If you would serve the Lord, expect obstacles.

“A great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (I Corinthians 16:9). 

“Is this vile world a friend to grace to help me on to God?”   (Isaac Watts, “Am I A Soldier of the Cross?”)

This is a quiz.  Name the enemies George Washington faced in the Revolutionary War.

If you answered, “The British,” you’d be only partly right.

Washington did fight the British, as the thirteen colonies asserted their independence from the Mother Nation.  But Generals Howe, Cornwallis, and Clinton and their armies were only the most visible of the forces Washington had to contend with.

He had to fight the weather.  Think of Valley Forge and even without knowing the full story, your mind immediately conjures up images of a harsh winter with all the snow, ice, sleet, and freezing temperatures that includes.

Washington had to deal with starvation and deprivation.  No one knows how many thousands of his soldiers perished from the cold and starvation at Valley Forge and how many deserted in order to save their lives.  Many surrendered to the British at Philadelphia in the vain hope that the conquerors would feed and clothe them.

Washington had to deal with a Congress that was either ignorant, misinformed, or outright hostile to his situation. He wrote letter after letter detailing the misery of his army and pleading for help.  Finally, a delegation came from the national capital, temporarily at York, PA, to see for themselves, after which congress began to act.

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When all else fails, go to Plan B. If you have one.

You do have a Plan B, don’t you?

You always have to have a backup plan.

–What if the guest speaker does not show up?  Who speaks? Should we line up the alternate speaker just in case?

–What if the power goes out in the middle of the party?

–What if it rains out the church picnic? Do we cancel or go inside? If we cancel, is there another day on the calendar that would work?  If we go inside, how can we create the fun atmosphere of the outside picnic?  Do we even want to have a church picnic?

–What if the school board does not approve our request to have the crusade at the football stadium? What then? Is there another place to meet that will hold a crowd?  Will people drive to that location?  Is it equipped to deal with our needs?  What other possibilities are there?

–What if we schedule that meeting and line up the singers and guest speakers but no one shows up, how do we cover expenses? Is there a way to know in time either to do some last-minute heroics to get people there or to cancel the meeting?  Are we showing lack of faith by even considering these things?

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Why you would not want to have been Mister (Fred) Rogers

“Let love be without hypocrisy.  Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9).

They were always watching him to catch him in a hypocrisy.  An inconsistency.  A dual standard.

Mister Rogers–i.e., Fred McFeely Rogers of TV fame–personified the command of Scripture to love thy neighbor and to “be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love” (Romans 12:10).  An ordained minister, this creator of the television program “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” never preached his beliefs that I know of. But he certainly appears to have lived them.

I didn’t know him personally, other than through television, what I have read about him, and the recent movie about his life.

People who went to work for him on the show watched to see if he really lived in private the virtues of love and acceptance he taught.  Reporters interviewed him relentlessly and constantly besieged staff workers looking for a chink in the armor, a crack in the façade.  An evidence that he was less than he seemed to be.

The formula says: The more visible you are and the higher virtues you preach, the more you will be examined, questioned, pursued, and investigated.  So, if you become well known to the public–whether as a political figure, a government appointee, a celebrity of any kind, or a minister in a church–you should expect it and prepare for it.

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21 ministry lessons learned the hard way (with scars to prove it!)

I began serving the Lord when I was 11 years old, began preaching the Word when I was 21, and began pastoring a year later. At the moment, I’m 78-and-a-half years old.  These are a few lessons this life of ministry has taught me….

One. Never tell anyone anything you don’t want repeated.  The single exceptions are the Lord in prayer or your wife in the bedroom.

Two. Never put anything negative in a letter.  It will still be circulating and driving the case against you long after you’re in the grave.

Three.  Never fail to check all the references of a prospective staff member.  And then check a few more.

