4).
Speak clearly. Enunciate. Use simple, active language. Avoid wordiness. Never try to impress the audience with large, unfamiliar words.
Encourage people with your speech. “She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:26).
“Take with you words,” said the prophet to God’s people, “and return to the Lord” (Hosea 14:2).
Words. They matter so much. You’re reading a compilation of them right now. Ideally, I have so arranged them as to make sense and convey a message.
The major reason writers edit their writings is to find the culprits that would hinder communication.
It’s essential not to use a word that would impede, stun, or burden the message. .
In today’s newspaper, the food section carried a huge article on how a good salad can improve a meal. The headline said: “Ameliorate any meal with a simple pasta salad.”
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either falls, the other will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when no one is there to lift him up…. And if two lie down together, they keep warm. But how can one be warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11)
A friend whose wife died several years ago said to me recently, “I don’t ever plan to marry again. If God has something different about this, He will let me know. But I’m a long way from anything remotely like that.”
His reason for telling me that? Probably so I’d quit trying to come up with a good match for him.
Bertha and I have been married 15 months. We love this time of our lives so much–we were each wed for 52 years before the Lord took Gary and Margaret–we wish all our friends could share the joy!
I said to a pastor friend, “I wonder if you’d allow me to offer a tiny word of criticism on last Sunday’s sermon.” He sat up straight and beamed. “I’d welcome a criticism!”
This good man is even excited to have someone do this. Wow. (He said later that everyone compliments his preaching, but sometimes he’d appreciate a helpful suggestion. I had two thoughts: Any right-thinking pastor would do that, but at the same time, we don’t want a constant barrage of suggestions or criticisms. Just one or two along the way at helpful intervals would be quite sufficient, thanks.)
I said, “You jumped off into the deep end of the pool with us. Within two minutes after you began the sermon we were in over our heads. That makes it hard on a congregation to keep up and follow you.”
He kept listening.
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on, that they may rest from their labors. And their works do follow them” (Revelation 14:13).
“I tell my students, when you’re standing at the graveside of a saint, make the message clear and plain. Because you’ve got the only message in town!” –Ken Chafin, longtime seminary professor, teacher of evangelism, pastor
I’ve been going to funerals a lot lately.
Not conducting them, but going as a mourner.
I’ve reached the point in life where almost weekly I learn of the deaths of longtime friends and former parishioners. This week, it was an 86-year-old member of a church I served in the 70s and 80s. The week before, the deceased was the widow of a colleague I’d served on a church staff with in the early 1970s; she was 92.
I always pay attention to how the ministers do their funerals. Always want to learn to do this better.
And that brings me to this.
“And some men came down (to Antioch) from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according tot he custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren (there) determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.” (Acts 15:1-2)
And so we have what is called the First Church Council, convened by the early church fathers to answer the question ‘How are we saved?’ Is it by faith alone or are works of the law required? Must a Gentile become a Jew to be saved?
The reason this is on my mind today is that I’ve been in a dialogue with a preacher in the Church of Christ denomination (although he and their leaders insist they are not a denomination!). He gave me a packet of pamphlets written by one of their elders which he is distributing. I took it home with me, read through them, and was answering them. When I concluded he was more interested in defending their narrow (and erroneous) interpretation of the truth than in finding and doing the truth as taught in Scriptures, I shut the discussion down.
One of the pamphlets addresses the question “What must I do to be saved?” from Acts 16:30. But instead of giving the answer Paul gave–“Believe on the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, you and your household”–the writer proceeded to attack the very answer Paul gave. In one paragraph, he writes:
“Master, are you aware the Pharisees were offended by (what you preached)?” (Matthew 15:12)
The truth has a way of offending.
Those who preach the Word must keep a sharp edge on their message.
The typical “liberal” church in modern America has no problem offending traditionalists. What it cannot do–will not dare do, not for all the world!–is to go against the conventional wisdom of the day. If the culture decides a thing is wrong, the accommodating church finds a way to adapt its doctrine and practices to the prevailing whims. And so we have churches that call themselves Christian and Bible-believing ignoring or twisting Scripture in order to justify abortions, euthanasia, legalization of drugs, and the LGBTQ agenda, while erasing from their beliefs and practices anything having to do with the necessity of being born again, the role of the blood of Christ in our salvation, or the reality of hell.
What’s going on here?
“Beware of Pharisees. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers; and do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called leaders, for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant.” Matthew 23
Pastor, given a choice–and you always have a choice–try not to look and act like a Pharisee. For my money, the best way–the very best way in the universe–is to use this phrase: “When I got my doctorate…”
I’m not sure why that sets me off, but it does. And I haven’t the slightest idea whether it’s only me or the rest of the universe.
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, that phrase is completely unnecessary and is inserted only to call attention to oneself, to make sure the hearers fall to their knees in abject horror. “Oh my, you have a doctorate?! You must be of superior intelligence, far beyond most mortals.” “Forgive me for thinking you put your pants on one leg at a time!”