Dear readers, now that the end of the year is upon us, I know that many people in the world aren’t feeling excited about tomorrow. I get it. Even as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, I still feel an underlying sense of foreboding.
But what about all that stuff like “God is in control” and “God’s got a plan”? If that’s true, why feel down, discouraged, or depressed? And why, of all things, feel a sense of dread?
Well, all I can say is that if you feel both ways at the same time, you and King David (the Psalmist), a few prophets, and I have something in common.
Knowing that the Lord’s hand is not weak and His arm not short does not change the fact that you and I are living in mortal bodies affected by the constant onslaught of circumstances which drain us, both physically and mentally.
The sad truth is that even though you and I may believe there is hope, for our Hope is Jesus, we may still find ourselves battling the feeling of hopelessness.
Now, who am I to suggest how another comes to be in this situation? It’s hard enough to explain my own feelings, emotions, and circumstances, much less try to piece together the puzzle pieces of someone else’s life. However, I do want to attempt to validate what some of you might be feeling if you are at the point of needing help.
The problem with admitting you are depressed, especially to the point of danger, is that by doing so one risks making things even worse. Admitting depression often takes away the very things for which we fight to hold onto, the things that give meaning to our existence. Therefore, in order to maintain a sense of purpose and keep the light at the end of the tunnel lit, we hide the pain, hope to God things get better, and force our faith to the surface for others to see, essentially faking it, sort of, until we make it.
Why is this? I’m not a licensed therapist or clinical psychologist, but my best guess is because what we believe, albeit true, is always in a fight with perception, pride, physiology (and I didn’t plan on alliterating those points, but it would make a good sermon outline, wouldn’t it?).
Therefore, what do we do? We leak as little as possible without spilling our guts, just enough to put a few more gallons in the tank so as to make it through the desert.
Can you relate? If so, let’s encourage one another. God does still reign, His mercies endure forever, and because of His steadfast love and faithfulness we are not condemned.
Faking it till we make it isn’t really the best option.
Another pastor was asked to resign. Why? Because of moral failure? No. Because of unethical practices? No. Because of poorly performing his duties? No.
He changed some things. He wanted to do some things that the deacons didn’t. Oh, it didn’t matter what the congregation thought or what impact the pastor’s ministry was making on the community; he went afoul of the deacon body and was asked to resign.
Men … and I’m talking to all you deacons out there… you seriously need to go back to the locker room, sit down on the benches, and let your Coach – GOD – explain to you how the game is supposed to be played. He wrote the Rules, rules which are never to be overruled by your bylaws.
First, there is no place in all of Scripture where you will find justification for deacons running a church. The fact that so many do is a sad testament to how poorly the Word of God has been taught in so many of our congregations. If you really want to get specific, there are no biblical examples of committees making unilateral decisions, either. The ONLY biblical example is that of pastoral leadership with deacon support WHEN NEEDED. See the 6th chapter of the Book of Acts.
Second, should a congregation follow the biblical guidelines and select men to be deacons, they should only do so because the administration of resources meant to minister to the needy within the congregation has become too burdensome for the pastoral leadership and is thereby distracting from the study of the Word and prayer. There is NO biblical precedent for the pastoral leadership of a congregation to be in any way handicapped by the decisions of those elected to serve the congregation and assist the pastoral leadership. There is NO biblical precedent for committees within the congregation to have veto power over pastoral leadership, either.
Third, there is very little evidence in Scripture to support unlimited tenure for those who serve in the role of deacon. On the contrary, biblical precedent leans more heavily toward deacons serving only when there is a need, and only when the pastoral leadership deems it necessary (again, see Acts 6). There is even reason to argue that new deacons should be selected by the congregation and approved by the pastoral leadership every time there is a change in pastoral leadership (compare Acts 6 with 1 Timothy 3).
Fourth, there is no biblical precedent for deacons to be self-governed, mutually accountable, or convenable as a body. Doing so adopts a secular business model that may promote efficiency and manageable productivity, but it in nowise mirrors the pattern of congregational and pastoral oversight as found in Acts 6.
Fifth, the spiritual requirements of deacons (AND their wives) should be taken as seriously as that of a pastor.
Therefore, based on the above points, there is no more biblical support for a group of deacons – servants – to request the resignation of pastor any more than they would request the revocation of a fellow congregant’s membership within the local assembly of believers. It is not the role of the servant to negate the role of the one/ones served.
