Am I a Doctor’s Helper Who Is Allergic to Sick People?

how do we work with diseased people and churches?

A response and question from my blog post of August 1, 2017: “Brother I liked your article Do you know a sound congregation? I know why I would write an article like this, but I am curious why you did? Just curious…thank you and love you.”

I don’t think I serve the cause of unity by making breaks in fellowship before God makes them. If I get angry and accusatory at people who have different views and encouraging others to stay away from them, either by my command, example, or necessary inference, I’m promoting divisiveness.

If I cannot work with churches and people less than perfect, I’m not following the example of Jesus who ate with sinners, selected imperfect men as the cabinet in His kingdom, and attracted misfits to Him.

When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mark 2:17, NKJV).

My experience in the past ten years of interim ministry is that churches in the worst trouble are the easiest to work with. When they see their mess and don’t know where to turn, they’re teachable. When a church “has it all together” and an image to protect and project, they aren’t in learning mode.

Churches in the worst trouble are the easiest to work with. Click To Tweet

Imperfect people and churches need to be corrected—not condemned and abandoned—until they persistently show they have no intention of correcting. I don’t think that needs to be done in the first two weeks of hearing they did something I don’t like. When and if the divide comes, the door needs to be left open, shoes prepared, calf fattened, clothes clean, and the party prepared when individuals can be seen in the distance coming home. Dead churches can have live Christians in them (Revelation 3:1-4).

If I condemn them to hell, withdraw fellowship from them, and publish warnings in brotherhood papers and on Facebook when they clapped after a baptism or one elder reads KJV only and encourages others to do so, I don’t think I’m following what I read in the Bible about Corinth and the seven churches of Asia. Most of those churches were in a mess, but they still had candlesticks.

I push people away and solidify the divide when I shoot first and ask questions later. Click To Tweet

The point of my post, Do You Know of a Sound Congregation…? is not where we go to services on vacation.

My suggestion is labels of “sound” and “unsound,” indicating that anyone in that church and the church itself is not recognized by the Lord may not be accurate. It is my observation that many reasons many brethren label a church “unsound” and warn others about them do not promote unity and encouragement to grow.

The Holy Spirit through Paul had not written off Corinth when Paul wrote his letter to them. Yet they had attitude problems, moral problems, worship problems, maturity problems, marriage problems, and doctrinal problems (resurrection). Paul wrote to correct the problems they had. He addressed those problems. But he began the letter: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2).

Most of the seven churches of Asia had serious problems. Yet when John wrote Jesus’ messages to them, they all had a candlestick.

Who came out better in the end, the One who ate with tax collectors and sinners or the ones who thought Jesus was “unsound” because He did?

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

How do you work with people who are less than perfect (including yourself)?

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Culturally Diverse Church in Raleigh, North Carolina

7th New Shepherds Orientation Workshop

We had a hard working group for the 7th New Shepherds Orientation Workshop. It was a beautiful drive around the Northern border of the Smokies the weekend of August 25-27. This is one of the most culturally diverse congregations I’ve visited. The Spanish and English worship together. Their website is in both English and Spanish. They have members from other nationalities as well. I asked one of the elders the different backgrounds of the members at Raleigh. He replied, “Honduras, El Salvador,  Ghana,  Nigeria.  And there’s even a Californian…now they are something else.”

This congregation is about fifteen years old and has recently appointed new shepherds. These men, their wives, the preacher, and his wife had done their homework. They were ready to discuss ways to be more effective in the Lord’s work.

As a result of suggestions at a previous workshop in Puyallup, Washington, we had more time for small groups to interact.

The men’s and women’s groups worked separately on a real situation in a real church and made observations and suggestions of how to improve the interaction of elders and their flock.

I gave the men an issue of someone wanting to modify the elders’ plan to do mission work when a brother with money had rather build an educational annex.

The ladies discussed issues that come with being the wife of an elder. This was especially helpful to the wives of the new elders.

We concluded Sunday morning with the Bible class, Leadership is a Gift, Not a Grind. During the worship, I discussed what Paul talked about and what they did at his last elders’ meeting with the overseers of the Ephesian church. Each elder shared a “mustard seed” he had learned during the workshop.

