Tuesday, January 28, 2014


How many hours should ministers work?

A couple of years ago I had a preacher call me and inform me that I had said something that was insulting to ministers.  Since I think I am a fan of ministers, I was quite concerned.  And I did appreciate the fact that he called me.  Not sure he wanted to have a conversation, but he did want to talk to me and he expected me to listen.

Here is what upset him.  And I guess insulted his circle of preaching buddies.  I think ministers should work 55-60 hours per week.  I don't think it is insulting to believe that.  Or to say it.  Or to expect ministers to do it.

Most members work 40 (or 40+) hours per week.  We expect them to assemble with the saints.  We would like them to be in a small group.  They should be studying their Bible and have an active prayer life.  Some of them study to teach Bible class, some visit the hospitals, some share Jesus with their neighbors.  We expect them to help with special projects and programs.  They should be involved in service to others.

Most active members will give 15-20 hours per work to serving Jesus, their church, and this world.  So our members are using 55-60 hours a week to make a living and to make a difference for  Jesus.

Why should our ministers do less than our members?  Christians give sacrificially so ministers do not have to spend time generating income to support their families.  Do not insult them by spending less that 55 hours per week working.

But I also think ministers should have balance in their lives.  They have family needs, they need to rest and recharge their batteries, and exhaustion makes us all more vulnerable to temptations.  So if preachers get much past that 60 hour workload, it may become unhealthy.

So I think it is reasonable to expect ministers to work 55-60 hours a week.  And I think most of them do.  The ones that consistently work more than this may be in danger of burn out.  Maybe they need a break from ministry.  Those that consistently work less should probably get a full-time job.  Or take a drastic pay cut.

You cannot pay the right minister too much.  He is invaluable.  He will give, work, return tenfold what you are investing in him.  So be generous.

But if you have the wrong one, anything you pay him is too much.  He is not worth it.

I do realize that I have not discussed a definition of work, or how you track it.  But I am going to tell you that I think you know the preachers that work too much, and the ones that work too little.  It becomes obvious over time.

I also realize that we can confuse talent with effort.  But that is a different discussion.

And by the way, the overwhelming majority of my preaching buddies work very hard at their calling.  I thank God for them.

They make a difference.


Thursday, January 23, 2014


What to do when preachers and elders can't agree on important things...

I talked last time about the need to agree on core beliefs.  I believe these to be the things that are essential and cannot be compromised.  I am not attempting to outline core beliefs here.  I have written on that in the past.  But I do think every church should have a clear understanding of what their core beliefs are.  It is good for new Christians, visitors, and potential staff members to know.  Core beliefs:  those things which cannot be changed and still please God.

But there are many things that are very important to each of us -- even if they are not core.  Just to share a few examples, churches must decide what the role of women is in worship, they must decide of worship styles and expression, they must decide on the role of ministry staff, and they must decide on any number of doctrinal issues.  These may not be matters of salvation, or what I would say is core.  But they are important and most of them have basis in Scripture.

But everyone does not see these issues the same way.  So what do you do when the leadership cannot agree on these issues.

First, let me beg elders and preachers to study these issues periodically.  Do not be afraid to look at any "sacred cows".  An leadership that will not study and pray over hard topics is not going to lead a healthy church.  And please share/lead your church thru studies like this.

Then make decisions about what is appropriate for your church.  And understand that everyone does not have to agree with your decision.  But they do have to submit to it.  But what happens when the leadership cannot agree on these important issues -- especially what happens when the preacher and elders do not agree.

For the preacher, what do you do when the elders decide something on one of these issues that you do not agree with?  If your leadership has not studied it, ask if they will do so.  If they refuse, I would look for another church to serve.  Not because of the decision, but because they will not study it.

Assuming they have -- or they do -- and you still do not agree, then you have to decide how important it is to you.  Can you affirm the decision and explain it from the pulpit?  If not, then what should you do?  Do you refuse to submit to the elders?  Then the elders should fire you.  Not because you do not agree, but because you will not submit.  Or you can resign.  You should be clear with the elders that you respect them but you feel so strongly on the issue that you need to go somewhere else.

