Awakening the men of your church. It’s doable, but risky.

“Quit you like men” (I Corinthians 16:13 KJV). 

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (I Corinthians 16:13)

Men like challenges. Tough jobs.  Big assignments. Things no one else can do.  A little danger, some risk, to be pushed beyond their usual boundaries.

Women want a church with nurturing, good healthy relationships.  Men want a church that is doing something, making a difference, not protecting the status quo.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Oh, that it were universally true.

The truth is some women are plain spoken and blunt and care little for nurturing and relationships.

The truth is some men prefer to hibernate on the couch and watch endless ball games, to putter around in the yard and drink beer after beer all weekend.

Generalities are difficult.  Or, as the saying goes, “All rules have exceptions, including this one.”

Pastors need to know that by awakening the comatose men in the congregation, they run a real risk.  Men like to be active, assertive, adventuresome, always knowing they are making a real difference.

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How to waken a sleeping church. Aka, “How to raise the dead”

“Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14).

A pastor I know has a problem.  It’s not unlike that experienced by a large group of his peers, I imagine.

He has deacons who are undisciplined, church members who do not take care of the hurting in their midst, and in general, a congregation of unmotivated people.  When he preaches evangelism or discipleship or ministry in their community, the way they sit and stare makes him wonder if the language he’s using might be a foreign tongue to them.

Sound like your church?  Sounds like some I’ve pastored and a whole lot I’ve known.

The pastor of that unresponsive bunch asked for my advice.  Had I written anything on how to revive a comatose church?  Does our website have any help for him?

I asked him to give me a day or two to reflect on the subject and seek the Lord’s guidance.  (More and more, I keep thinking: This is an uphill task, wakening a sleeping church.  If it were easy, every pastor would do it and no church would be stagnant or declining. )

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The former pastor cannot help the new pastor much. But he sure can hurt him.

“May those who come behind us find us faithful.”  –Steve Green

The pastor who follows me at a church is pretty much on his own there.  Which is to say, there is little I can do for him, other than to pray for him.

The best thing I can do for a new pastor is to have served well during my tenure and done my level best to disciple God’s people, leaving behind a healthy congregation.  But after I leave, there is little more I can do for that church or its new shepherd.

My words of affirmation to the new guy are nice, but nothing more.  My words of commendation to friends in the congregation are basically meaningless since the pastor is on site and they are getting to know him for themselves.  From here on in, he will be having to find his own path, set his own agenda, work out his own relationships with key leaders, and find ways of dealing with those who want to exert influence they do not possess.

I can pray for him.  But there’s very little more I can do.

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The former pastor comes back for a wedding or funeral. Is this okay?

Short answer: If it’s okay with the Lord, your wife, and the present pastor, go for it.

Smiley-face goes here.

But I’m not into short answers, as you may know.  So, let’s look at the subject…

I suppose I’ve broken every rule and violated every common sense suggestion here. My apologies to every pastor who preceded me and those who came after me.  Wish I’d been more thoughtful and much wiser.  Thank you for always being kind and gracious to one who didn’t always get this right.

The retired pastor comes back to do a funeral.  The former pastor returns for a wedding.

Yes or no?  Good or bad?

That is the question before us today.

As the new pastor of a church in North Carolina, I went over a year without being asked to do one wedding.  As painful as that felt, I understood it.  Young people want a minister whom they know and have grown up with to do their ceremony.  In fact, the only reason I was doing funerals that first year is we had an assistant pastor, an older gentleman who had been at that church a decade or longer, and I was assisting him.

These are realities of pastoring.  The preacher who expects to move to a new situation with no transition period is not being realistic.

That’s the main reason they keep inviting the former pastor back.

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Why do retired pastors hang on to become a problem? I think we know.

The longtime pastor was given a great send-off.  Lots of honors and festivities, a nice gift, and a couple of plaques for his wall.  Great things were said of him and spoken to him. Only one thing was wrong.

He didn’t leave.

He held on.  He stayed in his house, kept running by the church office, continued inviting church members to his home, kept his ear to the ground to learn what was going on with the new pastor, accepted lots of funerals and weddings, and in general, made a nuisance of himself.

Meanwhile, the new pastor is having the dickens of a time settling into his proper role in the church.  It’s not the ghost of the old preacher that haunts him, but the man himself.  The old guy is everywhere.

