Preacher, be careful about deceptive come-ons!

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly, nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock….  (I Peter 5:2-3)

If anyone on the planet should hold to the highest standards in dealing with people, it should be those who preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Alas.  The Elmer Gantrys have always been among us. Those who are in the work for the basest of reasons: money, recognition, other kinds of gratification.

Unto whom much is given, much will be required.  A warning if there ever was a warning to those who occupy the pulpits. (Luke 12:48)

Lack of integrity permeates our culture.

I had to cancel a credit card this week. The monthly statement showed six or eight fraudulent charges.  Where did that come from and how did it happen? I don’t know, but no one is surprised anymore.

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The pastor’s principles of staff leadership and team management

From time to time, pastors run situations by me for my response.  Often it has to do with a conflict with a staff member. Particularly if either the pastor or staffer is new, conflict often arises.  That’s why…

I suggest that pastors have some tried-and-true principles to govern their relationships with ministerial staff and the office staff. That is–to clarify–some bedrock rules you go by in your dealings with your team.  In most cases, you have acquired these the hard way, by breaking them or being broken upon them.

Anyway.   Here are a few I have lived with, just to get you started….

One.  No leader  likes surprises.

That’s why we have weekly staff meetings, to talk things out, to plan the calendar, etc.  Once on a Sunday morning, the student minister announced to the church that the mission trip for next Summer would be to New Hampshire.  Next morning in staff, I said, “At what point did we decide the youth would go to New Hampshire next summer?”  He turned twelve colors, swallowed hard, and said, “Uh oh.”  We had a head knocking–in love, actually–and he learned an important lesson.  And yes, he took the youth to New Hampshire.

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49 encouraging things to say to your pastor

Encourage one another. –I Thessalonians 5:11

When we posted “59 things not to say to a pastor,” my cousin Rebecca Kilgore Smith of Jasper, Alabama, suggested we should balance the sheet with a list of positive, encouraging things to say to pastors.

We sent out a call for help on that, and here is the result.

1. I’m praying for you. This was overwhelmingly the consensus for the number one encouragement for any preacher.  But don’t say it if you’re not doing it!
2. I love you. And likewise, this was strong. Every minister should know they are loved.
3. Hebrews 6:10, my all time favorite scripture for a faithful servant of the Lord. “God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love that you have shown to His name in having ministered to the saints and in still ministering.” It’s one thing to say “I remember,” but another entirely to say that “God remembers.”  Great promise.
4. We are taking I Timothy 5:17 to heart, Pastor, and starting immediately we are doubling your pay.  Ha. In your dreams.

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The consistent, historic malady afflicting the people of God

“These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but  their heart is far from Me” (Matthew 15:8).

I suspect some of us are marginal Christians,  just around the edges.

The Lord Jesus knew His Bible.  He was quoting Isaiah.

In the 8th century B.C., the prophet said: “Therefore the Lord said, ‘Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, therefore I will again do a marvelous work among this people….'” (Isaiah 29:13-14).

Look out at the typical congregation most any Sunday morning.  It isn’t hard at all–nor, in my opinion is it judgmental–to see on display this very thing: people honoring God with their lips while their hearts roam across some foreign country somewhere.

It’s not a new thing.  While Isaiah preached in the 8th century B.C. and our Lord eight centuries later,  you and I witness the same two thousand years afterwards.  It seems to be a human affliction.

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When’s the last time your church was broken-hearted?

“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

My preacher friend was rendering  his opinion on a certain large church with which we are both familiar.

“The people are like the fans of (a certain college football team).  Individually, great people. Salt of the earth. But put them all together, and they are horrible. Prideful, boasting, irritating.”

That’s an analysis I’ve not been able to shrug off.  If it’s true–and I’m in no position to judge–it’s a devastating assessment.

The Ascended Christ said to the church at Laodicea, “You say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing–but you do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

The reality is often far different from what we want to believe, from what we aspire to, from what we advertise.

Dare we ask the Heavenly Father to tell us the truth about our own church?

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Mothers Day 2019 and beyond: Everything changes.

“In today’s service, we will be giving roses to  the oldest mother and the youngest mother present.”

Ever done that, Pastor?  I have.

Anything wrong with honoring motherhood in church?  Absolutely not.

We might need to find new ways to do so, however.

