Tag Archives: Pigeon Forge Tennessee

Friday Night Thoughts of Encouragement (1/25/19)

It’s Friday night in Pigeon Forge, TN, the place where Dolly Parton is famous, there’s snow on the Smokey Mountains, and legal moonshine is a hot commodity.

It’s also the place where every year at this time bivocational pastors and their wives come together for a wonderful and critical time of fellowship – the kind that says, “I know what you’re going through…you’re not alone.”

If you follow me on Facebook, you will notice that I shared some of the music and speakers live.

Below is a link to a powerful message, more like a charge to us pastors, by Dr. Randy Davis, President and Executive Director of the TBMB. (At one point I knock over my iPad – sorry)

But if you are a bivocational pastor in the state of Tennessee and you are not here, the real question is why aren’t you here?

I know that it’s not always easy to get away for a Thursday through Saturday, maybe even the Sunday, too. But my wife and I plan for this retreat every year because it is the highlight of the year for us. There’s barely anything else like it.

Unfortunately, so many pastors are loners. They think that getting together with other pastors is a sign of weakness, unless, that is, the purpose for getting together is a time to flex their preaching muscles or do anything that doesn’t include admitting you’re less than superman.

But I’m a little bit embarrassed for our own association of Baptist churches in our county. One association of Southern Baptist churches had only 12 churches, as opposed to my county’s 100+. Yet, that little association of SBC churches reportedly had 100% participation in this event, while only 3 pastors from churches in our association came! I was one of them!

They just don’t understand what they are missing!

To be honest, I came to this retreat with a very heavy heart and beyond discouraged. I was down, stiff, a little resentful, and a tad bit skeptical of whether or not this time the retreat would benefit me, my wife, or my church.

Then came the time for the first speaker to speak (at least the first one we were able to hear, because we came in a couple of hours after the whole thing started). He asked us all to turn in our Bibles to 2 Corinthians and stand as we all read the 1st verse of chapter 4…

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. – 2 Corinthians 4:1 NKJV

Without exaggerating, I broke down into sobs before the last word of that verse was able to be read aloud. God knew exactly what I needed at that moment…and I would even bet money I wasn’t the only one.

After some more music and some more preaching to the preachers, I found myself at the front, right below the stage, in a conference room with a few hundred of my peers, on my knees before God confessing my lack of faith, my lack of wholeheartedness, and the pitiful state of my spiritual weaponry.

And I wasn’t the only one who did that; it was kneeling room only. I’m sure the carpet was damp with tears when all was said and done.

And that’s what I’m talking about: Pastors and their wives from all across the state of Tennessee, just regular folk who work jobs and pastor churches, getting real. Getting real with God, and with each other.

We are living in a time when godlessness is taking over. The last thing we need is a bunch of discouraged, downtrodden, scared shepherds trying to watch over the few sheep they do have as the wolves are emboldened.

What we really need are more ambassadors of Christ, spiritual warriors of the Cross, who realize that though they may be surrounded by an encroaching enemy, the battle is not over! Surrounded by an army nearly twice his size, the truth of King Hezekiah’s words should be an encouragement to us…

“Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that [is] with him; for [there are] more with us than with him. “With him [is] an arm of flesh; but with us [is] the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah. – 2 Chronicles 32:7-8 NKJV

Tomorrow is the final day of this retreat, and I’m looking forward to the blessing. But I’m also more encouraged than yesterday to attack hell with a water pistol when I get back home.

With me is the LORD my God to help us and to fight our battles – I am not alone!

I am unwavering!

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Tent Makers Unite!

In February of 2012 my wife and I decided to attend a special retreat for bivocational ministers and their wives. The retreat was held in Pigeon Forge, TN, at the Music Road Hotel and Convention Center.

We had a great time.

Bi-Vocational

Just in case the above term is unfamiliar to you, a bivocational minister is one who performs the duties expected of a full-time minister/pastor, while also having to maintain other (secular) employment. The size of their church or congregation (or how much they are compensated) has no bearing on their abilities or calling. They are only serving where God has sent them.

Unfortunately, bivocational pastors are often stigmatized as “second-rate” leaders. Some people think that if they were more qualified, more gifted, or better speakers they would pastor larger churches. The fact is that most churches, especially in my denomination, are led by men who are more than qualified to maintain a “higher station.” However, the real issue is that most congregations are smaller (35-100) and cannot afford to pay a full-time pastor.

Tent Makers

So, bivocational pastors carry on in the tradition of the Apostle Paul. Although Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:14 that it is perfectly acceptable for “those who preach the Good News [to] be supported by those who benefit from it (NLT),” he chose to continue to make tents (Acts 18:1-3). But unlike Paul, many of today’s bivocational pastors have to work another job in order to survive. Some do it by choice, but most do it out of necessity, especially those with families.

Now, it may sound bad, but there is an upside to being bivocational: we know what it is like to live in the real world. We have to deal with employers and employees. We know what it’s like to have problems at work, then go to church. We have schedules to juggle, bills to pay, etc. We are just like the people to which we minister. We don’t live in ivory towers.

Extra Tough

But one of the real downsides to being a bivocational pastor is the loneliness. Many don’t understand that we have the same demands, if not more, as pastors of larger churches – yet, with no staff. On top of that, we don’t have time to go on ministry retreats, sabbaticals, or attend conferences during the week. We can’t even get together with other pastors for breakfast to “talk shop” like full-time ministers do – because we’re usually at work. And because of all of this, we get lonely. We get discouraged. We get tired. But it doesn’t have to be that way all the time.

Bivocational Pastors and Wives Retreat

I’ve said a lot to say this: even though it is hard to make the time, sometimes we have to make the time, regardless. That is why, even though it was inconvenient, my wife and I went to the retreat in Pigeon Forge. We needed the encouragement. We needed to be around others in the same boat, on the same sea.

If you are a bivocational minister, you need to seek out and maintain friendships with other men you can trust, especially men in the same kind of ministry. It is so important that you don’t try to do things alone. Likewise, there are probably other men out there who could use your friendship.

Churches, do your pastor and yourselves a favor: plan to send your pastor and his wife on a retreat. Both of you will benefit from the encouragement. He will be strengthened, and his burden will be lightened.

Towards the end of our retreat, a beautiful time of prayer took place. It was a little impractical for us to wash each other’s feet, but we did do something special. Scripture says “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news,” but sometimes those feet don’t feel so beautiful, or loved. I wish all of you could have heard the weeping and seen the tears as grown men, God’s men, got on their knees and humbly prayed over the feet of their brothers. I felt like I was in a room full of heroes.

One member came up to me the Sunday after the retreat and asked, “Something happened to you last week when you were gone, didn’t it?

I said, “Sure did…

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