Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Many of us will spend this day at cook-outs and other activities with our families thankful that we have a day off from work, but how many of us will spend even a moment thinking about the freedoms we enjoy and who paid a price so we could continue to enjoy those freedoms? We may have our problems in the US today, but we have so much to be thankful for, and we continue to enjoy freedoms that many people throughout the world do not have. We stand to lose those freedoms if we forget that there are people in the world who are determined to take them from us.

I listen to the rhetoric from many politicians condemning the war on terror, and they are so far removed from reality that it is frightening they have been elected to represent the best interests of this nation. There are people determined to not only destroy the American way of life; they are committed to killing us. We can either fight them in their countries or in ours. I prefer to take the battle to them and not let them bring it to us.

As one who spent time in the Navy during another unpopular war (Vietnam) I want to thank the military personnel who are working hard to protect this nation from terrorists. I appreciate the sacrifices you are making, and I want you to know that I pray for you regularly. I also want to thank every veteran who has served in our armed forces for serving your country and protecting our freedoms. You are remembered and appreciated. God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Last night I attended a dinner for a pastor who is retiring, or as he prefers to call it, accepting reassignment. The sanctuary was filled to honor this man and his wife who had served this church for the past ten years. Speakers from some of his earlier ministries were there to talk about the impact his ministry had on their lives. It was a fitting way to celebrate a very productive ministry. Following a brief trip he and his wife have planned, he will begin serving as an interim pastor for churches seeking pastors and will open a pastoral counseling office to continue to use the gifts God has given him.

Retirement is not a biblical term, but I think each of us must prepare for those times when God reassigns us to different ministry tasks. My friend will enjoy being away from the daily pressures of the pastorate, but will still be able to share his ministry gifts and experiences with the body of Christ. Too many ministers leave their pastorates at the age of 62 or 65 and feel they have done their job and they're finished. I remember meeting one retired minister when I was in Bible school who spent most weekends traveling. He said that he had spent every Sunday in church for 40 years and didn't feel like he had to be there now. What a shame! He was an obviously gifted individual who still had much to share with the church, but he retired and quit.

Some reading this blog may be approaching retirement age, and some weeks retirement may be looking real good. I would encourage you to not quit when you start drawing your retirement checks but ask God what the next phase of your ministry is. Ask for reassignment. I expect God will have a new task already prepared for you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I did not pass the kidney stone, so Monday morning I had surgery to remove it. The doctor blasted the stone with a laser, and I spent the afternoon passing fragments. After surgery he told my wife that he doubted I would have been able to pass the stone due to its size so it was probably good that we went ahead with the procedure.

I still have some discomfort due to a stent they insert following this procedure. Next week I go back to have the stent removed which I understand is not always a pleasant experience. All because of a piece of sand.

If there is a spiritual lesson in this it is that the small things in life can sometimes create the largest problems for us. In ministry sometimes we are tempted to overlook the smaller problems while we focus on what we believe to be the bigger issues. However, sometimes those smaller problems hang around and become larger when they are ignored. Suddenly, we are confronted with a big problem and wonder where that came from. We find that the small problem we had been ignoring is now a much larger issue that is not so easily resolved. Don't shy away from the small issues that confront your ministry. Find ways to resolve them while they are still small. You'll find that it much easier to do it that way, and you'll be able to return to your normal life and ministry much sooner.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Jerry Falwell's Legacy

Our son and daughter-in-law graduated from Liberty University. Last spring I graduated with my MAR from the Liberty Theological Seminary, and I am currently working on my DMin at the same school. Obviously, our family believes in the values espoused by that school and its founders. The news that Jerry Falwell passed away saddened me.

Falwell was not a perfect man; none of us are. He made mistakes like every human being. I shared his beliefs and values and appreciated his willingness to voice them at every opportunity. At times, I regretted some of his actions and wished he sometimes had not said some things he said. I'm sure he did as well. Anyone who was in the public eye as much as he was is bound to say some things at times that upon further reflection might not be said. I personally would not want to be in the public eye that much.

