When the pastor lives below the standard of his church leaders

Here’s a situation that might surprise some church members to know preachers deal with and that it is frequently a problem.

The pastor visits in the homes of his members and notices that they live more luxuriously than he and his family.  Their house is larger, built better, and is located in a classier neighborhood. They dress well, have a pool, and their cars are always the latest model.

The pastor and his wife notice these things; count on it. And as their children grow into the teen years, they also become aware that some in the church are wealthier than they.

Now, every family is different.  One would hope the pastor’s spouse and family are so intent on serving God in this community that material things are a distant second to them. You would hope they rejoice in the success some families enjoy, and let it go at that.

That’s not always the case. At times, the pastor and family come down with a severe case of “why not us, Lord?”  Also known in the medical books as “Why can’t we live the way they do?”

Here are a few thoughts on this issue.

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How to love your church’s monthly business conferences

I’m cleaning out desk drawers in my church office, trying to close it down.  After I retired  in 2009, our church generously provided me a secluded space to set up a desktop computer for writing. Since it adjoined the church library, it was perfect in every way.

These days, since I no longer need a separate office, for the past few months, I’ve been trying to close it out.  A bigger job than I’d anticipated.

That’s how I came across something written while I was still pastoring–that would be sometime prior to 2004–under the title “Conducting a business meeting.”

Pastors and church leaders are all too familiar with those monthly church business conferences that can be mind-numbingly boring at times and at other times can rip open a fellowship of believers and leave it in shreds.  Their unpredictability has caused many a church leader to look for ways to dispense with them, everything from simply forgetting to have them to amending the constitution and by-laws to say the church will have only quarterly or annual conferences to outright canceling them altogether.

No solution is ideal, as far as I can see. So much depends on the leadership and the membership.

That said, I wanted to reproduce the one page article here. It tells a great story….

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Predisposed toward the negative

“Help us, Lord! We’re perishing!” (Matthew 8:25)

A friend sent a packet of material to help me deal with the grief of my wife’s death.  I appreciate his kindness and thoughtfulness.  Included in the folder was his church bulletin and monthly mailout, which I enjoyed reading. That’s how I noticed something slightly odd.

The Sunday bulletin listed last week’s actual offering as, let’s say “$45,000.”   Above it was the figure which the budget requires on a weekly basis, perhaps “$55,000.”   Underneath it said, “Deficit: $10,000.”

Now, what we have here is a church showing that last Sunday’s offering, as generous as it was, amounted to a deficit, when all that happened was that on that particular Lord’s Day the contributions were low.  They probably made up for it the next Sunday.

If I were their pastor, I would instruct the editor of the publication to delete the word “deficit” from the dictionary.  “Use that word only when I tell you to do so.”

Some church members are automatically drawn to any bad report or negative slant they can find to attack or undermine the present pastor and church leadership.  I’d just as soon not give them ammunitiion.

Okay, now….

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A guide to mistreating worshipers

“….they treated the Lord’s offering with contempt” (I Samuel 2:17).

The first rule of worship leadership should probably be stated as Try Not To Get In Their Way.

When  people come to worship, if you cannot help them, at the very least try not to interfere with what they are doing.

The sons of Eli the High Priest were nothing but trouble. Hophni and Phinehas–who doesn’t love those names!– “were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord or for the priests’ share of the sacrifices from the people” (I Samuel 2:12-13).

God literally calls them SOBs.  “Sons of Belial” is the Hebrew expression translated as “wicked men” or “corrupt.”

Scripture has not a single positive statement about these miscreants.

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Where do we find all these church jobs in Scripture?

A friend messaged asking for my “take” on all the different pastors in the church these days. Senior pastor, student pastor, worship, adminstrative, children’s, and executive pastor–the list is endless.

He said, “Why don’t we have just one pastor?”

The quick answer, of course, is that pastor means shepherd, and these various ministers are shepherding a part of the flock. The larger the flock, the more shepherds are needed.  It’s a noble concept and has the full support of scripture.  Whether one could blame the Bible for the “senior” business or “executive pastor” thing is another question. (But if a church wants to label its ministers that way, personally I’m good with it.)

I do think it’s almost funny how the pastor of some tiny flock somewhere will list himself as “senior pastor.”  But we laugh only to ourselves.  It’s his business and not ours.