The elders, preachers, and wives of the Raleigh church: Bill and Beth Culverhouse, Elisha and Anne Marie Freeman, Glenn and Fran Holland, Allan and Barbara Johnson, Bob and Margaret Platt, Mac and Pamela Safley, and Scott and Carol Wollens.

Discussion Topics

  • What are guidelines to help us have a better discussion and workshop?
  • How can elders shepherd each other?
  • How will we grow together as a group?
  • How will we handle criticism?
  • What is a good plan to be sure we are adequately caring for all the sheep?
  • How can we deal with deacons and encourage them?
  • How will we develop as overseers as well as shepherds?
  • How will we oversee each other?
  • What can we do to keep important things from falling through the cracks?
  • Will we function as deacons and be called elders?
  • How can we prevent the development of a toxic “head elder”?
  • What is one thing we can do to prevent conflict and promote peace?
  • How will we evaluate the deacons, the ministers, and each other?
  • What are some ways we can have good communication with the congregation?
  • What are different kinds of meetings we should have to lead this church?
  • Who should select additional leaders in this congregation?
  • What is a good way to facilitate selection?

Workshop Characteristics

  • Include all shepherds, preachers, and wives.
  • Meet offsite — away from the building.
  • Include twelve hours of working time.

The Usual Schedule

Friday — 6:00-10:00 p.m.
Saturday — 8:00-12:00 a.m.; 1:00-5:00 p.m.
Sunday:
Bible class: When Leadership Is a Gift Instead of a Grind
Sermon at worship: What Do You Say at Your Last Elders’ Meeting?

Dates I have available today for 2018: a weekend (Friday night, Saturday, Sunday morning) in April, May, September, October, November.

What questions or observations do you have about the New Shepherds Orientation Workshop?

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Preacher Evaluation…Suggestions

how can we encourage our preacher to continue to grow?

I enjoyed having a yearly evaluation from my elders. I want to know how my overseers see me. I won’t know unless they tell me. Unless they write it, I may forget. Unless we discuss what they wrote, I may not have a clear understanding.

I received this request from an elder-friend in an email recently: “It is time for our first annual elder/preacher evaluation. Do you recommend any particular questionnaire or form for us to use?”

We had a phone conversation. I wanted to know more about their thoughts and expectations.

Some things we discussed:

  1. How has this year been?
  2. What do you want to accomplish in the evaluation?
  3. List everything your preacher has done well the past twelve months. Comment on sermons, Bible classes, visits, and other acts of ministry. Be specific. Be generous. Ken Blanchard said, “Catching people doing things right provides satisfaction and motivates good performance. But remember, give praise immediately, make it specific, and finally, encourage people to keep up the good work.”
  4. Ask him what he’d like to improve and how you can help. You know you’re being good shepherds and are developing a good relationship with your preacher when he can freely tell you his weaknesses and struggles. You’ve shown him you’re concerned about him and his family as fellow Christians in this congregation and not just as an employee. Does he want to improve his Bible knowledge? A lectureship, Polishing the Pulpit, a college course or degree might be a good goal—if he’s committed to it. Does he need to improve skills in speaking and ministry? Better Preaching workshops have practical ideas and good fellowship with other preachers. Would a couple’s retreat led by competent people to improve his marriage and parenting skills make him a better husband, father, and leader of his family?
  5. If this is your first evaluation as an elder and with this preacher, it would be good to practice before you do his evaluation. I also think if it’s the twentieth one, practice would be helpful. For your practice, set a time for each elder to evaluate each elder, using the same principles listed above. I’d never thought of this until I heard an elder from North Jackson Church of Christ speaking at Freed-Hardeman University Lectureship year before last. He told about their practice of not only evaluating staff but also each elder.

But what about things he needs to correct? Don’t we need to address these?

I hope you haven’t waited a year to address what you don’t like.

If I knew my evaluation was to be all my mistakes in the last 12 months, I’d dread it like a whipping. Click To Tweet

Those things need to be addressed quickly. When I was the office manager in two churches, hiring and supervising secretaries, I had a 48-hour rule: “If you’re doing something I don’t like or not doing something I want to be done, you’ll know in forty-eight hours.” I won’t save a list of failures for a year and list them at your evaluation. To be more specific, I won’t mention any of them. I’ll have already addressed them day-by-day.

That’s the way I want to be treated.

