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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Why a lot of professing Christians never attend church

“Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together”–unless, of course, the Lord reveals to you that you are the church, as one lady said to me.  Or, that you are smarter than the preacher, the deacons are trying to run the church, or no one in the congregation will speak to you.  Hebrews 10:25, sort of.

When you don’t want to do something, you shouldn’t have to have an excuse.

If you do not want to go to church, for instance, if you can skip church for a whole year and never miss it, you should “man up” and admit, “I’m not a Christian and don’t believe all that Bible stuff.  Church is for people who take the Lord seriously. Not me. So, I don’t go.”

Hmm. That felt ‘mean,’ didn’t it?  But it’s dead on accurate.

Please read on.

By “go to church,” we don’t necessarily mean a building with a steeple on it.  It could be a group of God’s people gathered in a living room to sing and pray and study the Word.  Or,  fifty people in a storefront.  The point is not the location or the structure but God’s people meeting on a regular basis for the work and worship of the Lord.

The redeemed of the Lord will be drawn to one another.  They love each other.  Jesus said so.

I heard of a pastor somewhere who collected excuses on “why people who call themselves Christians don’t go to church.”   He did not make these up…

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Letter to pastors in the hurricane zones

At this moment, Texas is in full recovery mode from Hurricane Harvey while Florida awaits Irma.  These are scary times.

For those of us who came through Katrina in 2005, nothing about this is fun.  We recall all too well the hundreds of deaths, flooded neighborhoods, destroyed churches, and uprooted lives.  God bless our friends who are in the wake of Harvey and the path of Irma.

I was the director of missions for the SBC churches of the New Orleans Association, which gave me a front row seat to all that had happened and what the Lord was doing.  With that in mind, I would like to offer a few thoughts for the pastors and other church leaders in these war zones…

You are about to see what God can do with thousands of His faithful people.

You already know His power; that has been amply demonstrated.  But the power of His people flocking into your area to help neighbors rebuild their lives may be more inspiring than anything you have ever imagined.  They will feed the hungry and knock themselves out ministering and giving, and your neighbors will be amazed that they ask nothing in return.  As a result, most will be more open to the gospel of Jesus Christ than at any time in their lives.

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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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Three kinds of peace

“And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace!  But now they have been hidden from your eyes.'” Luke 19:41-42

You’ve seen the bumper stickers and billboards. “KNOW JESUS; KNOW PEACE,” followed by “No Jesus; No Peace.”

That’s almost right, but not completely.

We hear Christians say, “If the world just knew Jesus, we would have world peace.”  It sounds right, but we might be missing something.

A lot of Christians do not have peace. They are constantly beset by worries and fears, angst and anxieties.  Christians are taking the prescriptions along with everyone else to settle their nerves.  Something is going on.  What?

Many churches–made up of born-again, Bible-believing, Christians (a redundancy if ever there was one)–are constantly at war among themselves. They argue over doctrine, where to situate the organ, whether to even have an organ, whether the pastor should wear a suit and tie or jeans and sneakers, and how much to pay the preacher.  They argue over who is to run the church and divide over how long the sermons should be.  And they love the Lord.

Something is wrong.

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It was all just a misunderstanding, pastor!

Don’t jump to conclusions.  Ask for more information before you jump.

Sometimes when something just seems wrong–this could not be!–it is wrong.

Here’s the story, from my journal of the 1990s. I had forgotten this.

I had been out of town for the weekend, and my assistant had preached.  We had four additions to the church and everyone praised the preaching of Dwight Munn.  And then, I began going through my mail…

An offering envelope from Byron (last name) had been placed in my mailbox.  He’s a new member, a super nice guy, a pathologist, and was engaged to marry Carol, who was equally nice and as lovely as anyone has a right to be! Inside the offering envelope was a note. A rather angry note.

The writer–presumably Byron–was criticizing all the announcements in the service, particularly the two made by the wives of a couple of staffers.  The writer said it’s enough to welcome new members at the end of the service, but nothing more should be said.

As I say, the tone was angry.

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