Polishing the Pulpit 2017 – A LONG Review

Polishing the Pulpit 2017 – A LONG Review

Introduction

After attending Polishing the Pulpit for the past three years and a few times before 2015, I felt the need to share a few thoughts on Polishing the Pulpit and offer few suggestions for those looking to attend in the coming years.

The Polishing the Pulpit Workshop is an annual event among the churches of Christ in Sevierville, TN. This last year there were over 4,700 individuals attending this workshop. The workshop is a refresher for many preachers, elders, deacons and members across the brotherhood. The sessions are given by speakers, both well-known and not so well-known, ranging from current challenges in the church to the basics of the Bible.

This year’s Polishing the Pulpit Workshop was held on August 18 – 24, 2017

A Few Notes: (1) The pictures in the article below are taking from the Polishing the Pulpit Guidebook handed out to registered attendees.  (2) From this point forward, Polishing the Pulpit will be known as PTP.

Brief Background of PTP

From the Polishing the Pulpit website:

Polishing the Pulpit began with three friends getting together to brainstorm sermon ideas. We soon invited other friends and someone said, “This is great! We should tell others.”

We did and invited a speaker to discuss sermon preparation and give sample sermons. Interest increased; more speakers were invited. We moved to a hotel conference area. We dreamed big. “Let’s invite the best speakers in the brotherhood and see who we can get.” They came. Wives wanted in, so we added women’s classes. While these great speakers were assembled in one place, we decided to offer classes for elders. They loved it. People began coming from all over the country.

Youth workers and deacons became interested. We added tracks for them. PTP moved to a larger event center in the Smoky Mountains. Attendance approached 1,000. Christians from other nations began coming.

“Why don’t you have classes for regular members?” we were asked. So, we added the Spiritual Renewal Weekend, as well as tracks for members, teens, and children. Attendance passed 4,100.

Source: https://polishingthepulpit.com/about-us/

Past Experiences

I have had the privilege of attending PTP several times; first in Chattanooga, then Birmingham and several times in Sevierville. In my short period of time, I have witnessed as the PTP workshop has grown and expanded their reach and their program.

My first experience with PTP was in Chattanooga, TN. At the time, PTP was smaller than it is now, but the material was just as well put together. Before the Chattanooga PTP, I had only heard of the workshop by word of mouth. After attending PTP in Chattanooga, I felt it was an excellent workshop for every member of the church, especially preachers.

My second experience was in Birmingham, Alabama and I could tell the workshop had grown in a variety of ways. The numbers of attendees had definitely grown and the classes had expanded to a larger schedule. In Birmingham, the workshop was well attended and I remember a variety of the lessons I heard during that year.

For the past three years, I have attended PTP in Sevierville, TN. I have never publicly reviewed PTP until this point.

My 2017 Experience

Let me begin by encouraging you to take this review for what it is worth — my review of PTP 2017.

Allow me also to set the background for my visit to PTP 2017. I had been on the road for over 1,800 miles before arriving at PTP.  I was a little tired, but I was ready to be refreshed and encouraged.

Now, saying that, also understand I do quite a bit of “hiding” at PTP. I normally sit in the back of the room; many times at a table and I keep to myself. I am not trying to be elusive, but I want to take a break from the normal day and spend my time gaining as many insights as possible.

There are many people I see at PTP that I have known from years past and sometimes we talk but most of the time we walk by each other. It is not that I do not want to speak, it is my desire to use this week as a moment to gain knowledge, relax and enjoy a little quietness.

With all that said, I bet next year I will found.

#bibleclass #polishingthepulpit

Funny personal storyLast year (2016) during one of the last session, I was sitting in the back of the room in my normal seat and noticed someone staring at me. I kept to myself, opened my small tablet and write something on Twitter. When I did I turned around to see the individual looking at me. He smiled and said, “You’re the Preacher’s Pen guy, aren’t you?”

 I laughed and said I was that guy. He said he had been trying to figure out where I was because he noticed the pictures I had posted on Twitter all week. It is great to be quiet sometimes. Anyway, if you decided to follow me on Twitter too you can follow the Preacher’s Pen here or my personal Twitter here.

Anyway, here are some quick thoughts on PTP 2017.

Hosting Location

For the past several years, the workshop has been held at the Sevierville Convention Center in Sevierville, TN. This provides an excellent location due to the size of the facilities and its location in the Sevierville/Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area.

The Convention center is in Sevierville and provides quick access to the western side of Pigeon Forge for the restaurants and area attractions.  Also, there are plenty of hotels near the convention center if you decide not to stay at the one attached to the Convention Center.

With close to 5,000 people to fit into a convention space, the facilities at Sevierville are excellent. While not picture perfect, the convention center provides the ability for a large room for a full gathering as well as smaller rooms and a large vendor display area with additional class rooms attached.

