I said to a pastor search committee, “Wait a minute. The former pastor of your church lives a hundred miles away, but he’s still the chaplain of the local high school football team? And he comes back for every game?”
For this and a few other reasons, I declined their invitation to become pastor of that church.
Dealing with a former pastor who is well-loved and will not go away and stay gone is a huge challenge for the preacher who follows him.
But there are those who do it well.
We could all take a lesson in how to deal with our predecessor from Paul Mainieri, the baseball coach of LSU’s consistently championship team. His predecessor, Skip Bertman, is a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame. And with good reason….
Continue reading “How to treat your celebrity predecessor” »
“The things you have heard from me….commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore…(are to be) a good soldier of Jesus Christ….” (II Timothy 2:2-3)
If your pastor is a godly, humble man who is leading the congregation to minister effectively and become healthy spiritually, give thanks and support him enthusiastically.
You are the envy of a lot of other churches.
The caller the other night said he is a lay leader of his church, a strong tither, and a volunteer who can be counted on. The church he loves so much is into freefall with members deserting it in droves and going to other churches, while his pastor is a liar, a bully, and on the way to becoming a dictator. Church attendance is one-half what it was when the preacher came a few years back.
What to do?
Continue reading “He said, “My pastor needs to go.”” »
“One thing thou lackest.” (Luke 10:42)
Your pastor is a super guy, does a great job in a hundred ways, but he mangles the rules of grammar.
Call it to his attention or not?
Your outstanding pastor violates every standard of dress. Sometimes he looks like a slob and when he dresses up, he seems to have no sense of taste, of what looks good on him. Should you speak to him? You don’t want to discourage him, but just correct this glaring omission in his total package.
Your pastor’s wife is close to being wonderful. But she has one little problem that is distracting, and could be remedied very easily. She needs to take more care about her personal appearance, or the way she speaks, or her habit of digging people with her teasing, or letting her children run loose in the church building. Talk to her or let it ride?
Your faithful pastor seems to have a gap in his theological understanding. This is far more important than the color of his tie (or whether he wears one) or how he parts his hair (if he has any). This is basic stuff. You could help him. Do you say something, or bite your tongue?
You love your Lord, love your church, and adore a hundred things about your pastor and his family. You are concerned about one or two small things that are drawing a lot of unneeded attention from critics. Do you give thanks for what you have and let the other things go? Or do you go the second mile in demonstrating your love for his family by telling him (or the wife) that “one more thing” which could make the difference in his succeeding in your church or failing.
Here are a few thoughts on the subject….
Continue reading “My pastor has this problem. Should I tell him?” »
(All of what follows, young pastor, concerns your pulpit presence. We’ll be back from time to time discussing other facets of pastoral leadership. And, I might need to say, this is directed toward no one particular pastor of so many I’ve worked with in 2013. Each is a winner, a dear brother in Christ, and it’s been a privilege. What follows is a series of impressions which linger long after my visit to your church. I send these with the prayer the Lord will bless your ministry beyond anything you ever dreamed of or asked for.)
You are clearly called to this ministry by the Lord, pastor. Visiting in your church, I saw evidence of His hand upon you, both in the seriousness with which you view your task and the acceptance and trust with which your people hold you.
You did not ask me to critique what you do, and I’m not doing so now. However, knowing how a few well-placed suggestions can tip the scales as we struggle to become more effective in our ministry, I offer these to you.
1)Presentation: May I say a word about your clothing?
Continue reading “Dear young pastor: May I make a few suggestions?” »
“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift that is in you….” (II Timothy 1:6) “Of these things put them in remembrance….” (II Timothy 2:14).
Today, I spent the morning hours in a school in North Carolina giving my little presentation we call “Lessons in self-esteem from drawing 100,000 people.” I sketch a lot of students, then segue into the talk which, among other things, urges the kids to stop comparing themselves with others, accept themselves as the persons God made them to be, and to smile. Then it happened again.
Only five minutes after the talk, we invited the students to crowd around and I would sketch as many as possible in the remaining time. “Look at me and smile,” I said to the first teenager. “I don’t smile,” he said. I stopped, looked at him sternly and said, “You didn’t hear a thing I said, did you?”
