Death

2 Oct

Black, cold, lonely, full of drear
A fate to us all that is growing near
Does it stop here? Does it go on?
A question that is often pondered upon.

In regret I racked my brain
Does death bring peace?
Does death bring pain?
Are grave stones mocking me?
Under chiseled stone, is that where I’ll be?

It is no doubt that I will die
But will I rot or will I rise?
Will I ascend to the skies
Or fall prey to the lord of flies?

Perhaps I’ll wither in a decorated box
Live forever six feet from the top
Like a plague thoughts punished me
For in my heart was eternity.

So much to embrace in this universe
In one hundred years you can’t see much
Then like a trumpet came a voice
It crossed the expanse from a distant shore.

Penned by prophet and common man
Like floods of water to a barren land
Good news for those threatened by Death
One has come to take his breath.

To put a sword ‘neath our enemies chin
To take his head and give us the win
Outside the city on Golgotha’s hill
Christ set the stage for the ultimate kill.

Judged in our place He was mighty to save
Giving us hope and digging Death’s grave
Without a doubt He died for our sins
Just as certain He rose again.
He needed a tomb only three days
Now every believer has a borrowed grave.

Oh I will die, but I will rise
My heart will stop but I’ll open my eyes
I’ve answered the questions in my head
I will die, but I won’t stay dead.

Responding to Insults

26 Jul

Insults. If you are in the ministry get ready for them. I’m not talking about insults from the community. It’s not the watching world that usually gets to us. Insults from those within your congregation are the ones that will bother you the most. I remember vividly my first insult. I had just started preaching. I think it was my third sermon. At my home church it was the custom of the preacher to stand at the front door and speak to folks as they left. A cute little girl walked up to me and said “My mom says you’ll learn to preach one day!” As Rose Mary’s baby departed I resisted the strong desire to remind her mother of what an awful job she was doing as a parent. I would be lying if I said that remark didn’t hurt. I quickly learned that if I was going to continue in ministry I had better be prepared for snarky comments, insults and unfriendly sarcasm. Responding to insulting people is something we must learn to do. Here are a few examples of insults and how you can respond.
1. The sermon insult. It’s too long, too short, too shallow, too deep, too funny, too serious, too convicting, too controversial, etc. I think you get the picture. It is likely that if you are getting insults you are also getting compliments. File those compliments away in your mind. When someone says your sermons are “too” something reach into your compliment file. Say something like “I know that was a controversial sermon but there was a sister here today who shared that God spoke right to her heart through the sermon.” You don’t have to use the person’s name but it is ok to share with others how God is speaking through your sermons.
2. The dream job insult. “It must be nice to only work two days a week!” I generally respond to that one with “Here’s five bucks. Go get a new joke book.” Well, that’s how it works in my fantasies. Or I want to say something like “I’ll tell you how it feels to work two days a week if you tell me how it feels to be a jerk seven days a week.” But that’s not kind. We can’t do that. I would encourage you to keep up with what you do. There are times that I work 17-18 days in a row without a day off. I tell my deacons when I do. When assaulted with snarky comments I explain how difficult it is to prepare messages, preach funerals, counsel the hurting, minister to the needy, etc. I use specific examples of things that have been going on in my life. I try and turn the insult into a conversation about all that we in the ministry do. Sometimes I say “Would you like to trade places for a week?” I have never had a person agree to do that.
3. The comparison insult. Ministry leaders are often compared to others in the ministry. It is often a person who held our position in the church before we arrived. Sometimes it is a high profile leader in the public eye. Regardless of who we are compared to, inevitably we will be compared to others. It isn’t fair and often the comparison isn’t accurate. I have found with a little bit of statistical study we often find we are doing a better job than those we are compared to. Numerically anyway. Don’t take the comparison insult too seriously. It is usually the result of an emotional connection a church member had/has with a ministry leader. If you are constantly being compared to a previous staff member momentarily embrace it. Speak with those who are constantly comparing you. If you’d like, you can connect with the former staff member. Start a friendship if possible. Find out what they did that worked/didn’t work. You may even discover that the previous staff member was also compared to a predecessor. And you will love the look on the faces of those comparing you when you ask for the phone number of the one you are being compared to!
It is my practice to call former pastors before I take a church. I ask them a list of questions and try and get their sincere opinion about the church. It’s fun to watch church members as you begin to discuss your lunch date or telephone call with the former pastor.
If I had to summarize this blog I would say this: Engage the insulter. It works. Don’t just let them insult you and walk away. Talk to them. Encourage them to elaborate. Reveal contradictions. Remind them of what God is doing in the lives of other people.
In conclusion I would like to add that criticism should be taken seriously. God uses others to reveal our weaknesses. It could be that our insulter is trying to injure us but God uses them to instruct us. When our insulters are right it is a good practice to let them know it. Once again, engage the insulter. You’ll be glad you did….but they may not.

