Friday, March 27, 2009


Easter and Good Friday are approaching. (Aren't they always?) And this is the highest day of the Christian calendar. That is if you observe one day as greater than another. Christmas is pretty big, but then lots of people have been born. Most anyway. But NEVER has anyone raised from the dead and received an eternal body that will never die, decay, see corruption, be hungry again, or desire to go to a NASCAR race. Jesus proved His Divinity, Lordship, and being The Best Ever by doing this.
Birth was the first time in history God took on flesh, being born of a woman, which is a big deal. But Resurrection enables our Salvation to occur. His death, also a BIG DEAL, purchased our redemption by the sacrifice of His life, which is seen in the shedding of His blood. But as the old song says,
"Living He loved me, Dying He saved me, buried He carried my sins far away.
Rising He JUSTIFIED, FREELY, FOREVER. Someday He's Coming, oh glorious day."
Besides the oncoming of Good Friday and Easter-or as I prefer to call it: RESURRECTION DAY; another day coming is Maundy Thursday. What is that?
Some of you already know, but us baptists kinda blew off special days that were so described by the papists. Sometimes it was a 'baby with the bathwater' thing.
Often passages of scripture became known by their opening words in Latin. The Magnificat is from Mary's "My soul does magnify the Lord." etc.
So in the last days of Jesus' earthly life he told the disciples in the upper room of the passover supper; "A New Commandment I give to you, that you love one another even as I have loved you." Those words "New Commandment" are Mandatum Novum" in Latin. The word Mandatum was shortened to Maunday, or Maundy, and the day before Good Friday, which was ostensibly the day of the week Christ said this, became the day to remember His NEW COMMANDMENT. Hence, Maundy Thursday.
But WHY is it NEW? The Law already commands us to love our neighbors. Jesus already illustrated who our neighbor is. Notice though the last phrase, "As I have loved you." Jesus' love is a DIVINE love. It is perfect. It issues from the Trinity as the glue of the universe. That which displays the unity of the Godhead. Notice I didn't say it unifies the Godhead. They are already one, that is what binds them together; They are a He. But the love for each other is the reflection of the Divine as surely as Christ reflected the Father.
So this New Commandment commands a new level of love. It is divine, it is unifying, it is perfect, and it can only be got at through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Only through Christ can we access the Father and all that is the Trinity.
This Maundy Thursday, remember to love others with divine Love, on the eve of Jesus displaying the divine love-for us all-on the cross.
I love you with the Love of the Lord....

Friday, March 20, 2009

Top Ten Pastoral Challenges

Are you familiar with Letterman's Top Ten list? Recently Lifeway (a division of your Southern Baptist Convention) did a top ten list of challenges facing the small church pastor.
#10-Demographics-the community around the church changes but the church isn't growing. Or, as in our case the community is not changing so fast its just diverse by age and economics. We are in a largely white community, maybe what we need is more ethnic diversity. The divisions within the population are not minor. From Builders and Busters to Gen's X, Y, and Z, folks just think different! More importantly the distance between 'Modern' thinking people and 'Post-modern' are staggering. But, young people still want community, young mom's still want something good for their children, and youth still want barriers and standards, whether they admit it or not.
#9-Too few people-pastors said they couldn't get things done because they didn't get enough help. My question would be, did they ask? I don't ask enough, but when I do folks are usually helpful.
#8-Age of the pastor-several said they were just getting too old. Old is ambiguous!
#7-Worldliness of the church, or "Cultural Seepage"-the world's culture seeps into the church causing the church to act and think like the world. Learning to 'think' like Jesus Must precede the WWJD question.
#6-Lack of money-Pastor's often feel like there are not enough resources for the job to get done. I know that feeling. But sometimes its a matter of not being able to do the job the way "I want to do it." The First Century church did a great job on a shoe-string. Of course there's been some inflation since then. Still, if there are some who are not giving to a local church-we could use your help and God loves a cheerful giver.
#5-Age of the church-as churches get older young people do not feel attracted to the church. This is why I emphasize the need to be more 'User Friendly" to young adults. This doesn't mean radical change in worship, It means helping them where they need help, understanding their culture and not expecting them to do things the "Old" way. (especially if the 'old way' is not all that biblical to begin with.)
#4-Too Few workers-Pastors sometimes feel the church considers them the "hired gun," they should do all the work. I'm so glad my church never asked me to shoot anybody. But, sometimes there are things you can do better or more effectively than I. (REALLY! Some folks would rather talk to a regular Joe or Mary than THE PASTOR.)
#3-Lack of Commitment from members-I asked a guy if he thought that apathy or ignorance was the biggest problem in the church. He said, "I don't know and I don't care." OK, that's an old joke, but frankly, as much as some folks want the church to prosper and succeed, they seem to think "Its up to others." Listen, for a church small or large to succeed, its up to everybody!
#2-Resistance-Some pastors feel the church simply doesn't want to change, and that there are "church bosses" who forget that God is in charge! Well, if I have bosses I'm too clueless to notice. But there's something to this wanting to change business. I occasionally encounter folks who don't want the church to change. So what I assume they want is for their children and grandchildren to go straight to Hell without passing GO. Because church "Their way" ain't getting it done. (Pardon the 'ain't.')
And the #1 Challenge for small church pastors? TIME. Gee that's kind of anti-climactic. That's not my number one challenge. Some days I have time, some days I don't. Some weeks are easier, some weeks aren't easy at all. But here's the thing, sometimes everything happens at once. One day everyone is fine and happy. Next day: two folks are in the hospital, three need me on the phone, two need me in my office, there are curriculum decisions needing my attention, the bug guy says we have an infestation of Brazilian Farmer Ants, the toner ran out on the copier before Sunday's Bulletin was done, and we RAN OUT OF COFFEE!
Fortunately that's not everyday, but when that happens, I need help. The deacons are great about making a hospital visit, staff too! Some are great at visiting shut-ins. (Frankly the shut-ins know and like you better than me.) But sometimes, after several days of this I'm tired and a few things didn't get done. Now I'm not WHINING, I'm just saying, I'm my biggest critic and task master. I know that God won't put more on my plate than I can handle. Know this, that as a pastor who truly answers to God, I will get to everything I can and I will try to prioritize it correctly.
Know this too, I love the ones God has allowed me to shepherd, and don't want anyone to slip through the cracks. Sometimes I wish I could buy another hour like buying a vowel on Wheel of Fortune, or save one when I'm not so busy, for when I am. But none of us can. So, we'll work till Jesus comes, Amen? Work with me, it'll be fun! And if you were wondering what I consider my greatest challenge, just ask.
Love you all, Clark (PS it was touched on in the blog.)