The Best Reason for the Church to Stay Out of Politics

These days, something new is in the ecclesiastical air: pastors are insisting that “I have the right to be political from my pulpit.” It’s a freedom of speech thing, they say.

The IRS responds that you certainly do have that freedom, so long as you dont mind giving up this little thing called Tax Exemption.

Methinks some pastors are about to find the cost for exercising this freedom is more than they want to pay.

My father has been in Heaven for almost a year now, but he had a perspective on this issue that some of our pastors could benefit from.

One Sunday, Dad drove 50 miles and attended the church my brother Ron pastored in Graysville, Alabama, just north of Birmingham. This was some 10 or 12 years ago, during the Clinton presidency. Ron had a well-known guest evangelist in that day and Dad wanted to hear him.

Later he told me what happened.

“The preacher got in the pulpit and spent half his time slamming the liberal Democrats and cracking jokes about President Clinton.”

Now, my dad was a lifelong coal miner–he worked in the deep pits of Alabama and West Virginia until forced to retire at the age of 49–and a confirmed union member. That almost automatically made him a Democrat, too, at that time. But anyone who thought Carl McKeever was a liberal needs to find some new definitions for his political lexicon! Dad was anything but liberal, and had a low tolerance for fools, whether in politics or any other part of life.

After letting his report on the visiting evangelist’s folly sink in, Dad said to me, “What if there were unsaved people sitting in that church that morning and they happened to be Democrats? How would they have reacted to what that preacher said? They won’t listen to a thing he said about Jesus because they were so upset at what he said about their politics.”

He added, “That’s why a preacher has no business bringing politics into the pulpit.

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Help Me Out Here

I’ve mentioned that once May 1 rolls around and I find myself unemployed (aka, “retired”), I plan to finish writing three books I’ve been working on the last year or two. One of them has to do with Christian fellowship.

Or to be more exact, the lack of it in our churches, the need for it, and how to get it.

On the home page for this website, you can click on a long series of articles on prayer and leadership and Romans, but so far we’ve not collected the numerous writings that are scattered throughout on the subject of Christian fellowship. As with so much of what I write, it’s rather random and unorganized and happened to be what was on my mind at the moment.

To turn it into a book, that’ll have to change, and it will. Recently, however, I’ve actually gone back over the last several years and looked at each article to pick out the ones dealing with fellowship in the church. I might have missed some, but here is what I found:

July 27, 2004 — “What Every Pastor Needs: A Good Buddy”

May 23, 2008 — “Why We Came Today”

May 27, 2008 — “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”

May 31, 2008 — “The Greatest Church Growth Principle”

June 20, 2008 — “What Fellowship Looks Like”

June 20, 2008 — “The Most Basic Element is

My Preaching Schedule — Autumn, 2008

Wednesday morning, October 15

FBC Zachary, LA Senior Adult Revival

Monday-Tuesday, October 20-21

FBC Newport News, VA

(Associational meeting, speak 3 times)

Sunday morning, October 26

FBC Columbus, MS

100th anniversary of the Sanctuary

Monday night, October 27

Suburban Baptist Church, New Orleans

Fall associational meeting

Sunday morning, November 2

FBC, Andalusia, Alabama “Homecoming”

Sunday morning, November 9

Seminary Baptist Church,

Seminary, Mississippi

(Senior Adult emphasis)

Monday, November 17

Montgomery, Alabama

Speak to statewide Directors of Missions

Tuesday, November 18

FBC Montgomery – Speak twice to

Alabama Baptist Convention

Monday night, November 24

Muskogee, Oklahoma “M Night”

Tuesday night, December 9

“Pastor & Wives Christmas Banquet”

Crowley, Louisiana

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What I Tell Seniors

Mary Hazel was a longtime member of one of my churches and a retired school-teacher. As her pastor, I was always glad she was retired because she was easily the most negative person I ever met and it gave me a tiny bit of comfort to know she was no longer afflicting her pessimism upon the next generation.

In the hospital or nursing home, her food was terrible. Mary Hazel’s daughter was mean to her and her nurses were rude and uncaring. She was in pain all the time and the doctors didn’t have a clue how to help her. Her friends would not come to see her. Nothing was right in her life.

On and on it went.

One day, I decided to bite the bullet and try something with Mary Hazel. I pulled the chair up to her hospital bed and said, “I want to say something. I’ve been your pastor for eight years and you know I truly care for you.”

