Tag Archives: Ministry

What We Can Do When It Hurts

UPDATE: The following post was NOT emailed to me by Donald N. Norris, but Dave Peever. Thankfully, this is the only mistake I have made today 😉

So, please check out Dave’s blog, Live 4 Him. I’m sure you will be blessed there, also.  


Guest Post by: Dave Peever

I Have Nothing to Offer

It hurts and it should. It may be my hurt or it may be someone else’s hurt that I observe, but it hurts, and it should. Still, we try to avoid it or at least address it as quickly as possible and move on. Logic does not play into it or at least cannot be used to lessen the impact. The passage of time may help but when everything seems to be going by so slow, the future is not even in the mix of thought and emotion. We wish it never happened, we hope we can somehow forget, but we know that it’s not going away. Like a rotten tooth that needs to be pulled or a wound that must be reopened and cleaned, it must be dealt with or the long-term issues will far outweigh the short term pain. It hurts and it should.

You’re a pastor, you should know what to say, how to bring comfort, how to rise above the pain.

I often wonder how people see me and others who have been called to pastoral ministry. When we are in the pulpit we are in control or at least appear that way. We tackle the tough issues head-on with Bible verses pre-selected and marked, script written and rehearsed. Everyone’s attention (we hope) is focused on us with little else competing for space in people’s thought process. We are in charge with little question about who is there to give out the answers to life’s problems. Before I go further, there are many times I haven’t felt in control in the pulpit, but by its very nature preaching creates the appearance of having it all together. Then comes the hospital visit, the funeral preparation family meeting, the pregnant unwed mother discussion, the abused wife’s plea for help or the drug or porn addiction revelation and people expect that same sermon preaching confidence. It is as if there are magic words that will make it all better and somehow the pastor is supposed to have them all stored up in his brain, ready to use at the appropriate time.

God’s word is full of comfort but God’s design does not allow us to avoid pain.

Biblical words of comfort are not the recipe for griefless living. To love someone is to invite pain into your life no matter how much they love you back. At some point something will happen that will hurt you. It isn’t always between the people in the relationship, but it is always felt by the people in the relationship. If we truly love the other person, their pain becomes our pain even if we are not directly affected. The only way to live life pain free is to ignore the Bible and never love anyone.

By calling and vocation, a pastor is placed in the middle of pain. By calling and obedience, a pastor experiences pain just like anyone who loves as Christ loves. Pastors may have a responsibility to the congregation defined in their job description but all Christ followers have an obligation to love and therefore are exposed to pain. The comfort we have and the comfort we offer is not found in the removal of hurt, pain and grief because we know the right words to say but instead it is found in the sharing of life as it happens.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15 (NIV)

You may say that you have nothing to offer because you are not a pastor, but the truth is, even though I am a pastor, we both have the same thing to offer.

I hate hospital visits as much as the next guy. I want to avoid the tears of a grieving family just like most people do. If I could miss funerals, including my own, I would. To seek out pain, physical or emotional, is not the sign of a stable person, to enjoy the depths of despair is not normal behavior. I understand that people want a pastor to be with them in their time of need and I accept that as part of my job. I may not like feeling that I can’t make the pain go away, that I am not in control and have nothing to offer, but I accept that just being there brings a level of comfort.

What I have to offer is the same as you. We all need to live out Romans 12:15 because we all, if we love like Jesus, have something to offer. Love has a cost, a price to pay. Sometimes we get to rejoice together other times we share pain but all the time we need to be there for each other. God does not leave or abandon those He loves but stays with us in part through the people He surrounds us with in our time of need. Be there for others, you can’t fix it, you can’t make it go away, that’s not the way God designed us, but you can share in the pain, help carry the burden, you have something to offer.

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An Open Letter to Preachers

In honor of my late father, Terry L. Baker, the most influential preacher in my life, I dedicate this post on the 26th anniversary of his home-going.

