“Whoever receives you, receives Me. Whoever listens to you, listens to Me. Whoever rejects you, rejects Me.” (Matthew 10:40 and Luke 10:16)
Pastors are reluctant to preach this because it sounds self-serving. “People, the Lord in Heaven is taking note of how you treat me. Whatever you do to me, Jesus considers it the same as though you were doing it to Him.”
He’ll not be saying that.
So, I’ll say it for him. Because it’s true.
Consider this. “A king arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding. And they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready; come to the wedding.” But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.” (That’s Matthew 22:1-6)
We must not miss the reaction of the king in the Lord’s story. “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And his sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” (Matthew 22:7)
However the people treated the king’s messengers, it was the same as doing it to him.
“Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business….” (Acts 6:3).
The original trouble-shooters–the Lord’s S.W.A.T. team perhaps–in the New Testament church were the deacons.
They still are best at this risky business.
In deacon training conferences we point out that deacons “ride drag” for the congregation, a reference to the old West when cowboys would move the herd to the railhead. Someone is riding point, showing the way, others are riding flank to keep the herd from spreading out too much, and then some are riding at the back of the group of cattle, bringing up the rear. Those assigned to ride drag were usually the lowliest hands, the newest hires, or someone in trouble with the boss. Their job was to keep the herd moving, to handle any animals in difficulty (headstrong, caught in briars or a ditch, etc), and such. In so doing, they ate the dust of the entire herd and emerged covered with grime.
The word “deacon,” we’re told, comes from the Greek diakonos, meaning literally “through the dust.”
When problems arise within the congregation, when some church member is unhappy and spreading dissent, as a rule the worst person to deal with the cancer is the pastor himself. Why? Several reasons…
“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.
“And a mixed multitude went up with them.” Exodus 12:38
“And the rabble who were among them had greedy desires, and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, ‘Who will give us meat to eat?'” — Numbers 11:4
The world is attending your church.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is sometimes we turn it over to them. Not good.
When the Israelites left Egypt under Moses, they were not alone. Exodus 12 says a large company of riff-raff seized the opportunity to flee the Pharaoh’s harsh rule also. (Various translations call them “a mixed multitude,” “a motley mob,” “a mingled array of other folk,” “a crowd of mixed ancestry,” and “a great rabble.”)
Did we think the Hebrews were the only slaves in Egypt? Doubtless there were slaves from many countries. So, in the same way a jailbreak might free all the prisoners, many of the Pharaoh’s “inmates” decided they had had enough, that anything was better than the slavery of Egypt, and they threw their lot in with the Hebrews and the fellow named Moses.
Before long, the wisdom of that decision would be put to the test.
“I have sent (Tychicus) to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts” (Ephesians 6:22).
I’m a guest preacher in every church I visit these days, and have been for the past nine years of retirement ministry. Today this weekend I’m in Poplarville, Mississippi, and Jackson, MS, next week in Leakesville, MS, and next month will be ministering in Starkville, MS, Mobile, AL, at an encampment in West Texas, followed by McCall Creek, MS and finally speaking at a church banquet in a restaurant in McComb, MS.
I’m having the time of my life. And I’ve learned a few things…
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. –2 Timothy 2:2
Pastors teach from the pulpit. Bible teachers will teach in classes. But in addition, there will be occasions–often sudden, spontaneous occasions–when a lay leader will have the opportunity to teach a biblical truth.
Leaders should always be prepared.
Here’s one way it often happens….
The church member is upset at the pastor. She calls her deacon to complain about last Sunday’s sermon. “We don’t need more sermons on (whatever the subject was).” He listens until she is empty. Then, he asks her something.
“Do you have a minute to listen to something?”
She is puzzled. “Sure. What is it?”
When King David was criticized by a fellow named Shimei–and I mean publically and cruelly, cursing him–one of David’s men asked for permission to execute him on the spot. David’s response is worth noting. “My own son wants to kill me; how much more this Benjamite. Let him alone and let him curse, for (perhaps) the Lord told him to do this. Maybe, if I’m merciful to him, the Lord will be merciful to me.” (Paraphrase of 2 Samuel 16:9-12).
Every leader gets criticized. If you don’t want it or cannot take it, please refuse when they offer you that promotion.
To be a leader–the manager, president, chairman, or pastor of the church–means you will have a target drawn on your back. You must be able to take the heat.
Every leader needs the blessing of positive criticism from the ranks of the membership or team or congregation. The leader who rejects criticism is asking for all the trouble he/she is going to inherit.
But what if you are the employee or member of the congregation or team member and need to get a word of constructive criticism to the leader?
There are wrong ways to get criticism to the pastor. To the leader, boss, chair, president, whoever.
“That the leaders led in Israel, and that the people volunteered, O bless the Lord!” (Judges 5:2)
“For the body is not one member, but many…. If they were all one member, where would the body be?” (I Corinthians 14:14,19)
A man wrote to Reader’s Digest telling how his daughter had gone off to a woman’s university and he had received a letter from the dean. “We’re surveying the freshman class,” he said. “Please tell us about your daughter by completing the enclosed questionnaire.”
One question read: “Would you call your daughter a leader?” The dad wrote, “I’m not sure I’d call her a leader. But she’s a great player, someone you really want on your team.”
Our website (www.joemckeever.com) has two categories of articles on the subject of “Leadership”–listed as “Church leadership” and simply “Leadership.” To find them, scroll down the home page to a list of Categories, then click on these. The latter has nearly a hundred articles on the subject. Feel free to use these with your staff or congregation, as God leads. (I’ve met at least two pastors who had his assistant print out every one of these articles and bind them in a notebook. In their weekly staff meetings, they used them as topics of study and discussion for a solid year.)
Whether you’re talking about your business or a church or the Beta club in your high school, the principles for making it successful and effective are similar. Here is my short list, based on nearly 60 years in serving the Lord’s churches.