Kraig Lowell Pullam

My thoughts. My reflections. My journey…. On pastoring, preaching, leading & learning.

Archive for the month “August, 2014”

7 Things to Avoid as a Commuting Pastor

In FIMG_2038.JPGebruary of 2011, the Lord abruptly altered my life; and called me to serve as the 11th pastor of one of the oldest African-American congregations in Victoria, Texas. Victoria, right between Corpus Christi (the place of my birth) and Pearland (my home), is where the Lord would call me to serve the precious people of Mt. Salem Baptist Church. A small congregation in size, I didn’t realize my assignment would require commuting, at the time I accepted the call. Mt. Salem is an historic church; and has had a long history of fully supporting their pastors well. I do not recall a pastor there who was ever bivocational. However, my arrival followed a storm within our church. As with the rubbish of a New York following “9/11”, we were at ‘Ground Zero’. What the church was realistically able to give me in compensation would not meet the financial demands of my life, at the time. Fortunately, God was opening a clear and unexpected door with Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care in healthcare; and God (to my wife and I) affirmed that we were where He wanted us to be. I knew nothing, however, about commuting.

Commuting is traveling from one town or city to another; and there are many pastors who have done this. Growing up, my father pastored in Goliad, Texas for a couple of years while we lived in Corpus Christi. I knew of a few pastors and friends who did the same. But if you would have told me 10 or so years ago that I would be a commuting (or even a bivocational) pastor, I would have humbly told you, ‘I don’t think so, Lord willing!’

But here I am. I now have learned to love what I once loathed. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the course of my time as a commuting pastor, in hopes that someone may be helped through my reflections. I write this in the form of things you should not do if you are a commuting pastor.

1. Do not go a day without prayer & wise counsel.

Prayer is so important in the life of every pastor. The commuting pastor is, by far, no exception. For the commuting pastor, you have the opportunity to strengthen your devotional time with the Lord. My commute to my church from home is about an hour and a half. Doing this twice a week, on most occasions, is a minimum of 6 hours during the course of an average week. On Wednesdays, I am by myself. And during the course of my pastorate, my prayer life has gone to another level. It has also given me time to think through (uninterrupted) what I am going to teach or preach. Lately, I record myself in teaching and preaching on my smartphone. Before I delete or upload it to my database, I head my headphones and literally listen to myself preach or teach on the way home. This is torment; but it is helping me to sort through all of my speaking fallacies; and pray through how God wants to use me in the future. It has also given me the opportunity to call trusted friends and seek counsel while I am on the road. I encourage every commuting pastor to make this a time of refreshing; and to take advantage of the silence and the road.

2. Do not go a day without knowing you’ve been called there.

It is important for every preacher to know they’ve been called to preach. It is as equally important for every pastor to know that he has been called to the work. The commuting pastor is absolutely no exception. For one, there will always be people who will seek to suggest you are less than a pastor because you, in many instances, are forced to commute. At other times, some will suggest you are being selfish and not ‘stepping out on faith’ because you have chosen to remain bivocational for various reasons. Then, in many instances, even the members may feel neglected or forsaken. Perhaps, there will always be some ambitious pastor in town who befriends your members like a wolf in sheep’s clothing; and suggests to them you aren’t as faithful as you could be. This is why knowing you’ve been called to the congregation is so important and essential. It is something about a captain who establishes the direction of the watchtower on the sea. Any wind or wave may seem intimidating and distracting; but knowing the direction of the watchtower and the watchman gives a sense of resolve, peace and assurance. Never let others distract you from the work God has called you to and the family God has given you, being your wife and children.