My dad always told me, “Never go to the pulpit unless you’re mad, sad, or glad.” So, in that spirit, I would encourage you men to consider the Story you’re telling and the Message you’re sharing…if anything, it should stir you with some sort of emotion. Then, as your heart is stirred, may the cup of your emotion overflow, spilling onto your congregation as you preach with a passion and persuasion only the Holy Spirit can give.


Dear Fellow Preachers,

I’ve said most of this before, but it needs to be repeated again, and again, and again. Now’s the time – it’s actually past time – for some honest-to-goodness, strong-as-steel, George S. Patton and John Wayne-like BACKBONE!

Stand in the gap! Don’t be a politically motivated, crowd-pleasing, purse string-fearing wimp! PREACH THE WORD!

Gentlemen, more than ever what we need now are some Elijahs, some John the Baptists, another John Knox or two, and even some old-school Billy Grahams. We need more men of God who know the difference between the Word of God and a motivational speech! We need men who aren’t afraid to point a finger at sin and call it what it is…SIN!

Don’t try to be popular. Don’t try to be “cool” and “hip” with the younger generations. Quit fighting over the styles of worship if your congregation doesn’t even know HOW to worship! Forget trying to become more “seeker-friendly,” and just SEEK THE LOST! The world is going to Hell and we are greasing the skids.

Be real. Be humble. Be yourself. Love your enemies. But for the love of God, pastors and preachers, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). In other words… take off the liberal mom jeans and put on some prophet-worthy overalls and get to work!

Don’t blame the people in the pews for falling asleep…PREACH!

Don’t worry if there could be people in your congregations recording what you say…PREACH!

The Enemy would love to intimidate you; cause you to fear the press, the government, or even some bitter old gossip that complains about everything. Here’s what you need to do – PREACH!

It doesn’t matter how you feel, you’ve got a job to do, one with eternal ramifications – PREACH!

The Word of God is what has the power to change lives, restore hope, and whip the Devil – exposit it, explain it, exalt it!

You’ve got the pulpit, so use it!

PREACH!

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Pastoral Ministry 

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10 Words of Wisdom for Those Entering the Pastorate

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.

Just this morning I saw a post forwarded on Facebook by a pastor friend, one that gave “10 Reasons Ministry Isn’t for Wimps.” On other occasions this same friend, Alan Rogers, has shared articles dealing with everything from sermon tips to how to destroy one’s ministry.

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 don’t publish that many, for one thing.

But I think it is about time we start seeing some helpful hints from old-school, bi-vocational, small-church, in-the-trenches pastors with no access to research teams, only personal experience and some common sense.

So, in order to kick things off, here are…

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 some place 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!

I could share some more words of wisdom with you all, but this is all my wife will allow for this evening – I’m listening to her, and she said I need to go to bed.

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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A Question of Dignity

Much is said about how people should dress, like “dressing down” and dressing for success.” But how should a minister, a pastor, a “reverend” dress? For that matter, how should a pastor behave in public? How should his position affect his demeanor? Ever thought about that?

It’s a question regarding the appropriate level of dignity exhibited by those in ministry.

Differences

Some of you may disagree with me on this, but I do believe that there is something to be said about the differences between pastors and the congregation. If you are Catholic or main-line Protestant this is probably a non-issue, but it is an issue in other circles, specifically in evangelical churches.

Many of us are well aware that Scripture teaches that there is no essential difference between one believer and another: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Furthermore, many of us treasure the biblical doctrine of the “priesthood of the believer” that confirms all Christians have equal access to God, not needing the intercession or mediation of an earthly priest (Ephesians 2:18, 3:12; Hebrews 4:14-16, 10:19; and 1 Peter 2:5). Some folk, especially many of my Baptist brethren, even refrain from using terms such as “clergy” and “laity” because, in essence, we are all the same.

anthony political

The “official” me.

However, if we are all the same, if there is no difference at all, no difference in expectation or qualification, why then do we have such passages as 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9? Why would Paul have instructed Timothy and Titus to ordain godly men to the work of “bishop” in the first place if there were no need for men of distinction?