The Baptists are Coming

5 Jun

The Baptists are coming- Don’t be scared

The Baptists are coming- I hope you’re prepared

The Baptists are coming- We won’t stay long

The Baptists are coming- You better hold on!

You’ve heard a lot about us, but now you get to see

The chicken fryin’, gospel cryin’, SBC

Led at the head by a man named Luter

He’s a fast preachin’ , people reachin’

Real straight shooter.

 

Who we are and what we do

Might come as a big surprise to you.

We don’t handle snakes, we don’t hate people

Our women wear pants & we count them equal.

 

We believe in the Scripture and the fall of man

We believe Christ died & He rose again

We believe everyone is in need of grace

We believe there is hope for the human race.

 

Just to keep it real, we’re stronger in the South

A church on every corner in some of our towns

But we’re doing our best to make a change

We’re sending missionaries to the northern states.

They may speak with a twang & drink sweet tea

But they’re compelled with a love for humanity.

 

So Baltimore, here we come

We got our wife, our kids and a few deacons

We’re gonna ride in your cabs, stay at your inns

Eat at your diners and leave big tips.

 

I hope when we’re gone and you think about us

You’ll be convinced that the way is through Jesus!

The Baptists are coming- Don’t be scared

The Baptists are coming- I hope you’re prepared

The Baptists are coming- We won’t stay long

The Baptists are coming- You better hold on!

 

What NOT to do on Mother’s Day

9 May

Churches do some pretty crazy things on special days. Some of the craziest things we do are on Mother’s Day. In our attempt to show mothers that we love them, sometimes we go overboard. Here is a list of things a church should not do on Mother’s Day.

Don’t give an award to the mother with the most children. What’s the point in that? Is there a baby having contest that goes on throughout the year? Are we saying to the other mothers, “You ladies better get busy or she’ll win it again next year!” And if you do give an award for this please don’t embarrass the mom by saying something like “Wow, that’s a lot of kids! Ya’ll know what causes that don’t you?”

Don’t give a flower to the mothers. I’m not a fan of that at all. There are many women who are barren. Mother’s day is tough for them. The message some ladies get at church on Mother’s day is “You can’t have a baby…or a flower.”  If you are going to give a flower, give one to all the ladies.

Don’t honor the oldest and youngest mother. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. Eventually you are going to embarrass someone.  “Stand if you’re over 70…ok, over 80…ok, over 90…stand if you were on the Ark.” I know that wouldn’t embarrass many ladies but eventually someone will be hurt. As well, the youngest mother isn’t a good idea. Putting a spotlight on the 10th grade girl who just became a mother isn’t going to fare well.

Don’t make moms the focus of your sermon. Every Sunday is for Jesus. It’s ok to just preach the Bible on Mother’s Day. The majority of the people at your church did not come to hear stories about mom. They are going to celebrate their mom at home, restaurant, park etc. Most people come to church to celebrate Jesus. Celebrate the Lord with the people at your church on Mother’s Day.

