The compliment that wounds a pastor

This is from my journal of Tuesday, March 30, 1993. I had been at that church two and a half years…

At 2 pm, I had a visitor. A former church member who will go unnamed here wanted to apologize for his being so critical of me in my first year.  He couldn’t identify why he was, except a certain resistance to authority.

I forgave him.  The pain is that he is a minister of sorts, someone I had a lot of confidence in and did not know he was doing this. He said, “I hear from people in the last month that you have changed.”  Why am I offended by that? I said, “I haven’t.  I’m the same person I was then.” Which is true. 

Reminds me of the pain in (my last church) when people would write and say, ‘We love you now, but for your first year here, we hated your guts. You were in our pastor’s pulpit.’ (The previous pastor had stayed only 3 years and had left for another church before they were ready to release him.) And these would be dear people whom I had valued.  They got It off their chest but left me bleeding.

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7 ways pastors discourage their people from using Scriptures

(For this article, we enlisted the aid of our Facebook friends. We’re quoting them here, but not verbatim. They will recognize themselves. Thanks, guys.)

“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul… They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb…. In keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7-11)

The Bible loves the Bible.

From one end to the other, God’s word tells us how wonderful is God’s word. Better than gold and sweeter than honey it is. Job said, “I have esteemed the words of Thy mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).

We preachers believe this. And we say those words to our people. We like our people to bring their Bibles to church, open them as we read and preach, and use them when they return home.

There is nothing wrong with our aspirations in this regard.

However, when it comes to connecting our people with God’s word personally to the point that they will become ardent readers and diligent students of Scripture, we should give ourselves a C-minus. And sometimes, an F.

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Some things the New Testament does not tell us

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable….that the man of God may be complete” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Those who demand a Scripture verse for everything they do place an intolerable burden on the Christian life never intended by the Heavenly Father.

Some among us have all the answers about the Christian life and have solved all the mysteries of doctrine and theology.

Is there a verse of Scripture on that?

Stay tuned.

These “super-apostles” write me, taking issue with many of the positions we hold in these articles.  They have it all worked out and find it incredulous that we do not see matters their way. The only explanation, they conclude, is that I must be a) unsaved or b) willfully blind.

I wrote something about tithing for this website.

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How the preacher can give them something they will never forget

I’ve thought about that conversation ever since.

A friend whom I know only from our internet exchanges wanted to know if in all the articles on my website, there was anything on a text he was researching.

I responded that I could not recall dealing with those verses, but suggested where he might find help. Then, I said, “Are you preaching on that text?”

I had no idea whether he was a pastor or not.

It turned out he was a layman and had been asked to bring a message that Wednesday night to his church. The Lord had laid on his heart a text, and he was trying to find out all he could on it.  Good for him.

Then he said something which has lingered with me ever since: I want to give the people truths from this passage which they will remember the rest of their lives.

Wow. Big assignment he has given himself.

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Have you met the members of my congregation?

I belong to the greatest church in the world.  We have an eclectic group of members and leaders. You would love them.  Here are some of their names….

First off, our pastor is Rev. Turner Byrne.

The deacons are Rod(ney) N. Staff, Moe Love, Noah D. Word, and Ruffin Tumble.

The Sunday School teachers are I. M. Humble, Chester Drawers, Hal E. Looyah, and Shuck D. Corn.

The church council includes I. M. Wright, R. U. Ready, H. Evan Sent, and Joiner R. Flock.

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Preparing for your one moment in the world’s spotlight

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that you have.” (I Peter 3:15)

Sometimes you know when your moment is coming but most times you don’t.

One morning ten years ago, I was to be interviewed on a national hookup for Moody Radio. Early that morning, I sat at my breakfast table and thought about doing such things…

For the last week, I’ve had a post-it note beside my computer: Monday. Interview. Moody Radio. 10 am. A reminder to pray for the Father’s presence in this and a prompting to be near the home phone at that time.

It’s not like this is the first time I’ve been interviewed, so it’s not about my having the jitters.

What this is about is the need for a follower of the Lord Jesus to be prepared for that moment when the microphone is poked in his face and he is asked to account for something important.

I recall reading where a consultant was prepping politicians and Fortune 500 big-shots for their moment in the spotlight, for good or ill. Some of his points have lingered with me to this day.

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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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While her Son was dying, Mary was thinking…

“But there were standing by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” (John 19:25)

Why am I here? And why is He there?

There seem to be no answers other than “God knows and we trust Him.”

Thy will be done. “I am the bond-slave of the Lord. Be it done to me according to Thy word.”

Sometimes you cry and cry until there are no more tears.

Your heart aches until it no longer feels anything.

Your mind grows exhausted from events happening all around, none of which you were prepared for.

If anyone had told me a year ago I could experience the suffering of this day and live through it, I would have thought it impossible.

There are no words to describe this kind of heart-break.

You are surrounded by people, yet more alone than at anytime in your life.

Friends come over, want to make sure I’m all right. They ask how I’m coping. No words come.

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Beware of wanting everything too simple

A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money. –Everett Dirksen, Republican Senator from Illinois (1896-1969).

Watching our nation’s politicians as they propose, dispose, impose, expose, compose and, of course, suppose regarding the economic crisis this country seems to be constantly facing, I find myself wondering how many actually know what they are talking about.

I hate to be skeptical, but common sense — forged by a half-century of dealing with churches, finance people, and my own situations — informs me that most people do not relate to budgets, debts, and deals in the millions of dollars, much less billions and even trillions.

That, however, does not prevent the lowliest politician from sounding forth on the matter, usually to tell the world all that is wrong with whatever the nation’s leaders are proposing at the moment. And what is his own solution to the quandary we face? He never says.

A long time ago another senator, Missouri’s Thomas Hart Benton said, “The worst disease afflicting my constituents is a thing called ‘the simples.’ The folks back home want me to come up with simple solutions to their complex problems, answers that resolve all their difficulties without it costing them anything.”

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way.

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The 5 best pieces of preaching advice I ever received

Not every advice given to preachers is sound or wise.  But from time to time, a godly layman or preacher friend has a great word.  Here are five I recall…

One.  From a deacon. 

“Be patient with the people.”

I was fresh from seminary and the brash new pastor of a church in the Mississippi Delta. This was in the late 1960s, one year before Martin Luther King was assassinated.  I was preaching on God’s love for all people of all races, that we are all equal before Him, created by a loving God and thus to be valued. Not a very inflammatory message to be sure.  But some of my people were reacting.  That’s when the chairman of deacons called his young pastor aside.

“What you are saying is right, pastor,” said businessman and deacon chairman Lawrence Bryant.  “But let me remind you that the preacher before you told these people for nine years that segregation was God’s way.”  He paused.  “You can change them, but you need to be patient with them.”

It was the perfect advice.

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