“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).
The pastor had been called from his rural church to another part of the country. He was excited about the new challenge, as he well should have been. In a parting comment to a friend, he assessed the state of spirituality of the church members he was leaving behind:
“There is enough ignorance in this county to ignorantize the whole country.”
What happens when a pastor gets called to a church like that? A church where the members and leaders alike do not know the Word of God and have no idea of how things should be done (what Paul called “how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God”–I Timothy 3:15), or why it all matters.
Continue reading “When a pastor gets called to an ignorant church” »
“Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on…” (Philippians 3:12).
No matter how accomplished you become in sermon-building and how comfortable you feel standing before crowds delivering the Lord’s message, you should never get to the point of phoning it in.
The time never comes when a preacher can switch on automatic pilot.
There are good reasons for this limitation….
1) You are not big enough for that.
Continue reading “The point at which no preacher must ever arrive” »
“…a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).
Anyone can criticize the church. It’s the most vulnerable institution in the world, the most victimized, and the most vilified.
Criticizing the church is like clubbing baby seals. It has no way of fighting back, but just lays there and takes what you dish out. The difference is that, after the beating, the church stands to her feet and goes on about her business, while you the critic walk away beaming as though you have done something heroic.
You haven’t. You have picked on the easiest target in the world.
In this morning’s newspaper, some (ahem) rocket scientist wrote a letter to the editor taking on the church for the Spanish Inquisition of the Middle Ages and before that the Crusades. I assume he just discovered these.
No institution on earth has been so targeted for villainy as has the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Continue reading “The two-faced church: Both are accurate.” »
“One thing thou lackest.” (Luke 10:42)
Your pastor is a super guy, does a great job in a hundred ways, but he mangles the rules of grammar.
Call it to his attention or not?
Your outstanding pastor violates every standard of dress. Sometimes he looks like a slob and when he dresses up, he seems to have no sense of taste, of what looks good on him. Should you speak to him? You don’t want to discourage him, but just correct this glaring omission in his total package.
Your pastor’s wife is close to being wonderful. But she has one little problem that is distracting, and could be remedied very easily. She needs to take more care about her personal appearance, or the way she speaks, or her habit of digging people with her teasing, or letting her children run loose in the church building. Talk to her or let it ride?
Your faithful pastor seems to have a gap in his theological understanding. This is far more important than the color of his tie (or whether he wears one) or how he parts his hair (if he has any). This is basic stuff. You could help him. Do you say something, or bite your tongue?
You love your Lord, love your church, and adore a hundred things about your pastor and his family. You are concerned about one or two small things that are drawing a lot of unneeded attention from critics. Do you give thanks for what you have and let the other things go? Or do you go the second mile in demonstrating your love for his family by telling him (or the wife) that “one more thing” which could make the difference in his succeeding in your church or failing.
Here are a few thoughts on the subject….
Continue reading “My pastor has this problem. Should I tell him?” »
(This is the place where we often post a scripture which defines what follows. Is there a text about creativity? We don’t have to have one, and at the moment, can’t think of one. But if we do, look for it to replace this note.)
TIME for May 20, 2013, devotes an entire page to “assessing the creative spark,” a rarity in newsmagazines.
Now, I’m no authority on creativity or anything else, but have long been fascinated by the subject and attuned to writings dealing with it.
“Creativity is that ineffable match-strike, that flash in the dark that comes to you from, well, it’s hard to say where. You can’t summon it on demand, though inclining your mind to a task does help.” –TIME. (Jeffrey Kluger, writer)
I know a little about this right-brain activity, being a preacher, a writer, a cartoonist, and a story-teller.
Here’s something of what I have learned about creativity:
Continue reading “Creativity in ministry: Gotta have some!” »
“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)
There are numerous biblical texts that stop me in my tracks and leave me gasping for air. But none intrigue me more than this one. And, one thing in particular I find fascinating and profound.
Cowards don’t make it to Heaven.
The fearful go to hell.
Continue reading “A jaw-dropping Scripture” »
“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Somewhere in the Psalms.
In USA Today for Thursday, May 9, 2013, Jeffrey Katzenberg talks about movie-making lessons he learned from Walt Disney.
“Walt believed that an animated movie was only as good as its villain. I never forgot that.”
Think about that for a second. Villains make movies work. Villains turn ordinary people into heroes. Villains rivet our attention on the story. Villains keep us fixated on the plot until justice is served.
The greatest drama of the Twentieth Century was the Second World War. Think about its villains–Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito, and then Joseph Stalin, too. Now, consider that without that war and those villains, we would never have heard of heroes such as Generals Eisenhower, Patton, MacArthur, Montgomery, etc. That war made Winston Churchill arguably into the man of the century.
Now, as the leader of a church, you have encountered your own set of villains. You’ve noticed that they fall into two camps. One is the devil himself and all his cohorts. The other are people who are supposed to be on your side but instead of helping the program, they seem to spend their days and nights scheming and searching for ways to bring it down.
Continue reading “10 things about conflict you need to know” »
“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift that is in you….” (II Timothy 1:6) “Of these things put them in remembrance….” (II Timothy 2:14).
Today, I spent the morning hours in a school in North Carolina giving my little presentation we call “Lessons in self-esteem from drawing 100,000 people.” I sketch a lot of students, then segue into the talk which, among other things, urges the kids to stop comparing themselves with others, accept themselves as the persons God made them to be, and to smile. Then it happened again.
Only five minutes after the talk, we invited the students to crowd around and I would sketch as many as possible in the remaining time. “Look at me and smile,” I said to the first teenager. “I don’t smile,” he said. I stopped, looked at him sternly and said, “You didn’t hear a thing I said, did you?”
In truth, he had heard, but the lesson had not penetrated.
I said to the young teacher, “My telling the students these things once is not enough for them to get through. The only way to change their behavior is for you to say it over and over again. Eventually the lesson will ‘take’ with some of them.”
Some lessons have to be repeated ad infinitum.
Continue reading “7 things pastors should tell their people often” »
Those of us who counsel pastors and teach future preachers sometimes caution them to “study the Bible for itself, just to receive the Word into your heart, not to prepare sermons.”
We might as well tell Sherlock Holmes to enjoy crime scenes for the beauty of the occasion and stop looking for criminals, tell Albert Pujols not to worry about actually striking at the baseball crossing the plate but to relax and take in the inspiration of the moment, or tell Joan Rivers to give up on plastic surgery.
Some things you do because this is who you are.
When a pastor reads a great insight in the Scriptural text, does anyone think for one minute that he is going to file that away in a personal-edification file, never to be shared with others in sermons?
Continue reading “Something pastors cannot do and we should quit asking.” »
The preacher knew he should clean up his act, get right with the Lord and apologize for his past laziness and start taking his ministry seriously. Instead, he took the cheap way out.
He used his sermons to slam anyone thinking of leaving the church.
“It would be a sin against the Lord for you to leave this church at a time like this when it needs your faithfulness so much,” he said. “And I can promise you this, if you do this rebellious act, you will never find happiness in another church.”
When someone asked me what they should do–stay or leave such a church–after learning that the lay leadership had no intention of doing anything, I said, “Whenever a church decides it will accept shoddy pastoral leadership and refuses to abide by scriptural principles, unless you have strong reasons for staying, I would ask the Lord for permission to leave.”
“And,” I added, “if He does lead you to join another church, I can promise you almost anything will be an improvement over what you have there.”
Continue reading “What the cowardly pastor does” »