Tag Archives: church

Can I Get a Witness?

Over the last few weeks our pastor has reminded the church of the vows that we made when we joined the church. I serve in a United Methodist Church and there is one question that all new members are asked by our pastor as they accept the responsibility of being members of our local church.

Will you be loyal to this congregation and uphold it with your Prayers, Presence, Gifts, Service and Witness?

Each of these vows has served as the basis of the series on Discipleship that Pastor David has been leading us through. This week we focused on the final vow, that of witness. Pastor David asked me to write the front page of the newsletter helping our church orient their thoughts for the week as we get ready for Sunday Services. You can read it below.

Continue reading Can I Get a Witness?

The Challenge of Being a Pastor…

… is remembering that it’s not about you!

I read R. C. Sproul, Jr.’s, article today, written for Desiring God 2013 Conference for Pastors coming up on February 4–6, 2013. The theme of the conference revolves around recapturing and re-centering pastoral ministry around the reality and power of the Holy Spirit to work through pastors. This is an amazingly refreshing theme and I wish that I could attend.

Over the last few weeks various articles have been written to gear up attendees for what will be presented during the conference. Sproul’s article was particularly poignant because it fires back against a general misconception within the church. There are many who believe that more information, more knowledge, will help to stem the tide of nominal Christianity. This notion simply does not hold water. It may never have. However, we followed the trend and now we are reaping the results of an intellectualized religion.

In the article, Sproul argues that this is not the case. We do not need to find more subjects to study, books to collect or workshops to attend. The root of the problem is found in trying to educate ourselves into faith. Here is the fundamental reality that we, as church leaders should learn, “It is more important to us and our sheep that we would learn to believe more, than that we would find more to believe.” As a self-professed bookaholic I completely understand how easy it is to fall into this trap. More learning is not what we need. We need more living. Living out the convictions that we have felt as we have been confronted by God’s word. Living out the love that we have experienced in community and in communion with God. Living out the truths that we have seen as we have tried and failed, or succeeded.

The piece is not very long, but there is a section that really grabbed my heart as I considered my calling and God’s desire for his people.

We are not to give our wisdom, our insights, the fruits of our scholarship. Rather, like Paul before us, we serve up our weakness, our frailty, our need. That’s how the Word breaks through, where the power comes from.

Brothers, your flock may need some more information. What they need more, however, is someone to lead them, to show them the Way. They need to see you repenting. They need to see you wrestling with your sins. They need to see you preaching the gospel to yourself, not because you like the sound of your voice, but because you hate the sin that yet remains, and you need grace. They need to see you rejoicing in the fullness of His promises, and mourning both sin and its fruit, the last enemy, death.

“Professional Christians” is a phrase I coined a couple of years ago, but I find opportunities to use it more and more to describe the pitfalls of vocational ministry. As a professional Christian, I have found the transparent life more difficult to achieve. There are so many reasons to promote a facade of transparency rather than genuine vulnerability.

  • “I don’t know how long I’ll actually be here!”
  • “What if they betray my confidence, my ministry would be over.”
  • “How is anyone going to take me seriously if I share this?”
  • “They just won’t understand what I’m talking about, so why bother?”

These and other thoughts like them are the reason that many in church ministry hide behind the sacred desk, the pulpit, and retreat into their ivory tower of Greek, Hebrew, exegetical rigor, homiletical precision, hermeneutical accuracy, blah, blah, blah. Please don’t misunderstand. I am one of them, one of us. This is me at my worst. But, what my youth need (I am a youth pastor), what our churches need is not another authority, what they need are leaders that are unaffected. Leaders that will hold their ground biblically against the persistent effects of wave after wave of cultural ambiguity and moral atrophy.

The reality of full-time ministry is this, it can breed many contradictory characteristics than those needed, dare I say, required of those whom God has called to serve in leadership. I am praying to get better. To move away from a ministry life impinged by preservation, to a servant’s life defined by freedom. I may be naive. It may well be true.

However, if that is the case, then leave me to my dreams.

In Honor of Dr. Ralph Lightsey: “He Stirred the Gift within Me”

I found out this evening that the father of a friend died yesterday afternoon. It was not unexpected. He had been under hospice care.

The news of Dr. Ralph Lightsey’s passing brought two memories to my mind. The first was hearing him preach in the church I attended and would later serve as associate pastor. I have always been an “educated” listener of sermons and preachers. I love the process of preparing to preach. I enjoy the act of preaching. But, when I am not the one given this task, I am amazed and overjoyed to sit under good preaching. Now let me clarify what I mean by good preaching. Good preaching does not have to be loud, long, perfectly crafted sermons. Good preaching is when I as a listener am convinced that the preacher is so convinced, convicted and constrained by their love of Jesus that I can’t help but go where there are taking me. Dr. Ralph was a good preacher. I don’t remember the subject or text, but I remember that I wanted more of what he had as a servant of God. There was just a clarity to the way he preached. You had to work at misunderstanding him.

I have excerpted a couple of facts about Dr. Lightsey’s life from his obituary that are just mind blowing to me.

Dr. Ralph Lightsey, a minster of 72 years, age 93, died on Sunday, September 2, 2012 at the Ogeechee Area Hospice Inpatient Facility. Born in Appling County in 1918, he moved to Statesboro in 1965, where he lived until his death. … After serving as an active pastor for more than 52 years, he served as a supply speaker at more than 50 churches in Bulloch and surrounding counties. In addition, he was an educator. He served 16 years as Professor of Educational Research at Georgia Southern University and as an assistant to the Vice President. Upon his retirement, the Board of Regents conferred on him the title of Professor Emeritus of Educational Research. … Surviving are his wife of 67 years, [Mrs.] Wavine… [Source]

I share this with you because of the second memory that I have of Dr. Lightsey. It relates something that he did for me as I was leaving that church I was serving. He had on several occasions commended me on my preaching. I was a young man, new in ministry and to hear such kind words from a man I respected and admired was not easy. (I still have a hard time taking a compliment about my preaching!) As I was preparing to go, Dr. Lightsey gave me two gifts. One was a book on preaching and the second was a pen and pencil set that you have on your desk. I still have both. The pen and pencil set no longer works and the book is still in my ever growing library. I keep them because of who gave them to me. They are precious gifts reminders of his concern for me as I developed in ministry.

I never made the time to thank Dr. Lightsey for his words and prayers. I am sad that I will never get to say how much it meant to me for him to take time and offer words of wisdom and encouragement. I do find hope in the fact that we shared a mutual faith in our Savior Jesus and that I will see him again.

I am so thankful for the way that he stirred the gifts that were within me. I will never forget.