Tag Archives: Pastor

Thinking Out of the Box? Or Out of My Mind?

The Facts

It should be common knowledge for most of you, at least those of you who regularly read my blog – because you are the more intelligent of all readers – that not all pastors are “fully funded.” In other words, over half of church pastors are what we call bi-vocational (i.e., they work at least a second job).

Well, it might come as a surprise to learn that many pastors, such as myself, receive no compensation from a denomination, either. At best, most bi-vocational pastors receive a small or modest salary and possibly an expense account, even more rare a parsonage (house). In other words, we are not getting wealthy from what we are called to do.

You see, the fact is that mega-churches make up only a small percentage of all churches. The vast majority of congregations in America have regular attendances of less than 400, and a good 30+% have less than 100 regular members. Why, then, would one choose to enter the ministry (accept the call), spend tens of thousands of dollars on years of education (4-10), only to expect a career that pays, on average, less than a 1st-year school teacher? Believe me, it’s not about the money.

We do it because we are called. We go because we are sent. And, in whatever way we can, if we have to, we will make tents (Acts 18:3). That’s why we work more than one job, if we have to, so that we can do what pastors do – shepherd the flock of God.

The Thought

But here is where I feel I was thinking out of the box yesterday afternoon: What if bi-vocational pastors could be supported like missionaries?

Stop and think about it. There are some areas where churches are few, and the ones that are there cannot afford to pay a pastor any kind of living wage (and, by the way, it’s biblical to pay a pastor). These little churches would love to have a seminary-educated minister teach and preach the Word of God, but most of the time end up searching for years until they wind up accepting whomever they can get. Not a good situation.

What if pastors of smaller congregations could raise support, much like what many missionaries do before going into the field? You do realize that the small, bible-teaching church down the road – the one which still serves a purpose and meets a specific demographic need – is still as important to the Body as the large church on the hill, don’t you? Whenever a small church closes its doors because of a lack of available leadership, the whole Kingdom suffers. Would it not be reasonable, therefore, to suggest supporting at least in some small ways, the pastors of these churches? Granted, there must be some considerations, but is it not a reasonable thought?

Pastoring a church takes time, and there are only so many hours in the day. When one has a family (if only a wife), puts 20-30 hours a week into church-related work and activity, and then has to maintain a “secular” career on top of that, something will suffer. When you add to the mix a pastor who is primarily trained and educated in ministry, not a technical skill-related field, the types of employment available – including the hours and days one must work – become more and more limited.

Am I thinking out of the box, or am I out of my mind? Are there ways this could be developed? Would it be something you would consider? Are there other options worth exploring?

What are your thoughts? 

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Filed under Christian Unity, Church, Preaching

I’m Not a Superhero

Email Ads

I don’t know how it happens, but somehow my email gets flooded with “half-off” offers and all such craziness. Even though I delete cookies, unsubscribe to stuff, and threaten friends, people still send me links to things I can’t afford.

Now, honestly, not all of the ads are worthless. As a matter of fact, if I had the money, I’d take advantage of some of the Groupon offers. Come to think of it, I should have taken advantage of some of those coupons before my last anniversary! Dang it! Why didn’t I think of that?

Once, on Facebook, someone sent me a link to a company selling t-shirts. The one that caught their attention was one that read, “I’m a School Bus Driver. What’s your superpower?” I thought that was cool! Alas, I didn’t have $20 to spend on a t-shirt, even though I wanted it.

However, it was not long after the offer for the first t-shirt that I got another offer. This time I wasn’t so happy.

Super Pastor

Dear reader, dear friend, dear occasional stalker, etc., I am not a superhero!

photoFor those of you who may be having this read to you, to the right is a picture of the advertisement as it appeared on my cell phone. It shows a black t-shirt that has printed on the front: “I’m a PASTOR, what’s your SUPERPOWER?”

Unlike when I saw the one about being school bus driver, when I saw this t-shirt design, I didn’t laugh, smile, or even grin; it ticked me off.

Folks, I don’t even joke about this. Pastors are already placed on unwanted pedestals, live in glass houses, and are thought of as superhuman. We, along with our families, are expected to have special powers of some kind, almost like Baptist wizards, impervious to the spells of the dark lord.

But, we are not special, only our calling is. Pastors are not gifted with superpowers, and to suggest that only adds to the expectation that we can do everything perfectly, never getting tired, never mouthing off to our kids, and always having the right answer for everything.

