En Garde Pastor!

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” – Acts 20:28 (NASB)

Serving the church has certainly been challenging during the COVID19 crisis. This novel virus has demanded innovative skills and a landscape that seems to change daily. A recent article I read by John Dobbs (link below) caused me to ponder how a pastor can avoid burnout while trying to effectively shepherd God’s church under current restraints. It’s important to remember a few things:

  1. God was not surprised by this, or any, crisis. He who formed the earth and upholds it by the word of His power was not caught short, unaware, or impotent!
  2. God’s call to shepherd His flock is not negated by these circumstances. He knew about this when He called us to serve, wherever we are. It’s all part of His calling.
  3. God’s resources are enough to equip and sustain His shepherds. The God who calls us also equips us and supplies our every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesian elders is helpful here. He warns them first to “be on guard for yourselves.” It is important that God’s shepherds protect their own spiritual vitality. The welfare of the flock entrusted to them depends upon it. How can a man do so? There are many ways…I’ll just mention three here.

Disciplined devotion. There is no substitute for a rich devotional life with God. Maintaining one requires discipline. Like any other relationship, our devotion to God can wax and wane through various seasons of life. It is important to be disciplined about spending the necessary time to grow increasingly closer to God and love Him more deeply. When all is said and done, our devotion to God is one thing we can really depend on.

Peers & Mentors. The New Testament itself bears witness to the importance of peer relationships: the twelve, Paul and Barnabas, etc. These brothers served and prayed and preached and traveled together. Though they didn’t always agree, their mutual accountability was real and healthy (Paul confronting Peter’s hypocrisy in Antioch). Paul’s mentorships are evident in Silas, Timothy, and others. The Timothy Letters are a rich and valued resource for every pastor and, also provide a model for praxis. It is important to develop peer and mentoring relationships.

Biblical Counsel. Pastors would do well to hear the well-known adage, “Physician, heal thyself!” Sometimes the pastor can benefit from a counselor. Thankfully, Louisiana Baptists provide Granberry Counseling Services at no cost to ministers and their families. It’s confidential. You can find a center near you here.

When I was a kid, we would sword fight with sticks. Before engaging in the fight, we would mimic fencers and declare “en garde!” It was a warning to defend yourself…an attack is coming. If pastors are going to care for God’s sheep, we must first guard our own spiritual vitality. En Garde Pastors!

Below is the link to the original article. I really love the fact that the author humbly expresses the hope that we’ll look back and conclude that his concerns were overstated. I join him in that hope.

https://johndobbs.com/the-coming-pastoral-crash/?fbclid=IwAR3tURABWsFwT4RL_6z8OgXpi-15T5oIOSzyPKBFBxnQAn2EpIgjAEMV0FY

4 Pivotal Steps for Pastors in Transition

We often think about Pastor Search teams vetting pastors, but for the pastor in transition, it is so important that a pastor vet a church. Wise pastoral candidates will not avoid this important step. Here are some common steps that some pastors take to learn more about a prospective church. But how?

  1. Seek the LORD diligently in prayer to discern whether He would have you consider the church. Every important move you make should be immersed in prayer.
  2. Research the prospective church thoroughly.
  • Read any documentation that is available: purpose, mission, vision, values, bylaws, etc.
  • Read about the staff, if any.
  • If a calendar is posted, review the activities. Is it current?
  • If newsletters or bulletins are archived, read some.
  • Is there a worship service video archive? If so, view some to get a feel for the worship.
  1. Make some key contacts:
  • Director of Missions for that area. Ask what he knows about the church. Stable? Strengths? Weaknesses? Troubled? Cooperative? Where did the last pastor go? Was he terminated? Pressured to resign?
  • Former pastor(s) to learn more about the church, his ministry, and his departure.
  • Former staff members to learn more about the church, the former pastor, and their respective departures.
  • State convention office to request a historical statistical report for the church and to ask what they may know about the church and the former pastor’s ministry.
  • Neighboring pastors to ask what they may know about the church and the former pastor’s ministry.
  • Neighboring businesses to ask what they may know about the church.

