Category Archives: ministry

So, you want to be a pastor?

With so much being posted on social media these days, even those in ministry have available to them a plethora of helps, lists, and general advice from experienced clergy folk.

Much of what is shared on Facebook and Twitter are written by the “pro’s” in ministry research like Thom S. Rainer, or long-time veterans of ministry like Joe McKeever. What rarely gets shared are articles and posts written by ordinary guys like me – probably because we aren’t professional authors or researchers.

Well, I want to share some helpful hints from an old-school, bi-vocational, small-church, in-the-trenches pastor with no access to research teams, only personal experience, and some common sense (but Logos software doesn’t hurt).

Hopefully, you will find the following 10 points helpful.

10 Words of Wisdom for Those Entering the Pastorate

  1. Get a biblical education. Seriously, it doesn’t matter if the school is only a rag-tag, non-accredited hole in the ground, get an education from someplace that will teach you how to study the Bible by making you study the Bible. Those who call a seminary a “cemetery” are nothing more than illiterate bigots who should be avoided – unless you want to show them how to get saved.
  2. Listen to your wife. I know, sometimes wives have actually been the reason men have left the ministry. However, a good, godly wife will offer you insight that no one else can. She really does have an intuition that sees what our eyes can’t. She is also going to be the only one in the church you can trust 100%
  3. Don’t think every sermon needs to be alliterated. Guys, not every sermon is best delivered with four points, all alliterated with a certain letter or phonetic sound. Sometimes the best way to outline your sermon is just go with the way the Scripture leads.
  4. Be a sheepdog. Do whatever it takes to arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to protect not only those in your church but your own family. Be prepared to fight – literally – for those you love. Always be on the lookout for wolves in sheep’s clothing, especially sexual predators. Believe me, I wish I’d prepared better.
  5. Draw your lines in the sand early on – the earlier the better. Don’t wait for church trouble to draw your lines in the sand. Don’t wait until you are in a struggle with disagreeing leadership before you say, “This is the way it’s going to be.” Start early by saying that…be the thermostat, not the thermometer.
  6. Learn to preach without notes. There’s going to come a time when you need to preach and you won’t have time to prepare an outline. There is going to come a time when you are asked to preach a funeral or a revival service, and all you will have is your Bible. Read it…learn it…know it…and be able to preach from it without a man-made crutch.
  7. Check your pride. The day you go up to the pulpit all cocky, that’s the day you will be an utter failure. Ascend to the “sacred desk” with your knees shaking under the weight of the seriousness of what you’re doing and you will come down humble, but confident God’s Word will not return void. As long as you are humble and dependent on God, that’s when even the most basic of sermons can shake the foundations of hell itself.
  8. Don’t grow too dependent on technology. Men, there may come a day when we don’t have the internet, iPads, microphones, and projection screens. At any moment you could lose one or all of those things, so learn to prepare and to preach like the great warriors of the past – because history has a tendency to repeat itself.
  9. Love your family more than your ministry. You’ve probably heard it said before, but it’s true; your family is your first and most important ministry, not the congregation you serve. Don’t lose your wife or kids for the sake of any church.
  10. Never stop studying and learning. Even if you go to Bible school and seminary, never think you’ve learned enough. Always be learning, reading, researching, and studying. If George Washington Carver could squeeze all he did out of the lowly peanut (to the glory of God), imagine how much you will be able to find if you keep digging deeper into the Holy Writ!

So, there you have it. Do you have some words of wisdom you’d like to share? Why not write them in the comment section below? I’m sure we all could benefit from our collective experiences.

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11 Comments

Filed under ministry, Preaching

My Song for the Day

As some of you may know, Building 429 is one of my favorite groups of all time. Why? Because they’re the coolest Baptist musicians around 😉

. . . And their songs are solid!

. . . And I had a personal run-in with them several years ago that reminded me who I am – or who I’m supposed to be. You can read about it here.

But today I’m taking things one step at a time, trusting God to lead me down a road I’ve never been down before – but He has.

