What to do after your moronic two minutes

Pastor, have you ever had a meltdown in the pulpit?

A few years back, two Atlanta radio jocks were fired for their on-air mocking of a New Orleans icon, former Saints football player Steve Gleason who has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s), lives in a wheelchair and speaks through a computer.

They made fun of him, parodied his situation, and someone role-played Steve speaking of his coming death and such.

It was the ultimate in offensive.

Later, one of the terminated idiots (I’m so objective in this story, as you can see) said, ‘What were we thinking?” The jocks apologized, and in a subsequent story, Gleason said he accepted their apology.

One of the men called it “a moronic two minutes.”

No argument.

I can sympathize.

Continue reading

Biblical ignorance and spiritual immaturity: How to tell

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the sayings of God.  You have come to need milk and not solid food.  (Hebrews 5:12)

By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one–baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! (paraphrased from The Message)

What I’m about to do here is no fun.

I’m about to accuse some Christian friends of spiritual ignorance.

Earlier today I was looking over my wife’s textbook on effective writing for college classes.  Bertha has been teaching English (literature, composition, etc) all her adult life, either in high school or on the college level.  And I was struck by something…

The authors of the textbook, both college professors, gave examples of essays written by students and then subjected to intense editing and improvement by teachers.  They showed the first draft, how a professor critiqued it, the second article, and so forth.  The final results were excellent examples of effective communication.  The point being…

Editing and rewriting is painful. But editing and rewriting are necessary. (Case in point: This little article of mine.  I’ve worked on it several days–deleting, adding, changing, pasting.)

Editing and grading are hard work for the teacher and sometimes offensive to the student.  Those who “know” point out the errors in those who are learning and suggest ways to improve.  This is basic education. We do it from kindergarten and up.

Why then do we shy away from that in church?  When is the last time you heard a veteran teacher or preacher pointing out the errors in a young Sunday School teacher’s presentations, a young believer’s prayers, a young warrior’s witnessing?  I know the answer:  You’ve never seen it.

It does not happen.

Continue reading

What to do when a church staff member becomes a problem

This was written some ten years ago.  Rather than update the references, I decided to leave the stories intact.  Have tweaked the writing somewhat for clarity.

This week President Obama fired his top general in Afghanistan. Therein lies a tale which every pastor and staff member ought to take to heart.

General Stanley McChrystal is a case study in a lot of things: militarism, athleticism, patriotism, gung-hoism, machoism, and egotism.

What got this commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan sacked was a lengthy article just published in the July edition of Rolling Stone magazine. Since the article is online, anyone can read it. I did last night.

Can you say “insubordination?” In a sentence, McChrystal was openly critical of Obama and his diplomatic team. He held nothing back, said exactly what he thought, and had little favorable to say about anyone he works with.

Now get this. The President of the United States is the Commander-in-Chief of all U.S. military forces, which makes him the boss of every general.  So, what we have here is an officer publicly criticizing his superior officer.  McChrystal would not stand for one of his staff doing such a thing.

Obama had previously dealt with General McChrystal, telling him to bridle his mouth. But some people cannot be told anything; they are a law unto themselves.

The writer says McChrystal prides himself on being sharper and guttier than anyone else. But his brashness comes with a price: he has offended almost everyone with a stake in the Afghan conflict.

The title of the article says it all: The Runaway General: The top commander in Afghanistan has seized control of the war by never taking his eyes off the real enemy: the wimps in the White House.

Assuming this account is accurate–and a layperson like me has no way of knowing–you cannot fire a guy like that fast enough. Get him gone now.

Now, we’re addressing pastors and church leadership here….

Have you ever had  a church staff member like that?

Continue reading

Forgiveness: Shortcut to healing

I walked into the hospital room just as the doctor was leaving. “He said I could go home,” the patient beamed. “And just think–after seven months!”

She had entered the hospital on March 6, and today was October 9. Through every day of the Spring, all through the hot Summer, and into the Fall, she had lain in that hospital room as sick as anyone I had ever seen. Even two weeks earlier, I wondered why she didn’t just give up. And here she was leaving.

I pulled up a chair and asked the question on my mind:  How had she gotten better so fast?

Something radical had happened.

