Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Asking for your prayers

Back in May of this year I had surgery to remove a kidney stone that was passing down my left side. At the time they told me I had a smaller stone in the right kidney. Well...I don't have it anymore. Yesterday afternoon I passed that stone. I'm very thankful it was small enough to pass on its own because I was not looking forward to having that surgery again! Although it passed fairly easily I'm still a little tired and uncomfortable from it.

As I said in an earlier post, this is a very difficult time for me in several ways. Several deadlines are coming up fast. I continue to ask for your prayers, and I thank you for them.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A changing church

When I resigned as pastor of the church I had served for two decades many of the members insisted I remain a member of the church. Normally, that is not a good idea. But, as an Area Minister with 80 churches, and whose area included that church, I would seldom be able to attend my home church anyway. My wife and I kept our membership in that church and continue to support it with our tithes. I am able to attend services there a couple of times a year. Yesterday was one of those times.

A couple of years after I resigned the church it began to have some problems leading several people to leave. The church lost nearly half of the people who attended there during my pastorate. It was very hard to see the church I had devoted so many years to go through such times. When I attended the church during those times there was a tension in the air so thick you could almost cut it with a knife.

A year or so ago the church called a new pastor who is rebuilding the church. Although he reached out to those who had left, most of them had already found other churches, and he rightly started reaching out to new people. When I attended services there yesterday the attendance was about what it was when I resigned, but I didn't recognize at least half the people. In the past when I attended there it was like a homecoming; yesterday many of the people assumed I was a visitor. The service is different, and new music has been added. A praise team with four guitars and three singers have started bringing part of the music. We didn't have any musicians except for our pianist when I was pastor there.

It felt odd as I was driving home to see how the church has changed in the six years since I left as their pastor. I had made a mark on the church and it resembled me in a lot of ways. The church is now changing in ways that reflect their new pastor. The good news is that it is still focused on Jesus Christ and His challenge to reflect His light in everything we do. It felt odd; but it felt good. I'm excited about the future of our church.

The only problem I had yesterday was that one of the long-time members introduced me to someone as their old pastor! I asked him to please clarify that remark.:)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Doing ministry together

Yesterday at Campbellsville University I had the opportunity to hear Dr. David Coffey speak at a chapel service and later at a luncheon. Dr. Coffey is the President of the Baptist World Alliance. He spoke of the ministry that the BWA is doing in many different parts of the world and emphasized the importance of Christians working together to advance the Kingdom of God throughout the world. He also spoke of the divisisons that sometimes exist between Baptists and how that negatively impacts our witness to the world.

I realize that not all my readers are Baptists, but his words should challenge each of us. Jesus also spoke of the dangers of division within His body. He said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. A powerful statement is sent throughout a community when the churches in that community work together in the name of Jesus Christ to make a difference. At the same time, when churches and denominations fight among themselves a negative message is sent that brings great harm to the cause of Christ.

I know of an association of churches who have worked together to minister to people in difficult economic circumstances nearly 200 miles away from their community. Most of these are bivocational churches. The ministry of these churches to the people of that region has had a great impact on those who have been served. In another community, several churches of different denominations join together each year to host a joint Vacation Bible School that serves about 200 children each summer. These churches don't agree on every point of doctrine and church government, but they do agree that children are important to God, and they realize that those things that bind them together are much greater than their minor points of disagreement.

It has been my joy to work with different denominations as they serve their bivocational ministers, and my schedule for 2008 includes some new denominations I have not worked with before. It is exciting to learn how different denominations are working to encourage their bivocational ministers and meet their needs. A few years ago a denominational leader invited me to be involved in a gathering of their bivocational leaders. I jokingly asked if he was sure that his group could handle having someone from my denomination in their meeting. He laughed and then said, "Bivocational ministry is too important to worry about denominational differences. We have enough issues as bivocational ministers without worrying about minor denominational differences." He is right, and that is true of most of the things that divide us.

Let's find ways to work together to take the glorious message of Jesus Christ into all the world.

Golf cart for sale

I have decided to sell my golf cart. For the past 2-3 years I haven't used it enough to justify owning one. Although I live only about 5 mintues from the golf course, I have not played much golf, and when I have played it has been with other people at other courses. The cart will have to be picked up so this post will only interest people who live near my home in Indiana.

The cart is a 1996 Yamaha gas golf cart. It is in excellent condition and runs great. It has a fold down windshield and a rain cover. The price is $2400.00. If you are interested you can respond to this post, and I will contact you. Thank you.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pastors and their personal prayer lives

One of our staff persons enjoyed a three month sabbatical this summer. His project was to study the devotional life of ministers. He sent surveys out to a number of clergy and conducted some individual interviews with several others. Out of a total of 55 ministers he contacted, 13 of them were bivocational. At our staff meeting this week he share his findings.

Each of the pastors claimed a time of devotions that includes prayer. Interestingly enough, only one admitted that part of his prayer time included confession of sin. Maybe these individuals are much more spiritual than I am, but that seems to be an important part of my prayer time each day. Another interesting finding was that only half reported that they turn to God in times of crisis. If the crisis was associated with their ministries, only four pastors said they turn to God for assistance. Ten reported they turn to a judicatory leader.