3. Do not avoid time with your family.

I am convinced that God’s greatest gift to us, after Calvary, is our family. Why would God give us a wife and children; and then call us to a local ministry that negates our family? Please know, I am not suggesting that the early Christian martyrs, disciples and followers of Christ weren’t called to give their lives (literally) for the cause of following Christ. I am also not suggesting that we should deny speaking requests, limit our time in church ministry, etc. What I am suggesting is that they must work in harmony with one another. The pastor’s wife doesn’t have to be the co-pastor to partner with her husband in ministry. The pastor’s children do not have to be Stepford kids to have a great relationship with their father. When it comes to the commuting pastor, allow your wife and children see how they fit in the ministry. Thank them for traveling with you, when they do. Reward your kids, every now and then, for riding in the car with you to your assignment. Every now and then, break free from the sermon you have to deliver, and spend time on your ride asking them about their lives, their week, their day and hear what they have to say. In addition, find ways to go away with them. I am trying my best to spend a week away by myself with God, a week away with my wife and a week away with my children. This is difficult, with being a Pastor and a Chaplain. But…these are legitimate goals.

4. Do not go a day without determining who the little pastors, movers and shakers are.

For every new pastor, one way to get booted out is to actually think you are the pastor! Pastors who go to new churches are often told by the new congregation, ‘Pastor, you’re it. Come make us a better church. Come and make us a bigger church.’ This may be true of some. But for most, even if that is what they profess, that is not ‘really’ what they mean. Every new pastor does good to remember three things: 1) It takes time. 2) It takes time. 3) It takes time. Really….it does! In their mind, that was their church FIRST. And, from their perspective, it will be their church after you’re gone. So what should the new pastor do? Of course, the new pastor must remember that the Holy Spirit is the real Pastor. But in another sense, every church has someone who has gained the influence, respect and ear of the entire church. At times, this person may not even be ‘liked’ by everyone in the church; but they can often be the strongest influence in the church. Many times, this is more than one person. It can be your predecessor; your predecessor’s widow; your predecessor’s family or children; the deacons; the mother in the church, etc. Find out who they are! This is so important for the commuting pastor because you are not there, often, throughout the week. So find out who these people are; and draw close to them. Often these people are good people. Sometimes, they may not have direction but, if they grow to love and respect you, they will follow you. Hence, if they follow you, others will. Bounce things off of these people. Say to them, ‘You know…I was thinking about such and such, and about this and that. Honestly, what do you think about that; and how do you think our church would respond.’

5. Do not be foolish.

Wisdom is everything. And, for the commuting pastor, wisdom is everything even more! Even with the aforementioned regarding bouncing things off of influential people in the church, be careful. Be very careful. Were you that person’s choice? Did that person cause problems with the last pastor? Does this person want to see you fail? Therefore, everything must be saturated in prayer. Wisdom says it doesn’t hurt to ask for their advice, even if you don’t follow their advice. It doesn’t hurt anything (but maybe your pride) to ask.

6. Do not let discouragement defeat you.

For every pastor, he will often ask himself, “am I doing enough?” For every bivocational or commuting pastor, the same applies. I have asked myself, “how much more effective could I be if I lived in the neighborhood or down the street?” This is a question I ask myself on a regular basis. Pastors will often deal with discouragement. Discouragement doesn’t mean depression. It means discouraged. And discouragement is inevitable. However, it is defeatable (I made the word up). Trust in the promise of God’s Word; and keep them near your heart.

7. Do not regress.

I am naturally lazy. I struggle with it. Being bivocational brings its own series of challenges. Being bivocational and a commuter….that’s in an arena all its own. One must avoid the temptation to take shortcuts, preach sermons online, neglect study, etc. It is just a fact – you must work harder than ever before. Most who commute are traveling to rural areas or small congregations. There is the notion that these congregations don’t demand much, in terms of content in preaching. This is not always true, as with my congregation, but it is probably the overall consensus. There is the temptation to slight the people and just ‘give them a little something’. The challenge I have given myself is to give deliver the greatest quality message/sermon I can in a way that is simple, succinct and portable to the hearers. This is must more difficult for me. With my last congregation, I pastored physicians, dentists, lawyers and engineers. For a young seminarian who loves words, there was a comfort in sharing what I knew with this group. And while the congregation I serve now is very intelligent (as in intelligent as the previous group), their lives are simpler, much more practical and resides in the context of an entirely different arena. How can I communicate the profound realities of God’s Word in a simple way? And how can I grow to be a great preacher and expositor when I am traveling on the
road? I must refuse to go backwards.