Don’t make a media presentation highlighting certain women in your church. When a church makes a big deal over certain women in the church the message they are conveying is “These ladies are more special than the others.” Churches certainly don’t mean to convey that message, but nevertheless it is still communicated. Visitors and newcomers likely will not even know who those ladies are. And please do not hide behind “It’s not our fault, we asked everyone to submit their photos!” Many people do not feel comfortable having their face on a screen. As well, there is a good chance you will have first time visitors on Mother’s Day.

Alright, that’s enough serious stuff. I need to poke a little fun.

Awards NOT to give at church on Mother’s day

* Mom with the most kids in jail

* Mom with the ugliest baby

* Mom with most kids by different men

* Mom that dresses most like a teenager

* Mom least likely to be back at church next Sunday

What Not to say on Mother’s Day

What’s the boxing ring for? We’re going to settle the stay at home vs. working mom issue right now.

Did I get my WIFE a gift? I already gave her two kids.

What you cooking today, honey?

Heaven Ain’t A Lot Like Dixie-How should the church responding to Sterling?

29 Apr

If we were as outraged about racism in the church as we are about it in sports we might see a revival. That’s my thought on the situation surrounding Donald Sterling and the NBA right now. The LA Clippers owner has gotten himself into hot water over some ignorant and clearly racist comments.  People all over the nation, including the South, are disgusted at the mindset of Sterling. The aged NBA owner seemed to have a serious problem with his mistress associating with people of color in public. He justified himself by claiming that he was not a racist because he has helped so many black people. When his mistress encouraged him to change his obvious prejudice ways, he responded by saying “I don’t want to change.”  I wish this were the first time I’ve heard views like this espoused. But the reality is that the logic of Mr. Sterling has been alive and well in many churches for quite some time. I can attest to this because my ministry has been limited to leading smaller churches in the South.

Don’t misunderstand me. Not all the churches in the South have the Sterling mindset. Lots of churches have overcome this hurdle and are doing great in the area of race relations. But there are many in our Southern churches that have difficulty embracing people of color. I have experienced that personally in churches & communities in which I have served. As well, I have had many conversations with pastors struggling to overcome prejudice in their own churches. How can we overcome racism in the church? Let me offer some suggestions.

1. We need to reveal racism as a horrible sin. Sadly, many church leaders are silent on the issue. It bothers me that we blow up on social media over this issue but clam up behind the pulpit over it. There is a big movement today to plant multicultural churches. That’s fine, but I don’t think it’s the answer. In fact, sometimes it may be counterproductive. I can hear some saying, “Of course we’re not prejudice, we started a Hispanic church!” The answer to racism in the church is not to give everyone their own church. The reality is that some ethnic churches are started so that certain races will stop coming to a particular church. Racism is a sin that must be pointed out. It is a sin that many in our churches need to repent of. It is likely that the people in our churches will not repent of this sin unless we are willing to address it from the pulpit. Use the Bible to show God as the Creator and Redeemer of all nations. Be bold on the issue. Be clear on the issue. In a recent sermon I said “If you are prejudice you have either not read the Bible or you don’t care what it says.”  We must be that bold on the issue of racism. We must reveal it as a sin.

2. Point out the hypocrisies in missions. Normally it is not difficult to get a church in the south to support reaching a people group in another country. Often times our churches have ministries to help reach people in places such as Africa and Haiti. We will send our money and engage in short term mission trips to reach such people with the gospel.  We often have power point presentations and videos with whites and blacks working with one another for the sake of the gospel. We celebrate diversity in foreign missions; we hesitate diversity in home missions. Use this to teach your people about home missions. If we are going across the globe to reach people of a different skin color why would we not go across the street to do the same? Generally speaking, people are reasonable. No one wants to be a hypocrite. Revealing this hypocrisy could be something God uses to overcome prejudice in your church.

