The heart of a pastor

“Father, forgive them. For they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

They were killing Jesus.  They would run up and spit on Him, then back off and laugh and call Him blasphemous names.  They would quote His words back to Him and dare Him to come down from the cross and prove Himself.

They were mean-spirited and ugly and hatefilled.

Jesus loved them.

As they killed Him, He prayed for them.

That, my friends, is a pastor.  A shepherd.  A lover of God’s people.

The heart of a pastor is a thing of wonder.

Something inside me wants to say preachers either have hearts of a pastor or they do not.  And if they do not, they should reject every invitation from search committees to become pastors because it’s a perfect set-up for disappointment on his part and disaster on theirs.  The preacher who can deliver a fine sermon but who is unavailable and ineffective during the week one-on-one should ask the Lord to show him other ways to use his gifts and calling.

The pastorate is not for him.

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Valentine’s Day: “Oh, are they having that again this year?”

My sister Carolyn sent me a list of lame excuses men use as to why they didn’t get their sweethearts anything for Valentine’s Day. “The Hallmark store was closed and I refuse to give you anything but the best.”

That sort of thing.

At the end, her list cited a quote from the old comic Red Skelton.

“All men have flaws; but married men find out them a lot sooner than others.”

You think that’s funny, but it’s not.  A lot of truth to it. And good truth, may I say.

This will be my first Valentine’s Day without Margaret, who left us for Heaven a few days ago. My first anything without her, as a matter of fact.  And I was thinking….

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A guide to mistreating worshipers

“….they treated the Lord’s offering with contempt” (I Samuel 2:17).

The first rule of worship leadership should probably be stated as Try Not To Get In Their Way.

When  people come to worship, if you cannot help them, at the very least try not to interfere with what they are doing.

The sons of Eli the High Priest were nothing but trouble. Hophni and Phinehas–who doesn’t love those names!– “were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord or for the priests’ share of the sacrifices from the people” (I Samuel 2:12-13).

God literally calls them SOBs.  “Sons of Belial” is the Hebrew expression translated as “wicked men” or “corrupt.”

Scripture has not a single positive statement about these miscreants.

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What my wife would tell pastors’ wives

This is being written two days before my wife’s funeral.

An hour ago, the pastor who married Margaret and me nearly 53 years ago sent a note of his love and prayers.  Bill Burkett is 90 now, living in Kentucky, and seemingly as sharp and gracious as ever.

I told him, “You would have been proud of Margaret.  She was a wonderful pastors’ wife.”

I know a lot of the Lord’s people who would attest to that.  Over a period of 42 years, we served seven churches in four different states. Every church situation differed, the needs varied, and her roles fluctuated with each.

Once, after we’d been married perhaps 15 years, at my suggestion Margaret met with a few wives of pastors in an informal setting. The stated object was for fellowship, but the result was usually mutual encouragement and more.

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My single biggest problem in crisis ministry

Take last evening for instance.

A friend who is on the staff of a large church in the northern part of our state emailed about a family basically living in the ICU ward of a local hospital in our city. Doctors have told the parents nothing more can be done for the daughter. So they are standing by, waiting for God to take her.

My friend had planned to drive down to see them, but because of a cold decided it was best if he canceled and asked me to call on them.

An hour later, I was in the hospital room with the family.

The patient was either sleeping or heavily sedated and several family members and friends were seated around the room, talking softly.  They greeted me warmly, having already been informed that I was coming.

Now, two things about this family I found amazing.  They have lived in the intensive care units of their hospital back home and the one here for over 40 days.  And yet, they have such a steady peace and beautiful joy about them.

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Let me (ahem) repeat myself. Again.

Having done this blog for over 10 years, I find myself going back
and repeating some of my favorite stories.     

It has nothing to do with getting old and forgetful.

Although I am getting old and forgetful.

Nearly a lifetime ago, as a new student at New Orleans
Baptist Theological Seminary, I signed up to preach on the streets
of the French Quarter.  Of all the "field mission" choices available
to students--working with inner city children, hospital and nursing 
home ministry, jail ministry, etc.--this one, preaching on 
the streets, was the scariest. 

Therefore, it would be perfect for me.

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The best thing a boss can do for his worker

If I work for you, I expect you to protect me when I’m attacked unfairly and defend me when I am accused unjustly.  Your failure to do this means I lose confidence in you and the quality of my work begins to suffer immediately. In most cases, I begin looking for a better environment in which to work.

Let a good supervisor–the manager of a business, principal of a school, or pastor of a church– learn this most valuable lesson. 

I was a year or two out of college, newly married, and pastoring a tiny church up the highway 25 miles.  During the week, however, I was the secretary to the production manager of a cast iron pipe plant on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama.

My boss was 65-year-old Clyde Hooper, a cigar-chewing Methodist layman who could teach sailors a few things about plain speaking.  He had paid his dues in coming up the hard way, and was so tightly bonded with the 300 men working in the foundry that they would have died–or killed–for one another.  Mr. Hooper wore a crisp, starched white shirt and beautiful tie to work every day.  I adored the man.

I also emptied his spittoon in the corner of the office.

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The day you started to die

I was reading the short wikipedia bio of a British entertainer whom you might know (but who will remain anonymous here simply because his name does not matter).

The writer told how the celebrity was a regular on British television for over three decades.  Finally, the network decided his work was declining along with his audience and so canceled him.  Within three years, the man was dead, even though he was still in his 60s.  This sentence remains with me: “The day they canceled his contract is the day he began to die.”

We’ve all known of individuals who died shortly after retiring from their life work.  Whether retirement caused the death, hastened the death, or was completely irrelevant is something no one can know. But we each have our own suspicions.

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Joe’s next 10 rules for success in ministry, slightly more spiritual than the first 10.

(These follow an earlier article on “Joe’s 10 ironclad rules for success,” which were mostly silly and intended to provoke a hearty laugh.  Now, we get just a tad more serious. But, not to worry, not much more serious.)

11.  If you study hard for your sermons and eventually get to a big church, you can hire research assistants to do your studying for you. Success brings its privileges.

12. If you look at the ceiling while you preach, you may overcome your shyness but you will end up preaching over the heads of your people.

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Remedial studies in the work of the Lord

“By this time you ought to be teachers (but) you need someone to teach you again the first principles…” (Hebrews 5:12).

Sherrie Waller, a member of our church and wife of one of our deacons, teaches math at the local Baptist seminary.

She’s training the next generation of preachers and missionaries how to count the offering, I suppose.

One “school” in our seminary is Leavell College, where people can get a four-year bacculaureate degree.  And one aspect of that, as with any college in the land I expect, is that students/graduates have to have a certain amount of proficiency in a wide range of disciplines, math being among them.

I can appreciate that.

Most of what Sherrie covers is taught in high school, had these future preachers and missionaries been paying attention.

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