But here is what you cannot do.  Divide, destroy, split the church.  Some of these issues may be difficult to come to agreement on ... but I know one this is clear:  God hates division.

So do not stay and lobby against the elders.  Some would argue that they should stay and work to convince the elders and congregation to change so they agree with the way you see it.  That will take years and require a lot of effort that could be spent on reaching lost people.

How important are they to you?  Worth rebelling against the elders, worth spending years trying to lobby and politic for change, worth leaving for somewhere more compatible with your beliefs, or worth staying and doing ministry in spite of it, or worth leaving for another ministry position?  You will to make the hard decision.

And elders, it is OK if you and your preacher do not agree on everything.  Study, pray, decide.  Trust your preacher to submit.

These are hard and difficult decisions.  For elders, because you want the best for your flock to be able to focus on Jesus and reach others.  For preachers, because this is your job you are talking about and moving on is difficult.  But so is staying somewhere that does not see important things the way you do.

So when you can't agree on things that are important (tho not core):

Study, pray, decide, submit.

Do not be divisive.

Love God, be faithful, wish each other well, and we can all talk about it later in heaven.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


When Preachers and Elders Don't Agree about the Core Beliefs

Preachers and elders do not always agree.  If they cannot learn to work together in peace, then preachers end up leaving.  Or elders fire them.  And it can be painful and damaging to a congregation.  So here are a few of my thoughts on what to do when elders and preachers disagree.

When you cannot agree on core beliefs, there is no room for compromise.

This happens when a preacher is convicted that a belief -- and action affirming that belief -- must be upheld to be the church God intends.  They elders do not share that conviction.  Or,it might be that the elders insist on a core doctrine that the preacher cannot endorse.

If after prayer, study, and discussion the core beliefs are still not in unison... then I do not believe the situation is resolvable.  Because if either preacher of elder believes something is core, then you cannot compromise.  But be sure you believe souls are at stake.  The position you hold must be something you would stake the souls of the flock upon.

So for the preacher, resign and do not be shy about telling people why.  After all, you believe that souls are at stake.  You cannot be true to your prophetic call if you do not express it.

Elders, if your preacher will not resign... fire him.  And do not by shy about telling why.  After all, you believe that souls are at stake.  You cannot be true to your call as an shepherd if you do not refute false teaching.

Regular readers will know that I, along with the elders and ministerial staff, have worked with my home congregation, Southern Hills church of Christ in Abilene, to help our ministers and elders develop our core convictions -- what matters.  And we communicate these to the congregation.  We communicate them in our class for those who want to be part of our community of faith.  And all of our elders and ministers subscribe to them.

These are the things that are essential to the salvation of our community of faith.

I can absolutely promise that if we ever had a minister that over time changed his/her view of what we believe is core, there would be no hesitation in firing them.  And explaining to the congregation why.

And if our eldership ever abandoned these, I would expect our ministers to resign.  In fact, I would leave with them.  And would help them communicate why to the congregation.

When souls are at stake, there is no other way.  I would expect a preacher to be loyal to what he believes is God's will.  He has to answer to God for what he preaches.

And there is no other option for elders.  They are responsible for the souls entrusted to them by God.  

But this is rarely the situation that leads to that kind of gut-wrenching, tear up the congregation, action.  In fact, I have only seen this happen a few times over the years.

So in future posts, I will share other situations where elders and preachers may not agree.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Let your preacher quit if he wants to...

I talk to a lot of ministers who think about quitting. And some who do.  I hear their concern, sometimes their guilt, and even their fear.  So for what it is worth, here are some reminders for ministers who are thinking about quitting.

Leaving full-time ministry is not the same as leaving ministry.  Most preachers who quit are still active in ministry.  They just don't get paid.  They are like the members they used to serve.  Most of them still teach Bible class, go on mission trips, end up as elders and deacons.

Your identity is in Jesus and not in your ministry.  He does not love you any less -- or any more -- based on whether you stay in ministry or not.

Do what is best for your family.  That may mean taking a secular job that lets you be closer to extended family.  Or it may mean taking a job that pays more.  Nothing wrong with that.  Just be a good steward.  Husband and Daddy are way bigger responsibilities than Minister.