His legacy is far greater than his mistakes. He went to Lynchburg with a vision of building a great church, and with God's help he accomplished that. He saw the need for a Christian university, but even he could not have envisioned the impact that school would have and the growth it would enjoy. He looked around the nation and saw the direction we were headed and called on Christian people to pray and become involved in the political arena. He provided this nation with a clear voice challenging us to return to Christian values and moral living. He stood up to critics who ridiculed him, mocked him, and, I'm sure, at times threatened him. He loved those who disagreed with him even while he rejected their philosophies. This past week both Larry Flynt and Al Sharpton, men Falwell often debated, said that they had become friends with Falwell and believed that Falwell genuinely cared about them. It is reported that Falwell said a few days before his death that he was ready when his time came. Despite what some critics and bloggers have said since his death, Falwell is now enjoying the presence of Jesus Christ while we continue to mourn his passing. He left behind a legacy that I pray will be built upon by those who follow him.

What will your legacy be when you reach the end of your life? You may say that you're just the pastor of a small, bivocational church and could never have the impact of a Jerry Falwell. I say you're wrong. You will have a much greater impact on the lives of your congregation and community than Falwell could have. You are with them every day. You will have a much greater impact on your family than Falwell will have because you are with them every day. Your words and actions will influence and impact those lives for good or bad, and that influence will determine your legacy. Every day matters. Every word and action is important because someone is watching and listening. Again I ask, what will your legacy be when you reach the end of your life?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Kidney Stones!

Sunday evening I felt a familiar pain that I had not felt for a few years, but once you experience it you recognize it immediately. Kidney stone! The pain started suddenly and continued to intensify. I began drinking lots of water and pacing through the house. Finally, at 3:00 am I woke my wife and told her I had to go to the ER. A few hours and a Cat scan later it was confirmed that I had not one but two kidney stones. They sent me home with pain medicine and told me to follow up with my urologist.

I saw him today and found that the larger stone only has a 50-50 of passing on its own. To make a long story short, if I don't pass it by Sunday I'm scheduled for surgery on Monday so the doctor can take it out. There is nothing that sounds good about that!

Please keep me in your prayers. Thanks.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Church Leadership Institute

Four years ago our Region created the Church Leadership Institute to provide training for interested lay leaders and persons who felt called into bivocational ministry. We offer a good balance between introductory theological studies and practical ministry classes. In just four years we have slightly over 100 students who are involved in studies or have already completed the program.

This morning I had an opportunity to talk to one of our classes. Throughout the day each of our Region staff spoke for about an hour to the class explaining the various roles we each play in the Region. It was a good opportunity for the class to learn more about how our Region and denomination works, and it was good for us to connect with the students.

These are really sharp individuals who are committed to providing leadership to their respective churches. They give up two Saturdays a month to attend these classes, so their commitment is real. Unless they were convinced of the importance of continual learning they would find other ways to spend their Saturdays.

How about you? What are you doing to keep the tools God has given you sharp? Are you finding opportunities for continuing education? God has given each of us gifts that we are to use in ministry, and it seems to me that we have a responsibility to continue to grow as His disciples so we can best use these gifts.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


This morning I slipped away to play a round of golf. It only makes the second time I've played this year, but the weather was perfect, the calendar was clear, and I needed some exercise. It was a very enjoyable day, and I shot a decent round for me, especially given that it was only my second time out this year.

As bivocational ministers it can be very challenging to find time for self-care. We have so many demands from our employers, our churches, and our family that it is hard to make time for ourselves, but it is essential that we do so. We need time to unwind and do something that is fun and relaxing. It doesn't have to be golf. For one person it might be taking the time to sit under a shade tree and read a good book. For another it might be a trip to the fishing hole for a couple of hours. It doesn't matter what you do; it is just important that you do something that you will enjoy doing. You may be reading this with one eye and looking at your Day Timer with the other eye and wonder how in the world you can slip away and just do something for yourself. Why not consider it an investment in your well-being and future ministry?