The Sevierville Church of Christ building is also used for some “off-campus” space.

A map of the facilities found in the book is included below so you can see the layout.

#polishingthepulpit

Area/Restaurants

The area provides some nice restaurants due to the overwhelming tourist attraction the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area has become over the past decade. You will be able to find national chain restaurants as well as smaller local resturants. The area has grown tremendously and provides for a nice vacation spot as well as a great place to have PTP.

You are able to attend sessions in the beauty of the Smokey Mountains and then go see the area if you would like.  There are many attractions and sights around the area for you to enjoy. I know several families who have made a vacation/PTP trip. They combined some relaxing times with class times and made it a great weekend for their family.

While the area is a great place to have a workshop like PTP, so is the time of the year. During the third week in August, many schools are already back in session or they are starting very soon. As a result, many people do not like to travel because of the time of year, which makes the area a little sparse of the tourism that so commonly occurs.

I will say there is a place to eat in the conference center, but I have never eaten there. I know several who did and they said the food was good. I have had a few cups of coffee there and was pleased.

Schedule

The schedule for PTP is huge. I am sure the logistics of finding speakers, then room for speakers while trying to anticipate the audience which might be present is an overwhelming task. The schedule is very detailed as it offers classes for all ages, all categories and many different topics.

The schedule is built for someone to gain as much as they want from the workshop. There are attendees who go to every session from early morning until late in the evening. There is a section for youth that has activities taking them late into the evening as well.

The classes begin at 7:00 am and continue until 9:45 pm. You can attend any class you would like, but you still need to find a time to grab a quick bite to eat as you go from class to class. (Note: Only women can attend the Women’s Classes.)

As you can see from a few pictures below, the schedule is packed. You can pick and choose to sessions and line up the various categories you would like to follow.

This is a page from the PTP Workshop booklet. This is a sample of part of the classes from Monday. At the time this article is being posted, the 2017 PTPT Workshop Schedule is still available online at https://polishingthepulpit.com/event/

#polishingthepulpit

Classes

Each lesson at PTP falls into a specific category. (See photo above) Having the classes arranged by category or tract, allows you to follow the different parts of the discussion.

Here are the class tract divisions as listed in the 2017 PTP Workshop Booklet:

#polishingthepulpit

One thing I have consistently enjoyed with PTP, is the topics for the classes. There are many topics that I would never have thought would be in a workshop, but they make a big difference. Who would have thought of having a class on “Church Building Security” a few years ago? There were a few classes dealing with the current social climate (ex. Transgenderism) that were well attended and provide relevant material.

Cost/Support

The registration cost for PTP was $225 for 2017. As the workshop has grown, the costs have risen to meet the workshop costs.  I tend not to think of this as a cost, but as support.

I do not mind paying a fee for registration if the material and workshop provide me with motivation, ideas and a readiness to apply what I have learned. However, when it comes to PTP, I am hearing good men who have dedicated their lives to preaching and teaching the Gospel of Christ. In doing so, they are not paid, but they are supported for what they are doing.

Further, I imagine a workshop of this magnitude undertakes more effort than many of realize due to its expanding size.  The costs of renting the facility would be huge because the entire space is rented during this time. The transportation of materials, equipment, and other necessary items is beyond my imagination.

So, when I support Polishing the Pulpit, I am supporting a good work which enables others to spread the gospel of Christ.

Note: You do not have to go for the entire week. There is a lower cost/support option for those who want to be part of the beginning weekend called the Spiritual Renewal Weekend.

Ideas to Save for PTP:

  • Stop drinking soft drinks and save the money you would have spent in a jar and use it for PTP 2018.
  • Sell books – How many books do you have laying around that you never read, will not read and do not plan to read? I know you are not supposed to sell books (as a rule), but this can help to save funds.
  • Plan now. Use a budget and save money now for PTP in 2018. DO not let it sneak up on you.

How to Keep Costs Down

This year, I kept the costs of attending the workshop to a minimum. I did this in two ways; first with the hotel and second with food.

I found a room at the Clarion Inn a few miles from the Sevierville Convention Center for $59 a night. This helped to keep the cost of the room down to a minimum.  If you want to defray the costs even more, then you can find someone to split a room. In fact, next year, I think I am going to rent a cabin and invite a few people to split the costs.

Regarding food, I have heard of a few people who got together at someone’s cabin and had a “potluck” meal. Everyone picked up something, or cooked something (if they could) and brought it to one location. This is a great idea not just to keep costs down, but to spend time fellowshipping with one another.

The second way I was able to keep costs at a minimum was to eat in the room. The room I stayed in had a microwave and a refrigerator; that is all I really need. I bought some groceries before I left home and carried them in a cooler. When I arrived at the hotel, I put everything in the refrigerator for the week.

