What one new pastor told his church

“(I ask) that they may all be one, even as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that Thou didst send me” (John 17:21).

No one wants your church to be unified more than the Lord.

In fact, almost everything depends on unity.

On April 14, 2012, Pastor Charles McLain stood before his congregation, ready to lead his first monthly business session.

Before they got underway with reports and motions and votes, however, he had something to say which they needed to hear.  His little speech would affect the course of that church for years to come.

He wanted them to know how their business meetings were going to be conducted.

What follows is his written message just as he gave it (which he gave me, alongwith permission to share)….

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Self-destructive behavior from those who should know better

“…they exchanged the truth of God for a lie…” (Romans 1:25).

“What were you thinking?”

A pastor with a fine church, great respect, challenging opportunities, and a good income does the strangest thing. He arrives home from the monthly meeting of a denominational board and turns in his expenses (air fare, hotel, taxi, and meals) to the church bookkeeper. She writes him a check to repay him.

Eventually, it comes out that the denominational agency was also reimbursing him. He has been charging both the church and the agency for his expenses.

For a few thousand dollars a year, he was willing to risk everything.

What was he thinking?

A pastor with a great church and incredible potential discovers he can pull down an additional $20,000 a year by taking several groups to the Holy Land.  All his congregation sees is that their pastor keeps pushing these trips as a way to deepen their commitment and broaden their vision. They are completely unaware that the travel company is giving him a hefty commission.  When the membership finds it out, most are unhappy.  Nothing illegal was going on; this is accepted business practice. The problem is the pastor’s moonlighting and using his position of influence to pad his income on the side.

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What a church can expect from its deacons

“For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 3:13).

I suggest you not worry about dissecting that and trying to grasp the fullness of its meaning, deacons. Just enjoy it. Believe it. Work to demonstrate its truth in your life.

All it seems to be saying is that when a deacon does his job well, God and the congregation are really, really proud of him!

I see deacons serving well all the time.  They’re taking care of the church’s widows and dependent elderly, rallying to the support of their pastor, serving as the “event staff” when church projects need helpers, listening to disgruntled church members and helping them to see the wisdom of what the leadership is doing, and cooking breakfast for the monthly men’s meeting.

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Church leaders, get some new ideas–please!

“Quench not the Spirit” (I Thessalonians 5:19).

“Do not put out God’s fire” (NIV translation).

A church group from a small Texas city was visiting a large dynamic congregation here in New Orleans not long ago.  The music was lively, people were rejoicing in the Lord, and joy was filling the air.

At one point, a deacon in the Texas bunch leaned over to his minister of music and whispered, “Don’t get any ideas.”

Was he teasing?  Perhaps.

The person who told me that added, “At last report, that Texas church has continued to be weak and divided, and to struggle.  The local church however flourishes.”

“Don’t get any ideas.”

Has there ever been a more Spirit-quenching statement than that?

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Help! My church is overpaying me!

Every once in a while someone comes up with a new wrinkle on church headaches.

A young pastor friend wrote to say the church he now serves went through a split a year or so before he arrived, and the smaller congregation struggles to keep up with the financial needs. Presently, they are running a deficit of perhaps $10 thousand a year, forcing them to draw on reserves.

The church has a number of fixed expenses, he says, such as utilities and insurance, that cannot be cut. Even if they eliminated all literature and supplies, the deficit would still not be covered. His suggestion is that they cut his salary by $10,000 a year.

The leadership refuses.

How awful of them, wanting to keep the pastor’s salary at a high level.

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You are visiting in a church and the sermon offends you.

You’re on vacation or just traveling through, and you stop for church somewhere. As a minister of the gospel, you are so looking forward to being ministered unto.

You are beyond disappointed.

Question: Do you say something to the minister or not?

No. Almost always, the answer is “Absolutely not! There may be a hundred reasons why the preacher did not deliver today or the sermon bombed, and you don’t know any of them. Leave him to the Lord.”

When it comes to one preacher rebuking another for something, I fall back on Paul’s statement, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls….” (Romans 14:4).

However, that doesn’t stop us from wanting to.

I had spent several days ministering in an East Tennessee setting, and on Sunday morning asked my hosts to go to church with me.  Since we were old friends and they were new in that area and had not found a church home yet, I figured we’d be safe worshiping at the First Baptist Church there.

You would think.

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Make me a servant, Lord–but, an “executive” servant, if you don’t mind.

Something inside us pastors tends to love impressive offices with nice furnishings.

We have to constantly work against this lust for the trappings of the ministry while neglecting the ministry itself.

The front page of Monday, August 26, 2013′s The New Orleans Advocate tells of LSU’s new president Dr. King Alexander’s way of introducing himself to students.  He’s helping them move into the dorms.

In the photo on the front page he’s wearing a t-shirt and ball cap and loaded down with boxes and bags.  Looking anything but presidential.  (Don’t you know he had fun with that!  “No, really, I am the president of the university.  Really! My name? It’s King.”)

Okie dokie.

I will say that in my quarter-century in Louisiana, this guy is unlike any chief executive LSU has ever had.

What makes this special is a conversation I had later in the day with a minister friend concerning a church he once served as a staff member.

“The pastor talked a great game,” he said. “He sounds a lot like (a well known radio preacher) who is his mentor.  Just listening to him preach, you would think this is one great pastor, someone I can really relate to.”

You would be wrong, he said.

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Something we know about the church’s troublemakers

I’m reading my journal from over 20 years ago and being reminded of a lot of things–the grace of God and His sovereignty, the sweetness of many of God’s people, and also the sheer hypocrisy of some.

After I left one church under a great deal of duress, the business manager of the church and I had lunch together one day.  This is from my notes written that night. I’m eliminating the names, because identifying these people would serve no purpose. Many of them have gone on to their (ahem) just rewards and what’s done is done.

What the business administrator said was stunning.

“You’re no longer the pastor, so I’m telling you this now. So many of the people who worked against you gave almost nothing to the church. If (the chairman of the personnel committee) tithes, then he’s on welfare.  And (assistant pastor) gives zero to the church. Not a dime. And his wife a piddling.”

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12 things I tell the deacons

No one is more surprised than I that the Lord has me leading all these deacon training conferences and retreats these days. (I’ve done five so far, with two or more to go. A couple had to be canceled for various reasons.)

I love deacons and treasure the relationship with quite a few from the six churches I served over four decades.. My oldest son is a deacon and served as chairman of our church’s group the last two years.

However….

I carry a few scars from battles with deacons.  I encountered a dozen or so along the way with mental health of the worst kind, some with stunted and deformed theology, and one or two who thought they were rightfully entitled to rule over the universe.   This website carries some forty or more articles written on the ministry of deacons over the years. Frequently, those painful experiences and harshest collisions produced the  best lessons and, of course, the most interesting stories.

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This pastor’s favorite guilty pleasure

Everyone knows what a pleasure is. A guilty pleasure is some activity that you enjoy but over which you feel a tiny pang of regret, as though perhaps you should not be enjoying it quite as much as you do.

Okay with that?

Most of my pleasures are completely unrelated to guilt. I love a good meal, a wonderful visit with a friend, an old 1940-ish black/white movie, a ball game, an hour on the patio enjoying watermelon with my grandchildren, and a social at church with two dozen freezers of home-made ice cream in every flavor imaginable.

But I do have one guilty pleasure.  This activity makes me feel good but I feel a tinge of guilt associated with it, like maybe I shouldn’t.

I love to watch a bully get his comeuppance.

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