What one new pastor told his church about misbehavior

“(I ask) that they may all be one….that the world may believe that Thou didst send me” (John 17:21,23).

No one wants your church to be unified more than the Lord.

According to Scripture, almost everything depends on unity.

A few years ago, my friend Charles stood before his congregation, ready to lead his first monthly business session.

Before they got underway with reports and motions and votes, however, Charles had something to say which they needed to hear. His little speech would affect the course of that church for years to come.

The new pastor wanted them to know how their business meetings were going to be conducted.

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How one pastor dealt with those anonymous letters

We’ve all heard of the pastor–seems like it was Henry Ward Beecher–who received an anonymous letter with only one word: Fool.  Next Sunday, the preacher shared that with the church. He said, “I’ve received many an unsigned letter in my time. But this was the first time I’ve ever had someone sign his name and fail to write the letter.”

If you want to devastate a writer, that would do it.  But I suspect most of us don’t want to do that.

We just want it to stop.

Every pastor gets them.  In my last church, my assistant and I worked out an arrangement that if a letter had no return address, she opened it. She read it and then decided whether I should or not.  If it was negative and ugly, she destroyed it without my ever seeing it.  Once in a while, the anonymous letter was good and refreshing.  But that was rare.

Every pastor wonders what to do with such letters.  Here is the best answer ever.

Don Wilton, pastor of Spartanburg’s First Baptist Church, tells how he handled the anonymous letters in his book, See You at the Finish Line. 

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Leadership in crisis: That’s how you get to be a hero!

I wrote this in April 2007, as New Orleans was in the second year of digging out and rebuilding from the devastating Hurricane Katrina.  The people described here are the kind we need today, people who step up and get it done even when others say it cannot happen. See what you think….

Doris Voitier is about to receive one of this country’s premier awards, the JFK Profile in Courage Award, given to only one or two persons a year for showing courage in the face of overwhelming odds.

Doris Voitier is the superintendent of the St. Bernard School System, in the parish just below New Orleans.  (Note: As of 2020, she is still in this position and also an at-large member of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.)  This parish was completely flooded in Katrina and 90 percent of the homes were either damaged or ruined.

A few weeks after Katrina, when everyone was saying St. Bernard Parish was destroyed and most leaders were still shaking their heads and wondering what to do, Doris Voitier decided if St. Bernard were to get on its feet, the schools would have to be operating. Problem is, they were all flooded and ruined, every last one of them. So, she had a little talk with the FEMA people, found out they weren’t going to do anything, and took matters into her own hands.

She took out a loan for $17 million and ordered 22 portable classrooms and 107 travel trailers for school employees, all of whom had lost their homes. Then she announced that school would reopen only 11 weeks after Katrina. Incidentally, she spent $22,000 for each trailer in contrast with the $60,000 which FEMA would eventually pay.

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Encouragement for a young, struggling pastor

It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth. (Lamentations 3:27). 

Dear Young Pastor:

I hear you’re having a tough time of it.

Good. Glad to hear it.

As I got it, a group in the church doesn’t care for your leadership. They find fault with your sermons. They probably don’t like the color of your tie (or worse, the fact that you don’t wear one).

What makes their opposition dire is that they are the leaders of the church. Not a good thing.

Unity is always better than division.

You came close to resigning, I’m told. You probably felt, “If I don’t have the support of these elected leaders of the church, then I’ll not be able to do anything here.”

You actually wrote out a resignation, perhaps to see what it would feel like.

It felt wrong. You knew you were displeasing the One who sent you there in the first place.

So, you chose to hang in there and try to give leadership to a church that is not sure it wants any.

Welcome to the ministry.

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What the Bible does not need from you or the government

A Louisiana state legislator had a bright idea. Since that state, like all the others, has an official state bird (the brown pelican), an official flower (the Louisiana iris), plus an official fossil (the petrified palmwood, whatever that is), why not have an official book and make it the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Great idea, huh?

He must have thought so.

The (presumably) well-intentioned lawmaker introduced the bill to make this official and promptly announced it to the world. Most everyone seemed to react in surprise and some with a good deal of negativity. “This is the last thing we need,” many felt.

And they were right.

But this being Louisiana, not my state of origin but the one where I lived for a full 30 years, the bill actually cleared a house committee even though opponents predicted it would attract lawsuits. “Adopting the Bible as our official book is tantamount to making Christianity the official religion,” one representative said.

I imagine that was the whole idea.

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Some preaching is a waste of time

I love some of the specialized channels on Sirius XM satellite radio, and was pleased when they devoted a channel to Billy Joel’s music.  He had some great hits we all love. The problem is he also recorded a whole lot of junk.