(WARNING: adjust the temp on the fridge and keep an eye on it. Who knew you could freeze lettuce solid?)

I went to a local grocery store, Kroger, and bought frozen pre-cooked chicken I could warm up each time I had a salad. Each day for lunch, I drove back to the hotel and warmed up the chicken and ate a grilled (microwaved grilled) chicken salad. I was able to sit and relax while I checked email or watched a little television while eating. Not only did this save money, but I lost weight on the trip! Double-Bonus!

Additional Ways to Keep Costs Down:

  • Room with a group and split the costs. Several preachers could room together in a large cabin and split the costs evenly. They could also split the cost of food and lower costs further.
  • Search using a travel site and also look at a site like AirBnB.
  • Use this as an opportunity to drink lots of water. I took a case of water and loaded up the hotel fridge and carried one with me all the time. After walking from session to session all day, you will get your steps in.

A Few of My Secrets to PTP

Having attended PTP for a few years straight, I have learned a few secrets that I will share with you. One thing I like about attending workshops is how to derive the maximum amount of value with minimal effort. (Yes, call me lazy at times. However, it works)

Technology can be your friend at Polishing the Pulpit; if used appropriately. Here are a few ways you can gain some insights at Polishing the Pulpit…

(1) Download the PTP app. The app not only provides you with a schedule, but many of the speakers provide notes and information you can have available with a click or two. You can also review the sessions on the app. The app also has notifications to remind you of various events and changes during Polishing the Pulpit. It is a must have.

(2) Thumb Drive – “It’s what everyone really wants.” After the last lecture on Thursday, a thumb drive containing 90% of the lessons, along with some bonus material (singing, etc.) is given to each person attendee. This thumb drive is a valuable resource for several reasons: (1) You can listen to lectures all year long, (2) You can listen to the lectures you missed, (3) You have an audio library of more than 500 audios.

 

(3) Planning – If you want to get the best value, plan your week. I typically look through the app, not the book schedule, and add the lectures I want to here to my schedule. I will load up my schedule with every lesson I want to hear; even if some of them are at the same time. When I do this, I will then go back and find the ones I REALLY want to hear. Since I know I will get a thumb drive, it makes this process a little easier.

(4) Hotel Location – There are many hotels in the Sevierville/Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area but not all of them are the best. When booking your room, you can find low rates, but be sure they are not too far away from the Convention Center. It is a burden to have a room all the way across Pigeon Forge because you will be fighting traffic throughout the day. The traffic around dinner time can be a small nightmare if you are not ready. I have found that staying close to the convention center is worth the cost.

(4b) Saying the above, I have never stayed at the hotel by the convention center. I usually find a cheaper rate elsewhere and drive to the convention center. There are several hotels nearby with great rates. A short drive is not much if you are saving some money.

(5) Restaurants – Finding a place to eat in the area is always a dilemma due to a lot of places and the busyness of each one. I have found a few off the beaten path places from using the TripAdvisor app that are excellent. Most of the places I have found around the area had great food at excellent prices.

(6) Technology – The Convention Center has Wi-Fi that you are able to log into, but do not expect it to be blazing fast. The reason: every one of my brethren seems to be on it at any given time. Instead, I use the hotspot on my cell phone. It seems that most companies allow you to use your phone as a hotspot. Check with your phone carrier before taking my advice. I have found using my hotspot is much faster than the Wi-Fi.

What to do after PTP?

After attending a workshop like PTP, you come home with many ideas, thoughts, concerns, a few pages of notes, a thumb drive full of hundreds of audios and a need for a nap.

This is going to be where the rubber meets the road. How will you take all of the information you learned and use it for the glory of God?

This can be a challenging task.

Here are a few suggestions that I have begun to utilize:

(1) The first thing I do after arriving home is to take a break from PTP. Granted, I learned much, but I need to take time and look at the other areas of my life to reorient myself back into the normal swing of things. I am typically away from my family so I end up coming home, taking a short nap and relaxing with them for the evening.  Over the next few days, I find myself taking it easy as I prepare for the lesson I will present on Sunday.

(2) Review your notes. Personally, I take notes in almost every session and I like to go back and review those to see what I can rework into the ministry I am providing. This will take a few days, but I develop a list of what items to work on first. During this, I also see notes about re-listening to the sessions I found most impressive.

(3) Review the lectures you missed. In my case, there were a few lectures I wanted to hear, but they occurred at the same time of another one I wanted to hear. For those that I did not attend, but they were high on my list, I go back and listen to those first.

(4) Keep your booklet and create a “listen to list.” I feel that Jeff Archey mentioned this one night of PTP, but you can create a list of lectures to listen to as you drive to work, travel or just around the house. Use your booklet as your guide.

