Don’t blame God for your cowardice

“For God has not given us the spirit of cowardice, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7)

The spirit of cowardice lives and thrives in churches these days. It has a corner in the office of many a pastor, and makes whimpering sounds familiar to many of us….

–“You don’t want to do that. It might rock the boat.”

–“Deacon Crenshaw will be upset if you preach that. I wouldn’t.”

–“Back off on that vision God gave you. You’re going to lose some members if you push that.”

–“Pastor, you must not oppose the power group in your church. They ran off the last three preachers.”

–“The biggest giver in the church is threatening to withhold his tithes if you persist in letting those people come to our church.”

We surely don’t want to offend anyone, do we?

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What to do after your moronic two minutes

Pastor, have you ever had a meltdown in the pulpit?

A few years back, two Atlanta radio jocks were fired for their on-air mocking of a New Orleans icon, former Saints football player Steve Gleason who has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s), lives in a wheelchair and speaks through a computer.

They made fun of him, parodied his situation, and someone role-played Steve speaking of his coming death and such.

It was the ultimate in offensive.

Later, one of the terminated idiots (I’m so objective in this story, as you can see) said, ‘What were we thinking?” The jocks apologized, and in a subsequent story, Gleason said he accepted their apology.

One of the men called it “a moronic two minutes.”

No argument.

I can sympathize.

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If you would bear His reproach, first be willing to lose your cool

“Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Hebrews 13:13).

Ministers considered “cool” by the world should be wary.

It’s a trap.

Let those outside the faith–i.e., friends and admirers with no appreciation for Scripture, no knowledge of the call of God, no gratitude for the blood of Jesus, or no concept of the direness of their own situation–compliment the preacher on his coolness, and it can be a form of quicksand.

“I’m not much of a church-goer, pastor, but I love watching you preach.”  “You’re not like all those other preachers–fat and bald and loud.  You’re handsome and slim and cool.”

Woe to the minister who eats up such a compliment.

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The time I asked a church member about my preaching

Woe to the preacher who gets his affirmation from the approval of his members.  “It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:24).  “Unto his master a servant stands or falls” (Romans 14:4).

This happened to me…

When the husband died, his wife of nearly 60 years was instructing me on how she wanted things done in the funeral.

She mentioned our associate pastor. “I don’t care for his funerals. He talks about himself too much.”

Okay. I had never heard his funeral sermons since he did these only when I was not available.

I said, “What do you think of mine?”

Dumb question.  But I asked for it.

She didn’t hesitate to tell me.

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How to pastor emphatically

“The disciples went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).

“Nobody ever enjoyed the presidency as I did…. While president I have been president emphatically.”  –Theodore Roosevelt, quoted by David McCullough in “The American Spirit”

The Lord does not want your spare time and loose change.”  –Pastor Brent Thompson, Heflin (AL) Baptist Church.

The Lord wants His people to live life emphatically.  “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,”says Ecclesiastes 9:10.

We are to seize the day, live each moment, and to delight ourselves in Him.

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How to use humor in your sermon/speech even if you’re not a pro

Watch this. This is how it’s done.

Some years back, Robert Mueller was giving a commencement address at the College of William and Mary. This former director of the FBI in the first Bush administration is the epitome of dignity and class. He is anything but a comic or comedian. That day, speaking on “Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity,” which he called the motto of the Bureau, he demonstrated a great way to use humor in a serious talk.

“In one of my first positions with the Department of Justice, more than thirty years ago, I found myself head of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston. I soon realized that lawyers would come into my office for one of two reasons: either to ‘see and be seen’ on the one hand, or to obtain a decision on some aspect of their work, on the other hand. I quickly fell into the habit of asking one question whenever someone walked in the door, and that question was ‘What is the issue?’

“One evening I came home to my wife, who had had a long day teaching and then coping with our two young daughters. She began to describe her day to me. After just a few minutes, I interrupted, and rather peremptorily asked, ‘What is the issue?’

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How to preach about America in the worst way

Preacher Driftwater told me, “I want to preach about America in the worst way.”

I told him it’s been done.

What he said is not what he meant, of course.

The worst way to preach about America is negatively.

“The world is going to hell.” “America is decaying from within.” “The country is becoming socialist.” “The president is our worst enemy.” “The Supreme Court is ruining America.” “The home is breaking down. Marriage is a thing of the past. You can’t get a good two-dollar steak any more.”

Okay, strike that last one.

The U. S. Supreme Court has issue ruling after ruling that has changed the character of marriage, definition of gender, responsibilities of employers, and a hundred other things.

Conservatives are justifiably concerned. We are stuck with their decisions.

Does this mean the United States is through? Will God write ‘Ichabod’ over what used to be a great country? Should we preachers deliver its eulogy from our pulpits?

Not so fast.

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What to do when a church staff member becomes a problem

This was written some ten years ago.  Rather than update the references, I decided to leave the stories intact.  Have tweaked the writing somewhat for clarity.

This week President Obama fired his top general in Afghanistan. Therein lies a tale which every pastor and staff member ought to take to heart.

General Stanley McChrystal is a case study in a lot of things: militarism, athleticism, patriotism, gung-hoism, machoism, and egotism.

What got this commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan sacked was a lengthy article just published in the July edition of Rolling Stone magazine. Since the article is online, anyone can read it. I did last night.

Can you say “insubordination?” In a sentence, McChrystal was openly critical of Obama and his diplomatic team. He held nothing back, said exactly what he thought, and had little favorable to say about anyone he works with.

Now get this. The President of the United States is the Commander-in-Chief of all U.S. military forces, which makes him the boss of every general.  So, what we have here is an officer publicly criticizing his superior officer.  McChrystal would not stand for one of his staff doing such a thing.

Obama had previously dealt with General McChrystal, telling him to bridle his mouth. But some people cannot be told anything; they are a law unto themselves.

The writer says McChrystal prides himself on being sharper and guttier than anyone else. But his brashness comes with a price: he has offended almost everyone with a stake in the Afghan conflict.

The title of the article says it all: The Runaway General: The top commander in Afghanistan has seized control of the war by never taking his eyes off the real enemy: the wimps in the White House.

Assuming this account is accurate–and a layperson like me has no way of knowing–you cannot fire a guy like that fast enough. Get him gone now.

Now, we’re addressing pastors and church leadership here….

Have you ever had  a church staff member like that?

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The number one way to encourage a pastor

There was a time when it was easier to pastor a church than it is today. There was a time when churches running a thousand on Sunday were considered mega. There was a time when churches took what they had in the way of pastoral leadership and pretty much went with it without a lot of complaints.

Those days are no more. It’s a different world we live in.

People demand strengths and excellence and results from their leaders. They look for power in the pulpit and skills in relationships. They want degrees and winsomeness and it wouldn’t hurt if you looked sharp either.

They want to be fed in sermons and challenged in programs. They want input in decisions and no longer hand the keys to the kingdom to the new preacher.

What they do not want…

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Sometimes the salt of the earth needs sweetening

While researching a subject on-line the other day, I found myself reading some preachery attacks on other ministers. These men of God, assuming that’s what they are and I’m not saying they’re not, were taking no prisoners.

“That pastor is a liar!” “Preachers lie to you when they say….” “Ten lies preachers tell you.” “That preacher is an agent of hell!”

That sort of thing.

When those sent by the Father to be shepherds of His sheep use such blistering rhetoric, we fail our assignments in many ways: we dishonor the Lord, we shame the church, we needlessly slander our brethren, we set poor examples for the people in the pew, and we hold the gospel up to ridicule by the world.

How about a little sweetening, I wonder. And then I remembered something.

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