The Effective Pastor will not say certain things.

Third in a series on The Effective Pastor.

Every parent, every teacher, and every pastor has things they believe strongly about, lines they will not cross.  Call them pet peeves or strong convictions, the leader will not go there.

As a pastor for over four decades and a minister for five-and-a-half, here are some statements you will never hear from me:

1. Will you lead us in a word of prayer?

The expression “a word of prayer” is a putdown.  It minimizes the value of prayer and the effectiveness of praying.  So, you will not hear me saying it.

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Why I participated in the work of the local association (even when pastoring the largest church in the city)

In our Southern Baptist Convention, the SBC churches in an area form themselves into an association. Usually, it’s the churches within one county, but often several counties (in Louisiana, counties are called “parishes”) go together to form an association.  Our New Orleans Baptist Association (called NOBA) comprises churches from the tip of the Mississippi River, 100 miles northward into New Orleans and beyond, which takes in the parishes of Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson, St. Charles, and some in St. John the Baptist.

Here’s what often happens, as it did recently.

I’ll be preaching a revival in a middle-sized town somewhere in the South.  Often, I’ll meet with the pastors’ in the city and speak to them, maybe give them copies of one of my books.  At some point, I’ll ask the host pastor, “Does the pastor of the First Baptist Church attend these meetings?”

You would be distressed to know the answer is frequently, “Never.  They don’t participate in anything the association does.”

Big, big mistake.

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The effective pastor: Be the host.

(This is the first of a series of article on “The Effective Pastor.” )

This morning as I had breakfast in the hotel dining room, a tall blonde lady entered the room and called out, “Good morning, everyone.”

I figured she had to be the manager.

She was.

Terri told me later–as I sketched her–she had been on the job just two weeks. “Before, I managed a hotel in Opelika,” a few miles down the interstate.  I complimented her on the way she greeted people. And I told her something.

I work with pastors. And I have to remind some that they are the manager of this enterprise. They are the chief greeter. The mood-setter.  The actual worship leader.

They are the host.

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The nominating speech: When someone puts you up for elected office

“A certain slave girl possessed with a spirit….followed Paul and cried out, saying, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.’ And this she did for many days.” (Acts 16:16-18)

When you decide to let your name be put up for an elected office–keep in mind, I write for pastors primarily–choose carefully your recommender.

The person giving the nominating speech can make you or break you.

It wasn’t so much that what the demon-possessed girl of Philippi said about Paul and Silas was wrong.  It’s only that she was crazy, pardon the expression.

She was not qualified to be recommending anyone.

Her recommendation was the worst thing imaginable.  People who knew her scoffed at the recommendation she gave these preachers.  I can hear them laughing. “If she thinks they are hot stuff, we’d better be careful. They’re probably as looney tunes as she is.”

Some recommendations are to be eschewed.  (After 14 years of blogging, this is the first occasion I’ve used “eschewed.”  It’s about time!)

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Riding in cars with preachers

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6).

Preachers log a lot of miles on their cars.

Most preachers tend to drive aggressively.

I’m a preacher. My little Camry, one year old this month, shows over 37,000 miles.

I work hard at driving well, but sometimes I wish someone riding with me would point out something I’m doing wrong or a bad habit I’ve fallen into, if they spot such.

Recently, on three occasions recently I found myself riding with pastors as we drove to their churches.

In each case, I did unto them as I want someone to do unto me. That is, I helped the pastor with his driving.  (smiley-face goes here)

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Would someone please rock that boat?!

The deacon made no attempt to hide his disgust with his preacher.  As far as he was concerned, preachers were the hired servants of the church. And, as a head deacon, that put him in charge.

“Preacher, I have some new rules for you.”

“You have rules for me?”

“From now on,” said the old man, “you will keep a written account of every copy you make on the copier.  And you will keep a notation on every phone call you make.”

And that was not all.

“Furthermore, you are not to make any personal calls from the church office.  If you have a personal call to make, you will go to your house and make it.”

Pastor: “What if I need to call my wife when she is at home?”

“Then, you will get in your car and go there and talk to her. But you will not call her from the church phone.”

This conversation actually happened, just this way.

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The first lesson the Lord taught me as a minister

My fiancée and I sat in the Sunday School class that morning.  An hour later, I would be bringing my first sermon since God called me to preach.  My very first one. I was excited.

And more than a little nervous.

It was December 1961, the Christmas season.  Margaret Henderson and I would be married five months later and then spend 52 years together serving the Lord.  We had no idea all the Lord had in store for us, of course. The one thing we knew and wanted with all our hearts was that God was leading us and would use us.

I was a senior in college and had been called into the ministry eight months earlier.

That holiday week, I had logged 72 hours selling men’s clothing in the National Shirt Shop on Second Avenue North in downtown Birmingham.  Each evening, when I dragged back to the apartment I shared with Joel Davis, devoted friend and soon to become our best man, I was too tired to study for a sermon.

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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…

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Can we quit “enjoying the sermon?”

Can you think of any place in Scripture where someone compliments another on his message?

I can’t think of a one.

Nowhere, to my knowledge, in the Word does anyone say “Peter preached a powerful sermon” or “Paul’s message was well received” or “The Macedonian crowd got a lot out of Titus’ sermon on the Lord’s Day.”

Now, some in the audience did pick up rocks to throw at the preacher on more than one occasion, but those were the rabble, the wicked, the hostile outsiders and not the congregation of the faithful.

I have a suggestion.

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