As a follower of Jesus, if that’s the way I want to be treated, that’s the way I’ll treat others. Click To Tweet

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12, NKJV).

What suggestions do you have for edifying evaluations?

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Do You Know of a Sound Congregation…?

how many sins does it take in a congregation not to worship (or work) with them?

I see this notice on Facebook often. Someone is traveling. They ask, “Do you know of a sound congregation in ___________? We are going to be there this weekend.” Or from a fellow preacher, “I have been contacted by this congregation. Do you know if they have any problems? Would I want to move there?”

It’s A.D. 54. I’ll be traveling through Corinth this weekend. Do you know of a sound congregation where my family could worship?

Check with the apostle Paul. He wrote them a letter recently. He addressed them as, “The church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2, NKJV).

I decide to stop by on my way to Athens. But I’m shocked! They’re divided. Some of the most arrogant, prideful people I’ve ever met worship there. I heard, and I got it from a good source, a man is shacking up with his father’s wife and the church is doing nothing—they’re proud of it! They have all kind of marriage problems in this congregation. People are confused about eating meat offered to idols.

I’ve been to a lot of churches, but it’s the first one where they had a potluck, and the lady with the best banana pudding wouldn’t share with everyone—just her little group. She didn’t know me. I didn’t get any of her banana pudding. And there was one or two drunk during worship. You should’ve seen their worship. People were talking and singing at the same time. Some were speaking in a language I couldn’t understand, and nobody was there to tell me and others what they were saying.

During Bible class, there was a discussion about the resurrection. There were several who argued resurrection was impossible. They said once you’re dead, that’s it. I can’t believe they permitted someone to express that in what I understood Paul to say was a sound congregation.

In Bible class, several argued a resurrection of a dead body was impossible. Click To Tweet

Would it be better to worship in our motel than go to church in Corinth? If I were moving there, should I raise money to start a sound congregation in Corinth? I thought Paul said the church belonged to God, and they were saints. If I started a Sound Church of Christ in Corinth, would Paul hold a gospel meeting for us? If Paul held a gospel meeting for the old church in Corinth after I started the Sound Church of Christ in Corinth, should I mark Paul for preaching for an unsound church because of all the sin and error in that church? Should I post on Facebook, Twitter, and in every brotherhood paper that Paul was unsound because he preached for that group?

If you moved to Ephesus in A.D. 96, would you worship with the church there? They’re active. They are “sound”: cannot bear those who are evil, tried false apostles and found them liars, and they hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which Jesus also hates. No-one would write you up for worshipping with this sound congregation. However, Jesus says they’ve left their first love. Unless they repent, He’ll remove their lampstand. It’s interesting the “soundest” church in Asia is the one of seven Jesus is warning about removing their lampstand. Is it possible Jesus’ evaluations and our evaluations are different?

Suppose you lived in Sardis around the turn of the first century, and the congregation asked you to serve as an elder, what would be your response? Would you want to serve as a shepherd in a dead church? Is it possible you and the few who had not defiled their garments could have a good influence on the majority who were dead? Would it be worth it to shepherd the few and encourage them to continue to stay alive in a dead church and continue to walk with Jesus?

If you were a preacher when John was sending Jesus’ messages to the churches in Asia Minor and you saw an ad in the Gospel Advocate the church in Laodicea was looking for a preacher, would you send your resumé? Or would you and I require a better church?

Questions

  • Who needs to be labeling churches?
  • If I label a church unsound where Jesus hasn’t removed its lampstand, am I adding to the words written in the book (Revelation 22:17, 18)?
  • Who has the knowledge and authority to declare a church no longer a church Jesus recognizes?
  • Does Jesus need me to advise Him when to do that?
  • Should my concern be to find the purest group or to be a Physician’s assistant Who said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mark 2:17)?
  • When the church where I’m worshipping does a thing or two that makes me uncomfortable, should I and a couple of hundred others turn it over to the ones who are wandering in the wrong direction, or stay and be salt and leaven to remain faithful to what the Bible teaches and live as Jesus taught?
  • If I leave so I can feel comfortable again, how is that different from those who want to do other things so they can feel better?
  • Is Jesus’ call to discipleship to do whatever you can to feel comfortable or to serve in Corinth, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, Nashville, San Francisco, or Frog Jump—even if everyone and everything is not as it should be now?
Who needs to be labeling churches? Click To Tweet

How did Jesus and the Holy Spirit decide when to mark off a church in the New Testament as unworthy of attendance and service? How do you decide today?