Please note. While I am a commuting pastor, I make no claims to be the consummate pastoral expert on commuting or pastoring. These are merely my thoughts and experience in something I’ve been doing for almost four years now. If you are a pastor who commutes, I’m interested to hear of your experiences, thoughts, instructions and encouragement. What do you think?


Touchy Preaching Topics

Toni RidgawIMG_3483.JPGay wrote an article some time ago where he goes on to say that 55% of pastors report topics they either preach on sparingly or not at all. Here is the list from the article:

Politics – 38 percent
Homosexuality – 23 percent
Abortion – 18 percent
Same-sex marriage – 17 percent
War – 17 percent
Women’s role in church and home – 13 percent
The doctrine of election – 13 percent
Hell – 7 percent
Money – 3 percent

I cannot help but wonder the reasons behind these statistics, that seem to reflect what I hear proclaimed and shared across pulpits throughout America in the 21st century. Rarely do we push the political button; and when we do, it typically bleeds the typical right-wing, Jerry Falwell, type of lingo that describes the ‘left’ as the Devil and everything on the ‘right’ as endorsed by God. Homosexuality and Same-sex attractions are quite prevalent in most churches, yet rarely is it addressed though often condemned or explained. The woman’s role in the church and home remains as untouched as ancient times, while many leaders fail to realize the woman’s role in the 1st century and prior were non-issues, in that day, just as were any other minority, including Gentiles. While it is addressed in the scripture (the role of women, Gentiles, etc.) we discard it an issue already covered in past times, that needs no further explanation. Election? Too complicated! Hell? Too mean! Money? Too personal! War? Too political.

We are living in a different era and time. As a consequence, these issues can no longer be ignored! At some point, messages that consist of ‘feel good’ placebo and focus on ‘haters’ will one day wear on God’s people. Well, atleast those who want more with regard to their faith in action amid a world that is vying for their attention and affections. Preaching on success in the workplace, at home and in finances are all important; and I believe these matters are addressed in scripture. But happens next after I have preached on success and the next level for the man in the pew (or pulpit) who is struggling with homosexuality? Or for that matter, he is no longer ‘struggling’ with it. What about the woman or girl who is surrounded by lesbian thoughts and tendencies? Or the person trained to believe that Christians are Republicans and non-believers are Democrats; and that giving a woman the right to choose is automatic murder while putting young troops in harm’s way in senseless war is noble? As a result, our churches are becoming a place where we talk about Heaven, and shout around the building about what’s on the way. However, we go home and live the same defeated lives.

I contend that BEING church far outweighs HAVING church. But I also believe that it is very possible to HAVE BOTH! However, when PASSION retards PROGRESS, how does this glorify the God Who created us?

The good news is – there is a way to address all of these issues without trying to figure out where to start. And there are a remnant of pastors and preachers who are doing it. It is through the verse-by-verse exposition of God’s Word. Anyone who would pick up God’s Word, open it, read it, study it and explain it…will, at some point, come across the aforementioned topics. This is necessary in teaching the people who hear (and proclaim) God’s Word to go home and LIVE the abundant life. And the exposition of the scripture inevitably shows us the HOW TO, and not just the WHAT! It is one thing for me to tell a person how nice Pebble Beach is; but it is another thing to tell them how to get there. Let us not spend so much time in our preaching, teaching and leading simply telling people how nice heaven is, and how great the next level is; but let us tell them practically, in God’s Word, how to get there. This is the challenge for me, in my dealings!

What say you?


Grateful for Fourteen Years Together…humbly praying for many More!

IMG_3415Today is D’Ani & I’s 14th Wedding anniversary!

