The new pastor is a bachelor. Oh my.

“I could wish everyone were like me.” — Paul  (I Corinthians 7:7)

That the Apostle Paul was either a lifelong single or widowed seems to be the consensus of scholars.

There’s an old joke about a committee telling a young pastoral candidate why they would not consider him. “You’re not married.”  He responded, “The Apostle Paul was not married.”  A member of the team said, “Yes, but he couldn’t stay out of jail long enough to take care of a wife!”

It’s not that pastor search committees are against singleness. Every member of the search team either is now or has been single at some point.  It’s rather that they believe marriage has a good effect on a man, and they prefer a pastor who has the balance in his life which only a loving, faithful, dedicated female can provide.

Also–let’s admit the obvious here–they’re deathly afraid of what might happen if the preacher starts dating someone in the congregation!  Horrors.

Jimmy, a single pastor, tells me churches fear the notion of calling such a person as their shepherd for various reasons:

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Turning sarcasm into “sic ’em!”

“Jesus said, ‘No doubt you will quote this proverb to me, “Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” No prophet is welcome in his own hometown'” (Luke 4:24). 

John Fogerty’s group Creedence Clearwater Revival is unforgettable to anyone who has owned a radio in the last 50 years.  Two years ago, in an interview with Dan Rather, Fogerty was remembering a key moment in the 1960s.

The group was one of many bands to perform at a particular event.  As the final group to warm up, and thus the first band to appear on stage, suddenly CCR found they had been unplugged.  John Fogerty yelled to the sound man to plug them back up, that they weren’t through.  The technician did so reluctantly, then added, “You not going anywhere anyway, man.”  Fogerty said, “Okay.  Give me one year.  I’ll show you.”

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Start writing, pastor: The three most important steps are also the hardest!

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this for a memorial in a book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua…'” (Exodus 17:14).

Pastors say, “When I retire, I’m going to write a book.”

It’s like a mantra.  What are you going to do in your retirement, pastor?  “Write a book.”

And he thinks he will.  A book of his best sermons.  A book of his most memorable stories.  A book recounting the headaches, heartaches, and blessings from all the churches he has served.

That’s the plan.

Most never will write that book.  And the big reason is inertia.  It’s so hard to make ourselves do something we’ve never done before.

So, the best advice is: Get started now.

Step one: Do it.  This is the hardest.   

Make yourself take the first baby steps. Open your computer.

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Listen to the experts, but don’t take it to the bank.

“How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?  When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). 

Someone said to me, “He may be an atheist but he has a Ph.D. in Greek and has studied the Scriptures in their original languages.  That gives his views a great deal of weight.”

I laughed.  And so did “Someone” on the royal throne (see Psalm 2).

On the back of a book on prayer, a blurb described the pastor/author as an expert on prayer. I’m not sure why that offended me.  I felt as if one of my five siblings had announced that he/she was an expert in communicating with our parents. “What’s so hard about that?” I would have replied.  “They love us and are always available.”

I don’t know. Perhaps it’s just anyone calling himself an expert that bothers me.

I have read that FDR had an innate distrust of anyone called an expert. It’s not a bad philosophy.

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Something essential to give the new pastor

The new pastor looks out at the congregation.  He’s acting confident and looks the part. The search committee did a good job from all appearances.  The pastor speaks well and seems to know what he’s doing.

But wait….

Has someone removed the pulpit from the platform?  And is that a rowboat the preacher is standing in?  What is going on here? Am I in the right church?  Have we entered the twilight zone?

I know of a pastor who did that on his first Sunday.

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The Scripture’s description of your pastor

“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the work of a bishop (literally ‘overseer,’ meaning the pastor or chief undershepherd of the church), he desires a good work.  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous, one who rules his own house well….”  (I Timothy 3:1-7 is the full text.)

Dr. Gary Fagan was pastoring a church in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts.  It was Wednesday night and time for the monthly business meeting of the congregation, usually an uneventful period for hearing reports on finances and membership and voting on recommendations concerning programs.  For reasons long forgotten, a man in the church–Dick was an engineer and a deacon–chose to stand and berate the pastor.  When he finished, he sat down and there was silence.