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How Elders Have Shepherded Me

how loving, caring, leading, guiding, correcting, encouraging men have contributed to my growth as a preacher and as a person

I’ve had a few elders less than the best. I’ve worked with many excellent elders. I’ve had some in-between. Preachers need shepherding as well as other dependent, dirty, and disoriented sheep.

Here are actions and attitudes of helpful shepherds with a few contrasts to make the picture clearer.

    1. They’ve told me the truth. They’ve done what they said they’d do.
    2. When I made mistakes, I’ve had enough to encourage me that I didn’t give up. As a young preacher, one night I realized I’d raised money to do a project the elders didn’t want. I went to the two elders in tears, apologizing for what I’d done. I planned to go for a college Bible course in another town that night. I suggested I stay at home and not attend the class. One of the elders was angry — “Yes, that’s what you need to do. You’ve got to learn you can’t do things like that.” And He went on and on. The other elder said, “No. You go to the class. This hasn’t been your pattern. You’ve recognized your mistake. It’s evident you’re sorry for what you’ve done.” I’m thankful for the kindness of the second elder. I’ve wondered what would have been the effect if both elders had taken the harsh approach of the first. I stayed several years and did a good work there.
    3. They’ve expressed their concern by listening to what was going on in my life.
    4. They’ve communicated trust by asking for help and prayers as they shared what was good and less than ideal in their world.
    5. They conducted regular evaluations without my prompting (see #1). Those were times of encouragement. I looked forward to my yearly evaluations the last week of May. I hurried home to read them to my wife.
    6. Evaluations were positive and complimentary because we kept current with likes and dislikes. Evidently, they were men who didn’t want their supervisors saving all their mistakes to read aloud once a year. My shepherds observed the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) and treated me as they’d like to be treated.
    7. During times of personal and family difficulty, they prayed for me and encouraged me to take any time needed to work on family matters immediately.
    8. Especially when my children were home, they reminded me to spend time with my family.
    9. When there was sickness or loss, they visited without having to have a visitation card. I got the impression they cared and wanted me to know.
    10. I’ve had elderships who requested and participated in special times of Bible study for growth and to study specific topics of concern.
    11. They treated me as a trained, intelligent, and competent person who could be trusted to be in leadership meetings to talk, listen, suggest, evaluate, and not think I had to have my way. When I had a suggestion or request, I didn’t have to argue my case before the Supreme Court, then have a decision handed down. I was permitted to be in on the discussion and observe approval, disapproval, or modification of the request in real time. Many times a concern could be answered in five minutes and the project approved. I prefer that to sending me out, denying my request, and telling me why. One time when I explained the objection, the one delivering the rejection said, “If we’d known, we might’ve done it differently. But we’ve made our decision, and we’ll stick with it.”

I’ve had very few classes on becoming and functioning as an elder-shepherd-overseer. I’ve taught hundreds of classes. Most of what I’ve learned, taught, and now write has been learned by observation of men who have led well — and not so well.

What memories do you have of good shepherding?

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9 Ways to Encourage Your Preacher

3 reasons to encourage anyone

I received this email from a preacher friend: Could you answer the following questions for me in order to assist me with a sermon this week. We’re doing a “Church Growth” series – and the next lesson is on Ministerial Renewal. Perhaps my answers to him would provide a “mustard seed” of how to encourage your preacher (and others).

What are some ways members can encourage and support their ministers?

