10 pet peeves about church from one who loves The Church

By “pet peeve,” we mean only a minor disagreement.  An annoyance. We find certain things irritating, but they are not deal-breakers.  No federal case, no mountains from a molehill.  Okay to disagree.  A personal thing is all.

One.  The pastor rises to begin his sermon, and says to the congregation, “Will you stand in honor of the Word of God?”

It sounds noble.  It is meant to inspire honor for Holy Scripture.

My question is: So, preacher, do you have them jump up every time you quote a verse of Scripture? Then, why do it at the first?  And if you say this practice is scriptural, which it is (Nehemiah 8:5), then why don’t you have them stand up throughout the entire sermon? The Bible says Jesus sat down to preach (Luke 4:20).  And somewhere it says the people stood up while he preached.

What it feels like–to me at least–is the preacher is trying to come across as holier than those who do not ask people to stand for the reading of the Word.  He saw some other preacher do it and thought it was a good idea.  I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, only that it’s unnecessary and may be motivated by less-than-noble motives.  But it’s not a deal-breaker. Do it if you feel strongly about it.  (Ask them to stand every time you quote a verse, however, and this will go south quickly! Smile, please.)

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The most difficult aspect of praying

“We do not know how to pray as we should” (Romans 8:26).

I know some things my  pet does not.

My dog thinks he wants to fight that pesky cat next door. By his barking and straining at the leash, Albie gives every indication that chasing that cat would be the high point of his day.  It wouldn’t.  It would be his greatest nightmare.

That little cat sits on the driveway, completely unmoving when my dog walks within 10 feet, barking and snarling and threatening.  The cat hardly blinks an eye.  Another day at the office.  Another house dog who thinks he wants a piece of me but has no idea the trouble he’s asking for.

I know what a fierce cat can do to a sweet little house-broken dog that has never been in a real fight in his life.  I know his instincts tell him to chase the cat–that this is what he was put here on Earth for–but I know better.

I hold the leash and lead this lovely little canine on to other things, and as far away from that fierce little feline as we can get.

And just so does our Lord lead His children.

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Two of my best ideas for ministry

I’m tempted to say, “Some of my best ideas for ministry came from other people.”  Which is true, of course. Ask any pastor or staffer.   And, just as equally true, some of my best ideas bombed and I wouldn’t want to tell you about them.  Smiley-face here.

But here are a couple of things the Lord gave me (I know, I know. We should say that cautiously, lest we join the Name Above All Other Names to something unworthy) that not only worked out, but turned out to be some of the best things we did in my last pastorate…

First idea.  An idea for stewardship.   Purpose: To motivate people to tithe their incomes to the church over the difficult summer months

Summer is hard on churches which live from month to month financially.  And yes, sometimes from week to week. People go on vacations or find distractions to take them away on weekends. A large segment of the Lord’s flock give only when they are in church.  Sundays when they are out, the church goes lacking.

Once when our church was hurting financially–which seemed to be a constant for that congregation–the Lord gave me the idea which we were to name “SUMMER BLESSED.”  (I have no memory of the moment the idea arrived or whether it was sparked by something another church was doing.)

In naming it “Summer Blessed,” the idea was to “make this a summer blessed of the Lord.”  With the full support of the church leadership, I threw out this challenge to our congregation:  “Tithe your income for the three months of the summer and do so faithfully.  Then, at the end of August if you do not feel your life has been immeasurably blessed as a result, if you will request a refund, we will return all the money you gave to the church.”

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Someone is praying for the preacher: Thank you!

I could tell the day I was no longer president of our denomination.  People across the nation had been praying for me, and now they were praying for the new guy.  I could feel the slackening off of the prayers.  It’s a terrible feeling. –From one of our past denominational leaders 

Her name was Mary Ann Adlar.  (Not sure about the spelling of her name.)  An invalid, her life was devoted to praying from her small cottage in the southern part of England. Sometime in the 1860s Miss Adlar heard of a man in America whom God was using mightily.  She began praying for Dwight L. Moody, that God would send him to her church in England.  Her beloved country was desperately in need of a Heaven-sent revival, she felt.

In 1872, an exhausted Dwight L. Moody came to England on a vacation.  He met the pastor of Miss Adlar’s church, and was invited to preach there.  There was such power in the service, Moody was invited to stay for a series of meetings.  Four hundred people came to Christ that week.  Moody asked the pastor whether someone had been praying. Surely they had, he reasoned.

The pastor asked around and found Mary Ann Adlar, the woman whose prayers brought a preacher across an ocean and brought revival to her church.

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Pastor, you’ve been asked to pray at a convention of some kind

Every pastor gets invited to offer invocations at public gatherings.  It goes with the territory.

I once prayed at the grand opening of a big box home-and-hardware store.  As a thank-you, they gave me an electric Stihl saw.  Not being a woodworker, I passed it on to a neighbor.

Once in a pastor’s office I noticed the wall covered with plaques and degrees and framed certificates.  Not only was his high school diploma on display, but when the local supermarket thanked him for praying at their grand opening, he framed that letter too.