Again, seek the LORD diligently in prayer to discern whether He would have you consider the church.

Remember that ultimately, “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” (Acts 20:28)

  1. Be upfront about your questions and concerns. Don’t hesitate to discuss with the pastor search committee any concerns that may arise.

Ten Steps for Vetting Your Next Pastor

Recently a small Louisiana Baptist church began the process of seeking a pastor. Resumes were received from all over the region, and a few from as far away as Missouri, but one candidate caught the attention and interest of the search team.

His resume more than impressed the search committee. He had a doctorate and was working on another overseas. He previously served declining churches who (apparently) experienced revitalization.

The pastor search team had an initial conference call with the candidate and began formulating a time for a visit. Since the candidate was from a neighboring state, they knew this would take some planning. During this time after the interview the team began to do some more digging on the web and strangely, they couldn’t find any of the churches on his resume. His two recommendations gushed over the phone about his ministry but the churches seemed invisible.

After more digging there wasn’t even a shred of identification connected with his name. Finally, researching his last name brought the committee to an alleged con-man who had been reportedly been outed as an arsonist and a fraud. People previously connected to the man accused him of falsely claiming to be a first responder in New York City during 9-11. They even found evidence that he had spoken in public schools and distributed flags that he claimed were from places near the Twin Towers.

With a few simple tools, the committee was able to match the candidate’s address to the address of this sketchy figure. Thankfully, another small church dodged a bullet.

Here are a number of tools to help churches who are beginning to search for a new pastor. Here are the top ten recommendations.

  1. One committee member should call all the references for a given pastoral candidate. It allows him/her to listen for nuance, pauses, hesitations, etc. that may go unnoticed if multiple people are making the calls.
  2. Compile a list of questions you plan to ask each reference. (See the free PDF Here)
  3. Contact the newly-discovered references and ask the same questions. Go at least three levels deep.
  4. Resist the temptation to call references from the church in which the candidate is currently serving without discussing it with the candidate beforehand. In many cases it is best to contact these references at the “eleventh hour” so as not to create a problem for the candidate in his church.
  5. Contact the Director of Missions for the association in which the candidate is currently serving.
  6. Secure written release forms from the candidate to conduct a nationwide criminal background check and a credit check. The church’s local banker can run the credit check with written authorization. (This could be another committee member.)
  7. One committee member with some technological skills should review the candidate’s social media footprint to discover what he is passionate about and identify any areas of concerns.
  8. Those gathering information should report back to the committee the nature and content of the conversations and any concerns that have arisen.
  9. The committee should prayerfully draw conclusions and determine whether to pursue this candidate further.
  10. If the committee decides not to pursue the candidate further, this should be communicated to the candidate.

ONE LAST NOTE: Since this process requires much time and effort, it is best not to check references until later in the process when the committee has settled on a particular candidate. Check his references, prayerfully make a decision, and then move forward with the candidate or move on to the next candidate.

Check out this conversation on Pastor Search Tips and Security with Stacy Morgan:

10 Classes You Won’t Take in Seminary

Coming together for pastors’ conferences like E4 is so vital to pastors because we are still learning the lessons you miss at seminary.

You missed them because they aren’t found in any syllabus. They are only learned in the Seminary of Hard Knocks.

Here are a few classes I’ve audited from that fine institution over the years.

#1: How to Make the Church Smell Good after the Septic Pump Quits on Saturday Night

You walk down the hall and you’re greeted by a slightly malodorous sensation. “This hall stinks,” you say to yourself on Sunday morning at 7:38 am.

You go to the Welcome Center. “The Welcome Center… stinks too!” And then your head begins to spin with a harsh, whiff of reality. “THIS WHOLE CHURCH STINKS!”

Trust me. You can clear the disinfectant spray shelves of every Dollar Store in a ten-mile radius and you aren’t getting rid of that stench before the first-time guests arrive.

#2. Avoiding Debates Inside the Church over Calvinism, Drum Volume, and the Fellowship Hall Table-Lending Policy

Church is a sensitive subject and there will always, always be a controversy. Your job as pastor is not to ease the tension but to manage it.