  1. Sincere, spaced, specific compliments.
  2. Sincere, metered, kind criticism.
  3. Consistent, accurate communication about what you want, when you want it, and what you don’t want. Some people want visits when they’re sick, others don’t. Some people want their names in the bulletin for sickness, deaths, and weddings, others don’t.
  4. Extend grace. When your preacher forgets or makes a mistake, communicate when it’s helpful and important. However, an occasional slip doesn’t merit an emotional explosion.
  5. Especially when you have a criticism, talk to your preacher — not about your preacher. Don’t tattle to the elders about shortcomings of your preacher until you’ve talked with him first (Matthew 18:15). Then, if you need to involve the elders, let him know and suggest he invite a trusted person to set in on the meeting. Make the purpose of the meeting help and not hurt (Matthew 18:16). [tweetthis]Don’t tattle 2 the elders about shortcomings of your preacher until you’ve talked with him 1st (Matthew 18:15).[/tweetthis]
  6. Invite him and his family for a meal. When people do that, without an agenda, it feels like a mini-vacation — a time to rest, relax, and recharge. Especially refreshing to me: people who have treated me like a normal human being, Jerrie, not just “the preacher.”
  7. Give him awards and parties. I’ve asked many people why their companies waste money on pins, plaques, cruises, and certificates. They tell me the company isn’t wasting money — it’s an investment in their encouragement and growth. I ask, “I wonder if that works with preachers?”. It does. Many have done that for me and I’m encouraged.
  8. Give an extended (three-month) sabbatical every seven years. One of the easiest, most economical ways to get a good new preacher is to give your old preacher a planned extended rest. He can come back a renewed preacher without paying a moving company and negotiating a higher salary with a different preacher who doesn’t know the congregation. This was the most valuable gift in my years of preaching. Trade Your Preacher for a Better One
  9. Encourage and assist in short periods of intense, isolated study. I’ve done this on several occasions. It’s amazing what I can do in five days in a remote place with nothing to do but think, pray, read, and study. Some of my most used and helpful sermons and series have come out of these focused times of retreat and study.

Why is it important for members to encourage and support their ministers (all servants — not just preachers)?

  1. Courage wears out. Unless many people are encouraged, they will become discouraged and “weary in well doing” (Galatians 6:9)
  2. Encouragement helps the encourager as well as the encouraged.
  3. It’s a part of “bearing one another’s burdens” and fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). [tweetthis]Encouragement helps the encourager as well as the encouragee.[/tweetthis]

What Bible examples do you see where ministers were encouraged and supported?

  • God told Moses to encourage Joshua. Deuteronomy 1:38; Deuteronomy 3:28
  • Moses encouraged Joshua in the sight of all Israel. Deuteronomy 31:7
  • Moses encouraged Joshua. Deuteronomy 31:23
  • The Lord encouraged Joshua. Joshua 1:7
  • Joshua encouraged others. Joshua 10:25

The encouragee has become the encourager.

What encourages you? How have you encouraged others?
Please comment below:

How Do You Set the Budget?

do you ask or tell what the contribution should be?

How do you present the budget in your congregation? Is it simply a business transaction? Do we do it like we’ve always done it — look at last year’s budget; increase it by 7-10%; tell everyone what they need to give this year?

Gail and I have been living on a budget for nearly fifty years. I haven’t gone to my employers (elders) with this presentation: “Gail and I have been working on our budget for next year. We’ve looked at our expenditures, new needs, and inflation. We also believe we deserve a merit raise. Therefore, here’s our budget for next year. Please fund this for us.”

[tweetthis]Here’s our budget for next year. Please fund this for us.[/tweetthis]

My experience has been elders evaluate my work, comparable compensation of preachers in the area, and the financial condition of the congregation. They tell me my income for the year. I go home and announce to Gail what we’ll be making. We sit down at our computer and decide how we’ll spend the income paid to us.

A few years ago I wondered why we did it the opposite way in the church. I suggested to the elders where I was working as an interim to think about this concept. They considered it. Since then, they’ve been asking Christians what they’re planning to give and budgeting that amount instead of budgeting what the elders wanted and telling Christians what they needed to give to fund the budget.

Giving Intent Card, LaVergne Church of Christ

Giving Intent Card, LaVergne Church of Christ

Giving Intent Card in Word format

It’s been my experience when people think about giving, they give more liberally. At least two times in my ministry, we planned a month of lessons on giving from the pulpit and home studies for families. Both times the contribution increased and maintained a higher level.

Unless asked, few people think about how and how much they give. When given an opportunity to think, discuss, and pray about this grace, many people grow in this spiritual exercise.

