“Tragically, in most churches the pain of change is greater than the pain of ineffectiveness.” — Thom Rainer in “Simple Church.”
My longtime friend, Max Youngblood of Bessemer, Alabama, sent us a delightful thing from the Birmingham area. The Jefferson County Commission is proposing a “non-user fee” for residents who do not use the county sewer system. Well, sir, that gave restaurant owner Tasos Touloupis an idea. The owner of Ted’s Restaurants — one at 328 12th St. South and the other at 1801 4th Avenue South — has proposed a “non-diner’s fee.”
The way it works is this: Ted’s will maintain a record of customers. At the end of each month, his bookkeeper will send a $12 NDF invoice to all residents of Jefferson County who did not eat at Ted’s during the month.
Sounds like a deal, doesn’t it.
In these times of economic uncertainty, our churches will need to become more creative in generating income. How does a “non-member’s tithing” system sound?
Up in Alexandria, Louisiana, my friend Devona Able was at her computer the other evening. Her wonderful eight-year-old Grace Anne, looking over her shoulder, noticed an e-mail from “Dr. Joe McKeever.” She asked, “Is he a doctor?” Mom answered, “Yes, but not like Dr. Marzullo (her pediatrician).”
Grace Anne said, “Oh, so he must be a doctor like Dr. Brooks (Calvary, Alexandria). They’re like doctors of love because they teach people what love really means and that it comes from Jesus.”
“Yeah, baby,” mom said. “Something like that.”
Out of the mouths of babes. (So, just call me “Doctor Love.” Wait, on second thought, that sounds like a rap artist.)
Plundering the office closet, I ran across my scribbled notes from the one time I attended the annual pastors conference at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago (that would be May 30-June 1, 1978). I had already “latched onto” (preacher talk for “I really, really liked this guy!”) Warren Wiersbe who was soon to transition from pastoring Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church to becoming the on-air teacher for the Back-to-the-Bible broadcast.
Wiersbe’s message, based on Psalm 78, was titled “What a Difference the Right Man Makes!” It’s great stuff, and wears well three decades later.
Introduction: When God wanted to
–start a Jewish nation, He called a shepherd (Abraham).
–Build the Jewish nation, He called a shepherd (Jacob).
–Protect the Jewish nation, He called a shepherd (Joseph).
–Straighten out the Jewish nation, He called a shepherd (David).
That’s still God’s answer to the basic needs in the ministry today. Psalm 78:72 goes: “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.”
I. God’s people have a need: feeding and leading.
That’s why shepherds exist for the flock. David’s predecessor, Saul, was not a shepherd, but a hireling. (See John 10:12-13) The opposite of feeding is exploiting.
If you don’t feed the sheep, they start eating things they should not.
II. God has a need: a man to be the shepherd for His people.
But not just any man. David was “a man after God’s own heart.” God is a shepherd, Jesus a shepherd, Paul and Peter were shepherds.
–A shepherd is a servant. No one has the right to lead who hasn’t learned how to serve. Novice’s profession is louder than his possession.
–a shepherd is compassionate. Psalm 78:71 “following ewes with their young”
–a shepherd is skillful. “the skillfulness of his hands” (vs. 72).
III. God’s man has a need: “integrity” — 78:72
“Integrity” means united, wholeness, oneness. It is the opposite of a divided life. (James 1)
–Jesus spoke of this in the Sermon on the Mount. “Seek first the Kingdom of God.” A united heart. “If the eye is single.” A united mind. “No one can serve two masters.” A united will.
–Put to death the alternatives. Make the decision once and for all.
–The result is the integrity of person, purpose, preaching.
Jerry Jenkins spoke at that conference. This was years before he and Tim LaHaye made history in Christian publishing with their “Left Behind” series. Two quotes from Jerry:
“Most people do not want to write; they want to have written.”
“Writing a book is like giving birth to a bale of barbed wire.” (And that’s what I’m trying to do this year! Triplets even!)
And the inimitable Vance Havner spoke. (This veteran evangelist, in a class by himself in every category imaginable, always made me think of something Alice Longworth Roosevelt said of Calvin Coolidge: “He looks like he was weaned on a pickle.” He was a prophet in many ways.)
Dr. Havner gave us four tests for preachers: truth, temptation, trouble, time. He said, “These don’t get much attention from pulpit committees, but the Lord puts a lot of value on them.”
Truth: Most of our preachers think of truth as a body of doctrine, but it’s actually the Lord Jesus Christ.
Temptation: There’s no sin in being tempted. Jesus was tempted.
Trouble: The storm tests the house. “If your faith is no good in the dark, it’s not worth much in the daylight.”
In Hebrews 11, in the summary toward the end of the chapter, there are two groups: those who won great victories and those who died for the Lord. Be ready for either.
“God did not die to make us happy, but to make us holy.”
Problems will either make you better or bitter.
Time: Steadfastness. Can you see a job through? (Dr. Havner spoke of wanting to die before he lost control of his faculties. Asked us to pray for him to that end. He died in 1986, but I do not know the details.) He said, “The Lord preserves the saints, not pickles them.”
The lineup of other speakers that week included Howard Hendricks, John MacArthur, David Howard, Erwin Lutzer, S. M. Lockridge, and Ross Rhoads (seven years later, Ross and I became neighboring pastors in Charlotte). I heard as many as I could.
What was I doing traveling all the way from Columbus, Mississippi, to Chicago for that conference? Frankly, I had become bored with all the SBC conferences I had been attending. The same speakers were on all the programs. So, I decided to go somewhere different. It was a grand week and its memory is fresh today. As I recall, the fee for the conference was around $60, and on the last day, they gave us that amount in books from their publishing house. These folks do know how to bless a preacher!