Kraig Lowell Pullam

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

Archive for the tag “church”

Preaching Idols & Ecclesiastical High Places

IMG_3614Idolatry is a consistent theme throughout Scripture. The Canaanites worshiped their false gods on the tops of mountains and hills. According to Deuteronomy 12:2, these sanctuaries, or “high places”, were epicenters of idolatry, vanity and sinful preoccupation. For this very reason, the Israelites were instructed to destroy them when they entered the land of promise.

The elevated location of these “high places” gave worshippers a sense of being close and almost at one with their gods. Further, the vistas overlooking their farmlands gave them a sense of power and virtue. Baal, one of the principal gods, was often portrayed sitting on top of hills and was often called “rider of the clouds.”

Worship in high places occurred among graven images of the gods, sacred groves and large stones or pillars that marked the place of the alleged earthly visitation of a god. The primary purpose of these ritual events was to increase fertility among the people, their livestock and their land. As a consequence of these efforts, ritual prostitution was common.

Despite Moses’ commandment and commendation in Deuteronomy to destroy these Canaanite “high places”, the Hebrews tended to let them stand. In their arrogance and their ignorance, they would even attempt to incorporate them into the worship of The Lord. (I Samuel 9:19-24; 10:5-6; I Kings 3:2). In First Kings 11:7, we see they most often used these high places for “idol” reasons and purposes. Occasionally, there were leaders who brought revival by cutting down the sacred groves and pulling down the idolatrous pillars. (2 Kings 18:4). But it would take just one or two generations before the reforms were forgotten again and the ‘high places’ were once again erected. By the time of Jeremiah, so many high places had been erected that the prophet remarked that Judah had as many gods as cities. What a travesty! What an indictment! Are we any different?

In ministry, we are prone to set up our own “high places.” If we are not careful we, too, can extinguish the fire of revival and reformation when we erect our own idols in our own ‘groves.’ As Moses commended the Israelites, let us commend one another to destroy these ecclesiastical ‘high places’ that God may be the center and circumference of our Worship, Life, Ministry and Proclamation.

What are some high places and idols that need to be destroyed in ministry? In my view, there are at least four:

1. Believing the Hype
I believe that the best thing to do after preaching a great sermon on Sunday, is to forget about it on Monday. No…don’t forget WHAT you preached. But please forget you had anything to do with the its success in the hearts of the hearers. Too often, we can be guilty of reading our own press clippings. Someone came up to us and told us we were the greatest preacher ever known to mankind. Someone else whispered in our ear that we can preach circles around the current preacher. Maybe they are correct. So what? Get over yourself! We are charged to preach Christ and Him crucified; after that…stand up to be seen, speak up to be heard; and please sit down to be appreciated. This applies to both pastor and associate minister alike. Pastors may be surrounded by an inner circle that is wooed by his charisma. For this person, self-awareness and a spouse or children who know how to be blatantly honest with you are more precious than gold. At the other end of the spectrum there is the associate minister who may not get very many preaching engagements, but this minister has built an arsenal of sticks that preach well. It is good for this person to be aware that preaching occasionally can be a much simpler task than preaching every week. Whichever group you are in, learn not to play into any comparisons, aside from who God made you. Either you will become discouraged when you look at all of the preachers you think are ahead of you; or you will become vain and conceited when you look at the ‘little preachers’ who are behind you. God called you; and He called them. That’s enough.

2. Stardom
There is absolutely, in my view, nothing worse than a conceited, puffed-up preacher. Nothing.  That’s my argument and conviction.  We must all realize that we are not celebrities; we are called to be servants. In our Western context, we are guilty of equating the preacher to the NBA player, the Fortune 500 exec and the Hip Hop Mogul. Please note, I am not a preacher who is disparaged by the minister who receives a nice compensation, lives in a big house and is able to provide the wants and needs of their family. But we must be careful with regard to entourages, ministry groupies, playing into favorites, etc. You are NOT the star, even if you are an apostle, a bishop or a prelate. At the end of the day, you are a servant. If you pastor a mega church, to God be the glory. If you have 4 members, your feet are as royal as a Billy Graham. Too often, we can be guilty of making our idols the numbers and the crowd. But be mindful, the bottom line is not always the BOTTOM LINE! I know preachers who are great proclaimers of truth who will never be on TBN, the WORD Network or any stage where they preach to over 100 people. But they are called, chosen and they will not sell out. Again, I repeat: you are NOT a celebrity.

3. Insecurity
While being puffed-up is wrong, so is thinking too lowly of yourself. You are gifted! Guess Who the gift-Giver is? It is God Himself! It is demeaning for any of us to spit on the gift God gave to us; and only us. Because of my insecurities, I found myself at one point in my ministerial life wanting to be a Ralph West and Manuel Scott, Sr. Somewhere I discovered, I can never be them and they can never be me. My insecurities are often a recognition of my deficiencies. But I am so glad there is a place in the kingdom for the deficient, the handicapped and the under-achievers! Sure…you may think you have nothing to offer. God IS attracted to people like this. But remember the words of Paul that remind us in Philippians chapter 4 that we can do something when Christ is working on the inside!