[tweetthis]When people think about giving, they give more liberally.[/tweetthis]

Suggestions

  1. Meet with the deacons and all members in large and small groups. Discuss needs and opportunities of the community, area, and the world. What has God prepared this church to do to spread the gospel in word and deed?
  2. Refine and combine ideas. Give specific works that will challenge this congregation as a whole and individual Christians. Present plans that fit into the mission of the Lord’s church with no money attached discussing projects for sharing the gospel from this congregation.
  3. Ask the church to consider and pray about this for two weeks.
  4. Request each family to hand in how they’d like to take part financially and in other ministry to do what we’ve been dreaming and praying about.
  5. Fund the work to the extent the people have agreed to give.

Observations

  • Not everyone will participate.
  • Enough will cooperate to give a good indication of the amount of the contribution for the coming year.
  • Many will contribute more when given the vision of what God can do in His church than if we read a spreadsheet during the announcements and tell them the amount to give next year.

What have you seen effective in encouraging Christians to grow in the grace of giving?
Please comment below:

Trade Your Preacher for a Better One!

how to get a new preacher without renting a U-Haul™

I get tired of hearing the same preacher Sunday, after Sunday, after Sunday. In two years (from 1998), I’ll have been at Berry’s Chapel seven years. In the year 2000, if I could have three months off to travel, listen to other preachers, rest, and do some special study, it’d be a great blessing to me.”

That was my answer to a question one of the elders asked me a few weeks before: “Jerrie, what could we do besides giving you a raise that would encourage you?”.

It was my second request for a sabbatical. Several years before I asked for a month off to spend some dedicated time with my family. The elder leading the meeting replied, “That’d be nice. Does anyone have anything else to say before closing prayer?” That was the end of that.

The elders at Berry’s Chapel announced in a family meeting in January 2000 I’d be taking a sabbatical during June, July, and August. In my absence, John Parker preached at morning services. Jim Bill McInteer spoke at evening services.

Besides three meetings and another speaking appointment already scheduled, I didn’t preach or teach classes during the summer.

While I was off, Gail, Mother, Daddy, and I traveled West, something we’d been discussing for years but never took the time. We carried our oldest granddaughter on her 12-year-old trip, a special treat we the did with the rest of the grandchildren in the coming years. We had a family vacation in the Smokies. Childhaven had their fifty-year reunion. We rented a van and traveled with Jerrie Wayne and grandchildren to Gail’s home where she grew up.

August 11-18 I rented a cabin at Natchez State Park for a week in isolation. I didn’t turn on a radio, tape player, or TV. I made one call a day to Gail to check on her and the family. After rising at 6:00 a.m., the rest of the day, 8:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. was spend reading, studying, praying, and thinking. I worked on presentations for a lectureship. I learned more than in any conference I ever attended.

A treat I anticipated and enjoyed was worshipping with 29 different congregations. With the exceptions of the three meetings I held, we only visited two congregations twice.[tweetthis]I get tired of hearing the same preacher (me) Sunday, after Sunday, after Sunday. — Jerrie Barber[/tweetthis]

Observations on my Sabbatical

  1. The rest-break was valuable. I averaged eight hours sleep per night for June, July, and August. Back and sciatic pains which had bothered me for some time disappeared. I told the church, “I thought I was getting old, but I just needed a few nights of good sleep.”
  2. I enjoyed being unorganized. We only made one reservation in advance on our trip to the West. Daddy would often ask, “Where’re we going to spend the night?”. My answer, “I don’t know. We aren’t there yet.”
  3. I wouldn’t want to do what I did that summer continually. It was fun and relaxing, but I didn’t get many jobs marked off my to-do list until I started setting the clock and making specific plans. I could get stressed traveling all the time. I learned what I already suspected. I don’t want to retire as long as I’m healthy. I enjoy what I do. I realized that in 2000 at the end of my sabbatical. I still feel the same way after nine years of interim ministry. Gail and I take mini-sabbaticals between interims.
  4. I like to be organized. I like to-do lists, a time to get up, and specific responsibilities
  5. I studied some during the summer: reading, memory work, and typed forty sermons on my computer to continue to develop later.
  6. I looked forward to returning to my regular work. The first Sunday morning back, I awoke at 3:30 a.m. excited and anxious about the day.
  7. I experienced an alternative to burn-out or moving, which is often from overload without seeing an alternative. It’s my observation many preachers move because they see no other way for relief and renewal. It’s harder to preach for a congregation the longer you stay. Old sermons are depleted. More activities and tasks are accepted. There is less time to do more.[tweetthis]It’s my observation many preachers move because they see no other way for relief and renewal.[/tweetthis]

    The break is a way to start over. It occurred to me that some members may go to another congregation for similar reasons. They’re active and take on more and more jobs. They don’t know how to resign or rest without guilt. The only way they know to get relief is move and start over. I believe there’s an alternative – take a break.

