“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
As a college student, I worked weekends for the Pullman Company, the people who operated the sleeper cars on passenger trains. It used to fascinate me how people who wished to travel by Pullman had to pay through the nose.
First, their standard ticket had to be upgraded to first class. This means they were paying extra for the privilege of renting space in the sleeper car. Then, they paid for the suite or roomette.
I wondered if they did not know the company was sticking it to them. (I believe this three-tiered system is still the custom on Amtrak.)
When I began traveling by plane, I was amazed to see people paying astronomical fares for first class. Same plane, a little more legroom, coffee in a china cup instead of Styrofoam, and get to deplane first. That was about it. A status thing? I imagine so.
In the Texas of the 1800s, the stagecoach lines had three levels of tickets: first, second, and third class. This had nothing to do with where you sat, the food you ate, or when you disembarked. It involved what you did when the coach got into trouble.
Continue reading “Those who travel first class on the path of righteousness” »
Since Scripture doesn’t mention “church buildings”–other than people’s homes–we have no explicit teachings concerning their function, architecture, or anything else. Therefore, a sign in front of the church to identify certain details about the congregation is also foreign to Scripture, a small innovation made necessary by the cultures of which we are a part. So, the principles here are basic common sense…I hope.
1. Your church needs a sign.
When oppressive governments first decide to persecute churches, they require that all signage and identifying insignia be removed. Mistakenly under the impression that if no one can find a church the houses of worship will soon cease to exist, pagan officials forget that the Christian faith existed for centuries by word of mouth, still the best method of propagating the gospel.
Even so, it’s a good idea to have a sign in front of a church. In America, that is a given. The church without a sign in front may as well have no door.
Please take a look at the sign identifying your church. Get out of the car and walk up close to it. Study it closely.
Continue reading “Five facts about the sign in front of your church” »
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.
Continue reading “When the pastor lives below the standard of his church leaders” »
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….
Continue reading “How to love your church’s monthly business conferences” »
“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.
Continue reading “Predisposed toward the negative” »
“….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.
Continue reading “A guide to mistreating worshipers” »
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.
Continue reading “Where do we find all these church jobs in Scripture?” »
“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.
Continue reading “The best leadership verse in the Bible?” »
“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.
Continue reading “How to keep your church young and growing” »
“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.
Continue reading “Delegating upward: Why we should not let it happen” »