1998 was a difficult time for me.  I found myself in an unusual place.  Due to my own bad decisions, left to deal with a ‘broken heart’, I heard the Devil laughing at me.  After going through a 5-year, on again/off again, relationship, dealing with one disappointment after another; and left to try and pick up the pieces, deal with public humiliation and embarrassment and the pain of betrayal, somewhere I gave up on God and on love.  Yes, I was not perfect.  Did I enter into a relationship that God revealed, time after time, the person was not the one He had for me?  Yes again!  But there was still pain, nonetheless.  Eventually, in those coming months, somehow, I moved on and I let it go.  It was rocky at first; and I thought I could never breathe again.  In fact, I pleaded with God to ‘make it work’.

He would not!  

He said no!

And when I wouldn’t take no for an answer, He made things so clear to me that what I thought I wanted, didn’t want me; and I really didn’t want that relationship as much as I thought I did.

And still….I heard the Devil laughing at me!

During that time, I went through such a dry period in life and ministry.  I wasn’t called on much to preach at many places during early 1999, it seemed.  Everything got so quiet.  I was alone.  I didn’t realize until later, I was alone “with God.”  I remember going to hear one of my preaching mentors speak in the Dallas area, and he asked me if I was okay, because I had lost quite a bit of weight; and he thought I was sick.  I was probably depressed and didn’t know it.  I found myself in Arlington, Texas both ashamed and alone.  The only wisdom I could come up with was to improve myself.  This is the period where I learned how to awake every morning at 4am and pray for an hour.  I began to journal and rediscovered my love for studying God’s Word.

Interestingly, through the course of that year and following, I found a refreshing place in my relationship with Christ.  I had recovered the joy of my salvation in Him.  But one thing had not changed – I was done with love.  Admittedly, I was never the guy who dated one girl to the next.  I never was the person to just hang out with a girl for the fun.  If I didn’t see her potentially being my wife or wife material, I got bored very quickly.  Inherently, I still wanted a wife.  BUT….I just knew I could never trust again, and especially love as innocently and vulnerably as I once did.  Maybe I was ‘damaged goods.’

But THEN….something happened!  I saw a girl that struck my eye.  I had seen her ocassionally, singing in the choir where my Uncle Lloyd Pastored in Denton, Texas.  But…I wasn’t the kind of guy to go to church looking for a hookup; and while I thought she was ‘cute’, I looked and moved on.  But one day, I worked up enough nerve to ask my cousin Constance, and a few other people about her.  Constance told me her name was ‘D’Ani’.  When I heard her name, I fell over!   It was the most beautiful name I had ever heard; or so I thought!  Then, I was informed that one of my older cousins had tried to talk to her, and was unsuccessful.  This sort of discouraged me, because he was smoother and cooler than me, and was admired by many young ladies.  So I blew it off for a while!  Someone else had told me they had heard that she was pretty serious with a guy she had been dating since high school in Houston.  So, I just knew I didn’t have any chance whatsoever.  I have always been pretty laid back and shy when it came to approaching a person of the opposite sex in my single days; so these were simply inquiries.

Then one night, at a musical honoring my mom the day before my father’s pastoral anniversary, she was there!  I’ll never forget what she had on, how she looked and how she wore her hair.  And I also just couldn’t resist.  I just HAD to say something to her!  For the first time in my life (and last) I walked up to a young lady without any mediator or filter and I spoke, not just to say hello, but to express my complete adoration for her.  So, after church was over, I walked up to her, and said the dumbest thing I ever said to any woman in my life, “So….is it true you’re engaged?”  I was so nervous I really don’t remember her exact response.  Plus, she seemed to be distracted and surrounded by quite a few people.  Then, it got even worse, much worse.  I said, “Well, I guess I’ll have to settle for second best.”  My mind and memory went blank after that.  My attempts to be cool, smooth or debonair had completely failed.  Then (it gets worse) I WALKED AWAY!!! I did all but run away….like a disappointed kid runs off stage at a talent show when he is embarrassed.  I just knew whatever inkling of hope I may have had to know that girl, that was gone too.  Period!

