Part 2 — The most fun I ever had in the ministry

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry…” (I Timothy 1:12).

I was pastoring the First Baptist Church of Columbus, Mississippi.  This was the zenith of our twelve-plus years in that wonderful old church located in the heart of “the Friendly City.”

Here is the background….

In the summer of 1979, we had flown over 70 of our people–adults and youth–to New Jersey where they spent two weeks in a church-building blitz as well as ministering in the community. My son Neil was 16 that summer and went along. He has never forgotten the experience of working alongside successful businessmen and women who rolled up their sleeves and worked like dogs and sweat like…uh, pigs?

The experience was so great for our church, we decided that since we needed a new building for our music ministry in Columbus, rather than contract it out as we might normally do, we could build it ourselves.  The summer of 1981 would be highlighted by a two-week period in which we would ask our people to take their vacation from work and act just as if they were in New Jersey or somewhere, and help construct that three-story building.  (Yes, we actually hired an on-the-scene construction supervisor, and paid to have the foundation poured and the steel girders erected.  Some things you don’t want volunteers doing.)

Anyway, we decided we would raise the money for the project and not go in debt.  Our target date for the money was March 1, 1981.  Now, I want to share with you excerpts from my journal leading up to that.  Every pastor in the audience will see in a heartbeat why this experience ranks as perhaps “the most fun” of all my years in the ministry….

Continue reading “Part 2 — The most fun I ever had in the ministry” »

The most fun I ever had in the ministry (part 1)

A friend challenged me to write an article under this title. She saw where I posted a number of possible subjects to get the creative writing juices going for preachers, and the one titled “write about the most fun you ever had in the ministry” intrigued her.

I told her I’d give it a try.

With the call of God on one’s life, a place to serve, great friends alongside you, and laughter in your heart, it hardly gets any better than this!

Now, fun comes in many shapes and sizes and varieties in the ministry.  Mostly, for me, the “fun” was of two types:  a) everyone enjoying one another and b) great things happening in the church.

This article is of the first type; the next article gives the second type of fun.

Continue reading “The most fun I ever had in the ministry (part 1)” »

10 differences in New Orleans since Katrina

“Work for the shalom of the city where I have sent you…and pray on its behalf. For in its shalom, you will have shalom” (Jeremiah 29:7).

New Orleans is safer now than in 2005. The Corps of Engineers has raised the levees protecting the city by five feet, and spent billions of dollars on pumping stations to empty the city of water should it be flooded.

Streetcars travel up and down Canal Street now, and soon will head down Rampart Street toward the Bywater neighborhood.  This is all new and we’re excited about it.

Oh, and the Baptist Seminary has a Wal-Mart across the street.  And speaking of NOBTS, the enrollment is back up to pre-Katrina numbers, although a large number of those students are strictly on-line and not in the city.

But here is my personal list of the 10 greatest changes in New Orleans since that fateful August 29, 2005….

Continue reading “10 differences in New Orleans since Katrina” »

My single biggest regret from a lifetime of ministry

I invite you to read this opening to my journal dated October 1980.

I was 40 years old and Margaret was 38. We were in our 19th year of marriage, and pastoring the First Baptist Church of Columbus, Mississippi.  Our  children were 17, 14, and 11.

The first entry in the book is dated October 9.  However, the paragraph above that reads:

The month of October got off to a poor start around the McKeever household.  I announced to Margaret that until October 27th, there were no open days or nights.  The month was filled with church meetings, committees, banquets, associational meetings, speaking engagements at three colleges, a weekend retreat in Alabama, and a few football games. She cried.  Once again, I had let others plan my schedule in the sense that I’d failed to mark out days reserved for family time.

I ran across that book today, read that paragraph, and wept.

Continue reading “My single biggest regret from a lifetime of ministry” »

Why a man needs a wife. (Why this man does, at any rate.)

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing” (Proverbs 18:22).

My friend Dr. Fred Luter, pastor of New Orleans’ Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, has an interesting way of introducing his beloved Elizabeth from the pulpit.  He calls her “the love of my life, the apple of my eye, my prime rib, my good thing!”

Elizabeth has heard all that only a few thousand times, but she beams each time, as the congregation laughs and applauds.

My dad, Carl J. McKeever, who loved mom, Lois Kilgore McKeever, every day of his life, would say, “My rib is the best bone in my body.”

When the great C. S. Lewis married Joy Davidman, she moved into his house near Oxford and looked around.  His home, called “The Kilns,” hadn’t been redecorated in decades.  “The walls and carpets are full of holes,” Joy wrote. “The carpets are tattered rags.”  She feared that moving the bookcases might cause the walls to cave in.

Joy was soon bringing in decorators and workmen and turning that pile of rubble into a home worthy of its distinguished resident.

Who can calculate the worth of a good wife?

I was thinking this week about this.

My friend Randy is burying his wonderful wife of 53 years today.  I participated in Charlene’s funeral on Monday, and they were transporting her body to Florida for burial.  My heart goes out to Randy and his family. This distraught husband has some lonely and tearful days and nights ahead, and there is nothing to do but to go through them.

His big house will have never seemed so huge. And so empty.

Yesterday, I saw a dermatologist.  I told him, “I don’t have any particular reason for coming except I no longer have anyone to spot something on my back or neck and tell me I should see a doctor about that.”  I said, “Would you mind looking me over?”