(5) Set a reminder list. Make a list, or set alarms on your phone to go back and review your notes and a few of your favorite lessons from time to time.

(6) Develop your own lessons. You can use the topics of the PTP lessons and the audio to begin to develop your own lessons for a Bible class, a sermon or personal study. Remember, do not plagiarize and if you use a lesson information to cite the source.

Additional things to consider:

  • Load the audio files on your computer. Thumb drives are easy to lose.
  • Write a review of PTP in your journal to reflect on later.
  • Write those you meet and begin to develop the relationship you have through Christ.
  • Write and thank the staff of PTP and let them know the experience you had throughout the week.
  • Encourage others to attend with you the next year.

Some Overall Pros and Cons of PTP

Pros:

  • Large Workshop offering many different options (many classes, many speakers)
  • A workshop with proven, lasting value (many attendees returning year after year)
  • A Thumb drive (you know that is what everyone wants)
  • Location (lots to do in the area)

Cons:

  • Cost/Support (a $225 registration might be too high for some)
  • Time of year is hard on some with school starting.
  • Location may be a far drive for some

Final Thoughts:

PTP 2017 was not only a week of instruction, lectures, and fellowship, but it was a week to spend with some of God’s family with a bunch of ideas intertwined.  Throughout the sessions, I was able to write down a variety of information to look up later and to start seeing how those ideas will be able to work in my ministry.

The sessions, as every year I have been, were always exceeded expectations. I look forward to the sessions and hearing how others deliver a message from the Word of God.

I was able to meet several people for the first time outside of social media, as well as renew some friendships with others I have not seen in several years. It is amazing how interlaced we are because of the blessings of God.

I am planning, Lord willing, to attend PTP 2018 on August 17- 23, 2018. I look forward to being with great speakers, great teachers and most of all, my brethren throughout the world for a few days in August.

Until then, see you later.

Just my thoughts,

 

When the Minister Goes Forward…

When the Minister Goes Forward…

Scrolling through my Facebook feed this past week, I noticed one of my minister friends had gone forward and asked the congregation to pray for him as he struggles in life. There is no need to mention his name, nor his struggle. All that is necessary is to ask that you pray for him and his family.

As a minister, I have found myself in the same position from time to time. A few weeks ago, I stood in front of the congregation, my spiritual family, after my own lesson and asked them to pray for me. There are things that I struggle with constantly and I need the prayers of my righteous, congregational family. To stand before a congregation you have just spoken to and request their prayers is a humbling, pride swallowing and can be a terrifying experience.

For a minister, someone who is supposed to be one of the most holy people around, to acknowledge sins, faults, struggles and to request prayers can be viewed differently by many people.

Consider the “Minister Perception…”

Quick, when you heard that a minister went forward, what was your first thought? Was it, “Oh no, this must be BIG.” Maybe it was, “Well, another preacher has fallen.” Or maybe you started to pray for him even before he started talking. How did you respond to his response?

For the world, when they hear that a minister has asked for prayers, the likes of Jim Bakker come to mind from the 80’s. The drastic fall of television preachers has brought many views to minds that are not reality. Over the past year there are many megachurch preachers who have fallen because of deceit, alcohol and personal issues. Each of these men has struggled in a particular area or area in which many people constantly struggle. Just because a man is a minster does not mean his problems start; it might mean Satan tries harder to accelerate the battle against him.

The perception that a minister is perfect is a stereotype which is unreal in the spiritual world. While ministers, strive to be perfect, no one can be perfect without Christ and no one will fit the image of perfection while walking on this ball of dirt we call Earth. Life is filled with struggles, frustrations and difficulties; even for the minister.

There is a perception regarding ministers, that they are perfect and without sin. A “perfect minister” perception is completely wrong. This idea of constant perfection is overwhelming and frightening. Many times ministers will not go forward because they do not want people to think “less of them.” They believe if they ask for prayers it shows weakness and weakness for a minister means you are not doing your job. Ministers, after all, are to be the if not one of the strongest people in the congregation. They are not supposed to struggle, have personal issues or even sin. This stereotype of ministers is just…well, wrong.

When you think of a minister it brings a stereotype of not doing wrong, having done wrong or even struggle. The fact is, ministers struggle. We struggle in the same area as members. Why? Because ministers are human. Ministers are human just like the people of the Bible.

