100 things I tell young pastors (61-80)

61. Resiliency. There is no shame in being fired by a church or run off by a group within the church. Some of God’s greatest champions have that on their record. The shame comes when you let that discourage you from future ministry.  Read Second Corinthians 4:8-10 again and again until you “own” it. If this happens to you, own it, give it to the Lord, then get up and get back in the game. Your team needs you.

62. If you are terminated–or “encouraged to leave” a church in a way that leaves you angry and bitter–read Luke 6:27-35 repeatedly until you make it your own.  The way to rid yourself of the anger and bear a faithful witness to your detractors is to practice what the Lord commanded: do the four actions the Lord commands in this passage.  Do good to them, bless them, pray for them, and give to them.

63. Encourage pastors who have been terminated or for any reasons, find themselves “between churches.”   A pastor friend ousted from his church had trouble re-entering the ministry.  One day he asked, “Why don’t other pastors help me?” I said, “Tom, how many unemployed preachers did you help when you were pastoring?” He said, “I didn’t know it was the problem it is.” I said, “They don’t either.”

64. Problems. Teach your lay leadership (preferably in small group settings) how to deal with problems that arise in church, how to confront a troublemaking member, and what to do about a pastor or staff minister who has gone rogue. When nothing of that sort is happening in your church is the perfect time to teach this.

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100 things I tell young pastors (41-60)

41. Preparation. Remember that preaching is not a written art, but an oral thing. So, once you have finished your plan for the message, go for a walk and preach it aloud.  This will alert you to detours to avoid, rabbit trails to shun, potholes to steer around, and will make you aware of areas where you need to do more work..

42. Never deliver a sermon you have not preached to yourself at least three times. Likewise, when you plan to read a Scripture in the worship service, prepare by reading it aloud numerous times to prepare your tongue for forming these particular sounds, to find phrases you need to emphasize, and so you can do the reading justice.

43. When you are invited to guest preach in other churches, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. This is no time to hammer out a new sermon, but an opportunity to use something you have previously preached. You’re being given a rare opportunity to return to something you have preached and improve on it.  In time, this may become a favorite message you preach in many places.

44. While your sermon-machine is always on (and you will always have a notepad nearby when reading anything), make it a point to read Scripture devotionally–asking the Father to feed your soul–every day.  Read for no other purpose than to listen to God.

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100 things I tell young pastors (21-40)

21. Off days.  Early on, establish with your spouse at least one full day (including evening) each week for yourselves.  Have an understanding about this when talking with search committees. Protect it. (Then, help your wife to know that a) you will work hard to protect this day, but b) there will be exceptions once in a while.)

22. Search Committees. When dealing with search committees, do not become so enamored with that church that you fail to do your homework–such as looking carefully at the church’s history, its relationships with previous pastors, what income/benefits they offer, the details about the living arrangements, etc.

23. Mentors. Find at least two older ministers and ask them to be your mentors. That word means different things to different people; to me it means “a resource, a friend, someone I can call and run things by.”

Call them occasionally to tell what’s going on and seek their counsel. Pray for their ministry.  You will be needing them.  I promise.

24. Reading. In addition to theological books and ministry periodicals, read outside your field.  Run by the public library and browse the periodicals. Scan through magazines you’ve never heard of. Be alert for ideas, interesting concepts, anything you’ve never heard of. Read a lot of history.

25. Always have reading material in your car so if you are stuck in traffic or in a waiting room, you’re prepared.

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Twenty things I tell young pastors

(Eight years ago, I posted “One hundred things I tell young pastors,”  twenty at a time in five posts.  I’m reposting the first twenty, but tweaking them, adding to them.  Whether I’ll repost the (amended) other eighty depends on the response.) 

There was no particular order to these.  I jotted them down as they occurred.

1) In all the world there are only three Christians who love change; none of them are in your church.  This is a reminder to introduce change carefully.  I suggest you not use that word, but “experiment.”  Tell the church, “We’re going to experiment with an 8 o’clock service.”  It implies that if this doesn’t work out, you’ll try something else.

2) When you speak before an unfamiliar group, be careful what you say.  You never know who is listening. You’ll start to tell a story about some guy in your former church and his mama is sitting right in front of you.  I have scars to back this up.

3) There will never come a time when you know all the Bible and have all your questions answered.  If you cannot serve Him with some gaps in your knowledge and preach without knowing everything, you’re going to have a hard time.

4) As a general rule, your church members should submit to your leadership, but you’re not the one to tell them that. Furthermore, you should not be a one-man show, but share the decision-making and direction-setting authority with others.

5) The best way to get people to submit to your leadership is for you to humble yourself and serve them the way the Lord did the disciples (John 13).  People will trust someone who loves them that much.

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When pastors pull rank: Something the Lord Jesus never did

Standing with a group of pastors, chatting and fellowshiping and shooting the (sacred) bull, I was interested to hear one say, “I told him I’m the pastor of the church, that God made the overseer, and if he doesn’t like it, he can find another church.”

He pulled rank on his unhappy church member.

That brought nods of approval, even from a couple who knew they would never have the gumption to say such a thing. Even if they feel like doing it sometimes.

But that pastor is wrong.

Dead wrong.

If anyone on earth had the right to pull rank on other people, it was our Lord Himself.

Yet, He never did.

Now, the Heavenly Father didn’t mind doing it.  The Old Testament is rife with commands backed up by reminders that “I am the Lord!”  The idea is that “Since I am God, I have a right to say this. Disobey at your own peril.”