Then, as church members called or dropped by to complain about the new preacher, the oldster listened sympathetically.  Their unhappiness confirmed his suspicions that the new pastor would not be as loving, as dedicated, as gifted, as attentive, as compassionate, blah blah blah, as he.

Lord help us.

Our previous article on this website brought up the subject of retired preachers hanging around.  But there’s more to be said on the subject.

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Pastors, someone else is always “on deck.” Do your job, then get off.

“He must increase; I must decrease” (said by a very powerful preacher about the One who took his place in the minds and imaginations of the crowds).  –John 3:30

Watch how Barnabas acted when Saul of Tarsus gradually moved ahead of him so that their team became Paul and Barnabas.  Acts 13.

When I said we would be writing about retired pastors who stay on to make life miserable for their successors, people began sending me their horror stories.

You don’t want to hear them.  They are too painful.

One old guy refused to vacate the pastor’s office, so the new pastor was given a house trailer as his office until the old fellow died.  Solution: The lay leadership developing a spine.

Another old guy made sure to elevate himself in the minds and hearts of the church members so that his successor would not be able to live up to the standard he had set.  Then, he sat back smiling while people tore the young pastor apart for not doing that very thing.  Remedy:  The lay leadership rising up and speaking the hard truth both to the former pastor (and encouraging him to move his membership) and to the congregation (get your eyes off men and onto the Lord!).  That did not happen.  The younger pastor carries scars to this day.

I am a pastor.  I love pastors and pray for a long list of them often.  I am a friend of pastors and sometimes their counselor/advisor/mentor.  I believe in the role of the God-called shepherd, and I encourage church members to honor their minister and obey Hebrews 13:17.

But that is not to say all preachers get this right.

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If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you wrote it, thank several.

Teachers. God bless ’em.

It’s the most demanding occupation on the planet, certainly the most rewarding, and unquestionably the most underpaid.

Teachers have a great role model in our Savior.

A quick Bible study.  The Lord Jesus is not called the Master Teacher without cause.  Take one chapter of the gospels, Mark 8, selected completely at random.  Note the questions the Lord asks…

v. 5 “How many loaves do you have?”

v. 12 “Why does this generation seek for a sign?”

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Fearmongering: The cheapest kind of preaching

“Men’s hearts will be failing them from fear” (Luke 21:26).

“Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:18).

When I was a kid–sometime in the early 1950s–I recall attending a revival meeting with my grandmother in Birmingham.  The preacher scared the living daylights out of everyone with his prophecies about the future, his warnings about Russia and Communism, and his forecasts about what was about to happen.  Later, as Grandma and I walked down those dark streets to her apartment, every plane going over seemed ready to drop an atomic bomb on us.

Scary preaching is foreign to the New Testament.

The great apostle actually thought teachings of the Lord’s return and the believers’ victory over and escape from this world should comfort us.

But listen to the typical prophecy preacher.   So many will use passages about the Lord’s return and the end times to strike terror into the hearts of the faithful.  They speak of the martyrdom of millions of the faithful, of the havoc to be wreaked throughout the world by the Lord’s death angels, of the Beast and the Antichrist and the desolation of abomination.

Matters of which they understand little.

God’s final warning!  The end is near!  Signs of the time!  The Antichrist is alive and living in New York City at this moment.  The United States in Bible prophecy!  Nuclear war predicted in Bible prophecy!

Sound familiar?  If you’ve observed the religious scene for the last 20 years or more, you’ve heard it all.  Turn on the television and you can hear it today.

There’s a reason for this.

Fear-mongering is a well-calculated plan to get religious but ignorant people into their organizations or onto their mailing lists, and then motivate them to open their bank accounts.

After all, fear works. Fear motivates.

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Is God interested in making me happy?

“He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).

“…And now I am happy all the day” (“At the Cross,” a gospel song in our hymnals).

It’s good to be happy.  I’m all in favor of it, and I think the Lord is also.

However.

God’s primary concern is not in making us happy.  He does not fret because someone is displeased with the job He is doing, someone else is .unhappy with the way a Scripture text is worded, and another is complaining about the weather today.

Pleasing us does not appear to be high on His agenda.  He seems not in the least concerned that some of us do not like His methods or the personnel He has sent in our direction as our teachers, pastors, comforters, companions.

I can just hear it now.  “Lord, are you aware that some of us are unhappy with you?  Doesn’t that concern you?”  He that sitteth in  the Heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. (Psalm 2)

Scripture shows that God is far more interested in pleasing Himself and making Himself happy than in satisfying us.

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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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