To conclude, in local congregations where the ecclesiastical structure is autonomous and limited (i.e., Baptist, etc.), thereby affording the body the right to elect the pastoral leadership deemed sent by God and affirmed by the Holy Spirit, beware how you treat the man of God. Although he be only a man, by your common vote you have affirmed before God and heavenly witnesses that he is to be your shepherd, subject to the Great Shepherd, and that you will submit to his leadership where it is biblical, and Spirit led. To conspire, undermine, and circumvent his leadership is to invite discipline from the one who sent the “gift” (Ephesians 4:11-12) to you.
When in ministry, full-time or not, there are moments when we must move from one field to another. Sometimes it’s planned and orderly, while other times we find ourselves making that move unexpectedly, or at least sooner than we planned. However, the one encouraging truth for those who love God and are called according to His purpose is that “all things work together for good.”
It’s a Romans 8:28 day every day!
Regardless, moving from one place to another is never easy, especially when you’ve grown to love the people and the place where you’ve been serving. That’s the current situation facing my wife and me.
The Ups and Downs
For the last three years (three years and six weeks, to be exact), we have been living and ministering in Warthen, GA at Bethlehem Baptist Church. The last three years have been anything but normal, but I do believe that’s been part of what has endeared us to the area. It was so nice to experience a genuinely small-town atmosphere, especially during COVID.
But don’t misunderstand me, there are downsides to living and ministering in a small community. For one, having to drive an hour and a half to go to the hospital or to a doctor for anything other than a sniffle got a little old. My wife and I would schedule our appointments and shopping on the same day so that we wouldn’t have to make multiple trips . . . three hours on the road for one appointment was insanity.
Another downside is the simple fact that everyone in a small community either knows everyone else or they’re related in some way. This makes talking with someone in secret nearly impossible. And for the love of all that’s civil, NEVER say anything bad about somebody unless you want everyone to know.
But everyone knowing everyone is also a sweet and wholesome thing, too! Sure, the slightest misspoken word can bring all hades down on one’s head, but everyone being in everyone else’s business can also prove beneficial when times are hard. The willingness to help each other out of a jam is not something you find as often in larger communities.
A Special Breed
However, when it comes to pastoring a small church in a small community, it takes a special breed of person to succeed. Evidently, I’m not that kind of person.
Small churches in small, rural communities more often desire a pastor who:
assumes the role of fun uncle, wise grandfather, or ever-present brother-in-law who stops by unannounced to see what’s for dinner
is always soft-spoken and deliberate with his words, never blunt
charms the non-attending church members into returning
says the most comforting things at all funerals (yes, even for the heathen)
has a working understanding of all outdoor activities, including, but not limited to, hunting, fishing, trucks, factory work, grilling, the military life, chainsaws, and deep-frying turkeys
and rarely preaches Greek and Hebrew-free sermons that are longer than 25 minutes.
So, does that mean that I’m not called to the pastorate if I’m not like the gentle shepherd above? Heavens, no!
Granted, if I’m to be honest, being told more than once that I’m not the “best pastor” led to some depressing days. Honestly, it stung. I even found myself doing some self-re-evaluations.
The conclusion was that yes, I’m called; I’m just different.
I sometimes think of the World War 2 generals like Eisenhower and Patton. If you know your history, General Dwight D. Eisenhower and General George S. Patton were both super patriotic military geniuses, but their personalities couldn’t have been more different. One was a calm, calculated, diplomatic leader whose gifts and abilities led him to be selected as the Allied Supreme Commander during WWII. The other was a complicated, often eccentric, warrior who loathed cowardice and felt destined for glory on the field of battle.
I might be more of a Patton than an Eisenhower, just without the cursing and all the reincarnation beliefs. However, if there was any general with which I would aspire to be compared to, it would be General Robert E. Lee, a man of utmost loyalty and conviction who led an army of men willing to follow him into the mouth of hell itself. He was both a warrior AND a gentleman.
But I’m not called to be a general.
My calling is to preach and teach the Word of God without apology or intimidation. More than an itinerate evangelist, my calling extends to laying doctrinal foundations on which can be built the solid and grounded faiths which can withstand the strongest storms of life. So, this kind of teaching and preaching requires time with a congregation and cannot be achieved through one or two series of sermons.
