Tag Archives: ministry

Why I’m Pro-Laugh

9 Jan

I am unashamedly pro-laugh. Now don’t misunderstand me. I know there are times we shouldn’t laugh. I’m not going to laugh if your cat dies. I don’t think we should laugh at funerals or natural disasters. There is a soberness that must characterize the preacher. But I am also pro-laugh. The context of this blog is church. I am in my 15th year of vocational ministry. I have been to church virtually every Sunday (AM/ PM) and Wednesday of those 15 years. That’s a lot of church.

It hasn’t been easy. There have been great and wonderful seasons. But there have been trying ones as well. I can honestly say that some of the meanest people I have ever met, I met in church. To be fair, some of the best people I have met have been there as well. But it’s those mean ones that really stick out. Let’s be honest. No one leaves the ministry because of all the nice folks. Frustration comes from the difficult people.

There was a time when I really let things get to me. I still allow some things to get to me more than I should. But I have learned to cope. Now I allow myself to laugh at what I see in church. I can almost feel the critical eyes reading this blog:

“People missing heaven ain’t funny!”

“Sin ain’t funny!”

“Spiritual ignorance ain’t funny!”

“Heresy ain’t funny!”

Chill out man. No one said it is. Good grief. But here’s a head’s up for us all. Church is full messed up people. I wrote about that in “Hello My Name is Church”. These people are going to aggravate us. Really dumb things are going to happen at church. Some of these dumb things are done to us, others are done by us. Dumb things are going to happen. Let me give you some examples:

* A guy shows up for the first time at your church. He is wearing a Dolly Parton T-shirt and carrying a guitar. You ask him “What are you doing?” He explains to you that he is going to play for the church. You tell him he isn’t. He tells you your church is horrible and he will never step foot into it again.

* Your wife misses a little church because she just had a baby. A rumor starts that you don’t allow your wife to attend church.

* You are sitting in your home (the pastorium) and a church member just walks in without knocking. After all she is a church member and the house belongs to the church.

* You mention a secular song to make a point in a sermon. Afterwards someone asks that you never do that again because it tempts them to go back into the world to live a life of sin.

* A church member says to you “That’s the reason me and you can’t agree, because you believe that book.”

These are just a few. All of those things were frustrating to say the least. I could let them really get to me. I could stew and stew until I burst. I have been tempted to do that. I have almost done that. I know folks who have given up because of the silliness and frustration of ministry. By God’s grace I have been able to hold on. I think one of the reasons is because I am pro-laugh. I’m not happy that any of these things happen. My laughter is more about the silliness of people. I’m a thinker. So I will sit back and analyze a situation. Almost always I am able to come away with a smile.

Social media is a lot like church. The Unappreciated Pastor gets rebuked regularly. In fact I just got rebuked as I was writing this. I tweeted earlier:

“ I’m convinced if you can’t laugh at what happens at church you’ll leave because of what happens at church.”

 Some guy said

“Church isn’t a place to be “at,” but Christ’s Body on Earth. And when it meets, it should be no laughing matter.”

I have no idea what he is even talking about. He looks like a sensible person. So I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt. I have to assume that people at his church laugh. I would hope they do. So how am I going to respond?  I’m just going to laugh. In fact I find that I laugh the hardest when someone yells at me on social media. That’s a lot better than starting a Twitter war.

I had a Calvinist bid me farewell and yell at me today because I said last night “I guess one of the strongest arguments for Calvinism is The People’s Choice Awards.” She went off on me about straw man arguments and such. I was baffled. That tweet is a Pro Calvinist Tweet!  The point was “Look what you get when you give the people a right to choose.”  She just didn’t get the tweet.

I think that is usually how it is in church. I think most people don’t get how silly they are being. It takes patience to be in ministry. It takes courage as well. But I am also convinced that we must be willing to laugh at ourselves and others. Not “Ha, Ha” but more of a “Oh man, this is so crazy” laugh.

I’m pro-laugh.  If you’re not I’m sorry. But I’m going to keep laughing. Laughing takes the edge off of the tough parts of ministry. Look at Twitter. Why are church parody accounts so popular among believers? Because they help us cope. They make us laugh. And not many people quit while they are laughing. Let’s be serious about the Lord, but not take ourselves too seriously.

