Sunday, June 28, 2015

When Will the Evil End?

My column from last week's edition of the Outer Banks Sentinel addresses the mass murders at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hope Just in Time

A young man who grew up a few houses down the street died suddenly last week.  The life that led to his death at 34 did not leave us being totally surprised at the news, but at the same time totally sad.

The next afternoon, after I paid his mom a visit, she asked if I would do the graveside service the following Thursday.  Of course, I would.  They were neighbors, after all.  Her son and mine had been boyhood buddies.  And (unlike weddings) I don't turn down funerals if at all possible.

But I wrestled over the days leading up to today's service.  What would I say?  Nothing that I was aware of indicated he had found forgiveness and everlasting life through Christ.  His life (as far as I knew it) was full of the sad choices he had made.  I'm not one to give hope where I believe there is none, or to "preach" someone into heaven.  Yet I knew I had to say something to bring comfort to his mother and 12 year old son.

This morning I opened up the condolences posted on the site of the funeral home.  Lots of sorrow.  Lots of "in a better place" and "another angel" things.  Many fond remembrances of a young man who was kind, polite and if he could be, helpful.  I expected those comments.

But then this one came up.  And it lifted a tremendous burden from my shoulders.

I remember spending “Sonrise Service” with you this past Easter at the Ocean front…that was good! I know for sure there is no pain where you are and you wouldn’t come back here if you could – I thank Jesus that you are with him – that you took the steps to accept Him as Savior.

That was the best news I could have received today, and just an hour before the service.  I was able to say to the crowd assembled that he was in heaven, not because he was kind and polite, but because earlier this year he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.  There was the hope we all needed.

And I shared with them that they, too, could have that same hope.

Thank you Lord, for letting me read those comments in time.  Thanks for opening his heart to the Gospel, and for someone who shared it with him in time.  You know how great I felt hearing that testimony and then being able to share it.  May it bring others who perhaps have no hope to Christ.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Is Yours a "Toxic Church?"

I just came across this article today about toxic churches and how their poison destroys pastors.

While there are certainly enough examples of square pegs in round holes and the power hungry serving as pastors, and there's plenty of blame to pass around as to why some churches can just never find the "perfect fit" from a pastor, I found this article telling.

One line jumped out at me...especially when I realized I was once a part of that statistic.  "50 percent of seminary graduates quit the ministry in the first five years".  For me, it was right at 3 years.

I was in a toxic church.  The sad thing is that it was a church that I planted.  Some of those in the church, especially those with financial ability and/or leadership are described in Wilson's article.  I learned that disgruntled church members make a poor foundation for a new church.  My resignation (just six months in)followed an attempted "coup" by a small, but vocal and influential clique.

Although I had 5 years of full-time ministry experience under my belt, as well as a seminary degree, I was unprepared to do battle and walked away.

We had grown significantly in those first six months.  Already we were seeing 40+ in attendance each Sunday, meaning we were larger than the other Baptist church in town.  I was 30 with a young family, and great vision for the future.  Suddenly I was without a church, without an income and wondering how in the world I would support my family.

And I knew, because of their eagerness to run me off, that they had in effect cut their own throats and would die a slow death...which they did.  God would not honor that kind of meanness.  Within five years the five who remained finally threw in the towel. 

I typed up my resume and as best I could got word out that I was available.  I heard from a couple of churches.  One dangled the carrot in front of me, got me excited about the possibility and then suddenly dropped me like a hot potato, for what reason I never heard.  I mean I heard nothing.  In a phone call with the other church's designated pastor-seeker I asked, "How old is your church?"  They were a young congregation of just eight years.  "How many pastors have you had?"  Six...six in eight years!  It took me about a half a second to say, "No thanks.  I'm not going to be #7".

My heart goes out to these young pastors fresh from investing 3 or 4 years in grad school training for what they truly believe is God's calling on their lives.  They come out of seminary on-fire for God and in love with His church and mission.  And within just a few years they quit, angry, hurt and often (as did I) doubting their call.

And we wonder why many are saying evangelical Christianity is dying.  Hey, it doesn't work when the "sheep" are killing the "shepherds".

The rest of my story is that there was this church in the same town that was comatose and dying.  Somehow, four years after I quit the previous church, God dusted me off, said He still had use for me and placed me with them as their pastor.  And almost 25 years later I'm still here.

So, if you're a young, maybe defeated pastor, who has been burned by a preacher-killing church, please don't allow them to make you feel as though God can't use you.  It's not you He can't use, it's them.  Hang on.  Stay faithful.  Find other avenues of ministry and mission until He picks you up and puts you in a healthy place.

If you're a pastor, or you know a pastor you know needs to talk about this, I'm available and would love to help.
50 percent of seminary graduates quit the ministry in the first five years - See more at:
50 percent of seminary graduates quit the ministry in the first five years - See more at:
50 percent of seminary graduates quit the ministry in the first five years - See more at:
50 percent of seminary graduates quit the ministry in the first five years - See more at:
50 percent of seminary graduates quit the ministry in the first five years - See more at:"