There are other little details I could mention, but the main detail happened the next day (Sunday) when I was expressing my disappointment and despair to one of my friends, who was an associate minister at her church, where my uncle served as Pastor.  He walked away; and the next thing I knew, before they left, he handed me her email address.  Emails, at that time in 2000, were sort of a big deal.  He said that he would ask for her number for me, but I was too scared! An email was fine.  I had an AOL account at my apartment (remember the ones that would use your phone line?), so I felt comfortable emailing her.

I couldn’t resist.  I left as soon as I could from Corpus Christi to get to Arlington, Texas where I lived to email “pink twirler”.  A day or so later, she emailed me back.  I still have those emails and exchanges somewhere.  Eventually, that week, we talked on the phone….for hours and hours (6, to be exact!).  In time I learned that her own relationship had been going through some serious challenges and transitions.  She was a senior at Texas Womans University; and had been praying for God to show her if that relationship was in His will.  Interestingly, she was so distracted the night of the musical honoring my mom because she had lost her promise ring from him during the service.  She was looking for it everywhere and couldn’t find it.  I promise, I didn’t take it!!!  Those seemed to be red flags for her regarding her relationship with the guy she had been dating.  I could literally tell a hundred stories of how God brought us together; and how God was speaking to me, speaking to her, and speaking to both of us together.  I have absolutely no doubt that D’Ani was tailor made for me.  There was no way I would have even entertained a relationship so serious and so pure during such a time in my life.

We started dating in April of 2000, got engaged in May and married in August of 2000, a few months later.  Sounds crazy, huh?  There are many ways, I can look back and see how someone may have thought we were.  She had graduated from TWU, but hadn’t passed her dental tests.  I didn’t have much of a job, a struggling preacher, and was a junior/senior at Dallas Baptist University.  I had absolutely no resources to support myself, let alone a wife.  But God….  D’Ani and I’s story is laced, through and through, with nothing but the grace, faithfulness and goodness of God.

She is my gift from God.  And all of the things I went through before her coming into my life, made me appreciate her even more.  I am so humbled when I think of what I pleaded with God to do; and that when God said no, I thought He didn’t love me….because He didn’t give me the person I wanted.  But a couple of years later, He gave me MORE than I ever even knew possible for me.  He gave me Dee.  And I could have never asked for a greater gift, after Calvary.  God actually didn’t give me what I thought I wanted BECAUSE He loved me.  He wanted me to have the BEST He created JUST FOR ME.

It is my humble prayer that I will always make her smile, laugh, be proud to say I am her husband and ‘Daddy’ to her boys.  It is my prayer that HE would keep me healthy, strong and able to give my life to making her the happiest woman on earth.  It is also my prayer that if I should go before her in this life, that she would never doubt the love I have ever had for her; that her needs will always be met; and that our sons will love and protect her all of her days.  In the meantime, I want to be her dream maker – whatever she dreams, I am her to make it come true.

Consequently, I did hear the Devil laugh at me in 1998.  But GOD had the final say!!!

And I can honestly say, that because of My Dee, I am the man, pastor, husband and father I am today.  I am no longer a boy, but a man. I am still kind of a struggling preacher, but God has brought me a long way.  Because of her support, I graduated the following year with a Bachelors and later with a Masters.  When I told her I was starting a church in 2005, she was the first to join.  When I told her years later I felt a call to go to a 140 year old struggling congregation that was and hour and a half from our home, she was the first one in the car (before me!).   She has supported me, through it all!  She is the “wind beneath my wings!”

And now….the Devil gets to hear me laugh!

Happy Anniversary Dee…. I love you to the moon, infinity and beyond!  I am praying that the Lord will faithfully give us 14, 25 and 50 more!