Following the summer of 2000, we had elders and deacons who took seasons of rest from three-six months. They reported similar feelings of renewal.

The most cost-effective way I know to get a new preacher is to send your present preacher away with a plan to refresh and renew. Suggestion: consider this every five to seven years. The plan needs to be his, not yours. You may make suggestions. But you can’t tell another person how to relax.

What has been your experience with rest and renewal?
Please comment below:

Is Grace a Gift or a Bargain?

is there hope for people who are slow to accept grace?

It was one year, seven months, and 22 days since the gift was presented. Bob and Bea McElvain came to our Golden Wedding Anniversary party August 30, 2014. They gave us a gift card to Patti’s 1880’s Restaurant in Grand Rivers, Kentucky. We enjoyed that meal April 21, 2016.

As we ate and a few running days since then, I’ve been reflecting on gifts and grace.

  • A gift doesn’t cost the recipient anything. Even if the price for an item were $1,000.00 and the person sold it to me for $1.00, it wouldn’t be a gift but a bargain — a good bargain but aPatti's bargain because I had to pay the $1.00 to receive the benefit. [tweetthis]Our salvation is a gift — not a bargain.[/tweetthis] “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9, NKJV).
  • Even though I don’t have to pay anything, I may have to do something to receive the gift. Our delicious and abundant meal was completely free to us. But we had to go to Grand Rivers, Kentucky, order from the menu, chew the food and swallow it to receive the gift. But showing up and enjoying the meal didn’t mean we earned it. The food was free.
  • In receiving many gifts, you have to be present to win. Our family shopped at a grocery store just off the square in Centerville, Tennessee when I was growing up. They often gave tickets when we bought groceries. On a Saturday afternoon, they would draw a ticket from a big basket. The person who had the winning number would win the prize. I remember the Saturday they gave away a Shetland pony, bridle, and saddle. I wanted that pony. They had a rule on the contest: you have to be present to win. Being present didn’t mean you earned the prize, but it was necessary to receive the gift.

    That principle is true with God’s gifts. A person has to be “in Christ” to receive any spiritual gift. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).

  • The fact that a person takes a long time to accept the gift doesn’t mean they aren’t interested, and will never accept it. We like to go to Patti’s. We weren’t rebellious at the offer of the gift. It took a while (one year, seven months, and 22 days) for us to be where we were ready to accept the gift fully.

    There have been times when I have offered and encouraged others to accept God’s gifts. It has been days, months, and years. I see no interest or movement in that direction. That is fromPatti's 2 my perspective. They may be very interested and moving even as I write this post. I shouldn’t assume their lack of interest because I can’t see it.

  • There is a limit to grace. Years ago, a friend gave us a gift certificate to a restaurant. We talked about going. We knew it was good. We had eaten there before. Several months later we went. We were hungry and anticipating a good meal. The restaurant was closed. We had waited too long. The certificate was useless. We have to use God’s gift card before the time limit expires — death or Jesus’ return.
  • I was able to extend more grace because of the grace I had been given. When we received the bill, we figured the tip for the gracious waitress. She did an excellent job. She’s been working at Patti’s 25 years! There was some money left on the card after we figured the usual tip. We decided to give her that also.
  • But I didn’t give her the extra from “my” money. It didn’t cost me anything. It was part of the gift given to me. That’s true of the grace I extend to others. I only give what God has given me. Gail and I give liberally. But we only give what’s been given to us.

    God promised to give us everything we need to do everything He wants us to do.

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for Go loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

[tweetthis]I don’t want to fail to share what I have with others because I’m afraid God will run out of gift cards.[/tweetthis]

I don’t want to get discouraged when someone doesn’t use the gift cards I’ve given them. It may take one year, seven months, and 22 days — or longer to see the results. Or I may never see it.

[tweetthis]I need to give because I need to give — not just to see the results.[/tweetthis]

What have you learned about grace — receiving gifts from God and  giving grace to others?
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