And the LORD, he [it is] that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed. – Deuteronomy 31:8

The following song is a song that’s meant a lot to me over the last 3 years, and it’s becoming something of a reminder, again. So, This is my song for the day, and I want to share it with you.

. . . In two videos 🙂

I don’t know where this path is leading exactly, but I’m going to take it one step – one foot – at a time.

Have a blessed one!

3 Comments

Filed under baptist, Christian Maturity, Christianity, Future, ministry, music

You Could Be the “Shift Change”

Command Staff Meetings

Some of you know that I am a chaplain with our county’s Sheriff’s office. It is a great honor to be allowed to serve our men and women in blue, for they are the ones who put their lives on the line every day for us.

Myself and Chaplains Rich Payne, Allen Lindon, and Sergio Freeman (who is also a Chaplain with the Air Force and the US Secret Service)

But about twice a year the rotation comes around and it becomes my time to speak at the Command Staff meeting. This is the meeting where the Sheriff and his captains, along with public relation heads and personal staff, meet to discuss everything from the general budget and how much should be allocated to new body armor, to the number of hits the office’s Facebook page received and when the next Presidential visit may be.

Needless to say, these meetings involve some very important, professional, and intimidating people…including a chaplain. And let me tell you, it’s one place I ALWAYS feel intimidated. But it’s always an honor.

Go to some places and you will have a hard time finding anything having to do with God in the public square. But if you were to visit Hamilton County, TN, you would find a highly professional Sheriff’s office, along with “In God We Trust” on ever county police vehicle and a time for a chaplain to open up the Command Staff meetings with a short devotional and prayer… per the Sheriff’s orders.

No Meeting Today

However, yesterday I got an email notification that this week’s Command Staff meeting was cancelled. Therefore, even though I had set aside time in my schedule, the encouraging words I was planning to share with the Sheriff and his team will have to wait till another time…

Unless I share them with YOU! 🙂

The Shift Change

A little over a month ago I suffered a heart attack. Actually, one may label it more of an “event,” not an actual full-fledged “there’s an elephant on my chest!” type of attack. Had I not gone to a hospital when I did, I might have lived through the night, but I was well on my way to assuming room temperature. I had block arteries and my heart was in distress; it was only a matter of time.

That type of heart attack is so dangerous because it doesn’t show up on an EKG. The only way you can tell you are having that type of heart attack is when blood is drawn, then drawn again, and then the Troponin levels are compared. Troponin is a cardiac marker that increases when the heart is being damaged.

On the evening that my wife and I went to the emergency room, all the usual tests were done and came back negative for a heart attack. As a matter of fact, I was dressed and ready to go home because the first doctor didn’t see any reason to keep me. However, before I was to be released, there was a shift change and the new doctor had other plans.

“Before you go,” said the doctor, “I want to run one more blood test, just to see if there have been any changes over the last couple of hours.” “That’s fine,” I replied, not expecting anything at this point.

No more than 30 minutes later the doctor came back to our little room and said, “Well, there’s been some changes…you need to see a cardiologist…. Now.”

You see, what had happened was that from the time of my last blood test my Troponin levels had doubled, indicating a serious problem. By the time I got to the hospital in Macon, GA, by ambulance, my levels had double again. By the time I was taken to surgery later that morning, they had more than doubled again.

If it had not been for a shift change, I would be dead.

You Could Be the Shift Change

Folks, you never know how God is going to use you from one minute to the next. What may start out as any other shift, that shift could be the one that make an eternal difference in the life of another.

Had that doctor stayed home or been late, I would be dead. Had that doctor decided to just let things be and not follow protocol with a new test for his own records, I would be dead. But when he came to work, he did his job, so I’m alive.

Whatever you do, do all for the glory of God. Do the best you can. Be there, be committed, and understand that you might just be the one who’s fresh perspective and energy, who’s unique abilities and instincts, could make all the difference.

Even the difference between life and death. 

