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,

Minister Seeking a Congregation

Minister Seeking a Congregation

Opening up the pages of the newest publication among the churches of Christ, I always flip to the back to read the newest listing for congregations seeking a minister. As I read through each one, I am intrigued and at the same time, find it comical due to the wide variety of listings.

“…at least 17 years experience needed.”

“…must be married. (Children preferred)”

“…must be sound in the faith.” (By the way I have yet to read an advertisement for an unsound minister.)

“…must hold office hours and visit the brethren daily.”

“…wife must be willing to teach classes.” (Who are we hiring here?)

Reading through the list makes me wonder how many churches today would hire Peter, John, Matthew, Paul, Andrew or even Jesus?

While some of the requirements might be helpful, I question the wisdom of making the majority of our ministers into pastors and placing the responsibility of the entire congregation on one man’s shoulders. I wonder who many congregations passed up a growing young man, because he was “too young” for them. I think Timothy and Paul ran into the same problem. (See 1 Timothy 4.12)

So, I came up with an advertisement I would like to see; in fact, I will be the first to toss it out there and see who calls.

_________________________________________________________________

Minister Seeking a Congregation

 

An imperfect minister seeks an imperfect congregation of the Lord’s people who are willing to live for Christ each day. The size of the congregation does not matter, only the size of their hearts.

The congregation must be willing to be challenged, loved, taught and share the love that Christ had for the world in their daily lives. This is not a Sunday only request, but a daily one.

The membership must not be apathetic; if there is, let it not be the majority. If it is the majority, let them be prepared for an honest discussion centered around the sacrifice of Christ.

The membership should be ready to open a Bible and discuss the greatness of God, the life of Christ and the purpose of the Spirit. The membership should be ready to have people of all races, nationalities, backgrounds, social status, economic status and jobs enter into Bible study together. The congregation must be ready to reach outside of their comfort zone to assist others in knowing Christ.

The deacons, if applicable, must be willing to serve as Christ served us. There should understand their work is not only a physical work, but a spiritual one as well. Their work will help to take care of members, the physical building, the teaching program and many other needful areas to assist with the growth of the congregation.

The elders, if applicable, must be willing to shepherd. They should not be bill payers, but leaders of the flock. They must understand they are accountable to the flock God has called them to shepherd. They should lead the congregation from the front, not beat them from the pew. They should visit the flock to know them by name.

As a whole, the congregation should be trying – trying to serve God every day. They do not need to be perfect, just willing to reach for perfection. It is Christ which makes us perfect, not ourselves.

The congregation should strive to rejoice and cry together often.

Regarding a building…not necessary.

Regarding Powerpoint…not necessary.

Regarding love…ready to grow.

Regarding hope…only in Christ.

No resume or references necessary.

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To make this discussion even deeper, if these qualifications interest you, feel free to call me at 843-437-8772. Ask for Chris, I just might be looking for you.

Just some thoughts,

 

 

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