I started pastoring in late 1962, not long after graduating from college.  This means I led churches through the massive cultural shifts of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and down to 2004.  I continue preaching at every opportunity, and am deeply involved in our churches. .

To say the ball game has changed forever would be the understatement of the year.

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Proud of our ignorance

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

Warren Wiersbe once heard a preacher announce, “I didn’t never go to school!  I’m just a igerant Christian, and I’m glad I is.”

Dr. Wiersbe countered, “A man does not have to go to school to gain spiritual intelligence; but neither should he magnify his ‘igerance.'”

Spiritual knowledge is available to all who will open God’s word and sit before the feet of the Savior.  But, we hasten to add, it does not happen in a few minutes.  We do not take a pill for spiritual maturity and godly knowledge.  It’s more the result of what has been called “a long obedience in the same direction.”

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“Two questions that bug me about pastors”

“But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped.  For I was envious of some pastors, when I saw the success of those less gifted  than me….  Their strength is firm; they are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men.  Therefore pride serves as their necklace…. Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than their heart could wish….” (Psalm 73…sort of…  With apologies to the Psalmist.) 

A pastor friend who has seen his share of troubles during his pastorates which total perhaps 25 years shared his questions with me.

One.  Some pastors live their entire lives without problems, serving church after church with a string of unbroken successes.  What sets these pastors apart?

Two.  And yet other pastors seem to know setback after setback in their ministries.  Are they to blame for this?  What are the characteristics that lead some pastors to go from trouble to trouble in churches?

After posing the questions–good ones, I think most will agree–he said, “I expect there are so many reasons for this,” and he named a few.  “God’s sovereignty, the pastor’s ability to deal with church politics, and temperament/personality.”

I promised him I would give this some thought and put the questions out here for our friends to comment on.  (Consider this your invitation.)

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“There are those who say…” but God says otherwise

(15th article on the “Seven Churches of Asia Minor” — Revelation 2-3)

Let’s consider the Lord’s response to some of the more foolish statements heard around church from time to time.

There are those who say….

One.  “Love does not matter.  Obedience is everything.  Love is syrupy and weakness.  Sentimentality! Show me your deeds.”

The letter to the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) proves them wrong.  Without love, no amount of good works is enough.  Reference the opening of I Corinthians 13.

“Love one another,” says our Lord to the Ephesian church, “or I will pull the plug on you.  Cut off your life support.  Cancel your franchise.”  Remove the lampstand.

God is love.

Two.  There are those who say “God will not let His faithful ones suffer.  If there is pain or suffering, someone is being disobedient.”

The letter to the church at Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) proves them wrong. He knows, He sees, He cares–and still He allows it.  God has His purposes.

Trust Him.

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Laodicea: The complacent caboose! (Last of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor)

(Thirteenth of our articles on the Seven Churches of Asia Minor.  Revelation 1-3)

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the beginning of the creation of God:  ‘I know your works….'”  (Revelation 3:14ff).

Pastor Jim Phillips (North Greenwood Baptist Church, Greenwood, MS) was telling the congregation last Sunday night about his ordination into the ministry over 30 years back.  As he knelt for the laying on of hands–an interminable period when deacons and ministers slowly file by, placing hands atop his head and whispering words of challenge, encouragement or a prayer–finally, it was Pastor Frank Pollard’s turn.  He whispered words Jim would never forget:  “I’m the last; you can get up now.”

Not exactly what he’d been expecting.

Laodicea is the last.  The final stop on our tour of seven interesting churches of the western half of present-day Turkey.

You can get up now.

Certainly the first of the seven churches–Ephesus which had lost its first love–and the last–Laodicea, lukewarm and repulsive to the Lord–are the most unforgettable.  And probably the two most like ourselves and our own churches.  So many of our churches today imitate Ephesus and go about their work routinely and robotically, forgetting to love one another, while others imitate Laodicea in being neither fervent nor frigid but somewhere in the sickening in-between.  The Lord is neither impressed nor amused.

The city–

We’re told Antiochus II founded the city and named it for his wife Laodice.  It had much going for it:

–It was a rich city, the center of banking for the surrounding region.

–It was a manufacturing center noted for the quality of its black wool.

–It was a medical center.  The local medical school produced an eye salve much in demand.

Three Roman roads converged there.  And when an earthquake devastated the city, the fathers rejected Rome’s offer to fund the rebuilding and and took care of it themselves.  There was also a large Jewish population here.

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