Imagine if I knew what you were thinking. Uh oh.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to virtual church.

You have noticed on your screens that the pews in our building are empty today.

There’s a reason for that.

No one comes to this church any more. That’s the bottom line.

It did not happen accidentally, by the way. But this is the result of a concerted effort from those of us in leadership positions to set higher standards for the membership.  Anyway, what happened was this….

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How to stay at one church 42 years.

My friend Pastor Dave has led a congregation in our neighborhood for two thirds of his life.  It’s a sweet fellowship and even though our denominational affiliation is different, he has kindly invited me to fill the pulpit in his absence on several occasions.

Recently, over lunch, I asked Dave how he managed to stay in one church over four decades. Were there not times when church members rose up and demanded new leadership? Did he not get the urge to try something new?

“Give me your top three ways to stay at a church for 42 years,” I told him.  He did not hesitate….

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When a pastor has exceeded his expiration date

Of all the questions church people send my way, this may be the most difficult.

Our pastor has been here umpteen years.  He has lost his vision and his energy, and the church is dying.  The numbers are down considerably, and yet the church is located in a growing area.  We love him and are so grateful to God for his ministry over the years. But isn’t there a limit to the loyalty thing?  At what point does a pastor need to be told that his time here is up?

There are no simple or easy answers to this.  Handled wrongly, this matter can destroy a church, inflict a terminal wound to a veteran minister, and hurt his family in lasting ways.

On the one hand, the minister is there by the Lord’s doing. Paul tells us the Holy Spirit makes the pastors/elders the overseers of the church (Acts 20:28).  We do not want to casually hurt God’s servant since our Lord Jesus said, “Whoever receives you, receives me” (Matthew 10:40).  Now, we are not equating today’s pastors with Moses but throughout Israel’s wilderness wanderings, it was clear that the Lord took personally the treatment/mistreatment of His man by the people.

I think that’s still the case.  When people mistreated God’s prophets down through the ages, He interpreted that as an offense toward Himself.

So, we always want to try to honor the Lord’s servant, even if he is undeserving at this particular moment.

On the other hand.

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Ramifications: It has nothing to do with sheep

“We who are many are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5)

We are all interconnected and are in this thing together.

The sooner we realize that, the better.

In the introduction to their book “One Anothering,” Dan Crawford and Al Meredith wonder if you have heard “the goose lesson”.

Geese flying south for the winter usually fly in a V-formation.  This formation adds at least seventy-one percent greater flying range, because the flapping of one bird’s wings creates uplift for the bird immediately following.  When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the flock, and another goose flies point.  Geese honk from behind to encourage the lead goose.  If a goose gets sick or injured and falls out, two geese follow it down to help protect it.  They stay until the fallen goose is able to fly or is dead, and then they join another formation and continue their journey. Should a goose fall out of formation, it quickly feels the difficulty of flying alone and returns immediately to the formation.

You and I are so interconnected, we might as well have slots and tabs.

No man is an island.

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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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