In fact, we see in the ministry of Christ that the gospel should sometimes provoke tension. But it’s not fun. It’s demoralizing. It can wipe you out.

But you can leverage it to your advantage.

You’ll provide perspective and vision when you find the conflict is brewing. But beware. Those little foxes will tear up the vineyard in milliseconds if you aren’t careful.

Side note: I hate conflict. But it’s like a watermelon patch in north Louisiana. Give it time and those green monsters will surface.

#3. Five Casseroles to Stay Away from During Covered Dish Supper

I’ll save you some tuition and just tell you what they are according to my 52 years of church homecomings, small groups and funeral wakes.

  • Broccoli Velveeta Asparagus Mush
  • Green Been and Carrot Gelatin Delight
  • Spicy Frito Tamale Surprise
  • Gooey Crock Pot Pizza
  • Baked Tater Tot Pasta

I, like most pastors, often have an inherent sympathy for cooks and casseroles that haven’t been touched at a church get-together.

The rule of thumb is simple: If your stomach turns, even slightly, at the eclectic medley of ingredients in a culinary creation which hasn’t been touched in a line of 500 parishioners, DO NOT pick up the serving spoon. This will not end well for you.

#4. How to Time the Filling of the Baptistery

Although baptisteries vary from church to church, here’s a basic rule of thumb: 15 minutes before the football game of your choice, go to the church and start the faucet. Around the middle of the third quarter, just to be safe, go check the progress.

In most cases it will be filled adequately. However one caveat: If there are several injury time-outs or replay reviews you might want to bring a mop and a wet vac.

Obviously this formula doesn’t work for bowl games with extended half time festivities. One side note: do not drain the baptistery on a Saturday night. (See #1 Septic Pump Seminar)

*Important- This method doesn’t work if you are ADD. Delegate.

#5. Surviving Three-Funeral Weeks

One of the tensions most pastors face is the unpredictable nature of the ministry. Most critical moments and mandatory ministries occur with less than 48 hours notice.

No-brainer: Nobody dies on schedule and they don’t spread the funerals out evenly over the course of a year. There will be those three-funeral weeks and you’ll be expected to be awesome at everything else that week as well.

Funerals can be amazingly powerful experiences but they always end the same way. Every person’s funeral that I’ve conducted is still, to this day … resting in peace.

So, you aren’t Jesus, but you can offer His comfort to families in their most intense and desperate moments.

#6. Discerning the Will of God VS Your Sudden Urge to Resign on a Sunday Morning, Drop the Mic, and Scream “Free at Last!”

Every pastor has a moment where he fantasizes saying all those things he’d love to say at his weakest moment.

Dropping the mic is rarely a good thing to do. Unless you are like … the Son of God.

The best thing to do of course is pray. Pray without ceasing, especially when you’re angry, desperate, frustrated and thinking about a job change.

Remember those who suffered and are suffering through so much more than you are now. There’s always someone who has it worse than a couple of people rubbing your name in the dirt at Starbucks.

And just to be honest – if you’re a pastor, somebody is always doing that. You just got wind of it.

#7 How to distract your congregation from the screaming baby.

Let’s face it guys. You may be an amazing communicator but you no match for the colicky baby on the fifth row.

You could be revealing the Ark of the Covenant’s exact location and upwards of 50% of the attenders are contemplating whether it’s a wet diaper, gas, or teething.

Give it up.

Share that thing you’ve never told anybody and you’re fine. They won’t hear it.

#8 Verses Appropriate to Cease Church Softball Altercations

This comes with a story. Many, many years ago Christians, seeking missional opportunities to connect with the unchurched through sports decided that rather than risking the dangers of going into the heathen city leagues to develop relationships, they would simply create our own petri dish of dysfunctional, overly dramatic competition.

Seriously though, sports offer a great way for us to build community with the unchurched but I have known a few Brother Rodmans.