Some Thoughts on Pastor Appreciation Month

26 Sep

Next month is Pastor Appreciation month. If you follow me on Twitter you’ll probably catch me whining about something. I’m not sure why or how this tradition started (Not the whining thing but the Pastor Appreciation deal).But over all I think it’s a pretty good idea.  I will be trying to identify with pastors and cheer them up. I’ll also be releasing some of my own insecurities into the Twitter-sphere.  But for now, allow me to give you some thoughts about Pastor Appreciation Month from The Unappreciated Pastor.

1. The worst gifts usually come from a Christian Book Store.

Look, I have a Bible. There, I said it. I have a lot of them. I have Study Bibles, Greek Bibles, hard back Bibles, leather Bibles, Scofield Bibles, Dake’s Bibles, New Testament and Psalms Bibles. I could go on. I preach from a Bible every Sunday and Wednesday. I have a Bible in my home, in my car, in my office, in my back pack when I go hunting. Could we just put “The pastor has a Bible” in every bulletin during the month of October.  I have a Bible. I don’t need another one. And when I do need a Bible I’d really like to pick it out myself.

I have every trinket you could imagine. I don’t know what to do with them all. I have paper weights and little statues. I have pictures with eagles and Bible verses. I have coffee mugs (I don’t drink coffee by the way). I don’t need another trinket. Oh, I’ll smile and play the part if you get me one. But honestly, I don’t like collecting things. And I only have so much room in my office. So when you are in the book store and see that shelf with all the trinkets, save yourself some money and me some space by just walking on by.

I have LOTS of books. And quite frankly, sometimes a book title can add to my low self-esteem. The book title may be “The Secret to Becoming a Great Leader” but what I see is “It is No Secret You’re a Horrible Leader.” Most pastors do read a lot, but once again, we like to pick our own books.

2. Church is about Jesus.

On Sunday I don’t want a big deal made about me. I don’t want people to stand up and applaud the pastor. Pride is already a serious issue I deal with on a daily basis. A church full of people applauding me could just send me over the edge. I’ve read enough of the Bible to know that when people touch God’s glory bad things happen. I can just imagine standing up in response to your applause, clutching my chest and falling over dead in the sanctuary. I really don’t want to go out like that. So let’s just clap for Jesus and make Sunday all about Him.

I don’t want a power-point presentation with pics you stole from my Face book page. And I certainly don’t want any presentation set to Ray Boltz song “Thank You for Giving to the Lord”. I know that sounds harsh but it makes me feel uncomfortable. I’ll never forget the year the lady behind me said “Boy you used to be fat!” during the presentation.  My wife and kids always find themselves in the photos and they aren’t real excited about it either. So let’s keep the focus on Jesus and don’t eat up my preaching time with a power point presentation about me.

3. Three Things I would like.

A story. Maybe God used me in your life. That would be awesome. Stop by my office and have a chat with me. Let’s talk one on one. I struggle with whether or not God is using me all the time. There are many days pastors feel useless. If God has used me in your life come by and tell me about it. I’d love to hear your story.

A break.  Some people just can’t help but complain. I understand that’s some folk’s gift. And I guess I need them to keep me humble. But it would be great if during October you just gave me a break. You can start right up again in November, I promise. Unless it’s something the pastor absolutely needs to deal with immediately, just give him a break. He’ll appreciate that more than you could imagine.

A volunteer. A good pastor wants to see people come to know Jesus and grow in grace. We need helpers in lots of areas to see that happen. If you have simply been a consumer in church change that this month. Volunteer and commit to a time of service for the Lord. Nothing makes a pastor smile like a church filled with volunteers.

 

 

Scared Straight Pastor Edition

20 Jun

So you wanna be a pastor? Big man on campus. That’s you, huh? Standing up there in front of everybody. Holding your bible, preaching to the people. I can see you now  scooting around the stage, dancing to the “Amens” and applause. Mr. Pastor, Bishop, Reverend, Elder, Preacher Man. Yeah. I used to be like you. Let’s take a walk. “Where are we going” you ask. It’s a little place I like to call “Reality”. I been living there for the last 15 years.

