When to walk out on a sermon

On the morning of Sunday 19 May, 1940, Clementine Churchill returned early from a church service at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in central London, having walked out when the preacher delivered a pacifist sermon.  Winston told her, ‘”You ought to have cried, ‘Shame!’, desecrating the House of God with lies!'”   (Darkest Hour, by Anthony McCarten, p. 154)

It was Easter 1968. When Martin Luther King was assassinated, all of us–white and black alike–were hurting and confused, disturbed and concerned.  That Sunday I preached a sermon that addressed racism in America. I was 28 years old and in the first year of pastoring Emmanuel Baptist Church of Greenville, Mississippi in the heart of the Delta.  I’ve long since forgotten the sermon, but will never forget a phone call I received that afternoon.

Mrs. Glenn Powell called. She owned a beauty shop in town which I had quickly learned was gossip central.  Mrs. Powell had made no secret of her unhappiness with my sermons or with me personally.

“Brother McKeever, what will you be preaching tonight?”  I told her.

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The wonderful joy of being truly clean

“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…. Purify me with hyssop and I shall be clean” (Psalm 51:1,7).

“The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:9).

David remembered being clean and he missed it so badly.

Know that feeling?

On the farm, we would bale hay.  The baler was the type that ran off the belt driven by the tractor engine.  We would park the tractor and baler by a pile of hay, unhitch it all, turn the tractor around and hook up the belt and turn it all on.  Then, someone feeds the hay into the baler, then throws the block in to separate the bales, and I go to work.  I’m on the ground underneath all of this, hay (and dust and debris) falling all over me.  I feed two baling wires into the block as it moves through the system, then wait for the person on the other side to return those ends back to me through the next block.  I pull the wires through and tie off the bale.  The machine spits it out as we continue feeding hay into the baler and work with the next set of blocks coming our way.  Eventually, we moved on to the next pile of hay.

It was a dirty business. At noon, we shut it all down and walked to the farmhouse for lunch.  But not yet.  No way is mom going to let this dirty bunch into the house. So we rigged up an outside shower.  One at a time, we each get under it, dry off and put on clean clothes. Only then are we allowed to sit in the dining room and partake of  the amazing array of country vegetables mom and our sisters have been working on all morning.

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How I’d vote in the Alabama senatorial election

I’m completely aware that the title is presumputous!  I don’t live or vote in Alabama–although it is my native state–and in some ways might as well be chiming in on the alderman’s race in Jasper, Alabama.

But a pastor friend in that state sent the question: “How would you vote if you lived here?”

The quandary–for those who live outside the western hemisphere or in some distant future–is that the two primary candidates are Judge Roy Moore, Republican, who has been accused by a number of women of sexual overtures of one kind or other years ago when they were minors and he was an adult of 30 or so, and Doug Jones, Democrat, who espouses the party line in support of abortion and the usual liberal politics.  There are a thousand details, but these two matters cause the ethical dilemma of my friend and many others like him.

The charges and counter charges, accusations and denials, have been swift and many concerning Judge Moore.  Proving something that was merely verbal and occurred forty years ago is next to impossible. This means–unless I’m missing something–Judge Moore can do what Supreme Court nominee (and later Justice) Clarence Thomas did: deny, deny, and deny.  It was Thomas’ word against Anita Hill.  In this case, it’s Moore’s word against a half-dozen women.

The voters become the jury.

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Perhaps the hardest thing a pastor will ever do

Speak to the current moral dilemma facing the country (or dividing your community) without making matters worse.

That has to be one of the most difficult minefields a pastor ever has to tread.

One misstep and he’s a goner.

Twenty years ago, it was President Clinton’s infidelity that was dividing the country.  In the same decade it was the O. J. Simpson trial.  These days, the issue is sexual harassment (or any of its various manifestations: sexual molestation, intimidation, assault, etc.) by men in positions of power.

A man–always a man–runs for prominent public office and someone stands up and says, “He attacked me.”  Or, molested me.  Touched me inappropriately.  Took advantage of me.  Raped me.

