100 Tips for Leaders in the Church (pt 4)

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This week’s Tuesday Tips is the final part to this four part series. 100 Tips for Leaders in the Church (continued)

76. In a Sunday service, try to avoid naming lists of people you wish to thank or appreciate without having the list in front of you. Otherwise, count on it, you will leave someone out.

77. As the pastor, you are the mood-setter for the congregation. Whatever you radiate on Sundays and in private conversation with members, they will pick up, too.

78. Words. Never say anything to a church member about someone else you would not want plastered on a billboard at the edge of town. If you assume they are keeping this in confidence, you will live to regret it. (With your spouse and your mentors, you may speak your mind; to all others, tread carefully.)

79. Daily, pray the prayer of Psalm 141:3. “Set a guard upon my mouth, O Lord. Keep watch over the door of my lips.” Another you might want to add is Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto Thee, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

80. Keep good records for everything you do in ministry—whom you saw, your appointments, everything. A few times in a long ministry, you will find yourself digging through it in search of a vital bit of information (“When did this happen?”) and be so glad you had the records. (I once had a woman call to ask, “When did you marry us?” She gave me two possible dates when it might have occurred. I found her wedding on my calendars and informed her that not only were her two dates incorrect, she was on the wrong year!)

81. Just as no one knows you better than your spouse, your co-workers on the church staff see you as no one else does. Make sure they respect you as a person of integrity and compassion who keeps his word, has a sincere heart for God and treasures each of them. Defend them before critics. If you lose their respect, the fabric of your leadership begins to fray.

82. Watch for certain scriptures—a verse here, a verse there—to begin to impress themselves upon you in a special way. This is a work of the Holy Spirit. When this happens, He is inviting you to study this area more, to seek His insights and receive His teaching.

83. Humility. Do not fear apologizing to your people. If you made a mistake and everyone knows it, to stonewall and refuse to admit it is to enrage a few and disappoint the others. By humbling yourself and admitting your error, then asking for their forgiveness, you endear yourself to everyone who matters. (I’ve known of pastors who gained so much love and acceptance by publicly apologizing for a mistake, they jokingly say they are now looking for some other dumb mistake to make just so they can apologize.)

84. When you need the approval of a committee, say the finance or personnel, for some project or expenditure, if the chairperson says, “Oh, go ahead and do that, pastor,” you should respond, “Thank you, my friend. But I’d really like the entire committee’s input on this.” Insist on meeting with the entire panel, and never allow the chair to act as if he or she is the committee. (Church bosses are created just so subtly as this.)

85. Always err on the side of conservativism in finances and on the side of grace in relationships.

86. You should always see yourself as a servant and nothing more (see II Corinthians 4:5). Granted that, in Christ, you are much more. However, we’re speaking of “how you see yourself here.” Be a servant. Serve your spouse, serve your staff, serve the congregation. (The parable of Luke 17:7-10, mentioned previously, reigns in your ego’s need for recognition and appreciation. That parable is found nowhere else in Scripture, and may be one of the most important teachings anywhere for God’s workers.)

87. Learn from everyone you meet. Work at asking key questions to draw them out, and then listen intently to their responses. “So, Bob, tell me what you did on your job today.” “What was the most interesting thing that happened to you today?” Ask it, then sit back and be quiet and wait for an answer.

88. Never forget the old adage, “No one should ever preach on hell without tears in his eyes.” Only the compassionate are entitled to teach the stark truths about hell. To speak of such a “difficult doctrine” (see John 6:60) without your heart breaking fails your people.

89. Sleep. No one unable to turn off the constant demands on his life will be able to sleep at night and endure long as a pastor. You live in a world of unfinished tasks; get used to it. (Nothing lifts burdens like prayer. Pray about everything, then leave matters with the Lord—at least overnight.)

90. Have a notepad on your bedside table. When thoughts of people you need to call, projects you need to lead, notes you need to answer, will not leave you alone and interfere with your sleep, write down reminders for the next day and go back to sleep. You’d be amazed how jotting these down settles the mind. (Never assume that “This is so important, I’m sure I’ll remember it when I awaken.” You won’t.)

91. Beware of spending your days locked in your study, absorbed in your computer. Get out of the office and drink coffee with your office staff and the other ministers. Visit your people in the hospitals or the homebound. Check on the saints in the assisted living facilities.

92. Prayer-walk your neighborhood and the blocks around your church regularly.

93. Knock on the doors of all the homes around your church, at least a block in each direction. Introduce yourself and say, “I’m just meeting all our neighbors to ask one question: Is our church being a good neighbor to you?” See where the Lord leads.

94. Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

95. Guard against even the appearance of anything out of line with women. If you find yourself being attracted to some person other than your spouse, pick up the phone and ask your mentors if you can meet with them “tomorrow or sooner!” Tell them; they are unshockable and can talk straight to you.

96. Don’t sell your seniors short. Just because we opened this “list of 100″ with a dig about “only 3 people like change and none are in your church,” the fact is, most people do not mind change. They just don’t like abrupt change. Seniors are not averse to new things. No one drives a 1948 Packard to your church. Your seniors own widescreen TVs and computers. Some of them want only hymns written before 1912, but most would appreciate some of the great choruses being produced these days. And they’d like something more than just the piano and organ. But don’t dump it all on them at once. Introduce it slowly, sweetly, carefully.

97. Help your people learn what it means to live by faith. The Lord has no hesitation in asking us to go when we do not know the destination, to build when we do not have the resources, and to give when we have only two mites. Show the flock how to do it yourself, pastor, then (and only then) teach the principles.

98. Remember the delicate balance the Lord has put in His churches: Just enough ornery, head-strong people to keep you humble and just enough sweet, godly saints to keep you from quitting.

99. Have a pleasurable hobby, one you do with some regularity to help you keep your balance in life. But do not let it grow out of proportion and begin to assume too much of your time, energies or money.

100. Start your own list of “Things God is teaching me in ministry.” Or even, “Lessons I have learned the hard way and have the scars to prove it.” Or this one: “Areas in which the Lord is still working on me.”

Thank you for reading my entire list. If as many as six or eight of these seem to have your name on them and to have been planted here just for you, we are well-rewarded. God’s richest blessings on you, my friend.

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Church Chat

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If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know we are all about encouraging pastors.  But you may be thinking, “Sure, but that’s just you.  That’s just your job.”  So today we want to share ACTUAL words from REAL people about their pastors, and you.  Without further ado, here are your people, speaking to you:

Pastor, remember that time the matriarch of our family died and everyone flipped out & turned on each other? We had a family meeting with wailing & gnashing of teeth…sackcloth, ashes & a pretty sweet rendition of Stairway to Heaven in the background. Well, because of the beautiful things said about her and the godly wisdom you gave us, we were all able to get through what was undoubtedly one of the hardest times in our lives. Your presence & words would not have been as effective if you didn’t know us all on a personal level. And that didn’t happen because we went to your church. You knew us because you’re an amazing shepherd.

The most amazing pastor I ever had was ___________. Joy, gentleness, loving are just a few of the words I would use to describe him. And such a wonderful gift for teaching with incredible clarity. I miss him greatly.

I can say without pause that my pastors operate in unconditional love and humility before our Lord and Savior. They are men and so therefore like all human kind miss it now and then …. But oh they are true shepherds and they love and protect their sheep, Love, acceptance and forgiveness is what our church was founded on…..I think they both have strived to do it well!

And a special shot out to Pastor… We have walked life out together… He has genuinely been there for me at every twist and turn in my life since my twenties! He prayed me through, loved me through some hard places, some grievous times! God bless the man who stands in the gap and loves Gods people!

Ron Dunn said ” Don’t just stand there- Pray something”

Your calling is so important. Please protect that by making time to renew yourself. The adage “you cannot give what you do not have…” is very true. You must take care of yourself as fill your vessel to give to each in the measure they need or require. Also, do things outside of church that energize you. That energy will be needed.

I am blessed to call him my pastor and my friend. He is an incredible man of God and it’s a pleasure to do life with him.

Self-care isn’t selfish

Spend time with your family! If you’re not caring for them, you can’t care for anyone else. (From a PK)

Vacations are a good thing. Schedule time away or you’ll burn out. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but inevitably it will come.

What you do matters…eternally!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5, 6 NLT)

Thank you. Thank you for your service and for the gift of yourself. Please take time to care for yourself and your family. Please take time to nurture your marriage. Please do not feel compelled to say YES to every demand and request. I appreciate you and don’t want to lose you.

For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:10-12

What would you like to say to your pastor or to pastors in general?  Share it with us!

100 Tips for Leaders in the Church (pt 3)

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This week’s Tuesday Tips is part three of the four part series. 100 Tips for Leaders in the Church (continued)

51. Do not criticize other preachers from the pulpit. Satan loves it when we do this, but I suspect Christ is dishonored by it.