#9 How to be Biblical, Relevant, Contemporary, Traditional, Conservative, Merciful, Decisive, Prudent, Articulate, and Meek all at the Same Time

I am one of those guys who walks through the scripture verse-by-verse, John McArthur-style, providing spot-on contemporary illustrations, while parsing Hebrew, quoting poetry, helping split the metaphorical babies of contemporary living, counseling addicts, healing 1.3 marriages a week, involved in camping, sports, coffee shops, and 30 parachurch organizations, waxing Cloud-and-Townsend on tough love while having the grace of Brennan Manning, the relevance of Craig Groeschel, and the humor of Andy Stanley with several movie ideas that would rival Spielberg.

That’s the kind of guy I am… for 5 minutes a day… in the shower… Then I brush my teeth, put on my Dockers and just try to figure out who God intended me to be.

Somewhere underneath the bold, impregnable, phantasmagoric fascist architecture of my superego is an ordinary guy who loves God and is desperately trying to shut up the delusional guy in the shower.

#10 How to Forget the Insulting Innuendo of a Loose Cannon. 

The insanity of insecurity is that a pastor could go through a Sunday, see God use him in ways that boggle his mind, and then one person could throw a lighthearted verbal sucker punch in the church office suite and every extraordinary epiphany is immediately frozen in a Mac spinning wheel of death.

I’ve compared notes with a number of other pastors and they all say the same thing. We constantly have to battle our own leadership insecurities. It is a learned skill. I’m still learning.

These are only a few of the timeless lessons offered at St. Paul’s Seminary of Hard Knocks. Every pastor goes there and every pastor learns.

Come to E4 this year and we’ll encourage, inspire, uplift, and challenge each other as we continue our education in the Seminary of Hard Knocks!

Tax Changes for Louisiana Churches

During the recent legislative session, Louisiana lawmakers made changes to tax laws that could affect your church and Association. After consulting with a sales tax attorney, our convention attorney and CPA, we have prepared an interpretation to assist you in applying these changes.

Note: These changes are effective immediately – HOWEVER – a second special legislative session has been called for June during which they will be re-evaluating exemptions for non-profits. We will update you as details emerge.

Update: House Bill No. 51 has been passed in the House, and now heads to the Senate.  The bill will reinstate many of the sales/use tax exemptions for nonprofits. However, the exemptions would only apply effective July 1, 2016, meaning that nonprofits would have been required to collect sales/use tax between April and June. Get more info here

Ministers, You are Hope on Call

The phone rings, it is 2:19 on a Sunday morning.  “Pastor, can you come?”

There is a problem. 

You can’t say no, but there are a thousand thoughts immediately bouncing around in your head.  Of course, you think the worst as you put on a pair of jeans and grab a jacket.  Heart racing, car revving, you make your way to the scene.  The blue lights are flashing, and people are all milling around.  It is the worst scenario.

Sure enough, he has a gun.  It is up to the edge of his head.  His girlfriend has just departed, for good.  There is no reason to live.  What do you do?

This happened to me on one occasion.  And it was the most terrifying night I had ever spent in my life.  “Put the gun down, Daniel! Put the gun down Daniel!” It seemed so empty.

Thankfully it worked.  The gun was finally put down, and the scene was over.  Daniel is alive today and I am thankful.

Another night, another call.

“Pastor, can you come?” This time, the suicide had already been committed.  The estranged husband had shot himself in front of his wife.  She was left with three small children to manage from that day forward.

“Let me follow you home, Linda. I will make sure you get home safe.”  And then, I left her to tell her small children that their daddy had died.  I just left her there.  All alone, at 4:00 am to share the terrible news.

It is one of the greatest “mistakes” of my ministry life.

Oh, how I wished that I would have been trained.  Oh how I wish I knew what to do.

Out of those situations, I learned four important lessons.

  1.  I learned to expect the unexpected.  We can’t be completely prepared, but we can anticipate that people will find themselves in terrible situations. How are you going to respond to the unthinkable? You’d better think about the unthinkable because life and ministry is rarely without monthly if not weekly crises.
  2. I learned that ‘showing up’ is much better than not showing up.  Even if you don’t know what to do, being there can only be helpful. There is something powerful about presence. Presence is something you can’t delegate. But your presence could have a lasting impact, not only on those who need you there, but also the view of Jesus in the lives of those in crisis.
  3. I learned that you should never leave a grieving person alone.  Call someone, phone a neighbor, stay on site … anything is better than leaving. This is difficult, but after the initial ministry, your organization should have a plan and that plan should include more than you alone. You lost your superman cap back in 3rd grade, stop looking for it.
  4. I learned that TRAINING IS ESSENTIAL to being prepared. This is why we are offering a valuable training experience for chaplains and other ministers.

