Getting the Word Out

Watching Saints quarterback Drew Brees on television last night, I thought about something the leader of Southern Baptists’ evangelism program said some 40 or more years ago.

Kenneth Chafin headed up the evangelism department of what was then called the SBC Home Mission Board. In the early 1970s, they had developed a cutting-edge program of personal soulwinning they called “WIN Schools,” for “Witness Involvement Now,” as I recall. I took the pilot training and led many “schools” in churches across the South.

In developing this program, Chafin was talking about how difficult it is to get the news out to the membership of our churches. “It takes 5 years to say hello to Southern Baptists,” he laughed.

The difficulty, as he saw it, was that he had to tell the various denominational leaders of the program. They in turn passed the word on to their underlings. At some point, the editors of the state Baptist weeklies got involved and picked up the news. Even then, the grassroots of Southern Baptists still did not have a clue of the program. Pastors needed to be told and retold, after which they themselves would get the word to the members. How long it would take for the message to penetrate to the bottom layer of the membership was anyone’s guess. Five years was Dr. Chafin’s guess.

So, last night, Drew Brees was on television speaking at a hastily called news conference. He had a bright idea for a new tradition he wants to begin among the fan base of the New Orleans Saints. Furthermore, he doesn’t have five years to do it. Yesterday was Tuesday and the first game of the season comes Thursday night in the Superdome. Brees wanted to get the word out to all attending the game in 48 hours. Furthermore, he intends this as a permanent tradition.

Big plans. A large assignment. After the clip, an anchor raised the obvious question: “Now, the problem is getting the word to the 70,000 Saints who will be in the Dome Thursday night.”

This morning–Wednesday–I found out how Brees pulled it off.

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When A Pastor Should Quit

In the last few days, I’ve had three communications from church leaders raising the question of when a pastor should step down.

One asked it about a minister who was found to be participating in pornography.

Another raised the question about her minister who had stolen money from the church and repaid it, but who was still engaging in questionable activities. They were about to vote on his staying at the church.

The third raised the question about himself. He was in the worst pastorate in his life, the leadership was opposing him in every way, and he felt his wife is slowly dying spiritually. Should he resign and walk away, he asked.

All of these issues, while different in a hundred ways, have certain things in common: they all involve the work of Christ through a church, they reflect upon the name (the glory, the reputation) of the Lord Jesus Christ in that community, and they have to do with the continuing minister of a God-called servant.

Let’s talk about them.

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Who’s Getting Married?

I wonder if I’m the only normal (!) person around who regularly reads the wedding announcements that run in the Sunday newspaper. Well, “scan them” might be a better word. And I’m not really sure what I’m looking for.

Once in a while, however, it all works out. I stumble on a gem. This morning’s Times-Picayune, for instance, ran the article on the “Farmer/Shorty” wedding. The names alone will make you stop and read.

I’m going to assume the bride’s mother wrote the article. Here it is in its entirely, followed by a few notes about weddings….

Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will cling to his wife; and they will be one flesh. (Genesis 2:24) Dr. Vernon James Shorty and Mrs. Sandra Ann Seaberry Butler along with close family and friends are proud to announce the engagement of their daughter and #1 girl, Chyna Akelia Shorty to Alponso Lorenzo Farmer, son of Sandra Ann Brown.

Chyna and Renny met April 23, 2009, while embracing their single years at Door 44 in Atlanta. There, he asked if he could take her to dinner, Chyna’s response was not what Renny had in mind. After a month, persistence paid off, guess you could say he got his way after all. God’s enabling force blossomed there love soon after, and they have become inseparable as their love has grown over the year.

The bride to be is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University, completing one year of studies in counseling she is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology and is the owner of 30Below a whimsical kids experience & clothing boutique in Atlanta, Georgia. The bridegroom is the owner/operator of AF Transport Systems, providing innovative transportation and logistics operations bicoastal.

Renny proposed to Chyna on March 13, 2010, with two elaborate boxes to choose from. Previously getting her father’s permission, and approval, Chyna happily accepted.