Consider the Old Testament Priests…

In the Old Testament, the Levities were to offer sacrifices for their own sins before they offered sacrifices for the people (Hebrews 7.27), this was something that Jesus did not need to do because He was sinless (Hebrews 4.15). The instructions for the sin offering also included a stipulation when the priest sinned (Leviticus 4.3ff). The Levites were people just like you and I. Even though their status was one of a priest, they were still men with desires that could lead to sin. (See Leviticus 10.1,2)

A quick read of Leviticus 4, the discussion of the sin offering under the Old Law, will lead one to read these words, “When a leader sins…” The implication is that even the leaders of the nation of Israel were men who would fall short (sin) during their life. Why do leaders sin? Simple, they are human with human desires. God’s words tell us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3.23)

Even the Old Testament priests, in their constant working to assist the people in staying true to God faltered. To think of what it must have been like to deal with millions of people and their faults, sins and personal problems, must have been overwhelming.

Consider the New Testament Preachers…

Already, you have thought of Peter. You know Peter, he is the one who’s mouth is shaped like his foot. I wonder if every time Peter stood to speak the rest of the apostles got nervous. Whether you like Peter or not, you must acknowledge his zeal for the life of following Christ. It was Peter to which Christ said, “Get behind me Satan…” (Matthew 16.23). Jesus calls Peter, “Satan” right after Peter acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God; what many call the Good Confession. Peter sinned.

Remember when the rooster crowed? The moment the rooster crowed, the Lord turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22.61). Peter went out and wept because the words of Jesus were true…Peter did deny Christ. In fact, Peter’s denial of Christ was not just in words, but also in actions. When Peter was recognized as having been with Christ, he quickly denied the allegations by saying, “Woman I do not know Him.” (Luke 22.57). A few moments later, Peter denied Christ again by saying, “Man, I am not” after he was called out for being one of the followers of Christ (Luke 22.58).

The last denial of Christ from Peter was not just seen in his words, but his attitude. When recognized as being one of the followers of Christ and even his accent giving him away, Peter says, “I do not know the man.” (Matthew 26.74) Before saying those final words, Matthew records Peter invoked a curse upon himself and even began to swear. (Matthew 26.74)

Some believe the words “invoke a curse” can mean that Peter was calling upon God to strike Him if he was lying. Others believe the words mean,

“…but he cursed himself; “he began to imprecate himself”, as the Arabic version renders it; he made dreadful imprecations and wishes; wished that all the miseries and calamities he could think of might fall upon him, if he was one of the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, or knew anything of him…” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible; Dr. John Gill (1690-1771); E-Sword Electronic Edition)

“Then began he to curse and to swear (tote ērxato katathematizein kai omnuein). He repeated his denial with the addition of profanity to prove that he was telling the truth instead of the lie that they all knew. His repeated denials gave him away still more, for he could not pronounce the Judean gutterals. He called down on himself (katathematizein) imprecations in his desperate irritation and loss of self-control at his exposure.” (A. T. Robertson; Word Pictures in the New Testament; E-Sword Electronic Edition)

“To curse (καταθεματίζειν) A new development of profanity. Hitherto he had merely sworn. Now he adds imprecation; invoking curses on himself if the case be not as he says.” (Vincent Word Studies; Marvin R. Vincent., D. D.; E-Sword Electronic Edition)

Peter, when pressed on the issue of knowing Christ, during a turbulent cultural time and being directly question, faltered. He messed up. He lied. He spoke against Christ. He failed. He sinned. It would later be the same man who stands on the Day of Pentecost and proclaims before the audience a risen Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Peter sinned as Christ was being tried, but he overcame the sin to proclaim Christ as risen Lord.

Later in Peter’s life he faltered again. This time he faltered on a cultural elevation of status among the brothers in Galatia. Peter chose to avoid certain men because of fear. Peter was scared. Even Paul acknowledges Peter’s fear when he says,

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.” (Galatians 2:11-13 ESV)

Peter had a human desire to be liked and as a result, he had an influence on the people around him, including Barnabas. Earlier in the text, Paul mentions Peter’s name as a person who seemed to be a pillar (Galatians 2.9). Peter was a strong-willed person, but his human side was much like ours. Peter had his issues which hindered him spiritually just as ministers, and others, do today.

Even the strong men throughout the Bible messed up. They faltered. They fell short. They sinned.

Why?

Because they are human. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2.16) are from the world and they are current struggles with many today; whether ministers or members. Paul struggled throughout his life as he says in 1 Corinthians 9.27,

“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Paul knew the struggles and knew what it was like to be in the world, persecuting Christians and then to stand before them and proclaim the risen Lord. Paul knew his weaknesses and his strengths, but Paul still struggled. He even struggled with the continual thought of being the chief of sinners. (1 Timothy 1.15)

How Does a Congregation Respond When the Minister Goes Forward?

If your minister comes forward, he does so because he trusts you. Over my short time in ministry, I have seen a handful of ministers go forward and ask for the prayers of the congregation. The perceptions to be a perfect minister are a great, but they need to know what no matter the issue, you have their back.

