Pastor, grow your church…as God enables.

“Over ____% of churches in America have plateau’ed.”  (The percentage depends on who’s talking.)

Let the pastor dedicate himself to growing the church as much as possible.

Let growing the church be important to the shepherd.

But let the growth be the real thing, not something hyped up.  Solid growth, not inflated numbers.

A generation or two ago, pastors in our denomination took it for granted that if they wanted to (ahem) move up to a larger church, they needed to show numerical growth where they were presently serving.

Before long, some less trustworthy preachers decided to play that game to the hilt and ruined it for everyone. They grew creative in their counting, they schemed and plotted and even lied about numbers, and doctored the records to make it appear they were experiencing greater growth than they were.

Continue reading “Pastor, grow your church…as God enables.” »

“This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our sight”

“This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23 NASB).

It’s time to “spill the beans,” say my friends.

Bertha Fagan is her name.  She is a native of Jackson, Mississippi, and lives nearby in the community of Pearl where she teaches English at the Rankin Center of Hinds Community College.

Bertha is the widow of Dr. Gary Fagan, a seminary classmate of mine.  But even though Gary and I knew each other for fifty years, and at one time we all belonged to First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi, we did not know one another’s families.  Gary went to Heaven in May of 2014.

My wife Margaret died the following January.

Bertha and I met for the first time on February 15 of this year (2016).  Within days, we both knew the Lord had done something special here.

Continue reading ““This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our sight”” »

How cartooning figures into my larger ministry (an assignment)

I was speaking to the medical staff at our Southern Baptist International Mission Board at the request of one of their physicians.  She asked that I talk about how cartooning figures into the ministry to which God called me..

“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them accordingly….” (Romans 12:6).

As  a young pastor I drew a sharp line to distinguish between natural talents and spiritual gifts.  The first you are born with; the second reborn with.  The first might involve talents for music, art, science, math, etc.  But spiritual gifts–those strengths in our heavenly DNA–would be more along the lines of preaching, teaching, service, prayer, witnessing, and such.

I’ve altered that a little….

It’s all His.  And whatever natural talents and gifts He gave us can be given back to Him and used for His glory.

I began drawing at the age of 5 when Mom put me and my 3-year-old sister at the table with pencil and paper and told us to draw.  I learned immediately that I loved to draw.  The next year, the first graders at Nauvoo (AL) Elementary School would gather around and watch as I sketched.

As a 16-year-old, I took a correspondence course in cartooning.  But mostly I was self-taught.

Continue reading “How cartooning figures into my larger ministry (an assignment)” »

I am a senior adult. Finally.

“They will still bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:14).

For reasons unknown to me, I have never looked upon myself as a senior.

I’ve smiled when host pastors would welcome everyone to our senior adult emphasis, then say something as outlandish as “If you’re 50 and above, you’re a senior.”  Why, I have children who would qualify by that standard, but they’re barely out of their teens.

I’m smiling.  This is serious but with a wink.

The other day, while riding the train from Concourse D to Concourse B in the Atlanta airport, I entered the crowded car and spotted an empty seat toward the rear.  As I settled into it, I noticed the sign read “for handicapped and seniors.”  My spirit smiled at that.  “I’m a senior.”

It felt good, actually.

Continue reading “I am a senior adult. Finally.” »

The three vows I made

“I will pay You my vows, Which my lips have uttered and my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble….” (Psalm 66:13-14).

My wife and I sat on the back porch talking about the disastrous happenings at the church we were serving.  A committee we had asked to be formed to help me figure out some things was now meeting without my knowledge and had jumped the rails concerning their assignment.  The little group that had been on my case the entire length of my tenure in that church appeared to hold the winning hand, and their shenanigans were still hidden from most of the congregation.  One thing after another.

One night, as we began to read Psalm 67, the Lord suddenly directed me away from that chapter. “Psalm 66.”  Now, I could not have told one from the other.  But obeying the inner voice of the Spirit, I opened to Psalm 66 and began reading.  Soon, we saw why.  In the middle of the Psalm, David describes the very thing happening to us…

Continue reading “The three vows I made” »

My “Super Bowl” sermon 20 years ago

(My journal for January 1996 records this message as the one I preached on Super Bowl Sunday, January 28.  After reading these notes, you may be interested in the post scripts.  Every pastor will understand the final one…and will shake his head in amazement at the littleness of some people in church…in every church, let us emphasize.)