Look at this. What is this? I know what you’re thinking. It’s a blank piece of paper, right? Wrong. It’s a list of all the friends you have at the church you serve. Not hard to remember their names is it? Ministry is a lonely place, buddy. If you are looking to make lots of friends you are headed down the wrong road. Here’s the deal. The people you like leave and the ones you don’t like will stay. You’ll think you have friends. When you start at a new church they’ll invite you over for a BBQ and board games. But the truth is the first ones to ask you over are also the first ones to ask you to leave!

Look at those guys over there. You know who they are? They’re deacons. I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking “They are here to serve the pastor”. Yeah that’s right. Serve you like a tennis ball. Truth is they’re the cold water committee, the dream busters. They are going to make sure you don’t get too excited about growing this church. They’re the head of the puppet ministry and they think you’re the puppet.

And by the way. Your mother goes to this church. And you have eight of them. Word to the wise “I feel like you’re one of my children” isn’t a compliment. It means she is going to tell you what you should do and it would be in your best interest to listen to her. This church believes in church discipline….but only for the pastor.

Listen. You hear that? Sounds like a bunch of fifth graders upset over a game of sandlot baseball doesn’t it? It’s not. it’s the Wednesday night business meeting. And it happens every month. And you get to be the referee. Oh the stuff is real important too. You get to earnestly contend for the carpet color. You’ll be able to sleep so well on Wednesday nights after Betty and Bertha duke it out over what to serve at VBS.

What’s that? Where’s your wife? Oh…she’s busy. Trying to figure out where she fits in to all this. Yeah she’s standing by her man. But she’s also standing by that phone hoping someone will rescue you all from this. She’s in a town she doesn’t know. She is keeping nursery kids she doesn’t know. She is biting her tongue. She is cleaning a house that she will never own. She is concerned about what the church thinks about her kids, her yard, her involvement with the church. She’s pretty busy. Don’t be surprised if she goes to bed early. 

Oh, wanna hear a joke? Too bad. Because you’re going to. And it’s going to be the same jokes over and over. Jokes about fried chicken, being the first in the line at the potluck, only working two days a week, getting your sermons off the internet. My advice would be learn how to laugh like Fran Drescher & do it every time you hear one of those jokes. They won’t stop but they will slow down a little.

I wanna show you something else. Look in there. It’s dark isn’t it? You can feel the heaviness can’t you? Loneliness exudes from that place. No, that’s not rain. That’s tears. You know what this is. It’s Monday. It’s the day you get the most negative phone calls. It’s the day you remember how much you butchered yesterday’s sermon. It’s the day you remember a church full of dry eyes and an empty altar. It comes every week. Fifty-two times a year Monday shows up just to say “Ha-ha-ha-Hi”. You will leave the ministry countless times in heart on this day. Statistics show that if you ever do quit it will most likely be on this day.

Listen up. It’s tough in here. you ask why am I here then? Because God called me & I couldn’t be happy anywhere else. And that’s the only reason you should come.

“Child’s Play” How a Little Girl humiliated Me & the Lesson God Taught Me

20 May

I’m normally fat. Obese. Overweight. And I like eating. So I’m I always doing something that will allow me to eat and lose weight. Or at least not gain anymore. Right now I’m doing the P90x deal. In the past I’ve done weight watchers, juiced, dieted, etc. For a while I was on a running kick. I was doing 5 miles a few times a week. I’m disciplined at times, not so disciplined at others. And I get bored easily. So sticking to one plan just doesn’t work well with me. Oh yeah, and my wife is skinny. She mainly eats chocolate while I work out.

It was a pretty normal day. I took my son to the county recreation department for baseball practice. There is a track that circles all the fields. While he practiced I would run laps. It was the beginning of Spring so lots of people were there. Spring sports were getting started for all ages. The run wasn’t too bad. Except for this one spot. It was horrible. In one particular area of the track there was a little troll…I mean girl. Freckles covered her soft white face. Her wildly red hair was desperately trying to free itself from her head. And she was riding a bike.

At first this little girl seemed cute. When I approached her bridge, I mean her spot, she decided it would be fun to race me. I don’t run fast. She passes me and leaves me in the dust of her bicycle. Then she looks back at me like I’m the tortoise and she is the hare. She stops. I approach her in my normal gait. She says nothing. I smile and continue on to the next lap.