First, remember your minister is not Jesus. He is not perfect; he is a man trying to live the same life as you live and make it to heaven. The same struggles you have are the same struggles he has weekly, monthly and yearly. He is trying. He is not lording his perfection over you, but he is trying to help you. As he helps you, he will need help himself. Why? Because he is human.

Second, remember he is part of your family; he is not an employee. Just because he is supported as a minister does not mean he is to be treated like an employee; he is a brother in Christ and should be treated as such. God wants those who are spiritual to bear the burdens of those who are week (Romans 15.1,2) and to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6.1,2). God wants use to depend on one another as the body depends on itself (1 Corinthians 12.12-34)

Third, pray for him. Our society is one where words can be mentioned but no actions are done. It is easy to say the words, “We will pray for you” but it is another thing to do it. Spend time praying for him. As with anyone responding, pray for them immediately, then pray for them continually.

Fourth, realize he is forgiven. If he has brought his struggles, faults and sins before you, God has already forgiven him. He needs you to forgive him as well. He needs your forgiveness as a “regular member” needs your forgiveness. The forgiveness shown to a minister is sometimes different and it need not be. He is a leader, he is a servant and he has been forgiven, just as you have. If we bring our sins to God, He forgives us (1 John 1.9).

Fifth, support him. He has brought a need before his spiritual family, because they are his spiritual family. He could have easily moved on to a different location, but he needs you to support him. He needs your love, your care and your concern for his life and his work.

Sixth, keep checking up on him. As ministers know, there are things we know and burdens we help bear that we will take to our grave and no one will ever know. There are things shared in confidence and people helped that many people never realize. Ministers need your continual prayers.

A Side Note for Ministers…

It is ok to respond and many times we need to ask for prayers. As we have shed tears over others responses, we need to shed tears for our own. We need to humble ourselves. Leadership is not about being perfect; it is about being real.

Stop holding yourself to the perfect model of a preacher and beating yourself up when you fail. Ministers are their own worst critics and they need to realize the same forgiving, loving and merciful God they proclaim to others is the same God who has given His Son to save their lives as well. The same forgiveness God offers to members is the same forgiveness God offers to ministers.

Final Thoughts…

The scene played out like a Hollywood movie, but this was real. A woman stood with no friends but enemies. Those around her waited for the signal to bring down her punishment with crushing blows. The leaders were proclaiming her guilt by proclaiming only half of the truth. They had examined and judged her sin without considering the harshness of their own. Her name is one no one will ever know, but her account is one we all remember.

Jesus bent over and wrote on the ground. Head down, finger in the dirt and almost acting as if they were not there. Slowly he rises to his feet and speaks.

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

After speaking, Jesus bends down and writes on the ground again. What he writes, like the woman’s name, will never be known.

As the hate filled, punishing ready accusers heard the words, they walked away. From the oldest to the youngest, they turned from Jesus, and the woman, and they walked away. They were not ready to help; they were there to hurt. Their own anger had callused their hearts to the truth, the whole truth.

The law called for both parties to be brought (Deuteronomy 22.22) but they only brought one. They wanted to hate someone, but Jesus wanted them to realize their imperfection of judgement. The scribes and Pharisees were after personal glory, not the glory of God.

When someone brings to use their sins, are you ready to punish or are you ready to serve?

Let us, as a saved people, seek to save others through the message of a loving, merciful God who first loved us.

Just some thoughts,

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Alabama vs. Auburn and the Bible

Alabama vs. Auburn and the Bible

Like most football fans, I love a good rivalry which goes back years and becomes pretty intense weeks before the game. The Alabama – Auburn rivalry goes back years and is so intense, most know it as “The Iron Bowl.” Currently, Alabama leads the series 42-35 and there has been 1 tie. As the Iron Bowl on November 29th approaches, fans from both teams will begin debating which team is faster, stronger and better. This year, will be a first for my family and I, as each teams stakes their claim as the best football team in the state, we will watch the Iron Bowl as residents of Alabama.

You read that right – the Gallaghers are moving to Alabama!

I have accepted the pulpit position at the Gadsden Church of Christ in Gadsden, Alabama. The packing of many boxes, furniture and such will begin shortly as we seek to sell our home and finalize things in South Carolina. Pray for us as we make this transition over the next few weeks. It will be a big transition for the kids after living in South Carolina for the past nine years. We look forward to joining our Gadsden family to share the message and serve the people of Alabama and the world.

(http://townmapsusa.com/d/map-of-gadsden-alabama-al/gadsden_al)

 

Alabama, we will see you soon!