Super Savior

The only thing I can say is that God called me to a humbling “profession.” I did not choose to do what I do; He put the desire in my heart. And unlike other careers, like bus driver, fire fighter, school teacher, etc., no amount of education, training, or experience can make us successful at what we pastors do; only the living presence of Jesus can do that.

I have no super power other than the power of Christ within me. As a matter of fact, the weaker I am – the more the “kryptonite” affects me – the more He is able to work through me (Phil. 4:13).

And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 KJV

I am only human. I have no superpower. All I have is a Super Savior.

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Filed under ministry, Preaching

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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Filed under ministry, Preaching

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

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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Filed under Church, ministry

Having Fun While Filling In

One thing about not regularly pastoring a congregation is that I get a chance to visit other churches. Last night I got to visit New Salem Baptist Church and fill in for the regular pastor, Alan Rogers.

If you’ve never done it before, filling in for another pastor can be rather fun. In other words, it’s always refreshing to preach from someone else’s pulpit when there’s no risk of you being fired. HA!

So, just in case I have many more opportunities to cover for other pastors while on vacation or at a conference, or whatever, here are some sermon ideas I’m considering. Just let me know when you want me to come preach one….(cue the maniacal BWWAAAHAHAHA!)

  1. “Put On that New Robe: Why Congregations Should Buy Their Pastor a New Suit
  2. “Beautiful Are the Feet that Carry the Gospel: Keeping Your Pastor’s Feet Healthy and Happy In New Shoes
  3. “Smite a Scorner: Ways to Deal with Gossiping In the Congregation
  4.  “The Hem of His Garment: Why Jesus Is Concerned With How We Dress
  5.  “The Holy Spirit: What Scares Baptist More than a Clinton
  6. “Deacons: Who, What, When, Where, and How to Deal With Them
  7. “The Pastor’s Family: Living In a Glass House with Those Who’d Love to Throw a Rock Back

Below is a picture of me preaching at New Salem Baptist in Soddy-Daisy, TN. They had a big screen behind me, but it was not put to use when I was talking. Therefore, I did a little editing. What do you think?

img_3073

Would you like to know why I HATE the devil? If so, that’ll be my next post.

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Filed under baptist, Church, Humor, Preaching

The One Truth About Pastors You Need to Hear

The following guest post was submitted by Matthew Malin, a young man who blogs over at Confessions: Bringing to light that which is hidden. As a matter of disclosure, I did not ask Matthew to write this, nor did I edit what he wrote. So… All I can say is that somebody’s evidently been around the block and knows what he’s talking about.


 

I’ve been a pastor’s child for 17 of the 23 years I’ve been on this earth. I’m not writing this article to tell you that it’s been completely easy. I’m also not here to inform you that it was hell on earth. It was neither easy nor hell but rather a comfortable middle, I suppose.

Out of the many years spent watching my mother and father traverse the rocky waters of ministry has come a longing for “outsiders” to know what it’s like. Sometimes, if I’m being honest, I wish that the congregation would have had to live in our shoes if but for a day. Maybe then they would realize that we were only humans too.

My father has never been Superman. Albeit he is my hero but he was not created to be all things to all people at any time. My mother, as much as I respect and adore her for her strength, was never fashioned by God to fill every hole in the church as a pastor’s wife. They were created as human beings, like the rest of us, and called to be preachers and teachers of the Gospel.

This is the message that I hope to lovingly convey to you today: Your pastor and his family are not gods. They are not the only thread keeping your church from falling apart. They are not the saviors of your spiritual life. They are, however, human beings with emotions, desires, hurts, longings, and passions just like you. And as much as you need other people in the faith to come alongside you to encourage you, they need it as well, if not more.
Our Story:

Growing up I thought ministry was cool. My dad was the youth pastor of our church which meant I got to tag along on most youth events, much to the chagrin of the “cool” kids. I mean, no one wants an obnoxious eight-year-old around, right? Despite the perceived negativity of those I wished to associate with, I looked forward to every time I could see my dad at work.

My father was instrumental in passing on a passion for the ministry to me. Seeing his drive, his passion, and his love for the church of Christ was contagious. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to do what he did.

Then it got hard.

You see, as I grew I became privy to some of the “behind the scenes” information concerning the inner workings of church life. To summarize it all, I didn’t like what I heard and I borderline hated what I saw.