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Filed under Life Lessons, ministry

A Heart Update (May 5, 2019)

I just wanted to share an update about my heart and other medical issues. 

As most of you who read this blog know, I had a heart attack a little over a month ago. That resulted in me receiving 2 stents and having to take a lot of medication – ugh!

Yesterday, I finished my first round of cardiac therapy – it wasn’t that bad, just a little trip to a nice gym where nice nurses and technicians treated me like an invalid and made me wear a heart monitor while I worked up a sweat.

I am scheduled to do therapy for two days a week, then up it to three. I may even get into shape when it’s all over!

Today I went to my cardiologist, endured a painful echo cardiogram, and, to be brief, got a good report. My heart is functioning just wonderful and there is no damage as a result of my heart incident. Hallelujah!

Now, as Paul Harvey would say, here’s the REST of the story…

I have a mass in my chest, just above my heart, close to the aorta. I will be having a PET scan sometime soon to find out if it is malignant. Regardless, because of the size and where it is, I am told it must be removed. If it is cancerous, it must be addressed sooner than later.

The only problem is that having any kind of surgery any time sooner than at least six months after a heart attack (and being on blood thinners) is a risky procedure and ill-advised. If I do have to have surgery soon, then it will require me having to be admitted to the hospital at least 5 days prior in order to be put on a drip to take me off of the Brilinta.

Nothing is easy anymore, is it?

But here’s the good news – yes, there is good news. The constant pain in my chest may be related to the mass in my chest, not my heart. Well, fact is, it’s NOT my heart! So, whatever the other thing is, once it’s removed, I will not keep having these pains that make me think my heart is hurting. That’s awesome!

Funny thing, though… the pain of the mass in my chest may have actually saved my life by getting me into the hospital to find out I was having a heart attack that I DIDN’T feel. On top of that, the heart attack may have opened the door to the early discovery of what could be cancer (hope not).

While I was in the waiting area waiting for the echo cardiogram to be done, I met an 85-year-old man named Hyman. To make a long story short, with the sweetest and calmest of temperament, he began to talk to me about life, his lack of worry, his marriage to his bride Rachael, and his life-changing faith in Jesus Christ. We had a wonderful discussion, which leads me to my final thought.

As I told the elderly saint in the waiting room, my wish is that people not necessarily pray for my healing, but for me to be a faithful witness of the love and grace of Jesus Christ while God allows me to endure whatever He has planned for me. Sure, I want to be healed, but I’d much prefer to be able to point people to Jesus.

As I told Hyman, sometimes, when the people in the hospital won’t go to church or seek after God, God sends the church to the hospital to be a witness for Him. When the hospital won’t go to church, He sends the Church to the hospital.

I appreciate your continued prayers… and pray for Rachael, Hyman’s wife. He really loves her. 

12 Comments

Filed under Christian Maturity, Church, Faith, Life Lessons, ministry, Struggles and Trials

The Wedding Preacher

Hey everybody! You’ve got to check this out!

Down in a town call Ringgold, Georgia, is a little wedding chapel…the very one where Dolly Parton and a few other famous people were married over the years.

Since last year, I have been helping out at the Ringgold Wedding Chapel by performing weddings, mainly on Saturdays and some Sunday afternoons. When the owner of the wedding chapel decided to do a promotional video, she asked if I’d be willing to be interviewed.

Of course, I was willing. Duh.

So, click on the video below and let me know what you think. And, if you’re in the area and want to get hitched, well… 😉

5 Comments

Filed under Family, Marriage, ministry

“I Ain’t Got No Man In My Life”

Context is everything

Just suppose you heard a beautiful and talented 27-year-old female bemoan, “I ain’t got no man in my life.” Now, consider that the woman saying these words was a bride-to-be on the television show Married at First Sight.

Would you feel sorry for her? Or, would you do as I have done and raise your voice to the screen of your television and say, “You’re only 27!”

For the record, my wife (and a couple of men I know) watch Married at First Sight, but I can’t stand that show.

But what if it were little boys who said, “I ain’t got no man in my life”?