I’m a Stirrer
What’s more, when I first arrived at Bethlehem Baptist, it wasn’t long before one of our deacons gave me the nickname of “Spoon”. . . because I had the tendency to “stir things up.” It wasn’t that I tried to cause problems or move too quickly; it was just my personality. As much as I believe in tradition, “the way things have always been” can be the enemy of souls and the waster of precious, irreplicable time.
When things are left to sit and settle for too long, the ingredients separate and lose their combined effectiveness. Sometimes stirring or shaking things up involves nothing more than reawakening the inherent abilities already present. Remember what Paul told Timothy?
Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
2 Timothy 1:6
And let’s not forget the words of Peter.
Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance . . . This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance . . .
2 Peter 1:13; 3:1
Please don’t misunderstand me, I think it is important for every God-called pastor to show love and compassion to his flock by being there for them through the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows of life. However, there is a reason that in Acts chapter 6 the infant Church in Jerusalem was instructed to select the first official deacons. I like the way it reads in the following translation.
So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”
Acts 6:2-4 NLT
Note, the apostles had no problem “running a food program” in the beginning. It only became a problem when it began to take away from their primary responsibilities: prayer and teaching the Word.
How We’ll All Be Happy
Don’t expect me to show up to your home unannounced.
Don’t expect me to visit you in the hospital if I don’t know you’re there.
Don’t expect me to stalk you and show up uninvited to all your activities. Invite me and I will come!
I mean, seriously, do you REALLY want me showing up when you least expect it?
That’s a job for a deacon 😉
Therefore, give me a place where I can pray, study, teach and preach the inerrant, all-sufficient Word of God, or as the apostle Paul would say, “the whole gospel,” and I will have found my happy place.
“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”
“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” – Luke 18:11, 13
The Perfect Candidate
Imagine that instead of the temple, a Pharisee and a publican walked into a pastoral search committee meeting. They walk in, introduce themselves, and compare resumes.
Which one do you think would be offered the position? I believe it would be the one who meets the average preconception of what every Christian fit for service should be. I believe the Pharisee, the one with the perfect resume and appearance, would be the first considered.
But God doesn’t use perfect people; He uses REAL people. Unfortunately, there are many men and women in the church who feel inferior and useless because of their sinful and broken pasts. They are the people who sit on the pews, week after week, doing all they can to be faithful in life, but are forbidden to hold positions in the church. They are much like the Publican, men and women who know they have failed in the past, but want to be forgiven and start new.
Genesis of Dysfunction
A while back I read through the book of Genesis in a couple of sittings. Reading a book of the Bible that way, especially in a different translation, can help you see the story from a new perspective. This time I was just astounded at how messed up these people really were! There was so much “stuff” going on that if it were today, it would make an episode of Jerry Springer look tame!
Consider, if nothing else, the sad story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. This was a seriously messed up family with real marital problems. At one point, Leah and Rachel get into a jealous argument over a son’s mandrakes. Just imagine you were a marriage counselor and listened in to the following story…
Reuben went out during the wheat harvest and found some mandrakes in the field. When he brought them to his mother, Leah, Rachel asked, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But Leah replied to her, “Isn’t it enough that you have taken my husband? Now you also want my son’s mandrakes?“
“Well,” Rachel said, “you can sleep with him tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.” When Jacob came in from the field that evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come with me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So Jacob slept with her that night. – Geneses 30:14:16 HCSB
Check this out…
Twice Abraham told other people that his wife, Sarah, was his sister so that he would not be harmed.
Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him to traveling salesmen.
Jacob and Esau were seriously at odds.
Leah, poor thing, kept trying to have children so that her husband, Jacob would love her.
And there’s more!
Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, got him drunk on his wedding night and gave him the wrong wife – on purpose.
The son’s of Jacob (founders of ten of the tribes of Israel) lied to a bunch of men about making a covenant, then proceeded to slaughter all of them after they had convinced them to be circumcised.
It just goes on and on. Messed up, I am telling you! MESSED UP!
God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” How is this even possible?
If God can use Abraham and his family – with all their problems – to bless the nations, then He can use ANYBODY!
Greetings and all that good stuff! This is the day that the Lord has made, so get happy!
Today (Thursday) at 9 a.m. (eastern), a video I made premiered on YouTube. The video is of a Power Point presentation, one that I delivered on Discord, but few had the chance to see.
This YouTube video contains me narrating the presentation, which also contains video of things in Pakistan.