The media flocks to the accuser and stories are written. Sleuths check out her story and some corroborate it while others trot out family members who say she is a chronic liar or family members of the accused to say they’ve never known him to do anything like that.

Then, next step.  Other women step up and say, “He treated me the same way.”

Quickly, the matter becomes page one across the country.  Leading the nightly news.  Fueling talk shows. Dividing everyone on Facebook.  Splitting families.

Defenders are enraged.  Supporters of the accusers are offended by the way their friends have accommodated themselves to the culture and forgotten Jesus’ call to defend the helpless and bless the children.

So, the poor pastor decides this matter must be addressed in next Sunday’s sermon.  What is he to do?

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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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What you left out of your sermon, pastor

“Preach on sin, Pastor!”  When the old gentleman urged that bit of counsel upon me, being young and a know-it-all, I assumed he wanted me to harp on the ways of drug addicts and murderers and terrorists, sins no one in our congregation was committing.  But I know now what he was saying.

The old man was right.

Preachers who love the Word and are committed to the Lord’s people–well, a goodly number of them–have found that it is pleasant to the hearers and strengthening to his job security to leave out the sin business.

I’ve noticed this a lot.  And it’s not just one or two preachers.

Here’s what happens.

You preach a great text and share some wonderful insights you’ve gleaned. And they are good.  You end your sermon, satisfied that you have fulfilled your assignment from the Lord.   Little old ladies–God bless ’em!–brag on you at the exit, and you go home pleased with yourself.

But not so fast.

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What to do when your pastor stirs the pot

“….according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal….”  (2 Timothy 2:9)

Pot-stirring: To take a stand on a controversial issue.  Known colloquially as “opening a can of worms.”  Rocking the boat. Rubbing the old cat’s fur the wrong way.  Upsetting apple carts.

Expect it.

It’s a poor pastor who doesn’t stir the pot from time to time.

They didn’t crucify Jesus for sweet-talking the 23rd Psalm, for explaining the symbolic meaning of items in the Tabernacle, or for spending six months on the Greek verbs.  He took a stand on what matters most, and when people didn’t like it, He held His ground and paid the ultimate price.

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You’re a pastor’s wife and don’t play the piano???

Bertha and her husband Gary were young and just getting started in the Lord’s work.  Gary would sometimes be invited to preach in a church and at other times sing.  This particular Sunday, after the service Bertha waited while her young groom stood near the piano talking with one of the women in the church.

The woman’s daughter, perhaps 9 years old, stood nearby staring at Bertha.  At length, she spoke up.

“Do you sing?” she asked.

“No, I’m afraid I don’t sing,” said Bertha.

The child was quiet a long moment.  Then, “Do you play the piano?”

“No,” Bertha answered.  “I don’t play the piano.”

The child stared at her while processing this information.  Finally, she blurted out, “Don’t you do anything??”

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Five good, strong biblical reasons not to fear

The Lord Jesus Christ took it personally when those closest to Him ordered their lives according to fear.  A cowering believer is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.

Faith in the Heavenly Father should banish all fears, He thought.

Scripture brims with injunctions not to fear but to show faith.  Here are five of what may be five hundred such reminders…

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How to dismiss a scripture that nails you to the wall

On our website, we welcome comments from friends who disagree, so long as they do so graciously.  But from time to time, we receive tirades from the angry, onslaughts from the dark side, hurling slanderous accusations at us for daring to suggest that (take your pick) Christians should go to church, the faithful should tithe their income, or the Lord’s salvation is for all time.  Such heretical positions, to be sure. (Not!)  I’ve noticed a trend in some of these mean-spirited commenters, which provoked the following little essay…. 

“I know I’m right! I’m not going to change!”

When you are wedded to your position, you tend to a) become angry at anyone taking a contrary position, particularly if their point of view is the historically orthodox view with Scriptural support.  In that case, you will need to b)  justify your position and c) deal with scriptures that say something different.

a) You become angry with contrary views. 

Each of us could learn a lot about ourselves by noticing what views on Facebook or in blogs pluck our strings.  There has to be a trend, and that trend will reveal great insights about us.

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