To enjoy the occasional hit, you have to endure all the mediocre stuff.

Same with novelists. Our favorite writers can turn out some real bombs. You wonder why they don’t write only best-sellers.

The answer, of course, is that when they’re writing the books and recording the music, they have no way of knowing. If, as Paul said, “we see through a glass darkly,” it’s equally true that we write books and compose songs without a clear idea of the result.

When I was young in the ministry, I spent three years on the staff of a large church and got to see upclose how things are done. Most of it was great and educational; all of it was interesting.

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Christians, lose the naivete. This world is not your friend.

Is this vile world a friend to grace, to lead me on to God? (Isaac Watts)

God’s children keep getting surprised.

On a state or secular college campus, the atheistic professor has complete freedom to spout his religious views without protest from the students or interference from the dean. Let a Christian instructor relate his personal story to inform the students of his worldview so they can better understand where he’s coming from, and he’s harassed and soon out of a job.

At a convocation of students on the average secular campus, freedom of speech and the First Amendment are championed. Let a student stand and own up to being a follower of Jesus Christ who attempts to live by the Bible, and he/she is hooted down.

Ironic, isn’t it, the hostility that those of a secular bent have toward belief in Jesus Christ.

It’s more than just a prejudice, however. It’s a full-blown hatred.

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Anecdotes a preacher would kill for

Anecdotes are short, catchy stories, the kind pastors and public speakers insert in just-the-right-spot to pep up a message. The word comes from the Greek and literally means “things not given out.”  In other words, “unpublished.”

Winston Churchill called them “the gleaming toys of history.” They are hard to define, but we all know a good one when we find one. Here are a few of my favorite stories…..

One. During the 1957 World Series between the Milwaukee Braves and the New York Yankees, slugger Hank Aaron came up to bat. Yogi Berra, the Yankee catcher, noticed he was holding the bat wrong. “Turn it around,” he told Aaron. “So you can read the trademark.” (That’s the usual wisdom on how to hold a bat.) Hank never looked back, but said, “Didn’t come up here to read. Came up here to hit.”

And brother, did he ever.

Two. A patient afflicted with chronic depression called on the famous British physician John Abernethy. After examining him, Dr. Abernethy said, “You need amusement. Go down to the playhouse and hear the comedian Grimaldi. He will make you laugh and that will be better for you than any drugs.” The patient said, “I am Grimaldi.”

Great comedy is said to emanate from great suffering.

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The subtle sin of judgmentalism and how it works

“Do not judge, lest you be judged…. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1ff.)

If you are prone to criticism and judging others, chances are you will be the last to know it.

It’s that kind of sin. I see it in you; when I do it, well, it’s just part of who I am.

I find it fascinating that after issuing the warning about not judging others, our Lord followed with the caution about specks and logs in people’s eyes.

This is precisely how it works.

My judgmentalism of you appears so normal and natural that it never occurs to me that I am actually condemning you. So, while your rush to judgment is a log in your eye–one you really should do something about!–my human tendency to speak out on (ahem) convictions is merely a speck in mine and nothing to be concerned about.

Ain’t that the way?

Consider this actual conversation….

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Church leader, you should be the kid brother

He who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves” (Luke 22:26).

Raise your hand if you’re the kid brother in a large family.

If so, you have been given an insight into this teaching of the Lord that most people miss altogether.

Now, in our family Mom and Dad had four sons and two daughters. I was the number three son, born between sisters Patricia and Carolyn. Ron was (still is) the eldest and Charlie was the youngest. (Charlie died in 2006 and Glenn in 2014.)

Growing up, since he was the eldest in our large household, Ron took the role of the assistant father. Whether Dad established that rule or not and whether the rest of us liked it or not, when Dad was not around, Ron called the shots. Once when we were small, some relative came to our house and gave each of us a nickel. By nightfall, Ron had all the nickels. He’d traded or cajoled or something to corner the market on McKeever nickels.

As the baby of the family, little Charlie caught the brunt of everything. He wore the hand-me-downs and had little say in family decisions.

I still smile at this exchange between Ron and Charlie when they were something like 15 and 6, respectively. Ron called out, “Charlie! Come here.” The little kid reluctantly came near.

“Charlie? You my buddy?” The child, wise to the ways of his big brother, said, “What you want me to do?” I recall laughing out loud at that. (I would have been 10 at the time and already appreciated a snappy comeback.)

Jesus said, “If you want to be greatest in the kingdom, be as the little brother.”

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