Next time, make sure you’re prepared.

Attend Hope on Call: Training for Pastors and Chaplains

Details

April 5th
Louisiana Baptist Building, Alexandria, La.
Conference Speaker: Greg Giltner – He retired from the Oklahoma City Police Department after over 26 years of service. He was a patrolman for 23 years and over 3 years as full-time department chaplain, holding the distinction of being the first commissioned officer to be named as Department Chaplain. Greg currently serves as the Chief of Police for Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City. He is married to Vonne, a second grade school teacher, and they have 5 children and 3 grandsons.

 

50 Ways to Love Your Pastor

….With apologies to Paul Simon

“The problem is all inside your head” he said to me.
The deacon who always thought so logically
I’d like to help you to help him, supportively.
There must be 50 ways to love your pastor!

1. Shake his hand, Fran.
2. Tell him you loved his sermon, Herman.
3. Compliment his kids, Sid.
4. Send him a friendly email, Gail.
5. Pray for his spouse, Rouse.

Just listen to me…

6. Let him know that you’ve got his back, Jack.
7. Help him fix his sedan, Stan.
8. Give him your vacation condo key, Lee. (His family needs a week free.)
9. In business meeting, don’t try to discuss much.
10. Compliment his style, Miles.

He’ll think you’re the best!

11. Pay off the church bus, Gus.
12. Help him make peace with the WMU, Lou.
13. Give him a cost of living raise, Jay.
14. Volunteer at the kids event, Vince.
15. Pay his green fee, Tee.

Bonus Ideas:

