Preacher, Beware!

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I know you have heard the phrase “Buyer, beware!” To those in ministry or are considering a “career” in ministry, I have a few things I have learned that I would like to pass on. I am not an expert on these issues, but I think these things can be helpful.

First, let me say that if you can do anything else then do it! I’m not saying to run from the call. If you are called and you’re doing something else, God will stay on your case. I fought it during my teenage years. When times got tough, I would look at myself in the mirror and say these words – “Remember the call!”

Second, remember that the people to whom you minister are just as human as you. You will disappoint them and they will disappoint you. If you don’t have patience going into ministry, you better develop it. Another thing to remember – God is patient with you, so pass that on to others.

Third, there is no perfect situation. The more a church tries to pass itself off as perfect, the more you should beware. My experience has been that it was easier to go into a situation where the church was honest about its problems than to go where they talked about how great they were. Pray it through and know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God wants you to be there.

Fourth, it is never worth it to make a move at the cost of losing your family. The devil is working overtime against you anyway. If your family is not on board, you are likely to affect a church and everyone in your household. If you are unmarried and the lady you are considering to be your wife doesn’t support your calling, you better find someone who does. Otherwise, you’re destroyed before you even start.

I have seen a lot of good people go into ministry either unprepared or not called. They don’t have the strength to endure the battle scars, so many quit.

Don’t be among the casualties! Beware! Go in with eyes wide open! Know that your enemy is not the people who come against you. Your enemy is the devil who wants to devour you. But remember, God is greater than your enemy!

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Short-term assignments

imageIt used to bother me that I had several places on my ministerial resume. That fact has also bothered a lot of pastors and Search committees because they think I just hop around.

Some of you may be in the same boat. You have moved around more than you planned. The truth is that God has wired you differently. Your mission is to go to a particular organization for a season. You’re not going to be the man or woman who has the record stay at a place. You go in for the purpose of addressing some things that need to be put in order, weeding out some “bad apples”, or just providing a season of stability and healing that a work environment needs after someone almost ruined morale for good.

I have done the things I mentioned above. I am currently not in a capacity to do so, and I’m okay with that. It honestly takes a lot of energy. I am taking a season of healing that I should have taken when I left the pastorate.

Leaders know the feeling of pouring your life into someone with few pouring back into you. That’s the nature of the beast. You have to intentionally take time for your own emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health. If you don’t, you will crash. I can testify.

Don’t apologize for who you are! Because you are someone who is great at short-term assignments for a purpose, you will probably not get the most coveted job around. You will, however, be placed somewhere where you can make a difference for a season. You may be there 1-2 years, but you’ll leave your mark.

Some of the greatest leaders in history are unknown. They are the ones who paved the way for those who got the credit. It takes a man or woman of humility to accept that.

My thoughts are many on this subject. People may mistake or underestimate your value and calling, but God doesn’t. He made you this way for a reason, so buckle up and get ready for an adventure!

One Day at a Time

Since I resigned my vocational church job in September, things have been interesting. I have preached twice, led worship a few times, and played the piano where needed. On most Sundays, I’m worshiping at a different church. As much as I would like to land in a particular church, God has not made it clear. Until then, I will seek His plan and then surrender when He makes it clear.

Life is all about one day at a time. I was introducing myself to a new hospice family recently. I shared my story briefly. I said something shocking in that visit: “I can’t walk in yesterday’s or tomorrow’s obedience; I must walk in today’s obedience.” It sounds simple, and it is. But I struggle with wanting the full picture NOW!

Some people have tried to tell me that God won’t use me now that I am a divorced and remarried man. I told God a long time ago that I would let Him decide that. So when opportunities like the one pictured below come along, I gladly walk through that door God has opened with the full understanding that God didn’t “uncall” me. He will use me as He chooses, and I will obey.

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The Star of the Show

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This Sunday, there will be a lot of churches around the world that will have put together well-orchestrated performances to attract a larger-than-normal crowd on Easter in hopes that these guests will return the following Sunday when everything will probably be back to normal. Preachers will kick up their “preachiness”, the music will hopefully be better than the normal Sunday, and the welcome team will be more friendly than they are on the typical Sunday. All of this makes sense, right? Shouldn’t people walk out talking about how awesome the preacher is rocking his skinny jeans and how energetic and talented the band is? Many would answer yes, but the preacher, deacon/elder “board” (the board concept is found NOWHERE in the Bible), the band, nor the greeters are the star of the show.

Jesus Christ, the One who died and rose again, is the “superstar”. Because of that, every Sunday should be Easter Sunday. Jesus is just as alive now and will be just as alive after Sunday! Every Sunday should be a celebration! Make a big deal out of every Sunday. Make every sermon the best! Make the music the best every week! Don’t prepare a service to impress a crowd! Create it to bless an Audience of One – the Lord Jesus Christ!