In truth, he had heard, but the lesson had not penetrated.
I said to the young teacher, “My telling the students these things once is not enough for them to get through. The only way to change their behavior is for you to say it over and over again. Eventually the lesson will ‘take’ with some of them.”
Some lessons have to be repeated ad infinitum.
Continue reading “7 things pastors should tell their people often” »
A few months ago, the pastor of a small church in the far northeast emailed me. He had read something I had written, found it helpful, and after talking about the issue, he said, “What would be involved in getting you up here to preach for a weekend?”
He was not inviting me, please notice. He was trying to see if inviting me was something he could do and make work.
I replied something to the effect that in most cases, a host pastor will want to provide air fare, put the guest up in a hotel, and pay him some type of honorarium. If the church is small, this means the pastor must lead his people to anticipate such an event and set money aside for it. If the guest drives, the government allows ministers to be reimbursed at something like 56 cents per mile or more. For a small church, I pointed out, going to such expense to bring in a preacher only for a Saturday and Sunday might be more than it could handle.
Some weeks later, he replied that he had given it much prayer and thought and agreed that he should look for someone closer to home.
Continue reading “Must the preacher accept every invitation that comes his way?” »
“And the rabble who were among them had greedy desires….” (Numbers 11:4)
When Israel left Egypt under Moses, the people of God were not alone. Accompanying them was a group of malcontents and hangers-on who apparently stayed with them all the way through the wilderness wanderings on into Canaan.
The Bible calls them “rabble.” They were along for the ride, glad for an excuse to break out of Egypt.
They were a persistent sore on the body of God’s people.
Their presence explains a lot of things.
Who were they? Exodus 12:37-38 reads: “Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children, and a mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock.”
That’s all it says: “a mixed multitude.”
Not all were sons and daughters of Abraham or descendants of Jacob. We may assume they were a hodge-podge of humanity, people who for reasons of friendship or self-advancement or marriage had attached themselves to the Hebrews.
Continue reading “Behold, the rabble” »
“Now, in the last days, difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self…boastful, arrogant, revilers…ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited…. Avoid such men as these.” (II Timothy 3:1-5)
Veteran Christian workers get this a lot. People tell you of a conversation they had with you years or even decades ago in which you either said the magic words that changed their lives or came out with something that infuriated them then and continues to bug them to this day.
You don’t remember any of it.
In yesterday’s cybermail, I had two such messages, one of each kind. One young minister was thanking me and the other was venting. Both conversations had occurred nearly 10 years ago.
The second letter told of the time the writer sat in my office, seeking guidance for entering the ministry. According to his note, I asked what kind of church position he was interested in. And that’s what ticked him off.
“I was morally outraged by the question,” he said.
Continue reading “The angry pastor: trouble in the making” »
“…you were unwilling.” (Matthew 23:37)
1) We do not want revival. Not really.
2) God does not trust us with a revival, and for good reason. He refuses to arm an enemy, to endow a rebel.
There! Those are the answers to the question.
Now, pull up a chair and let’s talk about it.
It’s that plain and simple: we really do not want a Heaven-sent, life-rearranging revival.
We want the results, the good part, but not the upheaval in our personal lives, priorities, and schedules which a Heaven-sent revival would cause.
Continue reading “Why you pray for revival and it does not come” »
No one will ever convince me Solomon wrote the “Song” attributed to him in the Old Testament.
No one with hundreds of wives and a gymnasiumful of ready-made girlfriends can focus on one woman the way the writer of that poetic rhapsody did. (If you love the Song of Solomon, good. I’m only saying there is no way it’s from the pen and heart of this Israeli king.)
True love is not about being enamored by the sheen in her hair or the gleam in her brown eyes. It’s far deeper than that.
I’ve been in revival this week in Elberta, Alabama, a sweet little community near the coastal resort town of Gulf Shores. One morning, host pastor Mike Keech and I met for breakfast at a quaint breakfast cafe called Grits ‘n Gravy. I’d brought along my sketch pad, so during the hour we were there, I drew all the diners, a dozen or more, as well as Patrick the owner and Megan the counter lady. They were all memorable, but none more than an older couple sitting in a booth.
Continue reading “What true love looks like. And what it doesn’t.” »