The more involved I became with ministry the more hurt I subjected myself to. There were those who openly condemned my father for his choices. There were those who did so secretively. Many professed love for our family but that “love” quickly died when something did not go their way. Suffice it to say, my family has gone through hell in the ministry.

I want to be very clear, though. My family and I do not hate ministry. It is only by God’s gracious hand that my father continues to shepherd a local body, that I am pursuing a pastoral role, and that my sisters all have a desire to be missionaries and pastor’s wives. After all that we have seen and had happen to us, this is nothing short of a miracle.

However, that never stopped us, even to this day, from wondering why. Why were we always expected to fill every hole in the church’s ministry? Why were we expected to be perfect? Why did so many say that they loved us only to hurt us in the end? Why were so many people unfaithful to God and the church body? Why would someone do such a thing to another soul? Why did no one ever stop to think about our spiritual needs?
Why does this matter?

I fully believe that our Christian culture has created an aura, a stigma if you will, that the Pastor is some sort of “god” capable of accomplishing any and every role set before him. The Pastor is to be preacher, teacher, shepherd, counselor, friend, janitor, organizer, committee leader, father, husband, coach etc…etc…He’s supposed to be the one that fixes all of the complaints brought to him. He’s supposed to right every wrong. He’s to never slip up in the flesh lest someone think he’s less than perfect. He’s not supposed to need discipleship, guidance, and counseling. He’s the pastor, he should know it all by now, right?

Being a pastor and being a part of a pastor’s family can be incredibly lonely because of this thinking. It is as if we, sinful people such as you, are supposed to live and exceed a higher expectation of holiness because of a job title. Truth be told, we need the Gospel just as much as you do.

Your pastor, his wife, and their children need to be encouraged. They have to be. The devil is attacking them and tempting them to despair. There is a target on their back. Why is it that you hear of so many pastors falling out of ministry because of sin, burn out, or apathy? It is simply because the devil is trying his hardest to kill them.

The devil is trying to kill your pastor and his family.

He wants them to die.

He’s doing whatever it takes.

Let’s be honest, sometimes he uses you to accomplish that. I hope that I do not speak without compassion but I must say that the people of God are most commonly the most effective tools of the devil. I know this because I have seen it and I am far too often such a tool as well.

What, then, is our purpose?

The primary goal of every believer, not just a pastor, is to preach the Gospel and make disciples. Yet somehow we’ve taught ourselves to believe that this is the pastor’s role and only he can do it. In all reality, every believer has been called to this life. Every Christian should be actively preaching and reproducing. The “pastor” is simply a man called to lead a specific body of Christ into doing this.

He is charged with teaching, encouragement, rebuke, and discipleship. Yet so many pastors don’t have time for any of those things because the color of the carpet needs to be decided upon. Minor example but does my point come across? We are far too concerned with that which doesn’t matter. So much so that we lose sight of that which does.

Can I encourage you to forget the minuscule objectives for your church that you may have? The only objective we should be pursuing is the spread of the Gospel to all people. Our primary goal should not be having 150 committees for every ministry in the church. Our goal should not be to get our way with our preferred style of music, Bible translation, or style of chair in the auditorium.

Our goal is the Gospel of Christ penetrating hearts to all nations and to all peoples.

Unbelievers need the Gospel. You need the Gospel. Your pastor and his family need the Gospel.

Can I encourage you, one Christian to another, to take care of your pastor and his family? Whether it be through encouraging word or by keeping a complaint to yourself, you’re showing them love. Maybe it’s by way of a card? If your pastor has small children then offer to babysit one night so that he and his wife can go on a date. Whatever it may be, reach out to them.

They need Jesus just as much as anyone else.
Final Thoughts:

Despite your pastor being a sinful man, if he is genuinely pursuing Christ for himself, his family, and you, then nothing else really matters. There are many men and women in the ministry only pursuing personal gain. If you have a pastor who faithfully preaches the Gospel and isn’t afraid to stand on truth, I can guarantee you that the Devil wants to destroy him. Be in prayer for your pastor but don’t stop there. Reach out, make an effort, and try to stop complaining so much. 😉

I love the ministry. I love the church. I hate the sin. I hate it in your life and I hate it in mine. I wish for us to be in heaven so that we could be free from its impact but we know that God is faithful. He will show himself so in your life and in those around you so long as you remain obedient and humble. Seek the Lord with all of your heart and live a life patterned by the transformational love of Christ. You’ll be amazed by the difference He can make.

God bless.

 

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Filed under ministry