52. Never preach someone else’s sermon. Plagiarism is plagiarism, no matter where it’s found or who does it. (And yes, you may borrow a point here and there or a story or a great insight from the text. Should you give credit to the source of the story or point? No. But be prepared in case someone asks where you got it. I once heard Adrian Rogers say, “I got this from someone who got it from someone who got it from the Lord.”)

53. If someone else’s sermon so impresses you that you just “have” to preach it (or large portions of it), do not do so until, through prayer and study and waiting on Him, the Lord makes it your own.

54. Leave politics out of the pulpit. You have bigger fish to fry.

55. If an election is coming up and you wish to invite the candidates to church, make sure your lay leadership agrees. Invite all those running for office, no matter their stance, and recognize them individually in the service, but without giving them an opportunity to speak. Have a fellowship time afterward where each one is allowed to put materials on a table and greet your people. (In the invitation, specify that this will be the procedure. Otherwise, some will arrive expecting to be allowed to address the congregation.) Sunday nights are best for this. If you preach a sermon, Jeremiah 29:7 is a great text to use.

56. Before you recommend a movie to your people, be sure you have seen it and be confident there is no objectionable content. Otherwise, don’t.

57. Before you condemn a movie or a book publicly, see it (read it) beforehand and know what you are talking about. If that’s not possible, spell out in your presentation where you came by your information. Do not put yourself in a position where someone asks, “So, pastor, have you actually read this book you are denouncing?” and you have to admit you have not.

58. Attire. Pay attention to your clothing. I suggest that the pastor dress one step better than the men in your congregation. That is, if the men are all wearing t-shirts and jeans, my suggestion is to wear a nice shirt fresh from the cleaners with dress slacks or pressed chinos. I’m not sure why, but our attire speaks of the value we place on what we are doing in God’s house. (Do I preach this to my congregation? Probably not. This is not worth the grief you will get from the unknowingly self-righteous who are certain God cares not at all about our clothing and who condemn those who say otherwise.)

59. Invite outstanding preachers and authors to your church. Expose your people to the best. After he or she speaks, have books for sale in the foyer and the author there to sign them.

60. Public prayers should almost always be brief, and therefore well thought out in advance.

61. Resiliency. There is no shame in being fired by a church or run off by a group within the church. The shame comes when you let that discourage you from future ministry. Read Second Corinthians 4:8-10 again and again until you “own” it. Then get up and get back in the game. Your team needs you.

62. If you are terminated—or “encouraged to leave” a church in a way that leaves you angry and bitter—read Luke 6:27-35 repeatedly until you make it your own. Then, to rid yourself of the anger and bear a faithful witness to your detractors, do the actions the Lord commands here: do good, bless, pray and give to them.

63. Encourage pastors who have been terminated. (A pastor recently ousted from his church asked me, “Why don’t other pastors want to help me?” I said, “Tom, when you were pastoring, how many unemployed preachers did you help?” He said, “I didn’t know it was the problem it is.” I said, “They don’t either.”)

64. Problems. Teach your lay leadership (preferably in small group settings) how to deal with problems that arise in church, how to confront a troublemaking member and what to do about a pastor who has gone rogue. (When nothing of that sort is happening in your church is the perfect time to teach this.)

65. Make yours an encouraging church. Train your people to write notes of congratulations and appreciation to people in the news who do good things.

66. Give away Bibles. Put a large box in the foyer and ask your people to bring unused Bibles from home which you can give to those who do not own one. Then, with the aid of some select volunteers, go through and inspect each Bible. Cull those with no backs and fronts, those that have been mutilated and those published by cults. Insert material on the Christian life and your church in the pages, then announce to the community: “This Saturday, free Bibles in front of our church from 2 to 4 p.m.” See what happens.

67. Publicity. In anticipation of a musical program, send some of your singers to a public forum where shoppers congregate to do a short impromptu concert. You’ve seen the “mobs” on Youtube. Do this spontaneously in a store, a mall or on a sidewalk. If the song is not long, too loud or too disruptive, you do not need to ask for permission. Afterward, have the singers fan out and talk to people. See what the Lord does.

68. Vision. Remember that church members who have a burden for a particular segment of society (those in jail, the old folks, the needy, unwed mothers, etc.) must not give you their burden and ask you to act on it. The Holy Spirit grants burdens as a gift to the faithful. When we make ourselves available to Him and take that burden seriously, in His own time, He leads us into a ministry to meet that need. The order looks something like this: A burden comes, followed by a vision, followed by a call, which is followed by a ministry (if you accept the call), which is followed by a several things including fruit, imitation, opposition and duplication.