Friday Conversation

On Friday, as I was transporting a bus load of children to their homes, I happened to ask the kids behind me, “Do you know what today is?”

“It’s Friday!” answered a young boy to my right.

“And what does that mean?” I asked.

“That means you ain’t got a job tomorrow, or the next day. . . You don’t get to work till Monday.”

“Well,” I responded, “that’s not exactly true. I have weddings to do tomorrow, and then on Sunday I preach at church, so I will be working every day.”

“Preaching ain’t work!” one boy replied. “Yeah,” said another, “preaching ain’t a job!”

“Well, they pay me to be their pastor at the church where I preach,” I said.

“Then if you get paid, I guess it’s a job,” replied one of the boys.

It is illegal for me to take pictures of children on the school bus, but there’s nothing illegal about me submitting an accurate and detailed artistic rendering, is there?

Who’s Your Daddy?

One of the boys behind me then said, “My pastor is my daddy,” to which I replied, “That’s cool!”

“Well, I mean, he ain’t really my daddy,” the 3rd grader said, “but my mamma told me I could call him Daddy.”

I nodded my head, looked in the student mirror above me, and replied, “OK, I guess that’s a good thing.”

That’s when this young boy said, “I ain’t got no man in my life.”

To which the two boys to my right and behind me said with a matter-of-fact tone, “I ain’t got no man in my life, either,” and “I ain’t got no daddy.”

My heart broke.

I held up my right hand and put my thumb and forefinger almost together and said, “Well, then, maybe I can be your ‘mini’ daddy on the bus.”

The little boy behind me then exclaimed, “Yeah! You could be my bus driver daddy!”

Making Application

As soon as the boy behind me told me I could be his “bus driver daddy,” the following words immediately – I mean immediately – came to mind . . . “A father to the fatherless.”

Now, when I began to think of the verse from which those words came, I had in my mind James 1:27, which described what “true religion” is:

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.

“To visit the fatherless” wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it was close. I took the extra step to dig into the word “visit” and there I found that it means (my paraphrase): “to look at something with the intention of doing something.”

But then I found the source verse which takes the whole thought to a higher level. There, in Psalm 68:5, the Psalmist refers to God as . . . you guessed it . . . a “father to the fatherless.”

Therefore, when we allow God to use us, He can place us where our faith – our religion – can be “worked out” for the benefit of those in need. Pure religion, the real thing, is not simply a formulaic system of do’s and don’t’s that make us look holy; it’s an outworking of the character of God through us to those who need to know the love of God, their Abba Father.

HE’s the man they really need in their lives!

Remember this: For the Christian, there are are no “secular” jobs; every job is holy . . . every job is an opportunity for ministry. 

4 Comments

Filed under God, ministry, Witnessing

Powerful Sales Video with Spiritual Application

Literally, no more than 3 minutes ago, I watched the video I’m sharing with you this morning.

Two days ago I got a phone call from a recruiter with the company behind the video and she promised to send me a couple of emails. In one of the emails was a link to this video.

Please don’t think I’m trying to sell you or recruit you into anything. Just watch the video below and see if you get the same reaction I did.

What a POWERFUL reminder that behind every smile is a story. For me, it is a powerful reminder that behind every face sitting in a pew (or on a cushy chair) in church, there is a life, a story.

Twenty years ago I was suicidal, taking lots of anti-depressants, and going to counseling multiple times a week. I came close to being admitted to a facility for my own safety. At the same time, I was going to church every time the doors were open, listening to the music and the preaching, doing my best to lie with my expressions.

How many other people do the same thing? How many people put up a front, build walls, and hide behind a false smile?

This video broke my heart for people: the lost, the broken, the hurting, the lonely, the scared, the abused, and the depressed.

It’s a reminder that every time I preach, every time I visit or knock on a door, every time I prayer-walk a street, there are little “stories” floating over people’s heads that only God can read.

They need Jesus to make their stories His-story.

3 Comments

Filed under Depression, General Observations, ministry