The truth is that there is a biblical mandate of conduct for the role and specific offices of pastor, bishop, elder, teacher, and deacon. Those persons should be known as set apart, qualified, mature, devoted, and serious about the work (Titus 2:7).

I Struggle

I will admit, I struggle with this issue from time to time. You may not think it’s a big deal, but I think it is. The thing I don’t want is to be legalistic, prideful, arrogant, or aloof and never fun, accessible, down-to-earth, and humble.

But where does one draw the line? At what point can one say, “That [activity] is not appropriate for a person in that position” without coming across as elitist?

vbs ice cream head

The “ice cream” me.

Let’s face it, when it’s time for a fall festival or children’s activity, every one wants a pastor who is not afraid or too proud to look like a fool for the sake of a smile. It was Jesus who had little children running up to him, sitting on his knee, and enjoying being in his presence. The pastor who never laughs, never takes a shaving cream-pie in the face, or dresses up like a farmer for Vacation Bible School will never win the heart of a child.

On the other hand, the one dying in a hospital (or on the side of the road) wants more than a clown or a hip public speaker to kneel by his side or take her hand.

I struggle with where to draw the line, where being like everybody else must give way to the demeanor of one elected to lead. Sure, context is always going to make a difference, but is there no place for  gravitas in the modern church?

Grace and context. …Grace and context. That’s the only way I know to approach this.

I’d love to read what you think! Where do you see the line between dignity and doofus? 

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Filed under Christian Maturity, clothing, General Observations, legalism, ministry

“Why in the Church?”

As I Promised

This past Sunday afternoon (March 5, 2017) I promised those watching me on Facebook Live (“Sunday Morning Recap”) that I would post the outline/handout I used and shared Sunday morning in the church service at South Soddy Baptist.

Because I am new at South Soddy Baptist Church, and because we are essentially starting from the ground level, I thought it beneficial to do a Vince Lombardi-like sermon, something like “Gentleman, this is a football.”

The idea was to assume no one knew, or at least they had not recently thought about, some very basic features of the local church. Sort of like asking “What in the world?” I called this message “Why in the Church?”

I might take the points of this little handout and develop them further as individual posts here on the blog. Would that be beneficial or interesting to any of you?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

The Outline

“Why in the Church?”

Church

  • Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23 and 4:15-16; Rom. 8:9) See also Jesus’ conversation with Paul (Acts 9:4)
  • Ecclesia: defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.”
  • The Universal Church (1 Corinthians 12:13)
  • The Local Church (Galatians 1:1-2)

Building

  • We should not neglect gathering together (Hebrew 10:25).
  • Why not just a house, or “home church”?
    • See: Acts 2:46 and 20:20.
    • Accountable leadership (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3).
  • What is to take place, wherever one meets: Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 16:2; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:2.

Singing

  • Enter into His presence with thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 100:4).
  • Songs should teach, admonish, and ultimately be directed to the Lord (Colossians 3:16-17)

Prayer

  • House of Prayer (See: Luke 19:46 and Isaiah 56:7. Also, Acts 2:42)

Pulpit

  • Bema – possible influence
  • “Pulpit of Ezra” (Nehemiah 8:4-5)
    • מִגְדָּל migdal (Strong’s H4026): a tower, or castle
      • Migdal-eder (mig·dal’·ā’·der) = “tower of the flock”
        • a shepherd’s watchtower near Bethlehem (Micah 4:8)

Altar

  • “Mourner’s bench,” 19th-20th century crusades
  • Place of Sacrifice – pride
  • Place of Commitment; when people ask (Joshua 4:6,21)

Invitation

  • Urgency – Today is the day (2 Corinthians 6:2 and Isaiah 49:8)
  • If you will confess me before men, I will confess you before my Father (Matthew 10:32)

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How Do You Treat a Gift from God?

Remember, dear believer, if your pastor is a “gift” to your congregation (Ephesians 4:11), how you treat him says a lot about your relationship to the Giver.  – A. Baker

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