Unbeknownst to me a game has begun. In this game I am always the loser. Each time I make the loop she is waiting on me. And each time she humiliates me with her bicycle and youthful seven year old speed. I am convinced she is mocking me. I’m pretty sure she is talking trash to all her friends as well. “Hey watch me beat Big Boy when he gets here” she is likely saying. So I begin to get a little intimidated. I didn’t ask for this. Part of me wants to try and outrun her. But I’m weighing my options. Maybe I could outrun her. But what if I didn’t? I mean then all those kids would be laughing at me then. And I would likely see this girl again. I don’t know if I could show my face back at the Rec field after that. So I thought the best thing I could do was just keep cool. Maintain my pace. So that’s what I did.

As I made my way around for another lap I dreaded the approach to Raggedy Ann. I was tired. I was breathing hard. My feelings were hurt. But I pressed on.She was waiting on me. She backed up behind me, sped off in front of all of her family and friends and left me in the dust…again. But something different happened this time. When I approached her she spoke to me. I bet you can’t guess what she said. I was hoping for an apology or a compliment on my calves. But I didn’t get that. She said very confidently & mockingly “I’m going faster than you!” She was an observant little thing, I’ll give her that. the only thing missing from her comment was a “Na, na, na, boo, boo”.

I nodded my head in agreement with her acute assessment of the situation. Then a  smile curled my lips. A thought popped into my mind. I told myself “Yes you are going FASTER than me, but I’m going FURTHER than you!” And that little thought encouraged me. I finished my run a little more confidently. I’m not sure where that little girl is today. I’m thinking she is probably incarcerated somewhere. But I do know that the Lord taught me a lesson that day that has stuck with me. If I look around it’s easy to find people that seem to be going faster than me. It seems their church is growing at a faster rate. They are being recognized in their field by their contemporaries. It appears they are doing overnight what I haven’t been able to accomplish in years. If I put my eyes on these folks it’s easy to get discouraged. I’m tempted even to stop running the race. It’s then that I need to remember that ultimately it’s not about how fast I run but how far I run. I know many that started out fast but aren’t even in the race anymore.

To be honest, I’m not real good at this ministry thing. And honestly I do feel mocked. I often feel like many of my contemporaries are passing me by. And I dread “passing by” some of them sometimes. They seem to do so much better than I do. And Satan reminds me on a regular basis of how slow, under qualified and foolish I am. And perhaps I am all of those things. But I’m going to keep running. I’m not going to quit. You see the bottom line is that many may go faster than us. But no one can go further than us. Because the finish line is Christ Himself. That’s where we are all heading. We may have to pass some troll bridges on the way. But let’s not let that discourage us. Keep running. And ignore the little red heads. (Hebrews 12:1)

Why I Don’t Quit

16 May

It was a cold Friday morning. As a bi-vocational pastor, Friday was my day off. The kids were in school & my wife was at work. I like to do two things on my day off: fish and hunt. Hunting season wasn’t in so I headed to the Suwanee river. I don’t have a boat so I’d be fishing off the bank. I would get to the river by passing through a church members private property and then driving down a trail in the woods. My spot was very secluded and very quiet. Just the way I like it.

My wife had already told me I shouldn’t go fishing. She is a city girl. She believes that one day I will get eaten by some wild animal or killed by an escape convict hiding in the woods. Plus she told me it was too cold and I would get sick. Now don’t misunderstand me. I love my wife. She is a great wife and a great mother. Problem is, she has three kids I have two. 

So I’m enjoying my day. But honestly it was windy and pretty cold. I was fishing for catfish. I love catfish. I usually take a couple of poles. So after setting up one of my poles I laid it down. I walked away for just a moment to work on another set up. I was about 30 feet from my rod when I realized I had a fish on. The whole thing was heading into the Suwanee River. It left the bank and sped hurriedly with the current. I jumped into the river to get my pole. My foot sank into a hole and I went face first into the river. By God’s grace I caught my pole. I stood up and realized I still had the fish. After a good fight I landed the beast. Two massive pounds of catfish.

