When all else fails, go to Plan B. If you have one.

You do have a Plan B, don’t you?

You always have to have a backup plan.

–What if the guest speaker does not show up?  Who speaks? Should we line up the alternate speaker just in case?

–What if the power goes out in the middle of the party?

–What if it rains out the church picnic? Do we cancel or go inside? If we cancel, is there another day on the calendar that would work?  If we go inside, how can we create the fun atmosphere of the outside picnic?  Do we even want to have a church picnic?

–What if the school board does not approve our request to have the crusade at the football stadium? What then? Is there another place to meet that will hold a crowd?  Will people drive to that location?  Is it equipped to deal with our needs?  What other possibilities are there?

–What if we schedule that meeting and line up the singers and guest speakers but no one shows up, how do we cover expenses? Is there a way to know in time either to do some last-minute heroics to get people there or to cancel the meeting?  Are we showing lack of faith by even considering these things?

Continue reading

Why you would not want to have been Mister (Fred) Rogers

“Let love be without hypocrisy.  Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9).

They were always watching him to catch him in a hypocrisy.  An inconsistency.  A dual standard.

Mister Rogers–i.e., Fred McFeely Rogers of TV fame–personified the command of Scripture to love thy neighbor and to “be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love” (Romans 12:10).  An ordained minister, this creator of the television program “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” never preached his beliefs that I know of. But he certainly appears to have lived them.

I didn’t know him personally, other than through television, what I have read about him, and the recent movie about his life.

People who went to work for him on the show watched to see if he really lived in private the virtues of love and acceptance he taught.  Reporters interviewed him relentlessly and constantly besieged staff workers looking for a chink in the armor, a crack in the façade.  An evidence that he was less than he seemed to be.

The formula says: The more visible you are and the higher virtues you preach, the more you will be examined, questioned, pursued, and investigated.  So, if you become well known to the public–whether as a political figure, a government appointee, a celebrity of any kind, or a minister in a church–you should expect it and prepare for it.

Continue reading

There are no independent churches and no self-sufficient Christians.

“I planted, Apollos watered, God gave the increase” (I Corinthians 3:6). 

“Even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities” (Philippians 4:16). 

I have no patience with signs in front of church buildings that read “Independent (whatever) Church.” There is no such thing as an independent church. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and we need each other.

Some more than others.

The believer or the church that believes he/she/it is independent and has no need of all those others is going against everything Scripture teaches and contradicting what they see happening all around them every day.

Continue reading

“Compromise: Only the strongest can manage it!”

“I implore Euodia and I implore Eyntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:12-13).

The First Baptist Church of Kenner, Louisiana is bordered on the western side by Williams Boulevard and on the east by Clay Street.  In between, intersecting the church property is the wonderfully named Compromise Street.  I have no idea why the city planners gave it that name, but I love it.  When I pastored that church (1990-2004), I sometimes called the attention of the congregation to this asphalted reminder of how intelligent people are supposed to work with each other.

God’s people are to agree. We are to live in harmony.  We are to represent Christ in the world and do His work.  By the very nature of who we are and what we are charged to do, we are required to compromise.

God’s people are to compromise. Constantly.

Don’t miss that.

Continue reading

Minister: You were dismissed from your ministry position and you are angry

God to Jonah: “Do you do well to be angry?”  Jonah: “You’re dadgum right I do! I’m so angry I could die!” (Jonah 4:4,9; my silly little paraphrase) 

A reader reacted to our article on “How to be fired and come out a winner.”

“I was fired from my position. The work was going well.  No reasons were given.  What am I to tell the kids and their parents?”

I began with this: “First, it wasn’t your position.”

That must have stung.

I know the feeling, friend. And have witnessed it a hundred times among colleagues.  You go in to  a church and build the program.  You are “in your place,” doing the best work you’ve ever done, and can sense the Holy Spirit has been preparing you for this for many years.  And suddenly, they terminate you.

How can that be of the Lord?  Surely someone is out of line here.  Haven’t I been mightily used of God?  Hasn’t He blessed my labors?  Don’t the kids love me?

All of that may or may not be true.  But it’s almost beside the point.

Continue reading

Does your pastor have an advocate?

“The laborer is worthy of his hire” (Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; I Timothy 5:18).  “Those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (I Corinthians 9:14).

The pastor deserves a decent income.  That is a given.  It is scriptural and reasonable.

In order to make that happen, some churches need to change their ways.  And for that to occur, every pastor needs an advocate. At least one, and ideally several.

An advocate: Someone who will stand up for him, speak out for him, be his voice.

Yes, we have an advocate in Heaven’s throne room.    “…we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (I John 2:1).  So, in Heaven, One is speaking up for us. Are we blessed or what?

We thank God for Jesus, our Heavenly Advocate.

However….

Continue reading

Accountability: The missing element in a thousand ministries

“Why do you do such things?  For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people.  No, my sons! for it is not a good report that I hear” (I Samuel 2:23-24).

What do you think of Evangelist Jesse Duplantis’ asking the Lord (or more precisely, claiming from the Lord!) a jet plane costing $54 million?  We’re told that he has owned several jets, but this one would literally take him around the world without refueling.  “It’ll save money,” he assured his flock.

When friends discussed the pros and cons of this on Facebook, most were horrified.  However, a few “true-believers” accuse naysayers of attacking a true servant of the Lord, saying he saves a lot of souls, does a great deal of good, etc., etc.  A pastor who used to serve a church not far from the Duplantis ministry just west of New Orleans said he often had to answer questions from seekers about the excesses of that work before they would listen to anything he had to say about the Lord.  Duplantis’ home on the shore of the Mississippi River costs something less than that jet plane, but still an astronomical sum.  “It’ll save money,” he told his minions. “We won’t have to pay hotel bills for guests.”

My contribution to the Facebook discussion was two questions: “Does anyone know if Evangelist Duplantis is answerable to a board or group in his church?  And if so, have they ever been known to shoot down any of his grandiose ideas?”  The answer to these two questions will tell the story on his authenticity and genuineness, I’m thinking.

Continue reading

However you treat the Lord’s pastors, He takes personally.

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.

Continue reading

Why the pastor is not the best troubleshooter in the church. Why the deacons are.

“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…

Continue reading

What did you do in the war, Daddy?

“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.

Continue reading