He was not used to being contradicted and the regulars were not foolhardy enough to take him on.

It took a new believer to do the job.

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Pastor-Search-Committee anxieties: Every pastor gets ’em!

For those whose denominational system uses bishop appointments or some system other than search committees, please skip this.  And for those who cannot let this pass without reminding us that Scripture has no pastor search committees, we grant that. Neither does it have air conditioning, chocolate, or penicillin, but these are also gifts of grace from our Lord.  Thank you very much.

“Lead me, Lord.  Lead me in Thy righteousness.  Make Thy way plain before me. Amen.”   (a choral benediction) 

The pastor on the other end of the phone sounded almost upset.

“I had a contact from a search committee in your city.  Man, I don’t know what to do.  I love where I’m serving and just can’t bear thinking about leaving.  Plus, my oldest child is coming up on his senior year of school. What to do?”

My answer is: “Well, the first thing to do is quit obsessing about it.  The odds are you’ll never hear back from them.”

When a pastor has felt isolated and forgotten in his little corner of the world for so long, any contact from a committee can bring excitement.

We pastors are an anxious lot. We get excited and nervous when…

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Minister: You were dismissed from your ministry position and you are angry

God to Jonah: “Do you do well to be angry?”  Jonah: “You’re dadgum right I do! I’m so angry I could die!” (Jonah 4:4,9; my silly little paraphrase) 

A reader reacted to our article on “How to be fired and come out a winner.”

“I was fired from my position. The work was going well.  No reasons were given.  What am I to tell the kids and their parents?”

I began with this: “First, it wasn’t your position.”

That must have stung.

I know the feeling, friend. And have witnessed it a hundred times among colleagues.  You go in to  a church and build the program.  You are “in your place,” doing the best work you’ve ever done, and can sense the Holy Spirit has been preparing you for this for many years.  And suddenly, they terminate you.

How can that be of the Lord?  Surely someone is out of line here.  Haven’t I been mightily used of God?  Hasn’t He blessed my labors?  Don’t the kids love me?

All of that may or may not be true.  But it’s almost beside the point.

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Prayer for our next pastor

When a church is pastorless, no one knows who the next pastor will be. While we pray for the Pastor Search Committee regularly, has it occurred to us to begin praying for the object of their search?  Here is how I’m praying for our next pastor.…

Heavenly Father,

Please send our church a pastor who will be Thy choice first and foremost. Let him know it, let our search committee know it, and let the church be just as confident about it. May the pastor’s family be supportive also, and even excited.  And then…

–protect the pastor and our church from anyone who would rise up later and claim this was a mistake and try to oust him.  Dear Lord, protect Thy church.

Send us a pastor who will be loved as dearly as any pastor has ever been loved. This congregation wants to love its pastor.

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Pastor: A note from your guest preacher

I had the privilege of preaching in your church recently.  As a retired pastor, not far from my 80th year on the planet, I’m honored when a pastor invites me to fill his pulpit. Sometimes, as was the case last Sunday, the pastor is on vacation.  At other times, I’m leading a Friday/Saturday event for a specific group–leadership, deacons, seniors–and the pastor asks me to stay and preach for the Sunday morning service.  I’m always delighted to do so.

First, just so you’ll know….

I’m not coming with my own agenda for your people.  My entire aim is to honor Christ and bless His church.  From the time you first call inviting me to preach, I begin praying for the Father to lead me on what to do and how to do it.

Even if I preach something I’ve used in other churches, this is no so-called “sugar stick.”  I’m endeavoring to be obedient to the Lord with what He has given me.

As your guest, I will not be critical of how you are doing things in your church.  I will leave no suggestions on your desk on how to improve your worship service or ways to deal with certain problems in your church. You didn’t invite me as a “mystery shopper” and I’m grateful not to have that burden.  That said, however…

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