Two years ago, I had skin cancer and surgery, so I’m vulnerable.  The doctor spotted a pink area above one eyebrow. “We’ll keep an eye on that.”  I’m to return in six months.

They say widowers and other single men live shorter lives than married men.  If that’s the case, I think I know why.  A wife will see that a man eats right, and that he sees his doctors as necessary.

Continue reading “Why a man needs a wife. (Why this man does, at any rate.)” »

“Looking Back” — Joe is interviewed by an editor

“…that the generation to come might know….” (Psalm 78:6)

It was baseball great Satchel Paige who said, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”

At the age of 75, it’s probably safe for me to look back, at least for a few moments. I’m not racing anyone any more, if I ever was. And the only thing gaining on me is Father Time. (He can afford to pace himself, not having lost a race yet.)

Perhaps now is a good time to pull over into a rest area for a brief retrospective.

The editor of a Christian magazine posed eight questions to jog my thinking.  He mostly wondered if I see the pastoral ministry any differently now from “way back when.”

Continue reading ““Looking Back” — Joe is interviewed by an editor” »

What my dad said about fathers

“Who can find a virtuous man? For his price is far above diamonds” (Not Proverbs 31:10, but it well could be.)

My father, Carl J. McKeever (1912-2007), was someone no one who met him ever forgot.

Like a certain son of his, he was a talker.  Like that same son, he was interested in a thousand things and enjoyed good food, hearty laughter and great conversation with friends.  And he loved to write.

What’s interesting about his love for writing is he had a seventh grade education.  As the oldest of an even dozen children, he left school to help support the family when he was 12, and entered the coal mines to work alongside his father two years later.  His formal education may have ended, but dad was always learning and thinking and paying attention.

Most of his writing was done on note pads, in a lovely script which schools taught back in the 1920s. Something called the Palmer Method.  To his death at the age of 95, his handwriting was impressive.  Those notes he wrote were legible and intelligent, and remarkable for a coal miner.

I’m leading up to sharing one of them with you.  My brother Ron handed me this in Pop’s handwriting a few days ago during our brief visit at the restaurant in Jasper, Alabama.

Continue reading “What my dad said about fathers” »

Life’s intersections: What if that person had not shown up that day?

I’m 75 years old. Not old or decrepit, thank you very much. And, not ancient or senile by any means, you understand.  But the calendar is what it is and the white hair belies my protestations.  Honestly, l feel like I’m 15.

However.

The time has arrived when it’s perfectly acceptable to look back and remember and give thanks to God for what He has done.

Thinking of all the blessings of people and incidents, of words and books and jobs and churches, I constantly thank God that He did “this” and not “that” or something else entirely.

You are looking at one blest man. (Okay, to the extent you are actually “looking” at me, that is.)

Recently, when members of the old (read that, “now defunct”) West End Baptist Church of Birmingham held a reunion and then the next day, a joint service of worship with Mount Calvary Baptist Church, the congregation now occupying the buildings and campus of our beloved WEBC, it kicked my thinking about these things into overdrive.

Continue reading “Life’s intersections: What if that person had not shown up that day?” »

Some weddings you never forget. As much as you’d like to.

I’ll take a funeral over a wedding any day.

You don’t have to rehearse a funeral. And there are no formal meals or receptions involved. You stand up in front of the honored guest, and do your thing, say your prayers, enjoy a couple of great songs, and go your way.

But with weddings,  you have these rehearsals where a thousand things can go wrong, where the bride and her mother argue, where bridesmaids sometimes see how risque’ they can dress, and the groomsmen how rambunctious they can behave.  You have a wedding director who may or may not be capable. (I’ll take a drill sergeant from Parris Island any day over a lazy director who has no idea all the awful things that can happen the next day.)

Weddings have a hundred moments where slipups can occur and trouble can happen.  Brides are late to church, grooms forget the rings, someone has been drinking, the flower girl is crying, photographers are arguing, the wedding director is pulling her hair out, and the caterer is trying to get paid. The candles either did not arrive, will not light, or are dripping wax on the carpet. The limo is late bringing the maids and the bride because, this being his third wedding of the day, each one took more time than he had allowed, so instead of arriving at the church at 6:30 for a 7:00 wedding, the limousine pulls in at 7:45.

Charles and I were standing outside the sanctuary waiting for the musical cue from the organist signaling time for us to enter. He was marrying a lovely young lass whose father was an Air Force officer. We had done the obligatory pre-marital counseling sessions, although they both seemed reluctant and uninvolved, like this was something they wanted to get over.  My watch said “Two o’clock,” but the organist kept playing.  He and I had done a hundred weddings before, so I knew to listen for the Trumpet Voluntare and not to enter until he sounded it out.

Something was amiss.

Continue reading “Some weddings you never forget. As much as you’d like to.” »

The enlarging work of the Holy Spirit: My personal story

“Thou hast enlarged me” (Psalm 4:1). The way I heard it, the mother of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the 19th century’s greatest preacher, said to him, “I prayed that God would make you a preacher. But I had no idea He would make you a Baptist.”  (I think she was a Methodist.) “Mother,” said Charles, “it’s just as the Word says. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that you ask or think.” Spurgeon was quoting Ephesians 3:20,  a truth that should be engraved on the flesh of our hearts if not tattooed on our brains. Our Heavenly Father loves to do big things with unlikely prospects. If God’s plans for you and me are to come to fruition, He has to enlarge us. Continue reading “The enlarging work of the Holy Spirit: My personal story” »