16. Give him grace. He’s going to mess things up from time to time. Allow him to make mistakes.
17. Learn his allergies and feed him accordingly. By the way, 8 out of 10 pastors are Green-Bean-French-Onion-Mushroom-Soup-Casserole intolerant.
18. Don’t call him on his day off.
19. Check your own agenda at the door when discussing change.
20. Acknowledge that he usually works 50 hours a week and not five like some people think.
21. Offer to go with him when he visits the hospital. (And buy the ice cream!)
22. Send him a financial love offering after a funeral. (He’s the last one the grieving family needs to think of during their time of need. A gift coming from someone outside the family would mean a lot.)
23. Celebrate his staff, too! A good pastor always wants his wingmen (and women) celebrated. Chances are he gets great joy in this.
24. Pray strategically for him on Sunday night. He is probably mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted. His face hurts from smiling. He’s probably had a few jabs from irregular people. His voice is weary, not only from preaching but from conversation, counseling and meetings. If he’s going to do or say something stupid, it’s probably between the hours of 9:30 Sunday night and 9  Monday morning. As one pastor once told me, “Don’t take Monday’s off as a pastor. Nobody wants to feel that cruddy on their day off.”
25. Send him a note on his anniversary with the church. Do not say in that note: I can’t believe you’re still here.
26. Unless the skies part and a booming audible Voice shakes the shingles from your house, don’t say, “I’ve got a word from the Lord for you.” There’s no easier way to mess with a pastor’s mind than to speak verbatim words allegedly spoken uniquely to him that might just possibly be kind of the Word of God. You know what? No. Don’t go there – unless the aforementioned weather conditions have taken place. If so, then go there, write a book and give the proceeds to Lottie Moon.
27. Avoid the temptation to make him a part of the Trinity. He is not your rescuer on the white horse, but he does know One who is.
28. Don’t just say, “Great Sermon.” Let him know what particular thing was most impactful for you. This will help him prepare next time.
29. Do not discuss his salary in an open forum. (I can’t believe I’m even writing that! Yuk!) It feels yucky for him. It feels yucky for his wife. And you can bet it feels yucky for his kids.
30. Don’t just help identify problems, help him fix them!
31. Let his kids be kids not extensions of his ministry or Christianity Today cover models.
32. Pay for wellness perks like a gym membership. This may save a hospital bill.
33. Realize that Sundays come around pretty regular-like. Don’t expect him to knock it out of the park every time. And when he doesn’t meet your standards. 34. Check your diva scale. It might be high.
35. Be a bouncer. If you know that your pastor is being worked over stupidly by an irregular person, run interference and learn some Spirit-filled bouncer moves.
36. Provide a cold bottle of water on his desk on Sunday morning. I had someone do this for me every Sunday and it was perhaps the coolest simple blessing ever. It was kind of like saying, “Sock it to them and stay hydrated. We love you and want you to be spot on today!”
37. Amazon gift cards. Only he knows exactly what he needs and he’s probably not going to tell you. An Amazon card is universally awesome.
38. Upgrade his computer. Most pastors wait way too long to get a new computer. How long has your pastor been waiting? Here’s a litmus test: if the front of his computer says: “Commodore” or he’s using WordPerfect 4.0, it’s probably time.
39. Celebrate his accomplishments.
40. Give him an extended sabbatical every five years or so. If he’s made it five years, he’s beaten the odds by a couple of years.
41. Give him a gift to give to his wife. Don’t take credit. Just say, “I saw this and thought, “Hey, I bet Pastor Waldo would give this kind of gift to his wife. So I bought it so you could give it to her from you because you are so thoughtful!” (Then wink.)
42. Keep the kids during worship. Some call it bed babies. Some call it extended session. But whatever you call it. It is a blessing not to have to worry that people are lined up to serve. Also a screaming baby versus a sermon in the same room? Who’s going to win that match? I think you know.
43. Express your confidence in him. This can simply be done by saying, “You da man!!
44. Give him books. Chances are, he loves books. BUT DO NOT ASK HIM IF HE READ IT. When you do that, you have not given him a gift, you’ve given him a task.
45. Write a note to their kids and state the obvious: “Being a preacher’s kid is tough. We love you so much for putting up with stuff.”
46. When he and the family go out of town. Mow their grass.
47. Give him tickets to the big game. (In other words, not State vs. Northern Illinois Community Career College.)
48. Compare him with a Bible character, say, “You remind me of Stephen- boldly speaking the truth.” Just make sure you don’t compare him to Ahab, Jonah, Samson, or the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
49. Don’t exclude him or his wife from parties. Chances are he won’t turn it into a funeral. In fact he might be more fun than you ever imagined he’d be. When at this well-fortified festive event, don’t talk church with him. Unstick his brain from the task for a little while. Also don’t be offended if he says no.
50. Buy him some waders. He doesn’t walk on water.

Surviving Super-drainers

Leaders have to be careful that they don’t spend most of their time around super-drainers. These are people who plug into you every time you see them, and they drain the blood right out of your brain – figuratively speaking, of course. They come in all shapes, sizes and denominations.

Here are a few whom you’ve probably encountered.

Human Bookmobiles

These are the people who hand you a book to borrow (they insist!) and you can bet that you’ll be quizzed on it in a week or two. Then they will ask you every time you see them if you still have it (that book you never asked to borrow) because they have to give it to some other poor soul.

The Wait-a-minute People

These are people who have 10 questions that require essays when you have only 10 minutes to be somewhere else. Like the old G.I. Joe action figure with the Kung-Fu grip, escaping their clutches is close to impossible.

The Up-front Gurus

These are the people who are a little too frank with you. He puts his hand on your shoulder before the business meeting and says something like:

  • I’m really concerned about your spiritual condition.
  • You don’t look so good.
  • Are you stressed?
  • Looks like you need more quiet time, friend.
  • Life is just passing you by.
  • Do you think maybe God has taken the mantle off your life?

The ‘Stand Up’ Super-drainer

This person says something reminds him of a joke. You love jokes, but these jokes take so long that your mind wanders and you begin thinking of something else. Then it hits you. I’ve got to find the punch line in his monologue or else he’s going to know that I wasn’t listening! Was that it? Should I laugh now?