I was drenched from head to toe. I was cold. I was bleeding from my dash against the rocks. And then I remembered that my wife had sent her cell phone with me. It was in my pocket. It was wet. It didn’t work. In the quiet of the early morning I could hear my wife who happened to be about 40 miles away at work. She said a lot to me…..and about me. 

I prayed that day….for my wife’s cell phone. After I took it apart and broke out the hair dryer the Lord resurrected it. I was grateful for that. I cleaned my fish, picked up the kids and waited for my wife to get home. When she arrived I told her the whole story. I’ll spare you the details. But to summarize it ” You’re gonna get killed out there one day!” was pretty much all that was said.

Honestly I did feel like an idiot. I did look like an idiot. I was wet. I was cold. I was hurt. But you know what? I’m still going to go fishing. You know why? Because I love fishing. And that’s why I keep at this thing we call ministry. There are times I am embarrassed. There are times I am beat up and overwhelmed with the storms of life. There are times I do dumb things and make a fool of myself. There are times the cold winds of loneliness blow against me. But I keep going. I keep running this race. Because quiet honestly, I love fishing. I love bringing Christ glory by sharing the gospel with a lost world. To a lot of folks it doesn’t make sense. But to me it makes perfect sense. I’m a fisher of men. And I always will be. Jesus told me to follow Him and He would make me into one. He has done just that and I am glad.

You Might Be A Small Church Pastor If…

25 Mar

1) You open each service with “These are my deacons, I am who they say I am, I can do what they say I can do…”

2) At least three times a week someone says to you “I noticed your car was at your house.”

3) The phrase “But we’re a loving church” is the church’s unofficial motto.

4) When someone in your church has their picture in the paper it will be pinned to the bulletin board. 

5) You have two revivals a year. The Pastor gets to pick the speaker for one and the deacons get to pick the speaker for the other.

6) You have more deacons than widows.

7) You have more deacons than windows.

8) The budget committee just whites out the dates on last years budget and runs off copies for the new year.

9) There is a woman in the church that you are deathly afraid of.

10) You have two people you consider friends at the church. One of them is in the third grade.

11) When the phone rings you’re just praying you don’t hear the words “Preacher I need to get in the church.” 

12) You have a church van…YOU have a church van.

13) You have to plan your vacation around VBS.

14) You are regularly volunteered by a specific person in your church without being asked first.

15) There is a man in the church that once said to you “Preacher, do you know how much money I give to this church?”

16) Most of the charter members seats are marked with small blankets in the sanctuary.

17) A couple of times a year someone wants to sing a country music song as a special.

18) The congregation appears to double in size when the choir comes down.

19) Your wife strategically plans her grocery store trips so she doesn’t run into as many church members.

20) There is a weekly spot in your bulletin that reads “The flowers in the sanctuary were given in memory of…”

Don’t Wait on Your Church to Grow Up Before You Attempt Great Things

19 Feb

I have to admit I was a little shocked when I joined a church. I did not grow up in church. In fact, I knew nothing about church until I was in my 20’s. I stepped into a little country church on January 14, 1996. It was a Sunday evening service. I went with my grandmother. I heard the gospel. I didn’t understand anything about the service. Certainly not the invitation. But I understood one thing. I needed forgiveness of my sin. So I went home to my single wide trailer. I went into my bedroom, laid face down on my bed and gave my life to Jesus. I knew the Lord had done a work in my life. I went back to the church and followed up with baptism and church membership. Nice pastor. Nice people at the church. But to say the least, I was a little shocked at the lack of passion. I was ready to win the world to Jesus. No one else was.

After getting a BA in Theology I took my first job as a pastor. Very quickly I realized that most churches were not that excited about Jesus. I just figured I would preach, folks would get motivated and missions would happen. I was wrong. It took a while for me to realize it, but the truth is that most people, even the ones in our churches, aren’t excited about doing the work of the ministry. I started meeting with other pastors. I realized that their churches were pretty much the same. But I also noticed that some of the pastors seemed to be taking on the characteristics of the churches they were serving. They didn’t want to talk about strategy or overcoming problems in the church. They had settled down into mediocrity. And they accepted that. Not that they were ok with it. But it seemed to me that they accepted it.

