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.”

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How to say ‘no’ to a wonderful opportunity

“They said to Him, ‘Lord! Everyone is looking for you.’ He said to them, ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth'” (Mark 1:35-38).

Turning down a lousy request is no problem.

–“Hey Joe! Wanna go bungee jumping?” Ha. Not in this lifetime.

–“Hey preacher! How about a night of bar-hopping on Bourbon Street!” You talking to me, Leroy?

–“Pastor, would you write a book on the superiority of your theological system over all others?”  Uh, no.  But have a nice day.

Saying ‘no’ to something you hate to do, do not want to do, cannot do, and would not be caught dead doing–piece of cake.

No one has to counsel you on how to do that.

It’s all those other requests that you find difficult to turn down.

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The pastor intends to write a book, but probably won’t. Here’s why.

The pastor said to me, “When I retire, I’m going to write a book.  I have all these great stories and experiences I’m itching to tell.  That’s what I’m going to do.”

I said, “No, you won’t.”

He was taken aback.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because I’ve heard it too many times.  Preachers who have not written anything more than copy for the church sign think that when they hang it up, they’re suddenly going to transform themselves into authors. And it’s not going to happen.  It never happens.”

“Why do you think that is?” he asked.

“No one can go a lifetime without writing and suddenly flip a switch and write an entire book. Especially one worth reading.”

He agreed to give that some thought.

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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.

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Recovering from “Ain’t it awful” preaching

“We preach Christ….God’s power and God’s wisdom” (I Corinthians 1:23-24).

Rick Warren says a lot of what pastors are feeding their people is “ain’t it awful” preaching.

I am so in agreement on that.

Recently, guest preaching in a church, before I rose to speak, a member of the flock with “a gift for continuance,” as a friend put it, addressed the congregation on the latest Supreme Court ruling concerning marriage.  The lady was upset, and she had a bad combination: strong convictions and the gift of gab. She went on and on about the sad state of affairs in this country.

Ain’t it awful.

To hear her tell it, the country is going down the tubes, the Supreme Court is out of hand, our freedoms are all in peril, the end is near, and God’s people are in huge trouble.

She said that and then sat down.

I had to follow it.

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A natural disposition toward shallowness: Ah yes. The pastor’s occupational hazard.

“I was born with a natural disposition toward shallowness.  I now work as a pundit and columnist.  I’m paid to be a narcissistic blowhard, to volley my opinions, to appear more confident about them than I really am, to appear smarter than I really am, to appear better and more authoritative than I really am. I have to work harder than most people to avoid a life of smug superficiality.  –David Brooks, “The Road to Character”

We preachers have a great deal in common with “pundits and columnists.”

We are constantly driving ourselves to produce the next sermon, the next church program, the next article, no matter whether we are clear on the subject or not.  We work to appear confident even if we have not worked out the details.

We gravitate toward superficiality and shallowness.

It goes with the job, I suppose.  An occupational hazard?

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No two marriages are alike, but some are amazingly like yours

“They made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah” (Genesis 26:35).

No marriage is perfect.

The union of two godly well-intentioned disciples of Jesus Christ does not guarantee a successful marriage.

And even the successful ones–however we would define that!–in almost every case had their ups and downs.

So, if you’ve been feeling like a failure because a) your husband spends more time at the church than at home, b) your wife isn’t nearly the cook or housekeeper your mom was, c) you and your spouse argue, d) you have each lost your temper and said/done some things you regretted later, or e) all of the above, then….

Welcome to the human race.

I’ve been reading William J. Petersen’s book “25 Surprising Marriages: Faith-building Stories from the Lives of Famous Christians.”

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10 things the preacher’s wife can give him no one else can

“D. L. Moody found in his wife what he termed his balance wheel.  With advice, sympathy and faith, this girl labored with him, and by her judgment, tact, and sacrifice, she contributed to his every effort.”  (quoted in “25 Surprising Marriages” by William Petersen)

The pastor’s wife is in a unique position.

She is close to the man of God but she does not come between him and God.  She is privy to a thousand things going on between him and God, but must not insert herself into that process.  She knows this man as no one else in the congregation does and can counsel/advise him as no one else is able, but she must know when to speak up and when to be quiet.

In many respects, she has the best seat in the house and the hardest job.

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What to say on your way out the door

“And now I commit you to God and to the message of His grace….” (Acts 20:32).

You’re leaving the church you have served for a shorter period than expected.  Perhaps you were forced out or were informed by the Lord and/or the leadership that your ministry had been aborted and you should leave.

If this is your first time to leave a church in this sad way, your heart is broken and your family is confused.  Nothing about this is good.

Some friends in the church are crying; others are gloating.  It’s the real world, my friend. Sad to say, the church is frequently too much like the world.

Anyway….

Try not to be too hard on those who want you gone. And as much as possible, stifle the martyr complex that keeps rearing its egotistical head within you.

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Ramifications: It has nothing to do with sheep

“We who are many are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5)

We are all interconnected and are in this thing together.

The sooner we realize that, the better.

In the introduction to their book “One Anothering,” Dan Crawford and Al Meredith wonder if you have heard “the goose lesson”.

Geese flying south for the winter usually fly in a V-formation.  This formation adds at least seventy-one percent greater flying range, because the flapping of one bird’s wings creates uplift for the bird immediately following.  When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the flock, and another goose flies point.  Geese honk from behind to encourage the lead goose.  If a goose gets sick or injured and falls out, two geese follow it down to help protect it.  They stay until the fallen goose is able to fly or is dead, and then they join another formation and continue their journey. Should a goose fall out of formation, it quickly feels the difficulty of flying alone and returns immediately to the formation.

You and I are so interconnected, we might as well have slots and tabs.

No man is an island.

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