When a leader should submit. And when to insist.

We were sitting in the second pew to the far left.  I leaned over to my teenage grandson and whispered, “I remember when Brother Ken brought the drum set into the church. Some almost died. Now look.”

On the platform was the usual dozen or so musicians–pianist, keyboard, several guitars, two or three drummers, one violin, a couple of horns, and this time, for a special emphasis, a mandolin and banjo.  The music was amazing.

I found myself wondering,  “What if we had given in to the critics? What if Dr. Ken Gabrielse and I had feared the criticism and buckled?”

There are times when church leaders need to pay attention to the criticism, and times to ignore it.

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Homefront #8: Embracing the moment

Sitting on my back deck Sunday morning with my coffee, I was watching the birds flying in to enjoy the seeds and suet cake at my feeders a few feet away.  Cardinals, doves, sparrows, and a chickadee.  And it hit me that we’re almost out of seeds.  The storage bin on the deck has no more supplies for our feathered friends.  And then….

My wife Bertha walked out and said, “Amy (our next door neighbor) called. She’s at Kroger’s.  Do we need anything.”

“See if they have any birdseed.”  Kroger’s seems to have some of everything.  Maybe they’ll have this too.

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Why preachers are the way they are. Thank goodness.

(Do not miss the personal testimony of a pastor friend at the end.)

Someone asked, “Why do pastors not weep at funerals?  My pastor didn’t even weep at his own mother’s services.”

Interesting question.  I think we know the answer.

In my case, by the time we laid my wonderful mama to rest, I was in my early 70s and she was nearly 96. She was so ready to go. If it’s possible to prepare to give one’s beloved mother back to Jesus, I think we were that. And yes, we still miss her every day, and it’s been almost eight years.

But there’s another reason for the lack of tears.  Starting early–my mid-20s–I began doing heart-breaking funerals, one after another, the kind that will tear your heart out and stomp it and leave it writhing on the pavement. Do enough of these, and eventually you run out of tears.

It’s not that you do not care, do not love, or cannot feel. It’s just that you care and love and feel without tears.

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Entering the ministry? Bring with you a good sense of humor!

Homefront #7: Thursday

A neighbor who had been out of town for a week or two with her elderly mother has returned. She brought to us a huge package of toilet tissue and several rolls of paper towels. Do we have a nice neighbor or what?

A friend who goes to Alcoholics Anonymous tells me that in his large city there are now 40  chapters meeting online each evening.  (Do they call them chapters?)  He added, “A lot of people are learning technology who never thought they would.”

I’m one of them.  Now, I have done this website for nearly 20 years, so I know a couple of things.  On Facebook I can post cartoons and photos and such. But there is so much that is foreign to me.

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To the pastor of a stagnant congregation

How many churches have stopped growing in this country, in your denomination, of your church-type, in your county or parish or town?

Depends on who you ask.

Go on line and you’ll soon have statistics coming out your ears on this subject.

In our denomination–the Southern Baptist Convention–the most significant number, one that seems to have held steady for over three decades, is that some 70 percent of our churches are either in decline or have plateaued.

Plateau. Funny word to use for a church. One wonders how that came to be. Why didn’t they say “mesa,” “plain,” “delta” (ask anyone who lives in the Mississippi Delta–flat, flat, flat!), or even “flatline.”

In the emergency room, of course,  to “flatline” is to be dead. No one, to my knowledge, is saying a non-growing church is dead, only that some things are not right.

Healthy churches grow. Non-growing churches are not healthy, at least in some significant ways.

If it’s true that 7 out of 10 pastors in our family of churches serve congregations that are either in decline or in stagnation, this is a situation that ought to be addressed.

Everyone is addressing it. Everyone has an opinion.

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When the pastor feels like a failure

“For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:18).

“Did I fail?”

Every man or woman who ministers in the Kingdom of God is immediately struck by two great realities:  The perfection of God (and thus the desire to present to Him worthy offerings of worship and service) and the imperfection of mankind (meaning anything we offer Him will be flawed, even at its best).

As a result, we are often tormented with feelings of inadequacy and hounded by the knowledge that our efforts have not been enough, our devotion has been too weak, and our ministries a far cry from what we had hoped.

“I feel like a failure.”

Those words and that feeling are voiced not just by those who literally are failures. Some of the (outwardly) most successful pastors and spiritual leaders on the planet deal with the same sense of futility.

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How to be a Christian who never offends anyone

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with immoral people.  Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous or extortioners or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.  (I Corinthians 5:10)

They accuse me of stirring the pot, of introducing subjects sure to draw fire, of intentionally being controversial.  Nothing I say convinces them otherwise, even when all I did was to state something God’s people hold dear.

Almost all the key doctrines of the Christian faith someone will find objectionable and some will take offense at.

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Things I wonder about Holy Scripture

I love God’s Word.  Love to read it, think about it, talk about it, and preach it.  Oh, and yes, I love to “do” it.  Jesus said, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”  That’s John 13:17.

Even so, I wonder some things about God’s Word.

This might be a good time to pass along something given me a generation ago from a New Orleans lady who had a lapful of questions: “The Lord knows I’m only a wondering child, not a wandering one.”  There is a huge difference.

One: I wonder if the Lord ever wants to put beside particular scriptures the Facebook line: “Just saying.”

I sometimes wonder when to take a teaching literally and when the statement in Scripture was intended to be less than a command, or even simply a side remark.

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Homefront #6: The weekend of my 80th birthday

It’s not hard to get old.  Just keep breathing and having birthdays, and one day you’ll wake up and wonder where the time went and why everyone is looking at you as if you were ancient.  You have arrived. 

The eightieth is one of the big birthdays of this earthly existence….if you can get one.  I just experienced mine, with no one here to sing to me except my wife.

The backstory to that is that my older son Neil, living in Mobile, AL, had made plans to have a family-type shindig on Saturday and invite in extended family and close friends.  A couple of weeks ago, however, they shut that down.  I completely agreed with the decision.

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