One thing important to note, however, is that in one of the videos you will see a big bus nearly hit us head-on. We call them “killer busses,” because they don’t slow down for anything. Sadly, Victor Sammuel and his family were in an accident yesterday in volving one of these “killers.” It nearly killed them!
Only by the grace of God did Victor, Sophia, Jamal, and Zoe escape the accident without injury. The Toyota Camry they were driving, on the other hand, did not fare well. It will need to be replaced, and they don’t have insurance. If you can help toward this, let me know.
The bus never stopped, either.
Please, when you have the time, watch the PowerPoint presentation I made. I would love to hear your thoughts.
There are always going to be people who question your plans. Not even the Apostle Paul was immune from the naysaying that came not from enemies, but from his most trusted companions. That’s not saying I’m anything like Paul, but I can sympathize with him.
When I made known my desire to go to Pakistan, as I said before, not one single person within my circle of friends and family approved. No, it was more like, “Yeah, riiiight.” And when they were not laughingly questioning my sanity, they were outright warning me that I would probably be killed or kidnapped – then killed.
But like when Paul knew that it was God’s will for him to go to Jerusalem, even though everyone advised against it (Acts 21:12-14), I knew that it was God who was opening the door for me to make this trip.
But how did I know? This is a question that deserves discussing.
How was I so sure that God was leading me to visit Pakistan? How could I be sure that it wasn’t my own desires, my thirst for adventure, or some deep-seated need to prove myself? Granted, the adventure was compelling and there was certainly a need to prove something about myself, but I also wanted to “prove” God!
As a pastor, people look to me for spiritual guidance. They look to me for answers regarding the Bible and how one’s faith can be applicable to life. Yet, when the rubber meets the hot asphalt, most Christians forget from where I power comes. The average Christian keeps the battle-winning Captain of the Lord of Hosts relegated to the cute stories told in Sunday School and forgets that He is still the Conquering King. Therefore, it’s no wonder they were worried for me – they were forgetting Whom they served!
I’ve been forced to put my God to the test in the past, and He was faithful as He promised. I’ve also witnessed Him supernaturally deliver me from a would-be killer who had planned to put a bullet in my head (while I was delivering pizza in Hopkinsville, KY). And, honestly, it’s because of these things, and others, that I kind of felt like young David when he was questioned about going up against Goliath (1 Samuel 17:34-37).
Friends, do you serve the living God that delivered David from the lion, the bear, and Goliath? Do you serve the God who delivered His people out of Egypt? Do you serve the God who opens prison doors? Do you serve the Mighty God who told Joshua, “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest (Joshua 1:9)”?
If you do – if you serve the God of David, Daniel, Moses, Joshua, etc. – then maybe you can understand the frustration and indignation I felt. If this trip was being orchestrated by the true and living God, then I believed without a doubt that He would take care of me.
But once again, was this trip put on my heart by God, or was I just seeking a thrill?
I guess the answer is simple to me, but unless you know what it’s like to walk with the Lord for a while it might sound crazy. What it amounts to is a legal term I learned when my youngest daughter competed in mock trial – “preponderance of evidence.” In other words, knowing the will of God for one’s life rarely comes down to one thing or another, but a combination of things, even a culmination of affirmations.
Consider the following points:
There was definitely a need in Pakistan
I have been supporting a ministry for years, even risking my own reputation
A plea was made for me to come
There was a clear and distinct objective my going would accomplish
There had been much prayer
My original feelings were a big “NO!”, but my heart became burdened over time
A sense of urgency existed
Not going would only serve to relieve me of danger, but the ministry abroad would only suffer
Now, more than ever before, my position and reputation could prove invaluable to others in need
People were willing to give generously when they knew I was actually going.
My going would have a direct impact on life and death circumstances involving hundreds of children.
I was never, ever, not once afraid or intimidated, nor did I doubt that God would provide the means to do everything that needed to be done.
I wanted people to see the God we serve is still the God of the Bible and Joshua 1:9 still applies!
It wasn’t one thing; it was multiple things! And on top of all that, when we seek to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh, His desires become our desires.
Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. – Psalm 37:4-5 KJV
But there’s one more thing. God could have stopped this trip many times. I even asked Him to stop me from moving forward with it if it was against His will. Yet, doors kept opening and I could do nothing less than walk forward till they closed.
Stay tuned! Next time I will address the actual objectives this trip to Pakistan was meant to accomplish.
Look, I don’t have a couple of grand to spend on marketing. Yes, I know that the publisher can do things I can’t. But dang! I just can’t fork out that kind of money for some polished video and other bells and whistles.