69. Constantly remind the staff and a few key leaders to be on the alert for disruptions to the Sunday services. Whether an intruder with a gun or an ill person off his medication, leadership should receive periodic training in how to deal with such. (If you train them once and never mention it again, they will forget it. Keep it before them.)

70. Money. Never sign checks for the church. Never. And for that matter, do not handle money at all. When someone approaches you following a service to say, “Here’s my offering. I missed the plate,” ask them to hold on a second, then you call some leader to take charge of their offering.

71. Before you arrive at a new church is a good time to ask the leadership to bring in an auditing firm to review the church’s financial practices and make recommendations. By doing this before you arrive, people who have held key positions for decades (treasurer, bookkeeper, finance chair) will be less likely to take it as a personal insult and become defensive. (If the church has an annual audit, a review is unnecessary. If the church has never had an audit, the initial cost would probably be prohibitive. A review is cheaper, and may accomplish your purposes.)

72. Staff. Try to find the balance between being the boss of the staff and each one’s friend.

73. Never fire someone abruptly. If their work is unsatisfactory, make sure they know in what ways it’s not acceptable, and how they can improve. If they simply cannot do the job you are asking of them, you are doing them a favor by releasing them, painful though it may be.

74. Before doing something abrupt like firing a staff member or church employee, make sure you get sufficient counsel from your mentors and that church leaders are on board with this.

75. Do not reject raises in your salary. While doing so may feel noble to you, it tends to keep the rest of your staff at lower wages, since the church is not going to pay a staffer more than the pastor. Accept the raise, then, if you choose, you can become more generous in your contributions.

Great News!

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Exciting things happening at BHOK!  As many of you know, Barnabas House does not yet have a permanent home.  We have sent individuals on a getaway weekend, but our vision for pastoral retreats has not been fully realized.  Our big news is that we are one big step closer! 

Over the weekend, we visited the home of Carl and Mollie Myers at Ft. Gibson Lake.  The house is on the grounds of The Canebrake Resort outside of Wagoner, Ok.  It is a beautiful and very large place overlooking the lake.  The Myers have graciously offered the use of their home for BHOK retreats – our very first group retreat will be this Spring!  We will welcome four couples for a 3 day/2 night retreat, feeding their bodies, minds, and spirits. We are so thankful to God and to the Myers for literally opening this door!

Work is also being done on our website, which we will launch in the very near future, and our LinkedIn page has been updated thanks to the assistance of Amy Campbell at www.theredchecker.com  It’s so great to have such gifted friends to help in our areas of lack.

We are raising funds for the Spring retreat, so please prayerfully consider nominating and/or sponsoring one or more couples for this much needed time of restoration.  The cost to sponsor a couple is $150 – a small amount due to the generosity of the Myers.  You may donate or contact us through our website www.barnabashouseok.com or our Facebook page www.facebook.com/barnabashouseok.  Thank you so much for your encouragement and support!

100 Tips for Leaders in the Church (pt 2)

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This week’s Tuesday Tips is part two of the four part series. 100 Tips for Leaders in the Church (continued)

26. Attitude. Stay young. Just because you grow older—as you will, if God blesses you with longevity—you don’t have to become rigid and “set” in your ways. Psalm 92 promises that godly people “will still bear fruit in old age; they will be full of sap and very green.”

27. Laugh a lot. Spend time around children and teens. Don’t act like a dignified preacher around them; get down on the floor and play with the little ones. Change into your jeans and sneakers and play volleyball with the teens.

28. On the other hand, do not try to fit in as a teenager (a common mistake of youth ministers). Even if it appears they accept you as one of them, they don’t. You are a pastor and thus an authority figure to them, and that’s how it should be. But you can still love them and have them adore you.

29. Prayer. Work on your prayer life, both private and public. Just as Paul said, “We see through a glass darkly,” he also said, “We do not know how to pray as we should” (Romans 8:26). If he didn’t, it’s a safe bet you and I are poor pray-ers, too. Give attention to your praying.

30. Take care of your health. Exercise—walking is a better form of exercise than jogging because it frees your mind to think over issues, go over sermons, talk to God—several times a week and eat right. Watch your weight.

31. Porn. Guard against pornography. It comes in all varieties and can pop up anywhere, so stay on the alert. Just because one does not go to the illicit websites does not mean we are safeguarding our minds.

