The mixed multitude in your church–and what to do with them

“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.

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Reminding the guest preacher: Be nice; you’re a guest!

“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…

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Ten things lay leaders can teach the congregation

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?”

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How to criticize the leader–your boss, the pastor, etc–successfully!

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?

It happens.

There are wrong ways to get criticism to the pastor.  To the leader, boss, chair, president, whoever.

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Followership: How to be a great team member

“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.”

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10 of the best leadership principles I know

Our website ( 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.

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What to do when your pastor stirs the pot

“….according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal….”  (2 Timothy 2:9)

Pot-stirring: To take a stand on a controversial issue.  Known colloquially as “opening a can of worms.”  Rocking the boat. Rubbing the old cat’s fur the wrong way.  Upsetting apple carts.

Expect it.

It’s a poor pastor who doesn’t stir the pot from time to time.

They didn’t crucify Jesus for sweet-talking the 23rd Psalm, for explaining the symbolic meaning of items in the Tabernacle, or for spending six months on the Greek verbs.  He took a stand on what matters most, and when people didn’t like it, He held His ground and paid the ultimate price.

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How much do you charge to come to our church?

“Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyared and does not eat the fruit of it?” (I Corinthians 9:7)

“We’d like to invite you to speak to our church (or our seniors group or whatever).  But we’re small and I’m not sure we could afford you.  How much do you charge?”

I get this a lot.

In the first place, I’m excited (and more than a little relieved!) that any church would invite me to do anything–preach a sermon, teach a class, speak at a banquet, or sit in a room and sketch the children.  So, I’m always honored. Always, no matter the size of the church.

God knows my heart.

But I’m always a little flummoxed when people ask about the fee.  I reply, “I don’t charge anything.”  But that is not the entire story.

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Why a lot of professing Christians never attend church

“Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together”–unless, of course, the Lord reveals to you that you are the church, as one lady said to me.  Or, that you are smarter than the preacher, the deacons are trying to run the church, or no one in the congregation will speak to you.  Hebrews 10:25, sort of.

When you don’t want to do something, you shouldn’t have to have an excuse.

If you do not want to go to church, for instance, if you can skip church for a whole year and never miss it, you should “man up” and admit, “I’m not a Christian and don’t believe all that Bible stuff.  Church is for people who take the Lord seriously. Not me. So, I don’t go.”

Hmm. That felt ‘mean,’ didn’t it?  But it’s dead on accurate.

Please read on.

By “go to church,” we don’t necessarily mean a building with a steeple on it.  It could be a group of God’s people gathered in a living room to sing and pray and study the Word.  Or,  fifty people in a storefront.  The point is not the location or the structure but God’s people meeting on a regular basis for the work and worship of the Lord.

The redeemed of the Lord will be drawn to one another.  They love each other.  Jesus said so.

I heard of a pastor somewhere who collected excuses on “why people who call themselves Christians don’t go to church.”   He did not make these up…

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Pride and prejudice: Pastors know without reading Jane Austen

“Humble yourselves therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your cares upon Him for He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” (I Peter 5:6-9)

This is for pastors and other church leaders.  In the same way, the above admonitions were directed first of all to pastors and elders.  Peter was addressing “elders…as a fellow elder….”

Sometimes you have to take a tough stand, and then later, often months later, you have to defend it.  My suggestion is youshould keep good records.  To be able to open your book and say, “Okay, here’s what you said and what I answered” may end up saving your job.  Or your ministry.  Or sanity?

Hearsay or memory cannot stand up in a court of law alongside a journal where you recorded the exact conversation the day it happened.

Estherline has given all her pastors headaches.  But I was new at the time and no one had cautioned me about her.  I walked into her lion’s den unknowing.

When the lady who had been directing weddings in that church gave up the job, I was just entering as the new pastor.  I called her.  She gave me the names of two ladies in the church who could do the job. Estherline was the second.  “She’s pretty rigid, Pastor,” the lady warned me.

So, when the first choice declined, not knowing any better, I called Estherline.  She was only too happy to become the church’s wedding director.  She held that little position for the next three-plus years.  Until I fired her.

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