I had her undivided attention, although her guard was up as though she was expecting the worst news possible. I said, “Mary Hazel, there is a reason no one comes to see you. You are one of the most negative people I have ever met. Nothing pleases you. You complain all the time. People don’t like to be around complainers.”

There. I said it, then sat back waiting for the explosion.

All she said was, “Doctor McKeever!!”

I thought of giving her that wonderful line from Proverbs 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” But I didn’t.

Mary Hazel did not want to hear anything further I had to say. And in case you’re wondering, she went right on with her critical spirit and negative words.

Mary Hazel is in Heaven now, and knows all the reasons she had for giving thanks and rejoicing in the Lord during her earthly days. But she can help us to get it right.

Here’s how.

Inside each of us, there is a Mary Hazel calling attention to all the reasons why we should be feeling bad. The economy is in terrible shape. The war in the Middle East shows no sign of ending. I’m getting older; I’ll never be as good looking as I once was; as I age, my body will grow weaker and sicklier. The presidential race is bitter and I don’t prefer either candidate. My church is having trouble; I don’t know where that pastor is leading us; my next door neighbors make too much noise. I’m not sure about my grandchildren. They’ve taken prayer out of the schools and now they’re trying to take Him off our currency.

You get the idea. (Note to my pastor and grandchildren and neighbors: I’m not talking about you. You’re wonderful. I’m just trying to make a point here.)

If you’re looking for reasons to complain, you can always find them. As Rosanne Rosannadanna used to say, “It’s always something.”


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Father-Child Synergies

My lawyer friend Devona Able tells of her daughter instructing her little brother on the way to school one morning. For some reason, they got onto the subject of hunting season. “You cannot kill baby ducks,” big sister explained. “Or mama ducks either. But you can kill daddy ducks.”

She went on to expound her understanding of the Louisiana game laws. “The baby ducks are still growing up, and the mama ducks are taking care of the baby ducks. The daddy ducks…well, they’re just extra.”

Devona writes, “Too often, we treat our husbands and fathers as unnecessary, and they’re sometimes quite willing to settle into the role of an extra.” She adds that in actuality, they have been given the “leading role” in the family by the One who wrote the script.

“I have a funny story for you,” Tom Hearon said over the phone. He was prepping for tomorrow’s oral exam for his doctorate at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and took time out to put in a phone call to “my old dad.” (Explanation: Margaret and I “adopted” four Mississippi College students in the early 1970’s: Mary Baronowski, Gary Pearce, Bill Garrett, and Tom Hearon. We love them like they were our own and pray for them often. It’s a great arrangement–they never write for money and we never send them any!)

Tom’s father died last summer in Jackson, Mississippi, and his mother just passed away last week. I hugged him over the phone, then listened to his story.

“Dad died on a Tuesday. My brother Doug flew into Jackson and the next morning we went by the funeral home. The man wanted to know,

Three Churches in Transition

One is losing a pastor, one is about to gain a pastor, and a third is adjusting to a new pastor.

Sunday morning, John Faull resigned as pastor of Kenner’s Williams Boulevard Baptist Church to accept the invitation of the FBC of Norcross, Georgia, to become their shepherd. He has given some five years to leading Williams Boulevard, and if you have kept up with events, you know these have been some of the most momentuous in our history.

Brother John took upon himself a difficult assignment some five years ago: following Buford Easley, who led that church over 30 years. There’s an old preacher saying that you should never follow a pastor who either died or went to the mission field; in the minds of many, you’ll never measure up. But Brother John’s desire has always been to go where the Lord sends him. He grew up in metro New Orleans and moved here from Atlanta, and did a superior job in trying circumstances.

Now, he’s moving back. We’re grateful for Brother John’s ministry among us and wish him and his family the very best.

Sunday morning, I worshiped with Lakeside Baptist Church in Metairie. Located a block off Veterans Boulevard deep inside Metairie, this church has struggled for as long as I have known them, nearly 2 decades. But good things are about to happen to them.

Sunday, they are voting to call Adam Gillespie as their new pastor.

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The Opportunity This Crazy Economy Is Providing

An absolutely fool-proof way to stress yourself out is by staying glued to the television newscasts about the economy. “Wall Street dropped another 700 points today!” “Here is our panel of experts to tell you why the news is just going to get worse!” “Big Plants, Inc., is laying off another 4,000 employees!”

Oh great. Just what I needed to hear.

That’ll send your blood pressure through the ceiling, no matter your situation, but particularly if you are a heavy investor in stocks.