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Followership: How to be a great team member

“That the leaders led in Israel, and that the people volunteered, O bless the Lord!” (Judges 5:2)

“For the body is not one member, but many….  If they were all one member, where would the body be?” (I Corinthians 14:14,19)

A man wrote to Reader’s Digest telling how his daughter had gone off to a woman’s university and he had received a letter from the dean. “We’re surveying the freshman class,” he said.  “Please tell us about your daughter by completing the enclosed questionnaire.”

One question read: “Would you call your daughter  a leader?”  The dad wrote, “I’m not sure I’d call her a leader.  But she’s a great player, someone you really want on your team.”

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10 of the best leadership principles I know

Our website (www.joemckeever.com) has two categories of articles on the subject of “Leadership”–listed as “Church leadership” and simply “Leadership.”  To find them, scroll down the home page to a list of Categories, then click on these.  The latter has nearly a hundred articles on the subject.  Feel free to use these with your staff or congregation, as God leads.   (I’ve met at least two pastors who had his assistant print out every one of these articles and bind them in a notebook. In their weekly staff meetings, they used them as topics of study and discussion for a solid year.)

Whether you’re talking about your business or a church or the Beta club in your high school, the principles for making it successful and effective are similar.  Here is my short list, based on nearly 60 years in serving the Lord’s churches.

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Some things I have learned about leadership–and have the scars to prove

“But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to become first among you shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44).

People do not want to follow.

Sorry about that.

Ask anyone clamoring for high political office.  They do not want to acknowledge you as their leader and themselves as your followers.

So, if you have a yearning to be a leader of people, you automatically have chosen an uphill task.

Better to become their servant.  Everyone loves to be served.

However, not everyone wants to serve.  Only the best and the strongest can serve.

Serving is hard work.  Serving runs counter to our self-centeredness.  Serving demands more humility and love than most of us can summons.

That’s why so few choose this way to make their mark in society.

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“I’m very good at what I do,” she said.

This is all about excellence.  Not perfection, but giving your best, leaving nothing in the locker room, cutting no corners.  Whether we are the janitor in the school, the yardman at the church, or serving the President of the United States. 

She was telling me how she came to make the hard decision to change jobs.

“I was working in the fraud division of a financial company,” she said. “They trained me for the position and I was working hard at it.  But for some reason, I just wasn’t getting it.  And that felt bad.”

“I’m very good at what I do,” she explained.

“So this was a new thing for me.  I went to work feeling uncomfortable, like I was not doing what they had brought me there for.”

“Then, a former co-worker who knew me and worked for a bank, recommended me to her boss.  I interviewed and felt quickly this was where I needed to be.”

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Ten hard lessons I’ve learned about leading the Lord’s church

This is not the final list. I’m still learning.

Most of what follows about leading God’s church is counter-intuitive. Which is to say, it’s not what one might expect.

In no particular order….

One. Bigness is overrated.

“It doesn’t matter to the Lord whether He saves by the few or the many” (I Samuel 14:6).

Most pastors, it would appear, have wanted to lead big churches, wanted to grow their church to be huge, or wanted to move to a large church.  Their motives may be pure; judging motives is outside my skill set. But pastoring a big church can be the hardest thing you will ever try, and far less satisfying than you would ever think.

Small churches can be healthy too; behold the hummingbird or the honeybee.

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Reluctant leadership is better than nothing

“Somebody ought to do something!”

I was second in line at the traffic light. My lane and the one to my right were all turning left onto Dauphin Street in Mobile. The third lane was turning right.

We sat through through three sequences of lights. Meanwhile, the line of cars behind us grew longer and longer.

Clearly, the light was malfunctioning, but only on our side. Traffic from the other directions was receiving the correct sequence of lights. Our light stayed red.

I was traveling home from a revival in Selma, Alabama, and had stopped for a late-morning breakfast at the Cracker Barrel.  After a fairly demanding week with 1500 miles of driving, I was relaxed now and willing to sit there in the traffic without getting impatient.

But not all day.

Finally, I had had enough. The light was not working and the cars in front of me were showing no inclination to move.

So, I got out.

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