An angry commenter–responding to something someone wrote about the “administrative assistant” in their church–took off on the unscriptural nature of that position.  “Show me an administrative assistant in the church,” he said, with the complete confidence they couldn’t do it.

He didn’t ask me, but I could have.

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The best leadership verse in the Bible?

“That the leaders led in Israel, that the people volunteered, O bless the Lord” (Judges 5:2).

Scripture gems show up in the unlikeliest of places.

Deborah became a hero by default.  She describes herself as “a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7).  Earlier, she was identified as “a prophetess” and one who “judged Israel at that time” (4:4). She was thus a woman of great spirituality, excellent understanding, and keen insight. People trusted her.

Deborah summoned Barak to her location.  She had a disturbing question for this leader of Israel.  “Hasn’t God called you to lead His army against these oppressive Canaanites?”

For over two decades, the murderous Canaanites had run over Israel and God’s people had been praying for Him to intervene.

Now the Lord told Deborah that He had called Barak, but he was reluctant to obey. He was not the first and certainly not the last to need prodding to obey God’s instruction, to answer His call.

The sheepish Barak told the woman of God, “I’ll go–but only if you’ll go with me”  (4:8).  Is he saying “I’ll go if you will hold my hand?”  Like the great warrior needs his mama along?  It appears that way.

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How to keep your church young and growing

“They will be full of sap and very green” (Psalm 92:14).

The December 2014 issue of “The Progressive Farmer” asks 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.

There is a reason certain businesses are dying before our eyes.  K-Mart and Shoney’s come to mind.  The discount store and the restaurant were once all the rage.  Today they are fighting to stay alive.  (My wife says, “K-Mart is coming back.” Okay. Good.)  We think of names like Montgomery-Ward, Spiegel, Western Auto, and Rexall– in most cases only dim memories now.  National Shirt Shop. Woolworth. Maison Blanche.

To stay healthy and maintain its mission, any entity must be constantly reinventing itself, tweaking its systems, sloughing off the old and dead, birthing the new.

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Delegating upward: Why we should not let it happen

“Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 13:7).  “Paul and his companions” (Acts 13:13).  “Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 13:43).

Sometimes when we say “He must increase; I must decrease,” it’s not Jesus we’re referring to, but a brother or sister of ours.

Early in my seminary pastorate, I looked around for quick ways to make a difference in our little bayou church.  Since I had been a secretary for several years and typing and running printing machines were second nature to me, I decided the church bulletin would receive my attention.

I asked Mrs. Porter, the lovely senior lady who had the weekly responsibility of gathering the information, typing it into the form, and printing it as a handout bulletin for Sunday services, if I could take it over.  To her credit, she was not offended, but delighted to get rid of that task. (She had plenty of other responsibilities. As I say, it was a small church.)

The bulletin I produced was sharper than hers.  The typing was clearer, the English was classier, and the overall appearance was better.

I had made a serious mistake.

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Disaster in the making: The worst advice ever for young ministers

“Let no one despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity…” (I Timothy 4:12)

People love to give advice to young adults just entering the ministry.  I’m sure they think they’re helping.

I was a senior in college when the Lord fingered me for the ministry.  When my coal miner Dad got the news, even though his experience with church leadership was minimal, he had advice for his number three son. “Start off pastoring small churches.  That way you learn how to do it before moving on to the bigger places.”

As if I had a choice.

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Our church welcomes you. On our own terms, of course.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).

“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

I had been reading in our local paper that the New Orleans Museum of Art’s display of artifacts from the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 would be closing its run soon, and I wanted to see this.  My wife was out of town, so this would be a good time.

So, that Tuesday afternoon, after finishing my hospital rounds, I drove to the museum in City Park, arriving around 4 pm.  I made my way around the barricades that obstructed the newly completed entrance and prepared to buy a ticket.  Signs said the museum closed at 5 pm.  And yet, something was wrong.

The entrance was closed and the ticket booth was shut down.

I stood there a moment wondering if I’d been mistaken about the time.

Just then, a couple of young adults stepped out of the ticket booth. I said, “Are you closed?”

One of the men said, “The exhibit takes two hours to see, so we stop selling tickets at 4 o’clock since you could not complete it before the museum closes.”  I was stunned.

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