The world is always listening and watching.

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16). 

“And all the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). 

You’ve been put on the spot.

Someone is challenging you, daring you, cursing you, or slandering you.  You squirm. Nothing about this is pleasant.  You try to think of an appropriate response.

Before you act, I have a suggestion.

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The urgent reason for unity in your church

“Father, I pray that they all may be one…that the world may believe that You sent me….that they may be one just as we are one….that the world may know that You have sent me….” (John 17:20-23)

In the churches with which I have experience, unity seems to be a sometimes thing.

We Baptists have been known to pride ourselves on our divisions. “Where you have two of us, you have three opinions.”  A great many of our churches were started, not intentionally but accidentally, the result of division and splits.

To the average church member, it appears that unity is good but not important, welcome but not essential, comfortable but usually inconvenient.

We are dead wrong.

Unity is a huge deal to the Lord, in Scripture, and in our world today.

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Pastors of the larger churches and the other preachers in their community

“We then who are strong ought to bear with…the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.  For even Christ did not please Himself….” (Romans 15:1-3)

Outside observers are often surprised to learn that in many cities after churches grow to a certain size, they cut off fellowship with all the other congregations in their area.

Pastors of those mega-churches pull away from the ministers of the small congregations in the same city, as though they now live in different worlds.  They give the impression that they have been elevated to such a higher plane that the only ones who now speak their language lead churches of similar or greater size.

The truth, I sometimes suspect, is that they feel more comfortable with peers of similar status who also make the big bucks and do not feel guilty that their income is ten times that of the part-time preacher sitting next to them.

It’s utterly foolish, if you ask me. It’s prideful, egotistical, and completely counter-productive to the work of the Kingdom.

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How to love your church’s monthly business conferences

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….

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How to bring down a church bully

Church bullies have always been part of the ecclesiastical landscape.

They had them in the first century, as evidenced by the tiny epistle of Third John. A brute named Diotrephes was ruling his congregation with a strong hand.  The Evangelist John turned the spotlight on what the man was doing, which ordinarily is sufficient to arouse the congregation to unseat the man. John ended with a promise: “If I come, I will call attention to what he is doing.”

Don’t miss the understatement of that: “I will call attention to what he is doing.”

That will be quite enough.  When the Beloved Apostle (for so was John known in the early church) stands before an adoring congregation and informs the membership what their so-called leader has been doing behind their backs, they will deal with him.

That has always been the Lord’s plan:  Tell the church, expose the brute, expect God’s people to do the right thing.

We’re not talking about taking matters into our own hands or doing anything heavy-handed.

Even though the flesh wants to drag the church boss out back and give him “what for,” that is never the right approach. Nor should we plot and maneuver and scheme behind closed doors. The Lord’s people must never adopt the deceitful tactics of the tyrants.  We are to be “as shrewd as snakes and as gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

American history provides a near-perfect example of how to bring down a bully. It’s not a simple story, but I’ll do my best…

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What hatred does to a soul

“Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him” (Mark 3:6).

The Pharisees were not normally murderers.

They were highly religious, faithful keepers of the flame, staunch defenders of orthodoxy, and determined champions of conservatism.  If there had been a Tea Party of their day, they were it.  They hated modernism, treasured the heroes of their past, and wanted to return the nation to the glory days of centuries past.

But their hatred for Jesus trumped their devotion to God.

Hatred is a toxin, which when introduced into the soft, vulnerable and defenseless soul of mankind, wreaks havoc, destroys everything it touches, and sends its host spiraling ever downward toward the lowest pit of hell.  Hatred corrupts and perverts, sabotages and undermines.

Saddest of all is watching good people fall into its grasps and never come up for air.

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A healthy church: Well-balanced.

“These you ought to have done without leaving the others undone” (Matthew 23:23).

Ask the acrobat about balance.  Walking the tightrope far above the circus ring or bouncing around the “balance beams” without a strict attention to balance, nothing works.

The lever is about balance.  Riding a bike demands balance.  Standing upright and walking. Weighing out gold on a scale.

A business will want a balance between credits and debits, income and outgo. It will try to find the right balance between research and development, between product and personnel.

Before our plane left the gate, the pilot made an unusual announcement.  “Ladies and gentlemen, since we have so many empty seats, it’s important that we balance our load.  We need ten of you to get up and move toward the rear of the plane. Take any seat past row number 15.  Thank you very much.”  (In nearly 50 years of air travel, I heard that announcement one time.)

Balance in nature is vital to survival of life on the planet.  Plant and animal life must be kept in relatively constant proportions, we are told.

“There needs to be one more Beatitude: Blessed are the balanced.”  –Warren Wiersbe

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The day I got tough with our deacons. Finally.

(Readers need to know I love deacons. And yet, I bear scars from run-ins with a few members of that fraternity over the years. My son is a wonderful deacon. These days, I’m writing a series on “My Favorite Deacon” for Lifeway’s Deacon Magazine.  So, let no one interpret what follows as a putdown of deacons. It is not. I am, however, aware that many pastors fight ongoing battles with some who insist on controlling the church. My heart goes out to them. This is sent forth with them in mind.)

Deacons and pastors were given as servants of God’s people.  Ephesians 5:21 urging that we “submit to one another in the fear of the Lord” applies to both groups in the same way it does to the entire congregation.

There is no place for bigshots and autocrats in the family of the Lord.  Jesus Christ is Lord of the church (see Matthew 16:18), and Scripture warns pastors not to “lord it over the congregation” (see I Peter 5:3).

What then is the pastor to do when the deacons insist that their job is to run the church?  That was the situation I came into in 1990 as a new pastor.  Now, not all deacons were infected by the ruling virus, but at least half of the group of 24 were, enough to thwart anything the pastor tried to do that smacked of upsetting their little apple cart.

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When is a pastor to defend himself?

Mostly, the pastor should let others defend him.  But sometimes, he is the only one able to tell the whole story. His staunchest supporters can do only so much, and he has to take it the rest of the way. Here is an instance when I did this…

In cleaning out some files the other day, I ran across a letter I’d written to our congregation almost exactly half-way through my 14 year ministry at the last church in which I was answering some critics.

Following is the letter in its entirety….

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The need for a traffic cop

Someone has to be in charge.  Don’t they?

On the highway, in the classroom, at the factory, during the ball game, and in the Christian life, nothing works without someone present being empowered to say, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).  Right?  Or not?

Here are a few thoughts to begin a conversation around your dinner table on the subject of authority….

In “The Story of Ain’t: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published,” David Skinner describes the hostile reaction that greeted the release of “Webster’s Third Edition” in 1961.  The incident makes a great point for all of us, particularly church folk.

But first, the context.

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