“It was two things,” she said, and she gave me permission to tell her story. “They found out how to cure my infection and then a man came into my room. He stood right there and told me he sensed that I had a spirit of unforgiveness deep within me.” She smiled at me, then added, “Now, imagine someone coming into your room and telling you you’re carrying a grudge and it’s keeping you ill! But the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right.”

And what did you do, I asked.

Continue reading

Sometimes the salt of the earth needs sweetening

While researching a subject on-line the other day, I found myself reading some preachery attacks on other ministers. These men of God, assuming that’s what they are and I’m not saying they’re not, were taking no prisoners.

“That pastor is a liar!” “Preachers lie to you when they say….” “Ten lies preachers tell you.” “That preacher is an agent of hell!”

That sort of thing.

When those sent by the Father to be shepherds of His sheep use such blistering rhetoric, we fail our assignments in many ways: we dishonor the Lord, we shame the church, we needlessly slander our brethren, we set poor examples for the people in the pew, and we hold the gospel up to ridicule by the world.

How about a little sweetening, I wonder. And then I remembered something.

Continue reading

If you’ve been in the Lord’s work very long, your scars prove it

From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17).

“…I bear branded on my body the owner’s stamp of the Lord Jesus” –the Moffett translation.

“…I bear on my body the scars that mark me as a slave of Jesus” –Goodspeed.

At Mississippi State University, the Kenyan student carried horizontal scars across his face.  “Identification marks for my tribe,” he explained to me.  Wow.  Tough clan.

We were returning from the cemetery in the mortuary’s station wagon.  The director and I were chatting and perhaps could have been more observant.  We did not notice the pickup truck coming from our right and running the stop sign at 30 or 40 mph. We broadsided the truck.

My forehead broke the dashboard.

Continue reading

“I need to apologize to our former pastor,” he told me.

Bob is the pastor of a small church in another state.  He told me this story.

As a layman he was put on the search committee to seek the next preacher.  Then, they elected him chairman of the team.  Soon he began to gather information to present to prospective pastors.

“What is our salary package?” he asked the church treasurer.

The old gentleman had controlled the purse strings for that little congregation for several years.  He said to  Bob, “We don’t want a preacher who thinks about those things.  He should settle with the Lord if He’s calling him here, and come no matter what it pays.”

Bob said, “I don’t think so.  The laborer is worthy of his hire, Scripture says.”

Because Bob wanted to do this right, he insisted that the church pay an adequate salary with benefits.  And did what was necessary to put it together into an acceptable form.

And then, something interesting happened.

Continue reading

When church members insist on their rights

“Why not rather be wronged?” (I Corinthians 6:7)

Ask any pastor.

We hear it all the time.  Variations on this theme are endless…

–“All these years we have belonged to this church and given our money to support these preachers, and now when we need him, he’s in Israel on a holy land tour!”

–“I went by the church.  I needed to see the preacher then, not the next day.  And you’re not going to believe this, but he was on his way out the door, headed to his son’s little league game!  And me a member of his flock.  What kind of preachers are we getting these days?”

–“The preacher needs to apologize to me for what he implied in that sermon on Sunday.  I know he was talking about me, even though he used someone else’s name.”

And one that happened in my last pastorate…

Continue reading

Seven things pastors cannot do in the pulpit

“…so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God….” (I Timothy 3:15).

You can’t chew gum in the pulpit, smoke a cigarette, or bring your coffee in with you. You can’t preach in your pajamas or lead a worship service in your swimsuit.

But you knew that.

However, some pastors do things every bit as silly as this, and as counter-productive, we must say.

Now, in one sense, a pastor can do anything from the pulpit. Once.

But we’re talking about things no right-thinking, mature and responsible pastor should attempt to do from the Lord’s sacred place of leadership in His church.

1. He cannot recommend a book which has questionable material in it nor condemn a book he has not read.

Okay. He can, but he shouldn’t.

Continue reading

What one new pastor told his church about misbehavior

“(I ask) that they may all be one….that the world may believe that Thou didst send me” (John 17:21,23).

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

According to Scripture, almost everything depends on unity.

A few years ago, my friend Charles stood before his congregation, ready to lead his first monthly business session.

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

The new pastor wanted them to know how their business meetings were going to be conducted.

Continue reading