Flirting with temptation; playing with fire.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” (Proverbs 27:6)

Perhaps the most dangerous place on the church campus is the pastor’s counseling office.

When the minister is shut up in a tight space with a vulnerable female who confides in him the most personal things of her life, often the two people do something completely natural and end up bonding emotionally.

The bonding process is simple: she opens up to him, he sympathizes with her, she reaches out to him, and there it goes.

Many a ministry and a great many marriages have been destroyed in the counseling room.

Can we talk about this?

Continue reading “Flirting with temptation; playing with fire.” »

Why your good sermon was so boring

Pastor, if you are like the rest of us, you’ve had this happen….

You brought a sermon on an important scriptural passage which you knew beyond a doubt was from the Lord and inspired of God.  You had a great time studying and praying for this sermon, and you knew this was cutting edge stuff. So, why was the sermon itself so poorly received?  Halfway through, you could sense the congregation’s collective minds wandering.  How could this happen?

Clearly, the problem could be any of one thousand things. But if I may, I will share a strong conviction on the number one reason your excellent sermon was so poorly received.

Continue reading “Why your good sermon was so boring” »

Sermon killers

My friend Dave, who pastors a church in my neighborhood, reminded me of a story that used to show up in sermons from time to time.

After the war, a soldier who was severely wounded was returning home. As soon as he entered the states, he phoned his parents to say he was bringing with him a buddy who had lost (fill in the blank–an eye, a leg, both legs, etc) and was confined to a wheel chair.  He wanted the guy to live with the family and promised that he would take care of him. The mother said, “Now, honey, we appreciate your compassion and your dedication to your friend. But this would be too heavy a burden on your family. This is not a good idea.”  A few days later, the family got word that their son, the one just home from the war,  had ended his own life in a hotel in a distant city.  When the remains were shipped home, the family discovered he had one eye, one leg (or no legs), etc.  He had been telling his parents about himself.

Dave and I agreed that such a story, whether true or untrue–it’s impossible to know–is a show-stopper. A sermon killer.

Continue reading “Sermon killers” »

Things we should never tell a preacher

Recently, we posted a list of “59 things not to say to a preacher.”  Someone suggested one on things we should not tell a preacher.  The emphasis is on “should not tell.”

Here are ten in no particular order….

1. We should not tell the preacher what we think of his hot wife.

This is one not only to keep to oneself, but to ask the Lord to remove it from one’s mind altogether.  The prayer “let the…meditations of my heart be acceptable to Thee, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” should cover it.

2. We should not tell the preacher we think he is married to a meddling wife.

Only the rarest of pastors could receive such information.  If it happens to be true–pray that it isn’t–let the elected leadership of the church deal with it, and not you.

Continue reading “Things we should never tell a preacher” »

The worst possible advice to young preachers

Okay, I’m not sure what is the “worst possible advice” to young preachers–there is so much to choose from! But what follows has to be among the sorriest counsel ever administered to young proclaimers of the Word….

I was looking up “preach Jesus” and came upon a website which proposes to teach people to “preach sermons and live in the power of the Holy Spirit.”  I read a short way into the first article.  My mind was frozen by a bullet point which read: “Throw away the concordance.”

I thought, “What?”  (For those unacquainted with a concordance, it’s a staple in the preacher’s arsenal. A concordance is a book of subjects with every (or selected) scripture verses listed where you may find that word used.  The back of most Bibles will have a brief concordance.  And yes, these days, the internet has almost made it obsolete.  I type a line from a verse into the search blank and hit “go,” and instantly, I’m told where to find the verse I was looking for. It’s a wonderful help.)

Here is the paragraph, verbatim:

Continue reading “The worst possible advice to young preachers” »

Pastor, what makes your sermon Christian?

“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them…. Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him…” (Acts 8:5,35).

Preach Jesus!

Two sermons stand out in my mind as possibly the worst I have ever heard.

(And to those who ask about the worst sermons I personally have ever preached, there have been so many, it’s hard to choose!)

One sermon was interesting and easy to follow.  The other was a self-centered rant I found completely offensive.

The first was delivered by an interim pastor who, according to the introduction, taught at a local Christian college.   The second was delivered by a young pastor who told us that he had started that church only 8 years previously. It now ran in the thousands.  We were at one of their multiple locations watching him on a large screen. By any measurement the world uses to judge success, the man was all that and more.

Both sermons were helpful in some ways. Neither was biblical.  Both were delivered by gifted communicators; neither mentioned Jesus.  Neither message had even a passing acquaintance with the gospel.

Continue reading “Pastor, what makes your sermon Christian?” »

The perfect story…a little too flawed for my personal comfort.

The story that follows is only one-half of this article.  Please stick around for some background and a little discussion on whether preachers should use such stories.

As I recall the story, here’s what happened….

During the Second World War, John Blanchard was stationed at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.  One Sunday afternoon, he walked down to the base library and checked out several books. He took them back to his room and lay on the bunk flipping through  them. One was a book of poetry.

Blanchard quickly decided the poetry was not very good, but what made the book special was the previous owner–clearly a woman, with wonderful flowing handwriting in green ink–had written in the margins.  Her notes, Blanchard saw, were better than the poetry.  He devoured the  book and her comments.  For the next couple of days, his mind kept going back to what he had read.

Blanchard noticed that the owner’s name was in the front of the book. Miss Hollis Maydell of New York City.  He did a little sleuthing and found an address for her, then wrote a letter telling of finding the book and how he was fascinated by her comments. He invited her to correspond with him.

Continue reading “The perfect story…a little too flawed for my personal comfort.” »

59 things not to say to a preacher

1. “I enjoyed your little talk.”

2. “Is what you said true, or was that just preacher talk?”

3. “I heard (famous preacher) preach that same sermon on television.  He did it so much better.”

4. “Could you come to my home and preach that sermon to my husband?”

5. “You ought to hear the pastor at our church.  He’s been to seminary.”

6. “Our church is so much bigger (better, friendlier, whatever) than yours.”

7. “The restroom is out of paper.”

Continue reading “59 things not to say to a preacher” »

The Lord promises to be with my mouth

“Now, therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say” (Exodus 4:12).

I love the sass we hear coming from Moses.

Is that too strong a word?  It probably is, since my dictionary defines sass as “disrespectful speech.”

Gentle backtalk.  Assertiveness, maybe.

Anyway….

Toward the end of his exchange with the Lord who spoke to him from the burning bush, as God called him to confront Pharaoh and deliver Israel from Egypt, and after Moses has run up excuse after excuse, only to be shot down by the Lord, Moses adds one more.  (I love that sentence! smiley-face here)

“O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant, but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

Something about that resonates with me.

Continue reading “The Lord promises to be with my mouth” »

Should the retired pastor remain in that church?

“I’m retired and wondering if I need to join another church. The present pastor doesn’t quite seem to know how to relate to me. I feel I’m in the way around here. So, I’m wondering: should the retired pastor join another church or can he remain in the one where he has invested so many years of his life?”

My answer: That depends.

The pastor asking this added: “Have you ever written on that subject?”

Not until now.

He said, “I feel so awkward, like I’m in the way.”

Continue reading “Should the retired pastor remain in that church?” »