The truth is that people want something real. Skilled performances can leave people empty. Genuine worship that is aimed to please the Lord can change lives and make a lasting impression.

Let’s bring this thing home. Who is the star of your show? Is it you? Do you live a life so that you are happy? It never lasts. God created you to bring Him glory. If you are on the throne of your life, it’s time for a new ruler – the King of kings and Lord of lords!

Assumptions

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I’m sure many of you are already thinking the statement that is often said about assuming. Like it or not, it is true. We have done this more times than we want to admit. I was reminded of an incorrect assumption on my part today.

Today was one of those days when God reminded me that one of my assumptions was wrong. To be totally honest, assumptions are great tools used by the devil to cause unnecessary drama in your life. If he can turn you against someone, get you out of church, or rob you of your joy, he will stop at nothing.

So the next time you assume something, ask yourself if that is fact or some crazy conclusion you came to because someone looked at you funny or spoke to you in a not-so-nice tone. Your assumptions could change your life in a negative way. Stop believing before you come to that point!

Hush Yo Mouth

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Confession time again! The one thing that has probably gotten me in more trouble in my 35 years of living has been my mouth. That may surprise some of you, while others may be nodding your head. I received my first detention in school for something I said. I had to learn to choose words more carefully over time. If most of us were to acknowledge our faults, we would have to admit we struggle with choosing our words wisely.

Some of you might believe the philosophy, “If I think it, then I should go ahead and say it.” That is, by far, one of the most foolish things I have ever heard. This is what the Bible says about it: “A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back” (Proverbs‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬).

When it comes to words, don’t say the first thing that comes to mind. The cleanup will be a lot worse. Take the high road, choose your words wisely, and create less drama for you and other people. Another thought: some things are best left unsaid!

Preacher Perfect?

The day of the preacher has changed. Some of you are thinking, “Preach it, Matthew!” You’re ready for me to attack all the changes that have taken place. Sorry, but I won’t. Years ago, the preacher was someone untouchable. He was put on this pedestal as he wore his robe or suit, elevated high above the people. No one felt that he was approachable. That still rings true today.

This old mindset is still something I battle.  I’m not the pedestal guy in the suit, but I am the hospice chaplain that some put on a show for. I don’t have that so much anymore, but some still do it. Don’t pretend around me! You may or may not be surprised at how human I am.

I say things I shouldn’t say when I get mad (everyone gasps). A lot of preachers wouldn’t confess this. I will. I have to go to God frequently and admit I blew it.

I misjudge people (judging is a sin). Many Christians feel that this is a calling. The truth is that Jesus Christ is the final Judge, and I need to keep my nose out of things.

I struggle with forgiveness (and don’t you dare say that I should forgive because I’m a preacher). EVERYONE is supposed to forgive, especially if you know what it is like for Jesus to forgive you!

My feelings get hurt. Yes, preachers have feelings. We often have people spread rumors about us and think they know our intentions. They would rather stir up a campaign against us than biblically come to us and work things out.

The list goes on. So understand that preachers deal with the same temptations you do.

A word to preachers: Quit that foolish act you were taught in Bible college in seminary. People aren’t impressed with your talk, hair, strut, or anything else. Be real! More people will feel like they can approach you with real life stuff if you quit the act. Otherwise, they will think you have no understanding of anything and will keep their distance. The sad thing is that they are taking their cue from you.

 

Where is Home?

For those who have known me a long time, you may think that my poor sense of direction has once again taken over. Those who have known how many times I’ve moved around probably just think I’m confused and will never settle in a particular area. The ones who have been closest to me know my affinity for the upstate of South Carolina. Please do not misinterpret what I am saying because I love people from every area where I have lived, but where I live now will be home to me for many reasons.

When I came to this area in 2009, I came to a church that immediately embraced me and my family. We were never treated like outsiders. They loved me through a difficult time in 2012 and again through my separation, divorce, and what felt like the end of my ministry. When I returned, they never asked questions but loved me when I needed it most.

It is now 2 years after my return, and God has given me an even greater love for this area. I have ministered in 2 other churches since my return, ministered to numerous families as a hospice chaplain, and met the lady I prayed for. We are now married and have a little one on the way.

As great as this area is with its lakes and ease of access to the mountains, it cannot compare to the home that Jesus prepared for me because I placed my trust in Him. He paid the price, conquered death, and offers His free gift of salvation to all who will turn from their sin to Him.

This area is only my temporary home. My citizenship, according to Philippians 3:21, is in Heaven. I’m just here for a little while.

So while I’m here in my temporary home, I want to make my life count for my Lord. I don’t want to waste time. I’m here for a purpose. When I die and go to my heavenly home, I want to serve my Savior until my last breath. After that, I will worship Him for all eternity.

Launch Out into the Deep

A quick continuing thought of not letting the dream within you die: Don’t let fear keep you from it! Let faith motivate you toward it! Launch out into the deep and watch God honor your obedience to Him!

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