However, given that I have an iPhone and a little creativity, nothing stopped me from making my OWN video! I know, it’s a lot longer than the kind the big marketing folk make, but who cares?
I can edit later, if needed, but I hope you like this version.
Look, I know it’s a bad time to ask you to buy anything, especially since, you know, inflation and all that.
However, I’d really love for you to get a copy of my new book in your hands. Believe me, you’ll find it very encouraging and helpful for you and your local congregation.
Don’t believe me? Read this comment:
A cool program for door-to-door community ministry in today’s mistrustful social environment. This is a complete step by step program that can be implemented by any small (or large) church. Street of the Week is not “in your face” or obnoxious. It leans on the power of praying specifically for the people on a given street and delivering fresh cookies!
Thank you for considering it, both for you, your pastor, and a friend 🙂
Recently I shared with some close friends and others for which I have great respect the first example of a potential cover for my next book. I wanted input, but mainly on the layout, graphics, etc. However, a few of them took a slight issue with the subtitle: “Reinventing Door-to-Door Ministry for a Calloused Culture and a Cowardly Church.”
What did they say about it? Well, maybe what you are thinking, too. They advised I tone it down, if only a little, because a lot of church folk have “thin skin.” That’s a no brainer.
However, not to be obstinate, but if I change the title of a book that is designed to specifically address the actual cowardice running rampant in a large part of the Church, would I not be guilty of the same?
I just can’t change it. It has to stay.
But if it helps, let me share with you the short introduction to “You’re Our Street of the Week: Reinventing Door-to-Door Ministry for a Calloused Culture and a Cowardly Church.”
Thank you so much for either picking up a copy or downloading the digital version of this manual for developing a “Street of the Week” outreach ministry. It is a tremendous blessing to me that you have the desire to reach your community with the love and message of Jesus Christ!
When you read the subtitle, did it shock you? You know, the part where I called the Church cowardly? I can sympathize. Honestly, it stung my spirit a little when I typed it for the first time. After all, we are the Church Triumphant marching toward Zion, and not even the gates of hell can stand against us! Yet, no scientific survey is needed to conclude that most professing Christians – even active church members – are terrified of knocking on a stranger’s door, even in their own community!
But it’s not just the fearful saint; it’s the cynical and suspicious public that’s grown calloused to door-to-door visits. And it’s not just Christians they distrust; it’s every stranger who shows up uninvited and unannounced to their front door. There used to be a day in America when a person could make a living going door-to-door selling vacuum cleaners, brushes, encyclopedias, life insurance, and even Bibles! People were more trusting, more hospitable, and even naïve. Not today. No way!
People have caught on and don’t want to be “sold” anything, especially from somebody who rudely interrupted their evening meal. On top of that, the average Christian is either too nice to bother anyone or too intimidated by the “don’t judge me” culture to openly share their faith.
So, how are the instructions in this little book supposed to change anything? What in this book is going to re-vitalize an obsolete, antiquated, and polarizing church ministry which strikes fear into nearly every believer? Will the instructions within calm nerves, stop knees from quaking, and miraculously inject the courage of a lion into the participant’s heart?
YES! I am bold enough to promise that YES, it will do just that! But there’s only one…and it’s a biggie…just one BIG requirement. Are you ready for it?
The draft is still with the editors, but it won’t be too long till it’s finished and available.
I hope every one is doing well on this sunny Wednesday afternoon in Georgia! I know some of you have snow and rain, but for now it’s in the high 40’s and bright and sunny where I am at.
I just wanted to take a moment to share some photos of what I did this past Sunday morning – I preached in Pakistan!
For those of you who don’t know, I do my best to help support a worthy ministry in Pakistan and my pastor friend, Victor Sammuel. I will tell you more in a future post.
Anyway, this past Sunday morning I was able to speak to Victor’s congregation during their morning worship service – at 1 a.m.! Talk about an “early service”!
And what is awesome is that I was asked to preach each Sunday morning the rest of this month!
But this is more than simply live-streaming our regular services at church. This is me speaking live to a group of Christians in a Muslim nation where persecution is common (even expected) and the average wage of a teacher in a Christian school is $60 a month (more about that later, too).
I would just encourage you to pray for me and for this congregation as I preach and teach God’s Word to a congregation who genuinely want to hear whatever I have to say.
And the topic they want to hear me speak on the most? The Rapture.