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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Preaching courageously in a climate of fear

God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.  –2 Timothy 1:7

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  –2 Timothy 2:1

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus…preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. –2 Timothy 4:1-2

“They’re almost to the point of giving me my walking papers.  The animosity from some of our leaders is so thick you could cut it with a butter knife.  What do I do now?  How do I stand in the pulpit and preach? And what should I preach?”

If you’ve never preached the gospel while sitting throughout the congregation were people who hated you, arms folded and brows furrowed, you’ve missed out on one of the great experiences of the Christian life.

If you’ve never feared for your job for nothing more than preaching the whole counsel of God, you’re in a minority, pastor.

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A lot of ear-tickling going on in churches

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate to themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Ear-tickling sells.

Anyone doubting that should stand outside a typical church on a Sunday morning and listen.  “I like the way he preaches.”  “He makes me feel good.”  “I don’t like what I hear.”  “I’m not sure what it is about that preacher, but I don’t like him.”  I like, I don’t like, I feel, I don’t feel.

What I want in a church.  What we’re looking for.  Why we’re considering leaving.

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The question for all church big-shots

“…who loves to be first among them” (III John 9).

I’ve known them in quite a number of churches. They have no trouble identifying themselves as the force to be reckoned with around this church.

If you are the visiting preacher, their words to you before or after the service will be an announcement, not a comment.  You will know you have heard from the control room of the universe.  You have heard the voice of God.  This man is in charge around here.

No one has to tell you.  You just know.

This one calls the shots.  Rules the roost. Throws his weight around.  Is the power behind the scene.

He loves to have the pre-eminence.  (See Diotrephes in III John, above.)

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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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How to handle troublemakers in church

We have dealt with this subject several times over the years on our website.  But it seems to meet a need to return to the matter from time to time.

There are two answers to this question:  The best and shortest is to put mature leaders and sound structures in place to head off troublemakers.  That is, stop trouble before it begins.  And the other answer is everything that follows here….

In South Carolina, a pastor entered the worship service one Sunday morning and his jaw dropped.  There sat a family that had belonged to every church in town, and had torn each one up.  The only church they’d not joined was this one.  And now they were here.

Sure enough, during the invitation they came forward and, because this was the way they did things in that church and no plans had ever been made for dealing with troublemakers, the pastor presented them to the congregation.  The people dutifully voted to accept them into the membership.  Then, the pastor called on an elderly deacon for the benediction.

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When to walk out on a sermon

On the morning of Sunday 19 May, 1940, Clementine Churchill returned early from a church service at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in central London, having walked out when the preacher delivered a pacifist sermon.  Winston told her, ‘”You ought to have cried, ‘Shame!’, desecrating the House of God with lies!'”   (Darkest Hour, by Anthony McCarten, p. 154)

It was Easter 1968. When Martin Luther King was assassinated, all of us–white and black alike–were hurting and confused, disturbed and concerned.  That Sunday I preached a sermon that addressed racism in America. I was 28 years old and in the first year of pastoring Emmanuel Baptist Church of Greenville, Mississippi in the heart of the Delta.  I’ve long since forgotten the sermon, but will never forget a phone call I received that afternoon.

Mrs. Glenn Powell called. She owned a beauty shop in town which I had quickly learned was gossip central.  Mrs. Powell had made no secret of her unhappiness with my sermons or with me personally.

“Brother McKeever, what will you be preaching tonight?”  I told her.

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Perhaps the hardest thing a pastor will ever do

Speak to the current moral dilemma facing the country (or dividing your community) without making matters worse.

That has to be one of the most difficult minefields a pastor ever has to tread.

One misstep and he’s a goner.

Twenty years ago, it was President Clinton’s infidelity that was dividing the country.  In the same decade it was the O. J. Simpson trial.  These days, the issue is sexual harassment (or any of its various manifestations: sexual molestation, intimidation, assault, etc.) by men in positions of power.

A man–always a man–runs for prominent public office and someone stands up and says, “He attacked me.”  Or, molested me.  Touched me inappropriately.  Took advantage of me.  Raped me.

The media flocks to the accuser and stories are written. Sleuths check out her story and some corroborate it while others trot out family members who say she is a chronic liar or family members of the accused to say they’ve never known him to do anything like that.

Then, next step.  Other women step up and say, “He treated me the same way.”

Quickly, the matter becomes page one across the country.  Leading the nightly news.  Fueling talk shows. Dividing everyone on Facebook.  Splitting families.

Defenders are enraged.  Supporters of the accusers are offended by the way their friends have accommodated themselves to the culture and forgotten Jesus’ call to defend the helpless and bless the children.

So, the poor pastor decides this matter must be addressed in next Sunday’s sermon.  What is he to do?

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When the church bully happens to be the pastor

Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion but voluntarily, according to the will of God;  not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;  nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” (I Peter 5:2-3).

We have written extensively on this website about church members who take the reins of the church and call the shots, who bully parishioners and pastors alike.  But a friend wrote, “What are we to do when the bully is the pastor?”

“What does your pastor do?” I asked him.

His bullying pastor demands his way in everything, tolerates no dissent, and ousts anyone not obeying him.  He intimidates church members and dominates the other ministers.  His opinion is the only one that counts.

We could wish it were a rare phenomenon.  It isn’t.

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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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