In a couple of my books I share how I experienced a year of clinical depression mostly because I did not take care of myself. My body finally got so exhausted that it had to shut down to take care of itself. I was able to function in some ways. I went to my factory job every day; I did my pastoral work, but I had no energy left for relationships or anything else other than what I had to do. This lasted for a year before I fully recovered. One of the lessons I learned was that if I don't take care of myself the time might come when I can't take care of anyone else either. I don't ever want to get back in that situation again, so I don't feel guilty when I take some time off to play golf or take a motorcycle ride or sit down for a couple of hours with a good book.

Make sure you schedule time for yourself in your busy schedule. It's not selfish to make time for yourself. It's how you ensure that you are there for your family and church for the long haul.

Monday, May 7, 2007

DMin Classes

Right now I'm taking the one distance learning class I can take in my DMin studies. The reading has been good, but the projects are a little difficult due to the type of ministry I do. The assignments are primarily for a pastor, but I serve as an Area Minister. Fortunately, I have a great instructor at Liberty who has made some suggestions for projects for this class that will not only allow me to complete the class but will enable me to help a couple of other pastors look at their churches in a new way.

Last week I registered for another class at the school that is offered in June. My wife has taken a week's vacation to join me which will make it nice. I just booked the room and got a great rate as a student, so we're ready to go!

I earned my bachelor's and master's degrees as a bivocational minister, and I currently working on the DMin as a bivo. It can be done. If you have been thinking of earning a degree or even taking some classes but did not feel that you could do so as a bivocational minister, you can do it.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Funeral services and work

I recently received an e-mail from a reader of my newsletter who asked about funerals. As a bivocational minister he has to take a vacation day from his job if he needs to conduct a funeral on a weekday. Although he has not encountered a problem with this, he wondered about doing funerals for friends and family of church members. He is concerned if he makes himself available for too many funerals it could lead to problems with his employer, and yet he wants to be able to minister to his church and community. He was asking about my policy when I served as a pastor.

My response was that in my 20 year pastorate it was never a problem. I seldom had more than 3-4 funerals a year, and most years there were not that many. However, that doesn't mean that it might not be a problem for another bivocational minister. I suggested that now would be a good time to discuss this with his church leadership for their input and try to set a policy that could be explained to the congregation before a problem presents itself.

What has been your experience? How have you balanced the need to conduct funerals with your other employment? Has your church discussed this so everyone is clear? This will be a great topic for feedback from those of you who have been through this!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Spiritual growth

As bivocational ministers our ministry must flow out of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If we are not growing in that relationship our ministry will suffer as will our own spiritual growth. God called us to be something before He called us to do something. We were called to be disciples before we were called to our ministry roles. Yet, anyone who has served in ministry for very long knows how difficult it can be to have time for our personal spiritual growth.

At different times in my ministry I have found that I was spending very little time alone with God. Between the demands of my work, my family, and my ministry there was little time for "alone time" with God. My Bible reading was for sermon and lesson preparation. My prayers were often for other people or were part of public worship. My own spiritual growth was being neglected because of all the other demands on my life. Ministers cannot effectively serve others if they are not experiencing personal growth in their own relationships with God. I knew that, but at times I have struggled with taking the time to ensure my spiritual growth.

This year I am again reading through the Bible and spending time in morning prayer before starting the day. I also try to pray the Lord's Prayer several times a day. Last fall I had a Doctor of Ministry class taught by Elmer Towns that focused on the practice of prayer, and he taught us the value of praying the Lord's Prayer. I have found that to be very helpful. Many times at night praying the Lord's Prayer is the last thing I do as I lay down, and I often pray it again before rising in the morning. It's just one of the things I do to help me stay focused on God.

A colleague of mine will take a sabbatical later this year, and his project is to identify the ways ministers ensure their spiritual renewal and growth. I wonder...what works for you? Do you find this to be an area in your life where you sometimes struggle? What have you found to be helpful to you in your devotional life, and what things are not helpful? Please share with us because I think this is an area where we all can learn from one another.