I said to a pastor search committee, “Wait a minute. The former pastor of your church lives a hundred miles away, but he’s still the chaplain of the local high school football team? And he comes back for every game?”
For this and a few other reasons, I declined their invitation to become pastor of that church.
Dealing with a former pastor who is well-loved and will not go away and stay gone is a huge challenge for the preacher who follows him.
But there are those who do it well.
We could all take a lesson in how to deal with our predecessor from Paul Mainieri, the baseball coach of LSU’s consistently championship team. His predecessor, Skip Bertman, is a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame. And with good reason….
Continue reading “How to treat your celebrity predecessor” »
“The things you have heard from me….commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore…(are to be) a good soldier of Jesus Christ….” (II Timothy 2:2-3)
If your pastor is a godly, humble man who is leading the congregation to minister effectively and become healthy spiritually, give thanks and support him enthusiastically.
You are the envy of a lot of other churches.
The caller the other night said he is a lay leader of his church, a strong tither, and a volunteer who can be counted on. The church he loves so much is into freefall with members deserting it in droves and going to other churches, while his pastor is a liar, a bully, and on the way to becoming a dictator. Church attendance is one-half what it was when the preacher came a few years back.
What to do?
Continue reading “He said, “My pastor needs to go.”” »
“One thing thou lackest.” (Luke 10:42)
Your pastor is a super guy, does a great job in a hundred ways, but he mangles the rules of grammar.
Call it to his attention or not?
Your outstanding pastor violates every standard of dress. Sometimes he looks like a slob and when he dresses up, he seems to have no sense of taste, of what looks good on him. Should you speak to him? You don’t want to discourage him, but just correct this glaring omission in his total package.
Your pastor’s wife is close to being wonderful. But she has one little problem that is distracting, and could be remedied very easily. She needs to take more care about her personal appearance, or the way she speaks, or her habit of digging people with her teasing, or letting her children run loose in the church building. Talk to her or let it ride?
Your faithful pastor seems to have a gap in his theological understanding. This is far more important than the color of his tie (or whether he wears one) or how he parts his hair (if he has any). This is basic stuff. You could help him. Do you say something, or bite your tongue?
You love your Lord, love your church, and adore a hundred things about your pastor and his family. You are concerned about one or two small things that are drawing a lot of unneeded attention from critics. Do you give thanks for what you have and let the other things go? Or do you go the second mile in demonstrating your love for his family by telling him (or the wife) that “one more thing” which could make the difference in his succeeding in your church or failing.
Here are a few thoughts on the subject….
Continue reading “My pastor has this problem. Should I tell him?” »
(All of what follows, young pastor, concerns your pulpit presence. We’ll be back from time to time discussing other facets of pastoral leadership. And, I might need to say, this is directed toward no one particular pastor of so many I’ve worked with in 2013. Each is a winner, a dear brother in Christ, and it’s been a privilege. What follows is a series of impressions which linger long after my visit to your church. I send these with the prayer the Lord will bless your ministry beyond anything you ever dreamed of or asked for.)
You are clearly called to this ministry by the Lord, pastor. Visiting in your church, I saw evidence of His hand upon you, both in the seriousness with which you view your task and the acceptance and trust with which your people hold you.
You did not ask me to critique what you do, and I’m not doing so now. However, knowing how a few well-placed suggestions can tip the scales as we struggle to become more effective in our ministry, I offer these to you.
1)Presentation: May I say a word about your clothing?
Continue reading “Dear young pastor: May I make a few suggestions?” »
A few months ago, the pastor of a small church in the far northeast emailed me. He had read something I had written, found it helpful, and after talking about the issue, he said, “What would be involved in getting you up here to preach for a weekend?”
He was not inviting me, please notice. He was trying to see if inviting me was something he could do and make work.
I replied something to the effect that in most cases, a host pastor will want to provide air fare, put the guest up in a hotel, and pay him some type of honorarium. If the church is small, this means the pastor must lead his people to anticipate such an event and set money aside for it. If the guest drives, the government allows ministers to be reimbursed at something like 56 cents per mile or more. For a small church, I pointed out, going to such expense to bring in a preacher only for a Saturday and Sunday might be more than it could handle.
Some weeks later, he replied that he had given it much prayer and thought and agreed that he should look for someone closer to home.
Continue reading “Must the preacher accept every invitation that comes his way?” »
“And the rabble who were among them had greedy desires….” (Numbers 11:4)
When Israel left Egypt under Moses, the people of God were not alone. Accompanying them was a group of malcontents and hangers-on who apparently stayed with them all the way through the wilderness wanderings on into Canaan.