Philippians 1:6

Sunday Reflections

20140804-113910-41950746.jpgThis past Lord’s Day I had the opportunity to go home.  When I say ‘home’, I am speaking of one of two places that I specifically consider home, by way of membership and special memories.  One is where I began my preaching ministry, and where I was licensed to preach.  This is the church where my father still serves as the Senior Pastor and leader, the St. John First Baptist Church of Corpus Christi, Texas.  It was there I cultivated a deep love for the preeminence of God’s Word; and a true appreciation for Christian learning and education.  It was at St. John First that I grew to cherish the teaching and proclamation of God’s Word.  The other place I most often call ‘home’ is the place where I was ordained, started full-time in ministry and became trained in pastoral leadership under my Pastor, Harvey Clemons, Jr.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to preach at Pleasant Hill in Houston.  These days, I rarely have the opportunity to go home.  But when I do, I am overwhelmed by my love for them, their love for myself and my family; and Pastor Clemons’ consistency to love and nurture me as an adopted son in ministry.  My relationship with this great man is something I have a hard time communicating in words; and I am led to believe he will never understand the special place he has in my life and ministry that he continues to hold.  

So….to say the least, sharing there is always a special treat.  It never fails, I am always extra nervous when I preach there!  August is his vacation month, but he was there!  This adds nervousness to my always nervous tension.  I shared a message I attempted to share a few days ago from Daniel 3:17-18, regarding the plight of the 3 Hebrews boys’ unwillingness to bow amidst the pressure of a pagan king.  I entitled the sermon, ‘Don’t Curse Your Crisis.’  The outline was simple: I. Remember who you are II. Remember what you have III. Remember Who is in control IV. Remember your assignment.  

My biggest concern these days is my use of time, and my use of manuscript.  My continued goal is to come completely off of my written manuscript very soon.  It was an honor to have one minister to ask if I was using a manuscript during the message.  I’m getting there.

Last week I read H.B. Charles, Jr’s. book “On Preaching”.  He was kind of enough to sign a copy for me while he was preaching in my hometown, Corpus Christi.  And I am also halfway through the reading of Steven J. Lawson’s, ‘In it to Win it’.  It is my hope to do a review on both of these books in the near future, if time permits.  

My Cowboys lost; and I am NOT happy.  Preseason football is football to me; and it sometimes que’s things to come.  We shall see.

How was your Sunday?

Sunday Reflections

God be praised for yet another Lord’s Day!

Our youth and young adults led us today in worship. It was encouraging to see so many of our youth and young adults participate over the weekend. I had the opportunity to spend some time with them on Saturday in what I called a ‘rap session.’ I am amazed to hear all of the things our kids are dealing with and the questions they have. It is also an encouraging reminder to be a better father to my boys; and talk to them on a regular basis about life and spirituality.

I continued our journey in the Book of Acts. I have unofficially declared at Mt. Salem that we are going through the Book of Acts; but so far, so ACTS! I have had some moments of embarrassment in the past almost 20 years of preaching, and about 13 years of preaching on a weekly basis to the same people, week after week. When a Pastor announces that they are about to start a series, you can count on atleast one person who will remember you said, “SERIES”; and they know what “SERIES” means. I have been guilty on one or two occasions of doing this on Stewardship. I remember in my first pastorate, I announced I would be preaching on stewardship for ‘as long as it takes for us to get it!’ I probably should have never said that. In addition, I said that in June, the beginning of Summer break. Attendance, as with many churches in the summer, declined among members, increased among visitors; and it just wasn’t the right time to be preaching on stewardship. Therefore, I stopped. Anyway…I am now in the Book of Acts, for right now!

Here is an outline of my sermon:

Title/Subject: The Power of Your Witness
Texas: Acts 1:6-8

I. If you are going to be a witness, stop concentrating on the situation, and focus on the Sovereign Lord. (verses 6-7)
II. If you are going to be a witness, there must be a dependence on the supernatural power of God to show up. (verse 8a)
a. His strength in separation (parting of Judas/replacement)
b. His strength in supplication (prayer)
III. If you are going to be a witness, share you story. (verse 8b)
a. Jerusalem
b. Judea
c. Samaria
d. Uttermost part of the earth

I am prayerfully looking forward to continuing in this study, Lord willing.

Thank God for the responses to the message.

How was your Sunday? Did you hear or preach a sermon that touched you in some meaningful way? I’d love to hear from you!


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