Do what is best for your family spiritually.  If you need to spend more nights and weekends with your family, then get out of ministry.  (But you probably ought to stay out of retail sales and coaching.  Not any better.)  It may just be that you want the stability of raising your family in one place.  Hard to guarantee that as a preacher.

Quit if you're tired of it.  Not tired of Jesus.  Not tired of serving the Lord.  Not tired of telling others about Jesus.  But tired of the career in ministry.  People change careers all the time.  You can too.  Just don't stay and start "mailing it in."  You have too much integrity to cheat people that way.

Remember the church will survive with or without you as their minister.  They did OK before you came and they will after you resign.  None of us are indispensable.

And don't feel guilty.  God called you to follow him. Don't confuse being a disciple with being a minister.

So if you love Jesus, love ministry, and can't wait to get up and at it every day... then good for you.  Stay with it.

If you need to quit, or want to quit... then do.  Your members change jobs, and careers, all the time.

Just don't quit on Jesus.  And who knows, you may even find more opportunities to do Kingdom work outside of full-time ministry.  You may even go back to it someday.

Just know that whatever you decide, God loves you.  And so does your church family.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014


What I learned at Martha Merrell's funeral...

We buried Martha Merrell yesterday.  Her funeral was yesterday at Southern Hills and it got me to thinking about the legacy we leave behind.  So here are some things I was reminded of yesterday.

Dave Merrell is a living witness of what a husband should be.  Martha has had Alzheimer's the past decade or so.  As she got worse, Dave spent more and more time caring for her.  I know it was exhausting and stressful.  I never heard Dave complain.  When they got married 42 years ago, I don't think that is how they envisioned their golden years.  Life is hard.  Real faith triumphs.

Christians form relationships that last forever.  Dave was not Martha's first husband.  Her first husband died of cancer several years before she met Dave.  Several times yesterday, someone talked about the church of Christ in Haskell, TX. and how they cared for Martha and her two little ones during that devastating time.  Many of those people were at the visitation and the funeral.  They made a fifty year difference because they took care of their own.  Made me happy because the Haskell church is one of my "adopted" church families.
And they spoke over and over again about how Southern Hills took care of Martha.  It's true.  Lots of ladies helped Dave watch out for Martha at church.  Even when she could no longer really be left alone to cook, she was a part of the Wednesday cooking crews.  Our ladies just worked with her and watched her. My wife Marsha was one of those.  But so were lots and lots of others. That's what church is.  That's what church does.

And here is my favorite Martha memory.  We baptize lots of people that are not already connected to church.  So when we baptize someone, we often invite the elders and their wives to come share in that special time.  Dave and Martha always came. It was a year or two ago when we had one of these and the family had some little kids there.  I looked up and there was Martha playing tag with the kids..  Made sense since she was a P.E. teacher.  Big smiles on all their faces.

That's how I remember Martha.  Three things she loved:  new Christians, kids, and playing chase.  And now the smile is bigger.  She's home.

So thanks for a great legacy of love.  Dave and Martha.  Showing God's love, loving each other, and loving others.

So Martha... we'll be along soon enough.  Till then, we will smile, chase, love kids, and bring people to Jesus.  Thanks for showing us how.

Thursday, January 09, 2014


Happy birthday Jake

Today my grandson Jake turns 8.  So here are a few of the reasons I love him and am so proud of him.

He loves God, Jesus, and church.  He wants to go to church, to Bible class.  He likes going early and talking to people.  I love hearing him sing praise songs.  He leads prayers at lots of our meals together.  He gives his money away for Kingdom stuff already.

Jake is a really big kid.  I mean he looks like he's 10.  He is bigger in second grade than I was in 7th grade.  But what I like about Jake is that his heart is just as big.  He loves everybody.

He is very protective of his little sister Avery.  He says it is his responsibility to watch out for her.  This may be real interesting in a few years.  I pity the young man that does not treat her right.

He stands up for people that are being picked on.  He doesn't let people get pushed around.

He loves the outdoors.  Likes playing outside, fishing with Pops, roaming the fields and woods.  He would live outside if he could.