 

3. Model racial diversity in your life and ministry. It’s important that people see us model what we preach. I have made it a priority to minister and befriend people of color. I work at it. My church is 100% white. However, I have a weekly ministry that is 100% African American. I once had one of my older men approach me at church. He told me of an encounter he had with an African American gentlemen in the community. The subject of church came up. Amazingly, both men identified me as their pastor. One on Sunday, the other on Tuesday! The African American man told the old timer at my church “Your preacher is a black man trapped in a white man’s body!” I don’t know what that means, but I took it as a compliment. Our life speaks volumes. If we only address racial harmony from the pulpit I am not sure that we will get very far in overcoming the problem in our churches.

4. Be as bold in condemning prejudice as they are in promoting it. I have heard some really dumb things in church when it comes to the issue of prejudice. Remember this; prejudice is impossible to logically defend. The more a racist person talks the dumber they sound. Instead of overlooking the rude comments people make, engage them in conversation about them. Make them defend their position. I have heard some really dumb logic when it comes to this issue:

“You never see blue birds and red birds together!” I guess they forget about the rest of the animal kingdom. Cows, horses, cats, dogs, etc. all come in different colors.

“The Bible says you’re supposed to stay with your own tribe”. To which we must ask, “And to which tribe do you belong?”

“The Bible says not to be unequally yoked”. They usually don’t know the rest of the verse. It says “with unbelievers”. It’s important to let them know that Moses married outside of his race. Boaz married outside his race as well. There are other biblical examples  but that should be enough to make the point.

It takes boldness to engage church members on these issues. However, we can’t allow an unbiblical mindset to go unchecked in our churches. We must be bold enough to confront sin if we are going to be leaders.

5. Engage different races with the gospel. Include neighborhoods of all races in your visitation and outreach. Invite children of all colors to your church activities. Don’t simply have a Backyard Bible Club in a minority neighborhood. Involve children of all races in your weekly ministries. Start a transportation ministry if necessary. Even if you are a small church you can do this. It’s likely you could double your children’s ministry by including minorities.

6. Invite speakers of different races to your church. Have them preach for you. If possible, use local ministers. Let your people see and hear from men of God who are not the same color as you are. Allow them to bring a choir or special singer with them as well.

Those are six simple ways to start overcoming prejudice in our churches. I hope they help. But regardless, let’s get serious about overcoming this sin in our churches. Let’s not simply opine online. We are called to speak the truth from our pulpits to our people. I trust that God will honor His Word.

Six reasons to Elect me As President of the SBC

5 Mar

As some of you may know, I was nominated as president of the SBC recently by one of my followers on Twitter. To my surprise, a second quickly followed. I take this opportunity to publicly state that I accept the nomination. I look forward to a lively debate with the other nominees. Please allow me to outline some of the reasons I should be president of the SBC.

An anon twitter personality has never been elected president of the SBC. I know this may come as a surprise to you, but it is true. Fifty-nine times we have elected a president.  The SBC has existed for almost 170 years and not once have we elected an anonymous twitter account as president.  I think it is time that those of us without a face or name have a voice. Electing me as your president would be a historical moment, crashing the glass ceiling that has kept so many from their destiny.

I would have dunking booths at the annual meetings. Let’s face it, there are polarizing figures in the SBC. I would have these figures inside the dunking booths. Messengers could take their turn at dunking those who represent movements in the SBC they believe to be detrimental. This would also serve as an opportunity to immerse those within the convention who hold to sprinkling as a mode for baptism. It would also help to relieve stress caused by things such as the reading of the comment section of blogs.

I would discourage boycotts. Let’s face it; they don’t seem to be working. I have a plan to show how much I support discouraging boycotts. Whenever someone is elected as President of the SBC confetti will fall, balloons will descend,   and with a camera in his face the new president will declare “I’m going to Disney World!” I believe that would make a statement to a watching world of just how serious we are at boycotting boycotts.