The couple celebrated a fabulous weekend of engagement activities with family and friends from all over in New Orleans this past weekend. They will be sealed for time and eternity with a ceremony of close family and friends April 23, 2011 on the lavish island of St John in the Virgin Islands.

The couple plans to make their home and start a family in Atlanta, Georgia.

The photo showed this beautiful lady and a beaming young man who looks like he has just won the jackpot. Maybe he has.

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A Different Kind of Greatness

But it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant. (Matthew 20:26)

Many years ago while in my first post-seminary pastorate, I pulled up to my church office one day to see a car in the parking lot with an intriguing name on its door. “Dare to be Great.”

I wondered if that were a company or if someone wanted to say that line to the world so much they had magnetic signs printed up for their car doors.

The car pulled off and I was left wondering.

Then, a few weeks later, I began to hear of a sales movement that had that as its name and mantra:”Dare to be great.” People were aggressively signing up their friends to sell some kind of “greatness programs” for thousands of dollars. Those who signed up were entitled to sign up others.

It did not require a Ph.D. to figure out someone was running a Ponzi scheme here, and that’s what it was. Eventually, the Florida team that put it together had their mansions and planes and bank accounts confiscated by the feds and were carted off to prison.

I confess to being disappointed that the idea of greatness these people were promoting was strictly financial. Furthermore, their definition of greatness involved manipulating and using more and more people beneath them. Eventually, as happens with all such pyramid schemes, all the “little people”–that is, those late to the ball–were left holding the bag.

Jesus said, “He who would be great among you should be your servant.”

Here are three fascinating things about that statement….

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Welcoming the Newcomer

Every pastor I know worries about the newcomer to his church. Will he/she receive a warm welcome or be frozen out as an intruder.

What started me thinking about this was something Elizabeth Gilbert said in her book, “Eat Pray Love.” As a farm boy, I was intrigued by this.

When I was growing up, my family kept chickens. We always had about a dozen or so of them at any given time and whenever one died off–taken away by a hawk or fox or by some obscure chicken illness–my father would replace the lost hen. He’d drive to a nearby poultry farm and return with a new chicken in a sack. The thing is, you must be very careful when introducing a new chicken to the general flock.

You can’t just toss it in there with the old chickens, or they will see it as an invader. What you must do instead is to slip the new bird into the chicken coop in the middle of the night while the others are asleep. Place her on a roost beside the flock and tiptoe away. In the morning, when the chickens wake up, they don’t notice the newcomer, thinking only, “She must have been here all the time since I didn’t see her arrive.” The clincher of it is, awaking within this flock, the newcomer herself doesn’t even remember that she’s a newcomer, thinking only, “I must have been here the whole time.”

And that, Elizabeth Gilbert writes, is how she came to India, which is the point of her barnyard story.

What a pity we pastors can’t slip new church members into the flock that way. Bring them in at midnight, add their names to the rolls, make them members of the finance committee or choir, then slip out and hope no one notices they are new and different.

There is, however, a great way that is probably just as effective in incorporating newcomers into the Lord’s congregation.

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Those Hilarious Disciples

The football team had not won a game all year. The coach comes in and finds the team arguing. “What’s going on here?” “Oh nothing much, coach. We were just discussing which one of us is likely to win the Most Valuable Player award for the conference this year.”

The company vice-president crawled the sales manager for low sales last month. Unless something is done, heads are going to roll. A half-hour later, the sales manager walks in on his sales staff right in the middle of a brouhaha. “What are you arguing about?” he asks. “Not a big thing,” one of the men says. “We were wondering which one of us is up for Salesman of the Year.”

The Lord Jesus arrived at Capernaum and entered the house where He and the disciples stayed. Now that He had them aside from the crowd, the Lord had a question for them.

“What were you discussing among yourselves back down the road?”

As if He didn’t know.

No one said a word.

What this ragtag bunch of disciples had been discussing was which one of them was the greatest. Who would be given the place of highest honor in the new thing Jesus was planning. Who was the MVP.

It would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. Consider the context of this little incident.

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