You’re not? Don’t be too sure, friend. If you have a retirement account with some agency somewhere, you might be one of those (like me!) who is being severely affected by the free-falling stock market. The headline on the front of Friday’s Times-Picayune asked, “How Low Can It Go?”

Frankly, I don’t want to know.

Twenty years ago, when the market did a sort of “correction”–we’ll be generous and call it that–I recall someone asking either Ted Turner or Donald Trump, one of those big boys, “You lost a billion dollars. What do you have to say?”

He answered, “It was a paper loss. I’m not selling anything today. I’ll still be here tomorrow and first thing you know, I’ll have it all back.”

And that’s precisely what happened.

My neighbors, Bill and Sandra, are both retired from long careers in the commercial world, and this is scaring the daylights out of them.

A news report this week indicated that 80 percent of Americans admit the economy is stressing them out.

The funny thing–did I say “funny”?–about this craziness in the economy is that we’re told the actual businesses of America are just fine. What is driving the roller-coasterness of Wall Street is a little thing called fear.

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The Number One Failure of 90 Percent of Pastors

The primary failure of 9 pastors out of 10 in the Southern Baptist Convention–I have little knowledge of any other denomination; I have no figures to back this up, but I believe it with all my soul–is the lone ranger syndrome. Their ministry is a solo act.

They’re trying to do the work of the Lord alone.

Now, they have their staffs and they have their family and church members. But it’s not the same as having two or three or four preacher buddies.

What most pastors do not have is a few good friends in the ministry whom they meet with regularly for fellowship, prayer, study, confidential talk, accountability, a round of golf, a good meal, and rest.

A preacher needs a friend with whom he can hang out.

That omission has seriously limited the ministry of almost minister I know. It surely weakened my service for the Lord.

I think of two critical times in my own ministry when I needed a few good buddies in the worst way.

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Tuesday’s Memorial Service for Dr. Landrum P. Leavell II

My heart was so full during the 90 minute service in the Leavell Chapel of our New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Tuesday morning, I couldn’t decide whether I needed to get alone and have a good cry or move off by myself for a prayer time. I did neither, but followed the service by greeting members of the Leavell family and friends old and new who had come to honor this esteemed friend.

“Dr. Leavell was a hundred-percenter who gave all he had to the Lord and the people around him,” said Dr. Chuck Kelley, successor to Landrum Leavell in the president’s office at NOBTS.

The memorial service contained several surprises for me. I was thrilled to see Larry Black leading the hymns. This veteran minister of music–over 30 years at the FBC of Jackson, Mississippi, and a dear friend–is clearly the best we have at leading a congregation in worship and praise. Don’t let the white hair fool you; he’s younger now than at any time in his life and keeps getting younger. These days he serves as the interim minister of music at the FBC of Richland, MS. Over several decades, when Dr. Leavell preached revivals, Larry often led the worship music.

Clay Corvin, long-time vice-president for business affairs at NOBTS, did what Clay does best: read a poem of tribute which he had composed. The last part of “One Man” read….

“He was our preacher, teacher, leader and friend

Strong guts, no quit

He hated dirt, debt, and the devil

One man–Landrum Leavell II

We love him.”

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Missions and Commissions

Monday night, the North American Mission Board held an appointment service in our city, the first time in anyone’s memory and perhaps the last for a generation. I wish all our people had been there. It was beyond inspiring.

I worried a little about whether enough of our people would attend to keep the building from appearing too empty, but shouldn’t have given it a thought. When you commission 108 missionaries and count their families in the audience, then add to that the trustees and staff of the NAMB who are present, you don’t need too many locals to pack out the place. The lovely First Baptist Church of New Orleans was filled–with people, with joy, and with love.

I wondered what this appointment service would be like. Three decades ago, while serving as a trustee of the old Foreign Mission Board (now, International Mission Board), I attended many such services in which our new missionaries gave testimonies and were commissioned. It was much the same, and every bit as great a blessing.

There are differences in IMB and NAMB missionaries. For one thing, in the case of an international missionary, the person(s) being commissioned has almost always never been to the country which is about to become their home. The NAMB missionary, however, has usually been laboring in their particular ministry for several years and only recently came under the auspices of the NAMB. A NAMB missionary, too, may receive only part of his/her financial support from this national missionary organization, and some from other sources–a local church, the association, the state convention, or even their friends and supporters. Each entity rightfully claims him/her as their missionary.

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