Joe is interviewed by a national magazine. Sort of.

On the final page of a popular magazine–which shall go unnamed–a celebrity is interviewed in each issue.   I thought I’d give it a try and answer the questions myself. (At the end, I added a few more.)  Here goes….

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being in the place God put me, doing the work He gave me.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  Likewise, the best definition of hell on earth is to be out of His will.

What is your greatest fear?

Just that very thing: being out of his will.  I fear nothing so much as disappointing Him.  That could happen to any of us. None of us is immune to temptation. That keeps me on my knees every day.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

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Strategy for pastoral success: Make a mistake, a big one

In his book, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg makes a confession. You get the impression that it was not easy in coming.

The church where I work videotapes most of the services, so I have hundreds of messages on tape. Only one of them gets shown repeatedly.

This video is a clip from the beginning of one of our services. A high school worship dance team had just brought the house down to get things started, and I was supposed to transition us into some high-energy worship by reading Psalm 150.

This was a last-second decision, so I had to read it cold, but with great passion: “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament!” The psalm consists of one command after another to praise, working its way through each instrument of the orchestra.

My voice is building in a steady crescendo; by the end of the psalm I practically shout the final line, only mispronouncing one word slightly:

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What a seminary education will not do. And what it might.

Consider this a love note to a few unemployed preachers.

I have all this education and training.  Why won’t churches call me as pastor?”

He was angry at God, at all churches, and at the system.  He sported a college degree and two diplomas from seminary, the last entitling him to call himself “Doctor.”

And yet he was unemployed.

His resume’ shows two years each at several churches.  Not a good record.

“The old churches are blackballing me,” he said. “I’m thinking of suing them.”

At one point he said, “I’m giving up on the organized church.”

Now, a casual observer may think I’m betraying a confidence here.  I might be, except for one overriding thing:  I’ve heard this same complaint, in one form or other, at least a half-dozen times over the years.

There’s a lot of this going around.

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“Lord,” I said, “I really want this.” And He said, “Sorry.”

One Sunday morning recently, I listened to Dr. David Brooks preach to Calvary Baptist in Alexandria, Louisiana.  “I’ve been wanting to preach this sermon for several weeks,” he said, “and the Lord finally led me to preach it today.”  Based on Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you, saith the Lord,” David told of two great disappointments in life where he did not get what he wanted, but God knew best.

As a college student, David Brooks was one of several interviewed by Green Acres Baptist in Tyler, Texas for youth minister.  David’s roommate was chosen.  Big disappointment.  But then he was called as summer youth minister at Spring Hill, Louisiana, a lovely smaller church where he ended up serving throughout college.  One day he met John Alley, pastor of Alexandria’s Calvary Baptist and a native of Spring Hill.  Later, in seminary in New Orleans, David was invited by John to become student minister at Calvary.  Years later when John retired, the church made David the pastor.  He’s been there since the year 2000.  God’s plans were far better than anything David Brooks could have imagined, any plans he might have made for himself.

I identify with that and I’m confident readers will also.  Now, David Brooks’  burden in that message was people dealing with the coronavirus, having their plans changed, and not getting what they had wanted or expected. God’s way is always better, he emphasized.  He can be trusted.

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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 was Carl J. McKeever (1912-2007).  No one who met him ever forgot.

Like two of his four sons–the two who became preachers!–Pop was a talker. 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 that 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. Up 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 during our brief visit at the restaurant in Jasper, Alabama.

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When the minister is tired, watch out!

(Written a few years back. I decided to leave it intact and post it as is.) 

“Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat down by the well….” (John 4:6).

Jesus grew tired, so don’t be surprised if you do, too.

Jesus needed rest and wanted a little solitude, and you and I are no different.

Give yourself permission to be human, friend.

As for me, it’s Monday night and I’m tired.

How did I get this way?

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If you’ve been in the Lord’s work very long, your scars prove it

From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17).

“…I bear branded on my body the owner’s stamp of the Lord Jesus” –the Moffett translation.

“…I bear on my body the scars that mark me as a slave of Jesus” –Goodspeed.

At Mississippi State University, the Kenyan student carried horizontal scars across his face.  “Identification marks for my tribe,” he explained to me.  Wow.  Tough clan.

We were returning from the cemetery in the mortuary’s station wagon.  The director and I were chatting and perhaps could have been more observant.  We did not notice the pickup truck coming from our right and running the stop sign at 30 or 40 mph. We broadsided the truck.

My forehead broke the dashboard.

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A funny thing happened on the way to the cemetery

If you’re ever sitting around with two or three preachers, ask for their funniest stories, the most memorable wedding or funeral they’ve done, something like that.  Pull up a chair because you’ll be here for an hour.

I don’t have any funerals where the “honored guest” got up and walked out, or where the wrong person was discovered to be in the casket, or such foolishness as that. And for good reason.

Funerals are highly structured affairs, regulated by state law and overseen by a whole battery of mortuary employees and family members.

When we gather at the funeral home, the family has already been in conference with the mortician on how they want things done. The funeral directors stand nearby to make sure all goes according to plan. As a result, there is usually very little wiggle room there, space for the unexpected to occur.

And that’s not all bad.

I did this one funeral…

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Want to hear a funny story about a wedding?

When you’ve been in the ministry as long as I have–I began pastoring when JFK was president!–there are few things you haven’t seen or experienced.  This one is about weddings I have done (or had done to me!).

There was this one wedding….

–Which was attended by Sandra Bullock. I didn’t know it at the time, and learned it later. The famous movie star was all of 10 years old. The bride was her aunt or a cousin of her mama’s or something. (I wonder if she remembers me. lol. )

–Where I called the groom by the name of the best man. Oops. (Thereafter, I wrote the names of the bride and groom in large letters at the top of my materials.)

–Where I dropped the ring. For years in rehearsals, I would instruct the bride and groom, “If it drops, let it go. No one will know and we’ll get it later.”  So, when it happened  I’m the one stooping down to pick it up. Oh, well. Not that big a deal.

–Where the groom was wearing cowboy boots with his formal tux. During the picture-taking, I said to the bride, “Debbie, you should have worn yours.” With that, she hiked her dress up and showed me. She was wearing her boots too.

–Where the bride fainted. See below.

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