I would retire certain slogans that churches put on their signs. I am aware that some of our churches hold in high esteem certain catchy phrases that continue to appear on SBC church signs across America. Retiring these slogans will show them that while we hold the pithy statements in esteem it is time for others to take their place. Never again would we have to see phrases such as:

“Ch_ _ch, Guess What’s Missing? U R?”

“We’re Not Dairy Queen, but our Sunday’s are Great!”

“You Think it’s Hot Here?”

At the annual convention there will be a scheduled time in which we play soft music while showing certain church sign slogans on a screen. At the end of the presentation we will have a short prayer. An “In Memoriam” page containing the slogans will be in your book of reports. This I promise as your new president.

New churches would have to have their name approved by a committee. I am speaking specifically of church splits that result in new church starts. Such churches would be discouraged from identifying with titles like Unity, Fellowship, and New Beginnings. Alternative names would be suggested such as “Madder than Fire” or “We Were Right” Baptist church.

We would make the floor time at the Convention more interesting. If we are being honest, many of us come to the convention simply for the questions and comments that come from the floor. We need more time for this. I would double the amount of time presently allocated. As well, the well-known characters would have theme music playing as they walked to the mic. The music would be tailored to the stereotype we have of that individual. For instance, Al Mohler would enter to the Jeopardy theme song. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have Michael Buffer on standby either.

If the individual surpassed the allocated time given the following steps would be taken:

First, the speaker is warned by the moderator.

Second, background music would be played (like at the Oscars).

Third, the fire alarm would be pulled.

These are just a few of the ideas I have as President of the SBC. If time permits, I may outline a few more. With your help I hope to be the first of my kind to hold this office. I hope I can count on you. 

What 40 Year Old me would Say to 25 Year Old Me

24 Feb

 

I was 25 when I became a senior pastor. That was 15 years ago. Honestly, I’m a little down about this whole age thing. I’m looking back a little. Time has gone by so quickly. I have been reminiscing about life in the ministry. In looking back I have come to the conclusion that it would have been great if there were a mentor in my life to prepare me for ministry. The reality is, at that point, I was so hard headed I probably would not have listened to anyone. I was pretty independent. The only person I would have listened to was me. I wish 40 year old me had been around when I was 25. I would have listened to him. That brings me to this blog post. What would 40 year old me have said to 25 year old me?

1. You’re an idiot. I don’t think I would take that well if it came from anyone but me. After all, if anyone knows if I am an idiot or not, it’s me. As a young man I thought that I knew so much about ministry. I was wrong. I knew very little. Don’t misunderstand me, I was informed. I had a solid theological base. I was well read in the area of church growth and church health. I had attended conferences gleaning insights from powerful Christian leaders. But I was in no way prepared for the pastorate. I figured if we needed finances I would preach on giving. If we needed salvations I would preach on soul winning. Once I preached, I assumed everyone would jump on board and revival would break out. I was wrong. It took me a while to discover that I knew very little about ministry.

2. Mushrooms are cute, but you can’t hang a tire swing on one. It is easy to go to a church and start new ministries but bail when the hot sun comes out. We can decorate the landscape with our cute little ideas every two or three years. But our cute little ideas are like mushrooms. Go back to that church a year later and you can’t even tell we were there. Longevity is important. If we are going to make a difference in the life of a church we had better be in it for the long haul. Patience is necessary if we want to see a church grow for the glory of God. There is a great danger in using churches to build a resume. I think the greatest danger is to our family. Our family can become spiritually frustrated moving from place to place. We certainly aren’t helping churches when we move about too quickly. Oak trees take a long time to grow. They suffer through every season of the year many times over. Finally they become stable. When an oak tree grows it’s there for generations to enjoy.