Okay.  Here’s what happens.  The secretary of the city council or school board or state legislature calls.  “Pastor, would you say the opening prayer at next Wednesday’s session?”  Before the call ends, you may expect them to say something like, “And pastor, please make the prayer inclusive.”  Or interdenominational.  Or non-sectarian.  What she means is a) don’t preach to us and try to convert people in your prayer and b) if you must include Jesus, try to be gentle about it.

In other words, be nice.

You would think no one would have to tell a preacher to be considerate of others when he prays.  But these public prayers have been abused by so many preachers, it’s necessary.

Now, if they tell me to leave Jesus out of it–in just so many words–I tell them I will not be able to help them, but “thank you so much for asking.”

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The scriptures I often pray

In no particular order, here are several prayers that I find myself offering to the Father repeatedly….

I pray for my mouth: I have a tendency to say the wrong things.

My mouth has gotten me in trouble for my entire life.  It has been known to write checks I could not cash, to blurt out exactly what I was thinking but should not have been, and to cut people down just to get a laugh from the spectators.  God has let me learn the hard way to discipline my tongue.  So, over the years, I have often found myself praying Psalm 141:3 alongside Psalm 19:14.

Set a guard upon my mouth, O Lord.  Keep watch over the door of my lips.”

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

(Someone reading this wondered how the Lord let me learn to discipline my tongue.  The best thing to happen is that when I was young in the ministry, more than once a church member called me on the carpet for the cruel thing I’d said just for laughs.  When I apologized profusely–and on one occasion, even apologized before the entire church–it left a lasting impression.  I didn’t ever want to do that again!)

I pray for forgiveness:  I am so often negligent, disobedient, and rebellious.

Who among us does not feel the need for forgiveness every day of our lives? (The single exception might be my wife.  Last night as we chatted with a couple who stopped by to visit, Bertha mentioned something about confessing her sins each day.  Everything inside me wanted to shout, “What sins?  You are about as sinless as anyone I’ve ever known.”  I didn’t say it, of course, but I thought it.)

However, my wonderful wife is married to an accomplished sinner.  So very often, I find myself praying these words of Psalm 51, followed by the confession of the publican in Luke 18:13….

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What the pastor prays for himself

“Pray for me–that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth….” (Ephesians 6:19). (Also Colossians 4:3 and I Thessalonians 5:25)

Everyone prays, we’re told.  And, doubtless, every follower of Jesus Christ prays for other people.  But we must be faithful in praying for ourselves.

Here are three prayers of mine from key times in my life…

The first:  I prayed for balance in my ministry and personal life.

This prayer is from an old journal of mine.  It’s undated, so I have no idea what was going on, what prompted it, and when it occurred.  It seems timeless, and knowing my own heart, this has been something I have longed for since the beginning…

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Some necessary things about prayer

I had led a family to Christ.  They soon joined our church and were baptized the following Sunday.  My notes remind me of something the grandfather said.  He was chairman of deacons in a church 3 hours away, and of course, they were excited about what had happened.  He said to me, “We’ve been praying for this family, but one by one.  We had no idea they’d all get saved at the same time!”

Expectations.  Dale Caston told me something that took place in a high school class when he was a teen.  The teacher asked the students, “What do you expect to get out of this class?”  She looked at one student: “Eddie, what do you expect?”  Eddie said, “Well, I’ve had you before–and I don’t expect nothing!”  —  What do you expect when you pray?  The curse of modern Christianity is that we expect little from the Lord, too much from the church, and nothing from ourselves.

“Thou art coming to a King; Large petitions with thee bring; For His grace and power are such, none can ever ask too much.” –John Newton

Okay.  Now, some quick thoughts on what the Lord has taught and is teaching me on prayer….

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How to pray (second in series) “As we begin”

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name….”

We’ve said praying is not as complicated as we’ve been made to think.  We preachers sometimes function like lawyers who pile up billable hours, but in our case we heap up rules and regulations and, pardon the expression, insights on how to make spiritual things work.  We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

Prayer is as simple as speaking to the Heavenly Father. Period.

However.

(Ha. You knew that was coming, I betcha.)

Something inside us rightfully wants to pray more effectively, to address God in a way honoring Him, and to be able to express all that is within us.

So, let’s talk about it.

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How to Pray ( first in a series) “Let’s not complicate it. Just do it!”

“Our Father, who art in Heaven…”  (Matthew 6:9)

So, you want to pray?  Good.

Or, you already pray and something inside you wants to learn to pray better? That’s also good.

Let’s see if we can help the beginner to pray effectively and the “regular customer” to pray with greater insight, stronger faith, and more confidence.  But–and this is a biggie–let’s not make this more complicated than it is.

Just do it.  The Father wants to hear His children praying.

Don’t be afraid.

Worse, don’t let someone scare you about all this.

Martin Luther used to say he had so much to do that day, he had to pray six hours.

Sheesh!  Read that and you feel like tossing in the towel and calling it a day.  Who among us has six hours to pray?

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