32. Be humble. You may need to work at this. Do not call yourself “Doctor,” even if you have an earned doctorate. And, do not call yourself “senior pastor” or “lead pastor,” regardless of the size of your church. These titles smack of pride. Pastor is an honorable designation. (If others choose to call you by these or other names, that’s fine. Letting people discover by accident that you have an advanced degree is a compliment to you; wearing it on your sleeve isn’t.)

33. Remembering that “character is what you are in the dark,” we would add that who you are when no one knows you are a preacher is the real you. Who you are in the motel room in a distant city is the real you. How you treat the waitress in Denny’s or how you leave a public restroom, these say worlds about who you are.

34. Preparation. If you are too busy to study for your sermons, you are too busy.

35. From time to time, tell your people: “Pastors are not sent to make the people happy, but to make them holy and healthy and to make the Lord happy.” Ask the secretary to print this in the bulletin at least annually as a reminder.

36. Conflict resolution. When conflicts arise in the church, do not automatically assume you are the one to deal with it. When someone attacks you, your church needs a few mature, godly and sweet members who can visit that person to, a) ask, “What’s going on?” (that is, “Why are you doing this?”), and b) to listen to them. If the complainer has a legitimate gripe, they come back and tell you, and together you all deal with it. If they are out of line, the visiting team asks the murmurer to stop this right now. Leaders of the church must possess both wisdom (knowing what to do) and courage (having the will to do it).

37. It’s no compliment to you when all your “calls” to churches have been unanimous and no slam against you that all the votes have been divided.

38. Family. Beware of putting high expectations and demands on your family just because you are the pastor. Children quickly grow to resent this.

39. Toward the conclusion of your negotiations with a search committee, consider asking: “And how much will my wife’s salary be?” When they answer that “We’re not hiring her,” smile broadly and say, “Right. I just wanted to make sure you knew that!”

40. You will never exhaust the riches of God’s word. When you have read a passage 100 times over 40 years, you will still be making discoveries in it. There is nothing else like this Book. Stay in it.

41. Preparation. Remember that preaching is not a written art, but an oral thing. So, once you have finished your plan for the message, go for a walk and preach it aloud. This will alert you to detours to avoid, rabbit trails to shun, potholes to steer around, and will make you aware of areas where you need to do more work.

42. Never deliver a sermon you have not preached to yourself at least three times. Likewise, when you plan to read a Scripture in the worship service, prepare by reading it aloud numerous times to prepare your tongue for forming these particular sounds, to find phrases you need to emphasize, and so you can do the reading justice.

43. When you are invited to guest preach in other churches, do not reinvent the wheel. This is no time to hammer out a new sermon, but an opportunity to use something you have previously preached. This allows you to improve on it. In time, this may become a favorite sermon you preach in many places.

44. While your sermon-machine is always on (and you will always have a notepad nearby when reading anything), make it a point to read Scripture devotionally—asking the Father to feed your soul—every day. Read for no other purpose than to listen to God.

45. Stewardship. Tithe your income and more through your church.

46. If you are not a faithful tither, you will have a hard time teaching your people about stewardship and taking a stand against materialism and greed. Eventually, if someone finds out you are not tithing—as they will—they will use this against you. Be blameless in all things.

47. Keep in mind that no one ever started tithing when they could afford to do so. Everyone needs just a little more money. As with everything else in the Christian life, you will do this by faith or not at all. But, no matter how painful it is, get started. The first year is the hardest; thereafter, it gets easier. Some day, you will look back with pleasure that in this one area at least, you got it right.

48. Benevolence. Don’t be so hard-nosed toward people who come to your church asking for financial help. Be wise, yes, and be on the alert for con men and scam artists. But never forget that our Lord said, “Give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6:30). He did not say we have to give them what they ask for or as much as they want. Try to give them something.

49. If you stop to help a vagrant, it’s perfectly fine to be generous without making the supplicant earn the money by listening to your lecture.

50. Witnessing. Become a personal soul-winner. Learn how to initiate a conversation with a stranger and how to explain briefly the plan of salvation and lead them in the sinner’s prayer. Then, watch for opportunities. (The Holy Spirit will send plenty of occasions to those who are prepared and watching.)

If Churches Shut Down

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People across the United States are finding out what it means for their life when the government shuts down. From this, a new hashtag on Twitter has started: #IfIShutDown. Dentists are tweeting empty dentist chairs, newspaper editors blank sheets of paper, and moms and dads messy kitchens and unsupervised children.

But what if churches shut down?

It might be the most “felt” shutdown of all. 

Why?