Title:  THE GOSPEL FOR SPORTS-AHOLICS

Text: Hebrews 12:1-2  “Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, national day of worship for a country crazy about sports. I’m a sports fan too, altho’ a bigger baseball fan than anything else.  For one thing, you can carry on a nice conversation with your neighbor and they don’t have cheerleaders and there is very little rowdiness.

Margaret and I have been amazed to see that the second word our grandson (Grant) learned was ‘ball.’ I’ve said to his mother Julie that if he grows up to be involved in all kinds of sports, don’t be surprised, that apparently he came to us that way.

It will interest you to know that much of the world has always been sports-crazy. We know about the Olympic Games–which were started in 776 B.C.! The rest, as they say, is history.

The Apostle Paul knew about sports and apparently loved them as most men do.  Tonight we will look at I Corinthians 9 where he talks about sports as illustrating some spiritual points.

Here in Hebrews 12:1-2, a great sporting event is going on.  This one is the Super Bowl to end all Super Bowls. And you and I are playing in it.  I want you to see 5 things….

Continue reading “My “Super Bowl” sermon 20 years ago” »

Five things for Joe

(I started this piece toward the end of October, in the 9th month of widowhood.  And finished it today.)

My sister and several friends are saying I have to do something for Joe.

Like we’re talking about a third-person here.

I replied to one, “I’m not sure what that means.  I do my job. I draw cartoons for editors, I work on my blog, I travel to cities where I preach the Gospel and sketch people, and then I come home. When I get home, I dump stuff in the washer, take things to the cleaners, buy groceries, deposit checks in the bank, and have the car washed.  Then, a week or so later, I do it all over again. It’s my life.”

Continue reading “Five things for Joe” »

Love won.

“Above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8).

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

My dad was an enigma.  From his youth, he was clearly someone special, otherwise my teenage mama-to-be would never have been drawn to him and her daddy, a shrewd judge of character, would not have consented for her to marry him.

The eldest of what would eventually be an even dozen children, Carl McKeever was intelligent, possessed with excellent common sense, strong in body, and handsome in appearance. But he had a temper which he could not always control and developed a fondness for drink. His mouth was foul, particularly when with his friends, and he had a mean streak in him.

And yet, people were drawn to him.

We still have the hand-scribbled note on a piece of brown paper torn off from a grocery bag apparently, where Grandpa Virge Kilgore consented for Carl J. McKeever, age 21, to marry Lois Jane Kilgore, 17.

So, they must have seen something there.

Continue reading “Love won.” »

You’re a pastor; you’re not like us.

It was some forty years ago, and I was flying home from somewhere, the last leg of the trip being from Memphis to Columbus MS where I pastored.

It was a dark and stormy night.

And the planes assigned to our Golden Triangle Airport by Southern Airways were the ancient Martin 404s.  Prop jets, maybe they are called.

We bounced all over the sky that night. Lightning flashed around us, rain pelted our little plane, and thunder crashed.

You’ve heard of white-knucklers; this was the mother of them all.

The next day in the supermarket, a woman whom I did not know introduced herself. “My husband was on that awful flight from Memphis last night.”

Oh yes.  That was unforgettable, I said.

Continue reading “You’re a pastor; you’re not like us.” »

My bucket list: The revised standard version

A friend gave me a nice hardbound, spiral notebook the other day. The cover says “My Bucket List Journal.” At the bottom are the words “Write it down!”

Inside, the first two pages offer 100 blanks to list the places one plans to go, the experiences he wants to have, the mountains to climb, before “kicking the bucket.”

A few years ago, I compiled such a list and published it on my blog. It was picked up and reprinted by many other websites. By googling “bucket list McKeever”, I got this one:  http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/the-christian-bucket-list-50-things-every-believer-should-do-before-heaven-11631119.html

However, as I told my friend who gave me the book….

Continue reading “My bucket list: The revised standard version” »