Now I don’t mean to cast stones. After a few years in the ministry I started doing the same thing. I could feel it in me. The pressures of being a pastor mount. The disappointments of ministry made me a little less bold. I began to make excuses for why I was not being used by God. I saw that in my life and I hated it. I heard myself and I didn’t like what I heard. I still find myself in those places. Satan will always be there to whisper discouragement. The question is “Will we accept it?” I don’t ever want to settle down into mediocrity.

The fact is many pastors are continually thinking “What do I want to be when my church grows up?” In other words, they figure God will use them when the people get mature. Well, if we are waiting on that we could be waiting for a while. I have made it my personal responsibility to get outside the walls of my church. As a pastor I have determined that I will be in my community reaching people for Christ. In other words, I am going to do what I feel God has called every Christian to do. I want to be a model member for my church. Let me ask you a question pastor:

 What if everyone in the church was as involved in reaching your community as you are?

Would that be good or bad? I think that one of the leading reasons that pastors become depressed is they feel God is not using them. They are in a church that isn’t passionate about Jesus. They try to motivate. They try new programs. Eventually they give up. They either just accept that they are going to pastor a dry church or find another place to serve. But too often if they change churches the process just repeats itself. Pastor you need to know God is using you. That will keep you passionate about your calling. The next several blogs will give you some tips on how to keep the fire burning. Let’s get to the first one.

 

Tip # 1

Don’t allow a small town to keep you from doing big things. In one of my pastorates I served in an extremely small town. Less than 1,000 people. I think I knocked on about every door in town. I began growing cold. I was frustrated. After conviction set in I decided I needed to repent and do something mission minded. I started going around to the community giving out food. I went to homes. While visiting at one home I met a lady that was loading her trunk with luggage. I told her who I was offered her some food and she gladly took it.

She was traveling in and out loading the trunk. I felt the Lord wanted me to share the gospel with her. Finally she stopped long enough for me to do that. The Holy Spirit was evident. She began to fall under conviction of her sin. She began to speak with me very openly at that point. She was a prostitute. She was on her way to the airport. A meeting with a particular man in another state had been set up for her. She had to catch a flight in a matter of hours.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I don’t know everything that I said. I know I spoke of God’s great love for her. I told her how God is not pleased with her lifestyle. I told her how terrible of a person this man is that he would do this to her. I said lots of things. But mainly I spoke of Christ and the cross. Then an amazing thing happened. She said “You’re right!” She started unpacking her car I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy! I talked with her for a long time. She didn’t commit herself to Christ at that point but I knew God was working.

I began to visit with her (never alone!!!!) on a regular basis. She had kept the gospel tract I gave her. She clung to it almost in an unhealthy way. That was our first point of contact. She didn’t immediately begin coming to church. But something happened one Sunday I will never forget. I was in the pulpit and the doors to the sanctuary opened. She walked in. She was late. She was alone. But she came anyway. She had on a raggedy dress. It was probably something she picked up at a clothing ministry. But she looked beautiful to me!! I was so proud to see her at church! She eventually settled in at another church in the community. But when she would see me in the community and speak she would always be so kind and grateful.

I have since left that community. But not long ago I had to go back and perform a funeral. She was there. I had no idea I would see her. We spoke. She wanted my address. I got a letter from her after I returned home. It’s hard to read without crying. She basically tells me that she praises the Lord that I came and saw her that day. She tells me she is saved, in church and doing what she can to serve the Lord. She isn’t smoking crack anymore. She isn’t a prostitute anymore. In fact she said she’s thinking of writing a book about what God has done in her life. And she wants me to do her funeral. Wow.

That’s a big city story. That was a small town. I stayed in that little community for over ten years. If I accomplished nothing for the Lord except that, I’m thankful. There were days I felt discouraged. Days I wanted to give up. But when that happened I decided that I needed to be the type of member I preach about. I need to be in my community making a difference.

We shouldn’t sit around waiting for our church to grow up before we attempt great things for God. And we certainly shouldn’t use the excuse of being in a small town or small church. There are no big and little souls. There are simply souls. No matter where you are there are souls. Reach them. Get outside of the box. Be a member of your church. Get into your community. Meet people. Love people. It will keep the fire burning inside of you. It will model mission minded Christianity to your people. It will make a difference in the lives of others.