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34 Ways to Encourage Your Minister

34 Ways to Encourage Your Minister

 

October is “Minister Appreciation Month” and over the next few weeks I would like to share a few posts with you regarding minister and encouraging your minister. Many times, it is difficult to understand ministry because of the aspects of ministry which are cannot be shared and without walking in a ministers shoes. Let us all, ministers included, seek to encourage the ministers we know.

Appreciation is a powerful word when it comes to certain professions. Appreciation brings a boost of self-esteem and also the ability for someone else to admire the work you do. When it comes to preaching, many ministers avoid the describing the ins and outs of their career choice because they do not want to boast about their lifestyle. While many professions come with an 8 to 5 workday, the ministry is a continuous, 24/7 effort. The phone rings at 3:00 pm just like it might ring at 3:00 am. There are some who think the ministry only occurs on Sunday and possibly a Wednesday night, but they are sadly mistaken. Preaching is a daunting task not fit for everyone, not encouraged for everyone and not everyone will make it through.

Below are a few ways you can encourage and show your minister you truly appreciate his work.

34 Ways to Encourage Your Minister

  1. Pray for him every day!
  2. Give him a gift card to his favorite restaurant.
  3. Send him an anonymous card letting him know what you appreciate about him and do not sign it.
  4. Babysit or offer to pay for a babysitter so he and his wife and have a free night.
  5. Donate to a mission effort in his name.
  6. Send his family a basket of flowers.
  7. Get him a magazine subscription for his favorite magazine.
  8. Go visiting with him.
  9. Donate to his retirement fund.
  10. Give his children “happy meal money.”
  11. Mow his grass.
  12. Give him tickets to a sporting event or a concert.
  13. Give his family a weekend trip out of the city.
  14. Buy him a suit.
  15. Take he and his family out to dinner
  16. Donate to his children’s college fund.
  17. Landscape his yard.
  18. Do not wait until he is offered another position to give him a raise.
  19. Stay awake during his lesson.
  20. Buy him lunch and have it sent to his office.
  21. Get a book he enjoys reading and mail it to his house anonymously.
  22. Provide an end of the year bonus.
  23. Give him a sabbatical. (Sabbatical – a specified amount of time off to refresh and relax.)
  24. Buy him a car (Yes, I know a congregation who bought the minister a car. The last time I was talking to him, he was still driving it with well over 100,000 miles.)
  25. Let his wife know what a good man he is.
  26. Make the minister and his family a homemade gift and present it to them.
  27. Be patient as he grows.
  28. Never call his children “Preacher’s Kids.”
  29. Take him fishing/hunting. (If you take him hunting, be sure to bring him back.)
  30. Buy him a set of gift cards to his favorite coffee shop.
  31. Call him just to say you appreciate his efforts.
  32. Stop complaining about the length his lessons and tell him how much you learned.
  33. Do not wait until he is gone to appreciate him.
  34. Send him to lectureships and let him “get fed” instead of him doing all the “feeding.”

Just some thoughts,

 


Recognized this post? This article is a previous post on the Preacher’s Pen and has been brought back, revised and reposted on the new website format. It is my hope and prayer, these posts are bringing you some thoughts to motivate and inspire you to greater service.

VBS is Coming! (VBS Plans Ahead)

VBS is Coming! (VBS Plans Ahead)

I know, it is only September, but very soon Vacation Bible School will be upon a majority of churches. I publish this article every year and it yields tremendous results because everyone has a connection to Vacation Bible School (VBS) and everyone wants VBS to be a successful part of the congregation. From my experience, VBS does not start a the month before; to have a successful VBS the planning starts at least six months from the VBS date.

This is a post based on the planning and some of the logistics behind Vacation Bible School; this is not a doctrinal post. The ideas expressed in this article are mine and gained through my personal experience.

Take a moment and read the thoughts below. I would like to hear your feedback.

Several years ago, a close friend of mine and I were talking about the process of getting ready for VBS and I thought I might give some hints to get VBS done better each year. Remember, I am no VBS guru, but I have learned some vital necessities of getting VBS done well and it has nothing to do with me, but the people involved make it happen.

It used to be the preacher was the one “volunteered” to handle VBS, but the trend is changing and people are now more involved. So if this does not apply to you, pass this list along to someone else.

Here are Gallagher’s Rules for VBS:

  • Start early – Don’t wait until two weeks before VBS to begin handing out the material and drafting teachers! This is possibly the second worst mistake you can make with VBS.