And my heart gets full when I look at Jake because he was so sick last summer.  Kawasaki disease.  Potentially life threatening.  Seems to be OK now, but I still remember him asking about dying.

He loves baseball.Makes Pops happy.

Loves dogs.  And dogs love him.

He is a happy kid.  All my grands are, but Jake really loves life.

So Jake ... keep loving God.  He has incredible plans for you.

Keep putting other people before yourself.  That is what Jesus did.

Thank you God for Jake.  He helps me see you more clearly.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014


Nathan is why I don't worry about the future of the church...

Nathan is a fifth grader who loves God.  And soccer.  And he is why I know the church is going to be growing in the future.

Because Nathan asked Joseph, one of his teammates, to come to church with him.  Lee and Kelli are his parents and they were happy to pick him up.  They also invited Joseph's parents to come to church.  They did.

Lee and Kelli brought Stephen and Monica to church, to class, to their small group.  Because that's who they are.

I met them and asked them if they wanted to get together and tell Jesus stories.  Lee and Kelli hosted all of us at their house every Monday night.  We ate, drank coffee, prayed, and told Jesus stories.  Nathan and Joseph hung out together.  Gabrielle, Nathan's older sister, took care of Mia (Joseph's one year old sister).

We talked about why the world is a hard place and how Jesus came to make the bad things right.  Like he had done in our lives.  We talked about the most important thing to do is to love God.  Then to love others.  We talked about the most important thing to know is that Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead.

We talked about dying with Jesus in baptism to be born again into a new life.  A life that goes forever.  We talked about living in community, sharing and proclaiming the Lord's death in a common meal, and a common life, together.

We planned a baby blessing for little Mia.

And one day it clicked.  So one night we met at the building and Lee baptized Stephen.  Then Stephen baptized his wife Monica.

All because Nathan believed that he ought to tell his friends about Jesus.

And some people worry about the future of the church.  Not me.

Thanks Nathan. I look forward to what God is going to do with you.  And Joseph.  And your sisters.  And your parents.

It will be amazing.  Keep telling the story.

Friday, January 03, 2014


Why I have not posted yet about Phil Robertson

It seems like everyone has written an opinion about what Phil Robertson said in his recent interview.  And they did it quickly.  I have not.  At least not until today.

I don't know Phil.  Haven't even met him.  What I know about Phil is based on a TV show and a few interviews I have read.  We both like to hunt and fish, we are both elders in a church of Christ, and we are both in the 4th quarter of our lives.

I am not famous.  But I make my living by speaking and writing.  So I have a lot of words that go out in a lot of places.  Sometimes I cringe at what I say.  I say things poorly sometimes.  I have people that judge me by what I say.  That make an assessment of my heart and my character based on a very small sample of my life and words.

Sometimes people attribute motives to me that are just not true.  And I am greatly offended.  Until I read or listen to what I wrote and realize that ... yeah, I can see how they might have taken that the wrong way.

Even more to the point, what I say and write is about Jesus.  So it is a big deal.

And I have to admit that sometimes I get testy.  Or I feel like I am unfairly attacked.  Or I get mad because people talk about me instead of to me.  

So I have some sympathy for Phil.  I appreciate what he and his family have done to make people aware of Jesus and what a family of believers look like.  I think he is making a forever difference.

Could he say things better?  Couldn't we all.

Oh yeah... a couple of other things.

I don't think the first amendment has anything to do with Christianity.  Nor do I believe America is a Christian nation.  So we are going to be at odds with our culture.  Christians always are.

I do think some things are sin.  Sex outside of marriage is sin.  Any sex.

And I think this whole thing has hurt our reputation among non-Christians. After all, who wants to be part of a group that can be so harsh to one of its own?  And some Christians were brutal about Phil.

So Phil hasn't asked for my help or my opinion.  But I have prayed for him.  And for his family.  It is tough to speak for Jesus.  With your life or your words.

But all of us Christians know that.  I pray that today we will all handle our "witness opportunities" with grace and wisdom.  With gentleness and respect.

Let's encourage each other.  And let's quit being so critical of each other.  The world and Satan will take care of that part.

Be strong brother Phil.  We're all in this together.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?