Email Nukers

THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO PUT THE CAPS LOCK ON ALL THEIR EMAILS AND BEFORE YOU READ A WORD YOU ARE ALREADY DRAINED. THEY LOVE TO USE LOTS OF EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!! YOU DON’T KNOW IF THEY ARE MAD OR JUST WANTING TO PLACE EMPHASIS ON EVERYTHING!!!!

Spiritual super-drainers are everywhere inside and outside the church. They have the potential to destroy your spiritual vitality. Jesus had spiritual super-drainers. Some of them, I’d imagine, were among His chosen disciples from time to time. But we have to keep in mind that God loves those people as much as He loves us. And sometimes these sandpaper encounters are God’s way of smoothing off our rough edges.

One thing my dad and others have taught me in the ministry is that it’s important not to let the super-drainers ruin your ministry. Smile and move on. But always surround yourself with super-chargers. They, too, are everywhere.

Super-chargers are those people who cheer from the grandstands of your life. When you spend time with them, you are guaranteed humor, understanding and new ways to look at things. They don’t force their stories, opinions or agenda on you. They make themselves available to you in the valleys and peaks of day-to-day ministry.

They are the kinds of people upon whom Paul lavished these words:

I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:3-6, HCSB).

These are the people that God uses to touch and bless your life when the super-drainers surround you.

The Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage: A Response

Dear Louisiana Pastors and Leaders,

In the days since June 26, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, I have read and heard numerous commentaries on the subject and have mulled over what I should write to the Louisiana Baptist family. There is more to think about than can be conveyed in one letter (I hope you are availing yourself of resources being provided by respected Christian leaders) but I offer a few observations about how we should respond:

1.     We should grieve.  My initial feeling upon hearing the ruling was a profound sense of sadness. I was not surprised by the ruling. It was expected, and was consistent with the rapid acceptance of homosexual behavior in our culture. But it grieves me greatly that America would ratify as a preferred way of life that which is so contradictory to Christ, His Word, and His Church.  It is not as though there was a lack of abundant evidence of a growing anti-Christian sentiment in our country before June 26.  But the Supreme Court decision felt to me like an official public pronouncement against God.  I think I understand how Ezekiel felt when the Spirit showed him the religious leaders of Judah worshipping the sun from within the sacred Temple of God. Would they really go this far? Did they not realize that God’s next step was to abandon them? And so I grieve. I grieve for the rebellion against our patient God who has blessed this nation beyond measure. I grieve for the judgment that will surely come. I grieve for my grandchildren. I grieve for the harm (temporal and eternal) to countless souls. I do not disagree with the many wise Christians who have counseled us in recent days not to despair. I, too, believe God is on his throne and will bring his kingdom to pass. I, too, believe he will bring some good things even out of this bad circumstance. But it is okay to grieve even as we pledge to stand firm and fight the good fight.

2.     We should not change our views and practices on marriage.  I am thankful that the Southern Baptist Convention leaders spoke definitively on this matter a few days ago. Because we take our marching orders from the Bible and not the Supreme Court, and because the Bible is clear on marriage being only between a man and a woman, we will not participate in same-sex marriage in any fashion. The jury is out on complications that may arise because of our refusal to go along with this cultural shift. We are making legal information available to our churches so we may be prepared as best we know how. We will assert that any attempt by the government to force us to participate in same-sex marriages is a violation of our religious liberty. However events unfold, we encourage every Louisiana Baptist to maintain the posture of not affirming, approving, or endorsing homosexual behavior in any form.

3.     We should prepare to become more unpopular.  We need to understand that any disapproval of homosexual behavior will be considered by many as an act of hatred or bigotry. We will be labeled as “homophobes.” Homophobia is a made-up word that is regularly applied in a pejorative way to anyone who believes homosexual behavior is a sin. You don’t have to engage in violence or mockery against homosexuals to get the label. Just suggest that it is wrong. Justice Kennedy, in the majority opinion, identified the disapproval of homosexual behavior as “injustice” per se.  I hope the church will be kind and respectful toward those with whom it disagrees on this subject. I hope we will be as winsome and congenial as we can be. But do not expect a response in kind. Unless we are willing to say same-sex marriage in particular and homosexual behavior in general is a good thing, we will be vilified. But we are in good company. Jesus said, “(The world) hates me because I testify of it that its deeds are evil.” (John 7:7).

