What we learned after Katrina that might help now

A friend texted late last night to say he’d just left a video conference with his area pastors.  “They are trying to navigate in a world where the church is encouraged not to meet for a period of time.”  Strange, indeed.  He asked, “How did the New Orleans churches deal with Katrina?  When so many had fled the city or were otherwise unable to meet with their church family.  Were there lessons that might apply today?”

I lay awake in the night with that laying heavy on my heart.  For this, the first week of COV-19 Captivity I have refrained from doing exactly this–trying to sound like a know-it-all who has been there/done that because we survived a hurricane fifteen years before.  But perhaps there are a few things to be said from our experience.  I’m willing to give it a try…

Continue reading

The friendliness factor: How to make your church friendly without encouraging cliques

A young pastor tossed a question my way.

“My small church is growing, and our people do not want to lose the family spirit of a small church. But how do we maintain that without becoming a clique?”

By clique he means a closed group of friends, accepting no new members.

We’ve all seen Sunday School classes where the members have been together for years and know everything there is to know about the others, and where the intimacy is deep and lasting. They know birthdays, the names of each one’s grandchildren, and they relate to one another like sisters.

Yes, sisters. It’s almost always a women’s class that does this.

Continue reading

How to change the culture of a church

When Jim went to his church as the new pastor, he told me, “They have a bad history. Every two years they run the preacher off.” He paused and said, “Let’s see if we can change that.”

He didn’t.

Two years later, in spite of the wonderful growth the church was experiencing, a little group informed him that his work there was done and it would be better if he left.

I served one church where a small group of leaders–some elected and some not–met from time to time to make important decisions for the church. The poor pastor had little or no say. When I, the new preacher, suggested that this is the type of thing a congregation needs to know about and make the decision, the spokesman said, “We don’t like to upset the congregation about these things.”

Continue reading

The mentality that will kill your church

Jesus said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest that He would send forth laborers into the harvest.’  And the disciples said, ‘Why? What do we get out of it, Lord?’”   (Most of that is Matthew 9:37-38 but with a small insertion by moi to make the point.)

“Behold,” Jesus said, “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves…. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the courts, and scourge you in their synagogues, and you shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.”  And the disciples said, “Enough of the negative stuff, Lord! Let’s get to the part where you reward us.”  (Matthew 10:16ff with my insertion.  The promise of rewards comes in the last verse of the chapter.)

Jesus told the disciples of John the Baptist, “Go and report what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear.  The dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”  And the Lord’s disciples said, “Okay, enough about these losers, already.  Tell us about the blessings you have for us.  Who gets to sit on your right and who on your left?” (Matthew 11:3ff, with my tongue-in-cheek foolishness.)

I was reading a church’s minutes from a century earlier. In a business meeting, the clerk read  a request for ten dollars from a church start-up in Texas. This was back when ten dollars was two hundred. After voting to send the money, the secretary noted in the minutes, “This spirit of generosity was put to the test when someone pointed out the church fellowship hall needed renovating.”  As I recall, they ended up spending $2,000 on that project.

“What’s in it for us? ” is the prevailing principle of decision-making for too many churches.  Denominational leaders and professional fund-raisers admit  that to be successful in their promotions, they have to convince churches that this project will reap great rewards for them personally.  It’s not enough to do something for the kingdom.

Continue reading

How the large church can help the small church, whether it wants help or not

We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  — Romans 15:1  (Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. –From The Message, a paraphrase)

I wrote on Facebook something like this:

Sometimes one of our churches is bigger than all the others in their town or county combined.  When that happens, the church leadership has to make a decision.  One, they can say, “We don’t need you small churches.  We’re number one.”  Or, two, they can turn around and help the smaller churches.  One of these choices is Christlike and the other carnal.

The comments came in, in a predictable manner, opting for the obvious second choice.  Someone said, ” Yes, but sometimes the small churches do not want your help and resist any attempt to encourage them.”  True enough.

So, the question is what to do when a large church is willing to assist and encourage the smaller churches but are rebuffed in the attempt? Are there ways for them to show Christlike care and compassion even when the smaller churches are not receptive?

Continue reading

If your church does these 10 things, your new pastor has hit the jackpot!

Our last article for this blog was “If your pastor does these 10 things, your church has hit the jackpot.”

Now, here is the other side of the coin.

If your church does the following ten things, your pastor–particularly if he is new–will feel he has won the jackpot. Stumbled onto a treasure. Won the lottery. Been richly blessed of the Lord.  Choose your figure of speech.

Continue reading

If your pastor does these 10 things, you have hit the jackpot!

“If the Lord sends either Shawn or Chip, your church has hit the jackpot!”  –Statement from my friend Bill a year ago when our church was searching for the next pastor.   (The Lord sent Chip.  And now Shawn has resigned his church to become the next executive director of our state Baptist convention. We have hit the jackpot twice.)

If your pastor does these ten things, you should stop and count your blessings, friend.  You have a winner.

Continue reading

The new pastor is changing things quickly. Someone do something!

The new pastor  announced they were changing the name of the church.

The new pastor decided the worship music of  the last umpteen years needed updating and has brought in another director and more musicians.  The organist and pianist who have served so faithfully for many years are still being included but they never know what’s going on and wonder if they are unwanted.

The new pastor decided they should go to two morning services.

The new pastor decided they should go to one morning service.

The new pastor decided.

Anyone see a problem here?  The new pastor comes in and starts rearranging the furniture.  Restructuring God’s church.  Moving people around like chess pieceds.

The new pastor is ruling. Or so it seems to many.

Ever been there?  You should read my mail.  It’s happening all around you.

Continue reading

The 5 best pieces of preaching advice I ever received

Not every advice given to preachers is sound or wise.  But from time to time, a godly layman or preacher friend has a great word.  Here are five I recall…

One.  From a deacon. 

“Be patient with the people.”

I was fresh from seminary and the brash new pastor of a church in the Mississippi Delta. This was in the late 1960s, one year before Martin Luther King was assassinated.  I was preaching on God’s love for all people of all races, that we are all equal before Him, created by a loving God and thus to be valued. Not a very inflammatory message to be sure.  But some of my people were reacting.  That’s when the chairman of deacons called his young pastor aside.

“What you are saying is right, pastor,” said businessman and deacon chairman Lawrence Bryant.  “But let me remind you that the preacher before you told these people for nine years that segregation was God’s way.”  He paused.  “You can change them, but you need to be patient with them.”

It was the perfect advice.

Continue reading

The best church in every state

You see these come-ons all the time—

The best restaurants in every state.  The best small towns in every state.  The best town for retirees in every state.  The best beaches, best whatever.

So, don’t be surprised if you look up one day and someone has compiled a list of the best churches–best small churches, best mega-churches, whatever–in every state.  People are so shallow as to think such a list could be compiled and many will buy into it.

I’m by that the way I am the college football rankings.  Today, as I was driving back from a ministry assignment, for an hour or more I listed to the Sirius XM station where spots guys discussed last night’s college football rankings. LSU was one, Ohio State two, and so forth.  Back and forth they went: Shouldn’t Alabama be lower than 5th? Shouldn’t Baylor be higher than they are? Wisconsin too?  People called in and for an hour or more they argued.

For absolutely nothing.  Next week there will be a new ranking, based on this weekend’s games, and they’ll start all over again.  It’s what these sports-talk guys get paid to do.

But it’s so much foolishness.

Continue reading