Much of his study was very encouraging, but these two aspects are not. Do these pastors who do not make confession of sin part of their regular prayer time believe they do not sin? Or do they believe they do not need forgiveness for their sins? The Bible is clear that all of us sin, and when we sin we have an advocate with God who will forgive us of our sins. I am certainly aware of my need to seek God's forgiveness daily, and I think that will be true of most ministers if they are honest with themselves.

I was also troubled that more pastors look to their judicatory leaders than to God during times of crisis. I am a judicatory leader, and the pastors I serve know that I am available to them at any time for any assistance I can provide, but I am not God. He must be our first contact when we encounter a crisis in our lives. It is often helpful to have judicatory leaders and other godly people walk with us through a crisis, but only God has the power to bring healing to the situation and the ability to provide the grace we need until that healing comes.

How is your prayer life? Do you have regular times each day set aside for prayer? What do you pray about? Is confession of sin a regular part of your prayer time? Who do call upon first when difficulties come into your life? I would be interested in hearing some of your responses.

Monday, October 15, 2007


My wife and I are celebrating our 41st anniversary today! We've spent some time the past few days reflecting on how far God has brought us in 41 years. The first ten years we were married we were not Christians, and we had a lot of hard times. We've also had our share of difficult times in the last 31 years, but we found them much easier to handle because of the strength we drew from our relationship with Jesus Christ.

People often tell me that I married a great woman, and they will not get any argument from me. She has consistently supported me in every thing I have ever wanted to do. A bivocational minister better have the support of his or her spouse, and Faye has given me that support. Every mistake I have made has been against her advice, but never once has she ever said, "I told you so." We've been through a lot together, and I can truthfully say that I love her even more now than I did when we first married.

Because we both have to work today we enjoyed an anniversary dinner Friday evening. It gave us some time to just sit and talk about our lives together and how blessed we feel being married to one another. So many people today are not happy in their relationships which makes us even more thankful that God brought us together so many years ago. This morning I lay in bed before getting up and thanked God for Faye and for our years together and asked Him to allow us to enjoy many more years as husband and wife.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Our calling

My wife and I have spent the past few days visiting our son and his family. We had a great time with them before returning home yesterday evening. While there we attended their church on Sunday morning. Their pastor, who is a very good Bible teacher, had invited a guest speaker to talk about his 14 year ministry in Russia.

He talked about how difficult it had been for him at times. He has pastored two churches in Russia and has found it to be a very difficult ministry for a number of reasons, but it was also obvious that he loves the Russian people very much. His message focused on why he had stayed there despite the many difficulties and frustrations. Simply put, the reason is that he feels he has been called to that ministry and does not intend to leave it unless the Lord changes his calling.

As I have thought about his message in the days since Sunday I have filtered it through the bivocational experience. Bivocational ministry is often very difficult and frustrating. There were times during my pastoral ministry that I considered quitting or moving on to another ministry, but I could never get beyond the idea of being called to do what I was doing. There was absolutely no question in my mind that God had called me to pastor the church I was serving, and until I believed He was calling me to something else I felt compelled to stay there. There was one period of about 18 months when I averaged a call a week from other churches asking me to meet with their pastor search committees. I think I agreed to meet with 2-3 of them, and that was primarily to explore if God was opening new doors of ministry for me. I did strongly consider one church during that time, but as much as I felt God might be leading me to that church I never felt He was leading me from the church I was currently serving. I finally told the search committee that I would not become a candidate for their position for that reason.

Calling is something we sometimes talk about, but I fear we don't always consider its true importance. Pastors sometimes are "called to another church" so often I wonder why God can't make up His mind where he wants that person to serve. I have been told that 50% of seminary graduates leave the ministry within five years after graduating from seminary. If that is true I wonder who called them to the ministry in the first place.

The only reason I have not left the ministry during times of greatest trials is because I am convinced God has called me to the ministry. The only reason I did not leave the church I served for 20 years is because I believed He had called me to serve that church. It wasn't until I felt a sense of release that I began to consider other places of ministry, and God opened up the door to my current ministry. That sense of calling can sustain us in times of great difficulty and help us keep our focus on God and not on the circumstances that are creating such problems.

Have you spent much time thinking about your calling? How long has it been since you've thanked God for calling you to your place of service? Does your sense of calling help sustain you in difficult times? I pray that your sense of calling is as strong now as it was when you began your ministry.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Share your calling

Last night I received a phone call from an individual who is considering accepting the call to a bivocational church. His pastor has encouraged him to pray about it, but like many of us he is struggling with whether or not he is capable of doing bivocational ministry and if God is calling him to this ministry. He had a number of questions about bivocational ministry that I hope I was able to answer.

I described to him my call to the church I served for many years and how I struggled with that call just as he is doing. What was your call like, and how did you know that God was calling you to a place of ministry? I believe many people are like my caller last night and struggle with this idea of calling. Your responses might help answer some of the questions of those who might be struggling.