4.     We should preach the Gospel. The truth is, our views on homosexuality are not our most unpopular beliefs. The most offensive (and most important) of our Christian doctrines is that Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life and those who do not believe in Him will not experience God’s love, but instead will experience God’s wrath for eternity. The world really doesn’t like to hear that. But don’t stop preaching and teaching it, or the truth about homosexuality, or the whole counsel of God. (II Tim. 4:2).  I pray the Holy Spirit will give you discernment on how much to address critical cultural concerns while not neglecting the myriad of every day sins and struggles those under your influence are experiencing. I pray He will guide you to a proper balance between the prophetic word and the personal touch. And I pray He will use both to bring sinners, regardless of their offenses, to redemption.

These are challenging days, but also days of opportunity. The need for us, the body of Christ, to be “salt” and “light” has never been greater. Hear the Apostles’ admonition:

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life.” (Phil. 2:14-16a).

 

Fraternally,

dh

David E. Hankins
Executive Director
Louisiana Baptists

Additional Resources

For additional resources, including policy information for your church, click the link below:

Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage: What Your Church Needs to Know

In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage, every pastor and church administrator needs to look at the implications of the ruling and consider possible changes to their church policies. Here are 3 suggested actions taken from the website of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

What Should Your Church Do?

Read the full article

“Now is the time for churches to maintain a clear witness to the biblical truth about marriage, human sexuality, and gender. Churches should update their statement of faith to include the church’s beliefs on these issues.

In the near term, no pastor will be forced to officiate any wedding ceremony with which he disagrees. Pastors remain free to make a theological determination about who they will marry and who they will not.

Churches must continue to be a welcoming presence in the community and can do that through updating or revising their facility usage policy. The key point is to tie usage of the church’s facility to the statement of faith and religious beliefs of the church.”

Read more at ERLC

For more information on the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage:

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission | SCOTUS

Policy Checklist & Lawsuit Protection Handbook

Protecting Your Ministry from Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Lawsuits
Make sure your ministry has the broadest religious liberty protections under the law. This document give advice and practical steps to verify your protection. Applicable to all churches, Christian schools, and Christian ministries.

Suggested Policies for Louisiana Baptist Churches Concerning Marriage and Membership

Pastors, if you’re considering revising your policies in light of the recent Supreme Court Ruling, below is a statement you may consider including. Churches should consider working with an attorney regarding the final form and placement of theses policies in the church organization documents.

Marriage Policy

The following statement that churches can consider as an addition to their bylaws was developed by the Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) chief legal advisor, Whitehead Law Firm LLC in Kansas City.

Our statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message (2000), expresses our fundamental biblical conviction that Christian marriage is, by
definition, the spiritual and physical uniting of one man and one woman in an exclusive covenant commitment for their joint lifetime. Christian
marriage is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His Church. As such, this local church believes that wedding ceremonies on
church property are spiritual observances of worship of God who created this divine institution. As worship services, weddings on church property shall be officiated by one or more ordained ministers of the gospel. The church may decline to make its facilities or ministers available for any wedding if it is determined that one or both of the parties are not biblically and/or legally qualified to marry. Such determinations may be made by the [pastor, church council, or wedding committee, etc.], subject to the direction of the church.

No minister [or employee] of the church shall officiate at any marriage ceremony unless such marriage is consistent with this policy.

From Dr. Steve Horn, President of the Louisiana Baptist Convention:

“5-4! There are so many things that I am thankful for in this country. However, this morning, I find myself struggling with the fact that 1 person can make the difference in something that will so drastically alter our country.” –My Reaction to the SCOTUS Ruling on the Definition of Marriage

“With all that has been written about the Supreme Court’s decision since last Friday, the last thing that we need is more commentary on the subject. Instead what we need is a heavy dose of God’s Word. Here are the Scriptures that most come to mind for me.” Read more at SteveHorn.org