3. People over 50 have cried a lot more than you. A 25 year old often lacks empathy. We usually haven’t buried many people. Our children are not old enough to have rebelled yet. We haven’t sent sons and daughters overseas. Most of us have not been divorced. I don’t mean to fault the younger person. It’s simply how things are. That’s a good thing. Ministry is about serving people for the glory of God. People are how they are, for the most part, because of life experiences. Serving people in the position of pastor means that you are there to walk with them through dark times. When we cry with a person we anchor a spot in their life. They remember when we mourn with them. Be careful about rushing through the heartache at church. Make the most of it. Never make light of it. The tears of your congregation are more important than you can imagine.

4. Bi-vocational is not a four letter word. It seems everyone wants to be in “full time” ministry. I have experienced the pastorate from the bi-vocational perspective. Never allow anyone to make you feel like you are a “sub pastor” because you work two jobs. The greatest freedom and joy I have experienced in ministry was when I was bi-vocational. If you do it right, you gain a respect from your congregation and a perspective of how difficult balancing church and work can be.  

There is a danger of becoming trapped in a particular area or church because of finances. For the young pastor, life happens fast. Rather than being led by the Spirit we can be loaded down with our new obligations.  A full time pastorate guarantees a pay check. But depending on a church, as many do, for housing, health care and income can lead to being trapped at that location. There may be a temptation to stay even when God says go. If at all possible, make sure that the church is not your only source of income. There is nothing wrong with taking a position as an associate pastor or the pastor of a smaller church.

5. Preach to people not at people. Preach the word. Do it verse by verse. But preach to people. This is another thing that can be difficult when you are young. Experiencing life through the cross makes us better preachers. For example, I’m convinced that as we get older we have more of a desire to preach on heaven. Honestly, how many young guys do we hear waxing eloquent on the celestial city? The Bible is written to people and it’s meant to be preached that way. Look at your people when you preach. I know everyone says look over their heads so you don’t get nervous. Don’t listen to that advice. Look at them when you preach. Don’t try to impress them with your passion or intellect. Take Christ from the pages of Scripture and march Him right into their lives. Identify with their weaknesses. Challenge their level of devotion. Don’t give them a speech. You’re not a speaker. They sell those at Wal-mart™. You are a preacher. People know the difference when they hear it. Sermons are not a work of art, they are a work of the heart. When you connect with people through the Word of God you will begin to see a difference in the lives of people.

6. The first to ask you over may be the first to escort you out. As young pastors we often see people in two ways: those who are for us and those who are against us. We would also like to identify those two groups as quickly as possible. When someone asks us to come to their home we assume they are for us. That excites us. Sadly, those who seemed to be our biggest fans sometimes switch teams. We feel hurt and betrayed. I have discovered that the people in church I have been closest with are often very quiet. I have a theory about this. I believe that wise people wait and watch. They are not too eager in drawing conclusions about people.  We can learn a lot from them. God hasn’t called you to a church to make friends. That happens, obviously. He calls you to a church to make disciples. Making disciples of Christ should be your goal as a pastor. Don’t be too eager to develop close friendships in the church. Those friendships will come. And they may be with the people you least expect.

7. Thank people. I still have to remind my kids to say “Thank-You”. Young people often have a problem with that. We have been catered to for so long I guess we just take it for granted. Know this, if you succeed as a pastor it will be because God has put some amazing people in your life. God uses His people. He has used His people to put a bag of groceries on my table, literally. He has used His people to put gas in my tank. He has used His people so I would have enough money to take my family on vacation. In the pastorate you will see God use His people, especially when you are young in the ministry. Don’t take that for granted. Thank the people that God puts in your life. Write a note, make a phone call, stop by their home, but please say Thank-You. As pastors we are often guilty of complaining about the immature and carnal in church. Let’s not let that be what people remember about us. Our testimony should be one of thankfulness.

There’s so much more I could say to 25 year old me. But I know I couldn’t handle much more than this at one time. So I’ll stop for now. These are simply a few things I needed to hear 15 years ago. I hope they help.

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