When a pastor’s biggest competition is another preacher

Sometimes a pastor finds a neighboring pastor is sucking all the air out of the room. The new preacher is dynamic and exciting and crowds are flocking to his church.  He’s a media star.  He’s pulling people out of the other churches.

Sound familiar?  It’s not a new phenomenon.

“Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in Scriptures, came to Ephesus.”  (Acts 18:24)

Sometimes you’re Apollos, sometimes you are Paul.  Early records indicate Paul was short and bald, nothing much to look at. And some said he wasn’t much to listen to. See 2 Corinthians 10:10.

What do you want to bet Apollos was gorgeous to boot.  A real hunk.  Articulate in the pulpit.  Wore these cool suits and had a trendy haircut.

Named for Apollos–a god of both Greeks and Romans, the champion of the youth and the sharpest thing on Mount Olympus!–this preacher would have made a great television evangelist.   He made an impact wherever he went.

What’s more, he was good.  He was spiritual and godly and not shallow at all. Not a flash in the pan.

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“Hello. I’m the pastor of Crock Pot Church.”

Wait upon the Lord.  Be strong. Let your heart take courage. Yes, wait upon the Lord.  –Psalm 27:14 

God’s times are not yours.  He doesn’t use the Gregorian calendar.  His alarm clock is broken.  He doesn’t keep regular hours.

Lose the stop watch.  Take a hammer to the timer.  God is not going to order His actions by your schedule.  Forget about showing Him your day-planner.  He’s not impressed.

God in Heaven has His own plans, His own schedule, and His own purposes.

Got that?

“Most great ministries are made in the crock-pot, not the microwave.” –Allan Taylor

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Solve 90 percent of your church’s personnel problems before they happen

Nothing stresses a pastor like conflicts occurring on his staff. A secretary in the office, the minister of music, the organist, the head custodian–each of them was brought to the leadership team for good reason. Now, here they are threatening the unity of the church–not to say its mission and ministry–by a conflict with another team member.

In my four-plus decades pastoring six churches, I’ve seen the following (and plenty more, too, let me add) up close and personal….

–a senior staff member addicted to prescription drugs

–staffers using the computer for online porn.

–associate ministers who were protective of their turf, who resented anyone–including the pastor!–intruding to tell them what to do.

–Staffers who wanted to be left alone to do their work and not be asked to cooperate with anyone else

–Staffers who were angry at me about something and shared that little bit of gossip to laypeople in the church before telling me.

–Lazy staff members.

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Those of whom the Lord is not ashamed

“Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Hebrews 11:16).

Sometimes a verse of Scripture gets under our skin and burrows itself deep inside and will not leave us alone.  This is such a text for me.

It comes right in the middle of a tribute to some Old Testament citizens who nailed the faith thing.  By faith Noah built an ark. By faith Abraham left home without a clue where he would end up. By faith Moses walked away from the palace and threw his lot in with the Hebrew slaves.

By faith.

Faith means a) I have evidence but b) still have questions.

Faith means a) I believe in the Lord God but b) there are still some parts of the puzzle missing.

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Mudhen in a peacock parade: Some thoughts on preacher arrogance

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus….(who) made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Wherefore, God has highly exalted Him…. (Philippians 2:5-9)

Browsing through Books-A-Million, I came across a book written by a preacher who is enamored with himself.

The cover was a full shot of the preacher.  And, in the lower right hand corner were these words: Not your typical preacher.

I was offended.

At breakfast the next morning, I asked my wife, “Why did that offend me?”  She didn’t hesitate. “Because it was so arrogant of him.”

My thought exactly.

I wonder if that preacher’s office is filled with stacks of these books.  A hundred photos of his face stare back at him.

The man clearly does not want to be identified with “typical” preachers.  He is “a cut above,” in his thinking at least.

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Elevating boasting to an art form

He must increase, but I must decrease.  –John the Baptist.  (John 3:30) 

The speaker said, “As you know, I urge people to walk by the Spirit, to obey Him.  But I need you to know I am not anti-intellectual, not against education.  In fact, I am so much pro-education that I have my bachelor’s degree from a college, I have my master’s, and I also own a doctorate.  In fact, when I was working on my doctorate, the dean said to me that my dissertation was so profound that I should turn it into a book.  That book, you’ll want to know, is on the market right now and you can purchase it in the foyer at the end of this meeting.”

Another time, the visiting preacher, an older fellow, wanted our church to know that he was somebody, I suppose.  Early in the service he told how he had started a church many years ago and stayed with it through the years until his retirement, that during this time he had baptized so many, and had enjoyed seeing the membership climb to (whatever).  He showed a photo of the huge plant on the screen.  He must have talked about his former church for five minutes.  We never did know why.  We did not need to know of his successes to hear him.  In fact, his scars probably made him a better preacher than his awards.

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How to keep your church young and vibrant

“They will be full of sap and very green” (Psalm 92:14).

The December 2014 issue of “The Progressive Farmer” asked whether to “Keep or Cull?”  Subtitle of the article: “High prices have changed the rules about when to cut one loose from the herd.”  

Farmers who want to keep their herds young and viable know the importance of culling certain animals that get too old, consume too much resources, are no longer producing, or are a detriment in other ways.

Pastors cannot cull.

More’s the pity, we say with a wink.

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“Lord, that’s not how we do things!”

“‘…your ways are not my ways,’ saith the Lord.”  (Isaiah 55:8)

Keep an eye on how the Lord works in your life. You might learn something useful for the next time He wants to use you.

This little couplet seems to sum up 90 percent of what Scripture and life teach us concerning the operation of God in this world….

When God gets ready to do a thing,

He loves to start small

Using ordinary people

With whatever methods He chooses,

And take HIs own good time about it.

Only people of faith will still be standing there at the end

To see what He has done

And to behold His glory.

That’s how He does things.  You can see it all through Scripture and by looking back over your lifetime.

But here is the problem.  His ways are not our ways.  His thoughts are different from ours.  He is in fact light years above and beyond us and our techniques. (He said that very thing in Isaiah 55:8-9.)

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Some churches do it right

What happened this week.

Yesterday, Thursday, I drove 200 miles to New Orleans and to Covington, LA to do the funeral service of a dear lady who was a former member of the Kenner, LA church I pastored 1990-2004.  She and her family remained our friends through the years, particularly as she battled cancer and left an amazing witness for Christ through it all.

The large church was packed yesterday–observing the distance protocols and masks, but still hundreds present–as friends far and near came to honor this beloved lady.  Shannon Marvin Maisano was only 48.

What I wanted to tell you is this:  In the service three other people spoke, all from that church: her best friend Dana, the Sunday School teacher for Shannon and her husband Billy, and the former associate pastor.  What makes that special to me is this…

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What the pastor said before the church voted on firing him

They’re voting on the preacher at the end of today’s worship service. He may be looking for a job before noon. Or, it could work out well. Either way, the pastor and his wife have turned it all over to the Lord, and while it would be catastrophic in some ways to have their lives turned upside down this way, their focus is on the Lord and not man. Here is some of what he told the church before the vote.

I’m glad to see so many in Weak Sister Church today. A friend of mine says there are two ways to get a big crowd in church: welcome a new preacher or run the old one off.

Some of you haven’t been to Weak Sister in a while. I am sincerely glad to see you here. I do have a special word for you, but not yet. Please bear with me a few moments while I address the believers in the room.

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