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How I overcame the fear of public speaking and learned to love it

Good title, right?

Now a confession. I was never afraid to stand in front of a group and speak. Not ever. In fact, quite the opposite.

When I was a fourth grader in our little West Virginia schoolhouse, teacher Margaret Meadows would periodically invite anyone who had read an interesting story to stand and share it. Violet Garten (love that name!) was so good at it. But when she called on me–I’m the guy frantically waving my hand–and I walked to the front of the class, I broke all the rules.

I did not relate a story I had read somewhere.

I made one up on the spot.

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What the pastor is to do when ousted from a church

The headline from an online preacher magazines says a pastor fired because of his alcoholism is bitter at his mistreatment by that congregation’s leaders.  Not good.

I’ll not be reading that article, thank you.  But a lot of people will.  Looks to me like he deserved what he got.  But then, I’m neither his judge nor their advisor.  But when a fired preacher walks away bitter, that does concern me.

No one deserves to pastor the Lord’s church.  No degrees on the wall, no glowing resume, no recommendations from the denomination entitle you to a church to pastor.

It’s a privilege.  A call from Heaven.

The bitterness feels like this guy no longer trusts the Lord.  I suggest he read Acts 16 again, and remind himself how God can use setbacks and what appears to be defeats for His purposes.  But to do that, he will be needing trusting servants who are willing to take their lumps without complaining, to quieten their spirits, and to sing at midnight (Acts 16:25).

That God would allow any of us to preach to His people year after year, declaring Heaven’s message to the redeemed, without giving us what we truly deserve–the fires of hell come to mind, frankly–shows Him to be a God of grace.  Why don’t we see that?

Whenever I hear a Christian talking about not getting what he deserved, I run in the opposite direction, lest the Father suddenly decide to give the fellow what he’s asking for!

So, you were fired.  Okay.  Can we talk?

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Before you terminate the pastor

The phone call that night was unnerving.

“Brother Joe,” the young pastor on the other end said, “the deacons voted to ask for my resignation.” They had met that evening.

“They’ve given me 30 days to get out of the pastor’s residence.” They had also voted two months’ salary. And, if he plays along nicely, nothing will ever be said about his having been terminated.

I said, “Did they give a reason?”

“The chairman asked the others, ‘Do you have confidence in the pastor’s leadership?’ All six said they didn’t. So that sealed it.”

Granted, all I have is one side of this discussion. And I know from long experience with this young pastor he is not perfect. In fact, he told me of difficulties in administration he had experienced that may have brought this on.

But I know also that this pastor is a godly man of great integrity, that he works hard at his preaching, and that he has a servant heart. One could do a lot worse than have such a shepherd, particularly a small town church such as the one in question.

With a half century of observing similar dealings from church leaders, I would like to say a few things to these deacons and other church leaders who are contemplating asking their pastor for his resignation.

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Be wary of experts

“How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?  When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). 

Someone said to me, “He may be an atheist but he has a Ph.D. in Greek and has studied the Scriptures in their original languages.  That gives his views a great deal of weight.”

I laughed.  Not even a little bit.

On the back of a book on prayer, a blurb described the pastor/author as an expert on prayer. I’m not sure why that offended me.  I felt as if one of my five siblings had claimed expertise in communicating with our parents. “What’s so hard about that?” I would have replied.  “They love us and are always available.”

I don’t know. Perhaps it’s just anyone calling himself an expert that bothers me.

I have read that FDR had an innate distrust of anyone called an expert. It’s not a bad philosophy.

There are so few people in this life who should be called experts on anything. Veterans, yes, and we will accept advisors and counselors and instructors.  But rarely expert.

I’m remembering that in the early days of Jimmy Carter’s administration, youthful Hamilton Jordan and Jody Powell were called “consultants” or “advisors.”  Some commentator observed that no one should be called such until they are at least forty and have had one great failure in life.

Historically, experts have a spotted track record

What follows is from Columnist Walter E. Williams, Professor of Economics at George Mason University. His column appeared in our Clarion-Ledger on Monday, July 30, 2018…

–Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers predicted that if Donald Trump were elected, there would be a protracted recession within 18 months.  Did not happen.

–When it became apparent that Trump would be elected, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman warned that the world was “very probably looking at a global recession, with no end in sight.”

–In 1929, Irving Fisher, a professor of economics at Yale, predicted, “Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.”  Three days later, the stock marked crashed.

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They have asked you to pray at a convention in your city

This is my personal opinion.  Feel free to differ.  

This happens to almost every pastor:  Some civic (as in ‘nonreligious‘) outfit calls and asks you to lead a prayer at their gathering.  Sometimes it’s the city council or state senate, sometimes it’s a convention or business gathering.  Invariably, you are faced with the decision on what to say and what you should not say.  Here is my experience…

I was in my fourth year pastoring the First Baptist Church of Kenner, across the street from the New Orleans International Airport.  I received a phone call one day informing me that when the American Dental Association held its annual meeting in our city a few months hence, they wanted me to offer the invocation.  I was surprised and honored.

The caller said I would have three minutes for the prayer. She added, “And Pastor, please make it interdenominational.”  In my journal I wrote: “Had she said to omit the name of Jesus, I would have declined the honor for the sake of principle. As it was, I felt I could do something that would satisfy everyone.”

My secretary Peggy kept referring to it as  an “innovation,” instead of ‘invocation.”

The day came.  It was a huge hotel in downtown New Orleans.  Perhaps 700 to 1,000 people in the room.

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