4. Laziness
I struggle with being lazy. That’s my confession! I relish the opportunity to go off to some clear water and, with my wife (forget my boys) and do nothing. Please remember, Sunday is coming! The best thing for any preacher and pastor to do is to have 10 or 15 sermons that are already prepared. Another great thing to do is to master the art of visitation. Visit the sick that are in your church. If you don’t have any sick people that you know, go to a nursing home and talk to them. Get a dog and go for a walk in the park. There are sermons everywhere. What makes this more meaningful is when you already know where you are going at the beginning of the week. Somehow, the Holy Spirit will begin to point out things that connect to the text you’re dealing with. Another point is the get enough rest and exercise. It is so important for the preacher to take care of their physical bodies. If you fall short of making this a priority, then you will find yourself in a place where ‘Saturday night specials’ become routine and ritual. Physical fatigue is what makes you vulnerable and susceptible to immoral ways and a lifestyle that doesn’t please God. A person of strength, who preaches FROM victory and not FOR victory, is better equipped to guard his or her life.

It is my hope and prayer for every pastor and preacher that God would use your life, ministry and preaching to bless and impact a generation traveling in the wrong direction. To be sure, good preaching and great preachers with excellent characters are needed in the 21st century. I would love to know what you would consider to be idols in ministry. What are your thoughts? Please take a moment to share and also to subscribe. Thanks for reading!

 

Sunday in Retrospect

imagesWhat an awesome day this has been!

Today our congregation celebrate 142 years of life as a local church.  The history of the Mt. Salem Baptist Church is quite unique.  Beginning in 1872, many significant events took place.  In that year, Yellowstone National Park became the world’s 1st national park, Bloomingdales Department Store opens, the nation’s first black governor took office and the worlds first international soccer game took place.  It was a great year!

And it is also in that year that a small group of churchgoers decided to start a church (May 19, 1872) in Indianola, Texas.  A few years later, a terrible storm destroyed much of the town.  Forcing many churches, families and businesses to move, the Mt. Salem Church found a new home in nearby Victoria, Texas.

We had two excellent worship celebrations today; and two awesome preachers blessed us in the sharing of God’s Word.  To date, it has been our greatest day of celebration in a church anniversary since I’ve served as pastor.

Both preachers had a common theme – God’s desire for us to appreciate the past while also reaching toward the future.  Everything shared and said were simply affirmations, verifications and confirmation of what God has either communicated to me personally or I’ve shared with a congregation this year and last concerning God’s plan and vision for our congregation and His plan for us to reach our community, city and world.  Our morning guest shared from Acts 1:8 and evening guest from John 13:34-35.  Both timely.

Also excited about some great opportunities and praying now for God to have His way in my life and in the life of our congregation!

Sunday Review & Non-Series Preaching

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This past Lord’s Day I had the opportunity to share in the preaching moment with the precious people of Mt. Salem.  I love my church!  I love where we’ve been.  I love who we are.  Interestingly…I am most in love with where we are going.  Often I say to myself we have so far to go; all the while realizing that we may be there before we know it!

Non-series preaching, typically during Lent, always proves most difficult for me.  I need the structure of knowing where I am going.  I have developed, in most instances, the habit of knowing where I am going in preaching at least 6 months out of the year.  For me, the best time of study is when I am in a particular book or passage or Let me say that this past Sunday had its challenges for me personally.  Spring Break took a toll on me.  Not only this – but the lack of consistency and clarity regarding my direction often proves futile.

I am most effective when preaching through a book, a passage or a theme.  Because of my thoroughness, and my attention span, even short books can prove to be rather lengthy for me (I spent about 6 weeks on the first 5 verses of 1st Peter). I am challenging myself to now buckle down and go through an entire book nonstop, cutting out all of the thoroughness and using that for midweek teachings.

As was my lot, I found myself working on two passages throughout the entire week.  I spent all week long periodically (my study time suffered due to Spring break) perusing Acts 20:7-12 on the story of young Eutychus, where this young boy fell out of the window while Paul preached.  Third Sunday is generally our youth Sunday.  Somewhere in there, I began to explore Mark 1:21-28 where the unclean spirit comes to church, the temple.  I wrestled with both texts throughout the entire week. Needless to say, I went to the pulpit this past Sunday with two sermons on my heart and in my head.  This is completely ill-advised for preachers and pastors, I know.  But, yes, I did it.  And this is not the first time I’ve done this!

Ultimately, as was my fate, I announced via social media that I’d be preaching from Acts 20 on ‘There’s a Child in the Window’.  However, shortly before the time to stand, I changed the message and asked our church to turn to Mark 1 on ‘When the Devil Shows Up At Church.’

Well….I don’t remember getting any feedback on the sermon.  Even if our congregation was helped by the message, the Lord simply allowed this opportunity to teach me the importance of having more direction and a stronger preaching plan, between plans.  I get it; and I will adjust accordingly.

That being said, I need to work on shortening my sermons to at least 20 minutes in length.  I can simply do all things through Christ who gives me strength.  Again….this can only come through cutting out any words that are not crucial, critical or necessary to the central idea of my text or the overall point of my sermon.  I will try my best to work on it. I am praying now for my direction in the coming weeks.  So many varying places I want to go – wanting to continue on prayer; NEEDing to deal with stewardship of giving; having this pull of preaching a few messages on Christ’s passion leading to resurrection; and this strong desire I’ve had, for some time, to deal with Psalm 119 and 1st Corinthians.

How was your Sunday?

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