Because if churches shut down,

…food pantries would run empty

…residents in nursing homes would go unvisited, and many would be forced to close

…large numbers of preschools, after-school programs, daycares, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and even colleges and universities would have to close

…untold numbers of AIDS orphans in Africa would lose their monthly support

…marriages facing crisis would have to fend for themselves

…homes being built for the homeless would have to be dramatically scaled back

…countless orphanages would be forced to close

…parents with wayward children would be left without support

…the arts would lose one of its greatest patrons, and one of its biggest venues

…arguably the single largest values training program for young children would end

…recovery groups of all kinds would find themselves without places to meet, staff to serve, or support to continue

…one of the last stands of living, breathing bookstores would end

…vast numbers of funerals would go unofficiated and weddings put on hold

…leaders and constituents in the vanguard of ending human slavery and sex trafficking would be sidelined

…teens dealing with drugs and drinking, cutting and bullying, would be adrift without focused support

…people in hospitals would be unvisited, and hospice support would be devastated

…and hundreds of millions of dollars going into aid and benevolence for the poorest of the poor would end.

Oh, and there’s one more little thing: the one message that can alter the entire trajectory of someone’s eternity would lose its most powerful voice.

So what happens if the government shuts down? Arguably, some good things end. But much still goes on, such as the recent purchase of a mechanical bull for $47,000. So at least the important things are cared for.

But with the church?

That’s one shutdown no one would want to face.

James Emery White

 

Blog post is written by Dr. James Emery White from crosswalk.com. James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.

Mommy Moore’s Sweater

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I have an electric blue mohair sweater hanging in my closet – the only memento I have of my Mommy Moore.  It’s an odd item for a tiny Pentecostal Holiness minister to own.  I can only imagine when it was purchased and where she chose to wear it.  Mommy Moore and her husband Poppy Moore pastored for more than fifty years – trading preaching and Sunday School responsibilities.  Long before the days of televangelists, it was a given that this was a co-pastor position, and that Poppy would also work a day job.  Bi-vocational wasn’t even a word yet, but that’s what they did.  Yet in everything they did, from carpentry, to preaching, to raising five children, joy was present.

I have a few items from my parents – mostly photos since I’m the fourth child.  I have Mom’s Bible, the leather cracked and worn soft in her strong yet gentle hands, pages highlighted, notated, loved.  It’s like the Velveteen Rabbit.  My brother has Dad’s Bible and his Commentaries.  My parents pastored in Oklahoma and Texas for about ten years.  Dad was also bi-vocational, a wallpaper hanger by trade.  Dad left the ministry when I was just a baby, hurt by his elder board and neglected by his supervisor.  His sadness about his experience aged into bitterness that eroded his life until he passed at the age of 66.

I have my brother still.  He pastored for thirty years and for a great deal of that time he was also bi-vocational. He and his wife are full of a deep, abiding joy and sweet spirit. Their faces become more beautiful with each passing year and they seem not to age at all.  Eric and Susan will tell you that it has been a privilege to serve together these years, but those they served will say the privilege was in having them as pastors.  Countless people all over the world testify of their wisdom, encouragement, and mentoring.

Three stories, three lives, three distinct experiences.  What made the difference?  It wasn’t money, leisure activities, or size of congregation.   Each of them studied the Word, prayed, felt a sincere call to ministry, and devoted their hearts and lives to the Church.  In retrospect it seems the difference was, at least in part, a Sabbath rest and a support system – denominational, relational, and personal.  

Interestingly, this is a theme that cuts across denominational and demographic lines.  The vast majority of pastors say they have no close friend or mentor, and take no personal Sabbath themselves on another day of the week.  When questioned, many reply that the demands of ministry don’t allow for either.

My family’s stories and those of pastors everywhere drive the ministry of Barnabas House.  What can you and I do to have a positive impact on our pastors in the areas of rest and relationship?  We can encourage, support, cheer, volunteer, and put action to the good thoughts we have toward our pastors.  We can forgive, change expectations, leave room for their Sabbath, promote healthy boundaries, and bless them with a weekend or a week long getaway.  We can understand that they are people – faulty, sometimes broken individuals that often don’t feel they can be real without risking their position.

This winter I will once again wrap myself in that scratchy, electric blue mohair sweater and the joy woven between each strand.  I will remember Mommy Moore’s legacy in our family and in so many others.  Because of her I will choose joy, rest, and relationship, and I will sow that into my pastor’s life. And I will build a place where other pastors can come to receive restoration, refreshment, and renewal. What will you do?