Here is the timeline I used for VBS:

  • Six Months from VBS Start Date – First meeting to gather teachers, helpers, maintenance crew, snack people, and any other area needed.
  • Five Months from VBS Start Date – Begin gathering material or ideas for material if your plan to create your own.
  • Four Months from VBS Start Date – Begin sending postcards to family, friends, visitors, and even the congregation to remind them of the VBS date. Publicize the VBS date on the Internet.
  • Three Months from VBS Start Date – Gather your decorating crew together and brainstorm for materials and ideas for decorations.
  • Two Months (8 weeks) from VBS Start Date – Pass out material to the teachers and ask if they need anything and be sure to get it. Advertise VBS again in the community paper, direct mail, word of mouth, postcards, whatever it takes to get the word out. Be sure a sign is placed on the church property noting that VBS is coming.
  • Six Weeks from VBS Start Date – Begin door-knocking opportunities and create posters to be passed out to the community bulletin boards in grocery stores, etc. Arrange for transportation of kids whose parents cannot bring them; begin now to get volunteers.
  • Four Weeks from VBS Start Date – Gather every VBS member together and as if there is anything needed. Whatever is needed, get someone other than yourself to be responsible for getting it and delivering it.
  • Three Weeks from VBS Start Date – The decorating team should be placing the final touches on the decorations and material. Also, more flyers need passed out and sent to each contact.
  • Two Weeks from VBS Start Date – The teachers need to be asked if there is anything they need. Constant encouragement is needed because of their powerful role.
  • One Week from VBS Start Date – Pray! The final touches need placed on VBS and the congregation needs to be regularly encouraged to be there.
  • The Day of VBS – Drink Coffee, Jolt Cola, Mountain Dew and eat lots of Twinkies – you will need it!

 

Gallagher’s Notable VBS Techniques:

  • Always encourage your VBS staff – Write them notes weekly, email them, call them and be there for them. Make sure they are taken care of, because they will take care of the children during the week.
  • NEVER MICRO-MANAGE! – Now stand up and say it with me, “I WILL NOT MICRO-MANAGE VBS!” 
  • Involve Everyone – Make sure everyone in your congregation is involved in some way. Get those who like to talk on the phone to make phone calls inviting people, get the computer savvy to develop a web page for VBS, leave no one out. Get a new Christian to be an assistant and watch them grow.
  • No Skimping on Snacks – Homemade snacks are always the best.
  • Reward the rewardable – Make sure you reward the children for a job well done. Give Bibles to those who brought others, give good gifts to those who work hard.
  • Acknowledge your staff each day – At each gathering thank, show appreciation and acknowledge the great qualities of your staff. Provide your staff with rewards as well.

     

Gallagher’s After VBS Techniques

  • Food! – After VBS is over, have a meal for everyone who took part in VBS and thank them for all the work they have done.
  • Review VBS! – Soon after VBS, but separate from the Appreciation Meal, have a VBS review. Be open and honest, let people voice opinions and discuss situations that could be improved and situations that are great. Bring the good and the improvable to the forefront of the discussions.

The techniques listed above is a brief look at the way VBS worked for me. As I said previously, this post is based on my experience, successes and failures with VBS planning. Much of this timeline and techniques were developed over several years of working with a great staff. I took these techniques and tweaked them over the years and saw a great increase in attendance and performance, but most of all the gospel being spread each year.

Remember — Start Early! and NEVER MICRO-MANAGE!

What would you add to the list?

Just some thoughts,

The Hummingbird Morning

The Hummingbird Morning

This morning as I read the words of Proverbs 2 and 3 and Ecclesiastes 1, the sound of the rain falling on the earth provided gentle background noise as the words of God filled my mind. The sound of the rain was perfect – constant drops falling on the house, the tree and the ground. It was great reading weather; almost perfect.

As I read in Proverbs, my peripheral vision caught a bright red Cardinal hopping across the flower bed looking for the newest worm to pop out of the ground; an early morning breakfast. While the cardinal hopped around, I thought of my mama (my grandmother) and how she always took care of the birds, especially the hummingbirds. At least one hummingbird feeder hung from her deck in the midst of the wind chimes. Growing up, it was normal to see hummingbird after hummingbird flying around the porch waiting for their turn to drink the red colored homemade mix she always had available.

Even though I was reading, my thoughts kept going back to planting flowers and what particular plant I could get to attract hummingbirds. Little did I know, a second later my thoughts would be interrupted by two hummingbirds; one large and one small. The humming of their wings made the sound of the gentle rain become background noise. Quickly the two hummingbirds took turns drinking from the Torenia flowers Carrie placed on our front porch a few short weeks ago.

Being a mere two feet away, I was amazed as the hummingbirds quickly made their way around each flower in the pot. Their agility was amazing to see while only an arm’s length away. It has been years since I have seen a hummingbird as close as they were; especially since my thoughts were already on hummingbirds.

It turned out that Carrie planted the Torenias and the hummingbirds showed up, amid the rain, to bless my day.

How interesting life is when we just stop and look. Today, stop and look, see the beauty God provides.

Just my thoughts,

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