The Bible calls them “rabble.” They were along for the ride, glad for an excuse to break out of Egypt.
They were a persistent sore on the body of God’s people.
Their presence explains a lot of things.
Who were they? Exodus 12:37-38 reads: “Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children, and a mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock.”
That’s all it says: “a mixed multitude.”
Not all were sons and daughters of Abraham or descendants of Jacob. We may assume they were a hodge-podge of humanity, people who for reasons of friendship or self-advancement or marriage had attached themselves to the Hebrews.
Continue reading “Behold, the rabble” »
“Now, in the last days, difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self…boastful, arrogant, revilers…ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited…. Avoid such men as these.” (II Timothy 3:1-5)
Veteran Christian workers get this a lot. People tell you of a conversation they had with you years or even decades ago in which you either said the magic words that changed their lives or came out with something that infuriated them then and continues to bug them to this day.
You don’t remember any of it.
In yesterday’s cybermail, I had two such messages, one of each kind. One young minister was thanking me and the other was venting. Both conversations had occurred nearly 10 years ago.
The second letter told of the time the writer sat in my office, seeking guidance for entering the ministry. According to his note, I asked what kind of church position he was interested in. And that’s what ticked him off.
“I was morally outraged by the question,” he said.
Continue reading “The angry pastor: trouble in the making” »
A friend passed along something that Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of Dallas’ First Baptist Church, tells on himself. In an earlier pastorate, a little deacon group who found they could not control the pastor decided to fire him, and called a church conference for that purpose. Pastor Jeffress and his wife gave the matter to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to show one way or the other whether they were to leave or remain at this assignment.
In the meeting, after the deacons leveled their charges against the pastor–it was penny-ante stuff, Dr. Jeffress says–the moderator invited the congregation to speak. A small elderly woman stood to her feet and walked toward the front. Asked if she wanted to say anything, she said, “No. I’m just going to stand by my pastor.”
At that, another person rose and silently walked to the front and took his place on the other side of the pastor.
One by one, across the sanctuary, people got up and walked to their pastor. Many went to the microphones and testified of the blessed ministry Brother Jeffress had had in their lives. For a full 45 minutes, the congregation overwhelmingly affirmed his ministry.
The ringleader of the movement to oust the pastor finally said to the congregation, “I never realized how out of touch I was with the sentiment of this congregation. You will never hear another word from me.”
Within a few weeks, every one of those deacons and their families had left the church.
And–do we need to say this?–after they departed, the church grew and the ministry flourished.
Stand by your pastor.
Continue reading “People who have the pastor’s back” »
Here is the backstory. Some years ago, while I was still pastoring, I gathered my books and drove 100 miles north to spend a few days in a friend’s camphouse to study and pray. I stopped for lunch at a family-style restaurant in the next town and soon found myself seated across from two older gentlemen in faded overalls. I was trying to read, but the one directly across wanted to talk politics. I said I was from New Orleans and had no idea what Mississippi was doing. He didn’t skip a beat, but asked who we were going to elect as governor. That led to a discussion on a candidate who had been a leader of the Ku Klux Klan. I assured the man he had no chance, that he believed things our people do not hold. “For instance?” he said. I said, “He believes in the superiority of the white race.” “Well, that’s a little hard to argue with,” he said. I laid down my book and said, “I’ll argue with it.” All around us, people of both races were tuned to this discussion.
He wanted to know why it was that through history whenever blacks and whites lived together, the blacks ended up as slaves of the whites. I’d heard that before. I said, “Sir, you’ll be happy to know that didn’t happen often. But if it did, it speaks more to the inferiority of the whites, that they would make slaves of their neighbors.” He didn’t miss a beat. “That brings up the matter of slavery. I see you have a Bible there.” Yes? “You know there is nothing in the Bible against slavery.” I said, “Are you serious?” He said, “Give me one verse in all the Bible that says slavery is wrong.”
Continue reading “The pastor does well, receives a sucker punch, replies, and second-guesses himself.” »
“Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure…. I have been stricken all day long and chastened every morning….. When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God. Then I perceived their end…. God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73)
The most difficult place for any Christian pastor to serve may be next to a military base.
The greatest opportunity any pastor may have in a long lifetime may be serving next to a military base.
As the Apostle Paul said, “A wide door for effective service opened to me; and there are many adversaries” (I Corinthians 16:9).
Jim and Patsy told their story to some of us not long ago. I have never forgotten their testimony and want to continue lifting them to the Lord.
Background: they are from the U.S. and pastor a church near an American military base somewhere overseas. They’ve been there two years.
Continue reading “How the preacher got his mojo back” »