Kraig Lowell Pullam

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

Archive for the tag “Pastoring”

Enjoying the Process (Pastoring)

I began pastoring my first church in March of 2005. At 26 years of age, married with a 2-year old son, I had absolutely no idea what it took to pastor or lead a congregation. Because I had been preaching since the age of 15; and the youngest son of a pastor…I thought I knew. But Bible College and seminary training did not prepare me for what I would encounter at 26. The Lord blessed me to preach almost every Sunday for four years, where I served as the Minister of Christian Education. My pastor let me preach each Sunday to the people in his congregation during the early service there. But my four years of preaching did not quite prepare me for what I would experience in pastoral ministry. Too often we can make the mistake of thinking we can handle certain functions because it either looks easy, or it seems as if we have all of the appropriate answers for any given situation. Even now, Donald Trump’s rhetoric will change regarding some of his promises if he were to receive the vote of the American people and actually become the President of the United States. This same truth applies to Hillary Clinton as well. 

 

By far, pastoring has been one of the most difficult tasks in my own life. Being the husband of D’Ani seems easy. Being the father of Kai, Kaden and Karter….well, that’s another story. But I digress!

 

Going back to my first pastorate…it was a new church! The pressure of starting a new work (specifically, a ‘cold start’) is second to none. It is one thing to start a new church that is branching off from another congregation (either a split or from a sponsoring church), it is something altogether different to start from scratch. No money. No building. No sponsors. No members! Just….a dream…

 

As I reflect, I would have done quite a few things differently. If I had pastored my SECOND church FIRST, I would have saved myself some of the trials I faced along the way; and I would have become more appreciative of the things that come with a new ministry that you are forced to endure in the old. It being my first church, and the church I started…it became my baby. Consequently, I didn’t give away enough of the ministry to others. I carried the bulk of the burden, particularly financially, upon myself and my family. When the church struggled, it fell upon me and my family. This, of course, is the price we pay for ministry. The ultimate hurt is when the church does well; and some wonder why those who’ve sacrificed are benefactors of that blessing. Ultimately, I should have been doing better financially, already finished seminary and prepared to carry the finances of the church, with or without anything in return. Ultimately, I loved Cornerstone in a way that I will never adequately describe; and the people of Cornerstone loved me and my family in a way that cannot be put into words. Not a day passes that I don’t think about and have fond memories for, “My First Church.” 

 

In my second pastorate…I was at a different place in my life: 6 years later; over a decade-long marriage; 3 children…seminary degree complete; nice chaplaincy job in Houston. Things were better for us personally. I was learning so much in the chaplaincy about pastoral care, ministering to hurting people and specializing with those who were mentally ill, along with a specialization in AIDS/HIV patients…my preaching and my ministry to the people to whom I was pastoring was transformed. In a real sense, the issues I would encounter in my current pastorate paled in comparison to the many of the issues I’d faced in the hospital (at Ben Taub in Houston). AGAIN….I am certain I’ve made mistakes along the way. I often wonder how effective I’ve been as a bi-vocational and commuting pastor. I have often wondered how many more relationships I could have cultivated in the city and at my own church had I not been on the road, or been so busy in my travels. At other times, I am amazed at how God has blessed our congregation; and how far we’ve come spiritually and in many other ways, since my arrival over 5 years ago. The challenges I had in my first pastorate were different from the challenges in my current. My greatest challenge (as I reflect) has been being an agent of change. In an older congregation, especially Baptist…not everyone is welcoming toward change. This is just a reality. As strange as it seems…I knew this by the time I came into my congregation at Mt. Salem. I knew (as I do now) that change must be gradual; and that patience is a powerful virtue. For example, I waited an entire year before starting a praise team. When I eventually did, I didn’t call is a ‘praise team.’ I called it the “A.L. Randon Ensemble”, named after the longest-tenured pastor of our church. The term “praise team” can be threatening to some who know nothing but choirs in the “old church”. And, for the same demographic, ‘praise team’ and ‘praise dance’ are one and the same. 

 

Over the years, I’ve gradually implemented change….at a much slower rate than I either have wanted or anticipated. But the most important thing (atleast in my context and in light of our church’s history before I arrived) that the Holy Spirit impressed upon me was for UNITY to remain in our congregation. For this to occur, I could not and cannot have one generation competing against another. This would have brought in a busload of new, young people. Because of my experience, I know how to get that demographic in the building… But I will never forget my pastor telling me that much of pastoring is about the “managing of many personalities”. In this instance, it is not just about gaining new people; but about resisting the need to damage the faith of some mother in the church who has been apart of the same congregation for 50 years. Make no mistake…change MUST occur. And I am not suggesting that any given pastor should stunt their growth to cater to the midget-mindset of an individual who is centered on self and convenience. I am simply saying that pastors should be sensitive in not burning bridges to get to the next town. In this case, PEOPLE are our bridges! 

I know that my blog is long and it seems as if I am rambling. But there is a method to my madness. I do have a point. In a few weeks I will celebrate 38 years of life. My point is: ALL of this has been a part of my journey. I would not have been as sensitive to the feelings of others at Mt. Salem if I had not gone through some of the backlash of not consulting anyone and just moving, at my first church. I would have not been as prepared for the journey personally and in my own financial life for my second church, if I had not gone through some of the financial struggles in starting a church in my mid-20’s while in seminary, after leaving my job at a church to start that new work in ministry. 

 

Here’s my ultimate point: ENJOY THE PROCESS. And LEARN from the process. LEARN to manage WHERE YOU ARE with gratitude and humility. Don’t take for granted that God is at work. EVERY SINGLE THING has led me to where I am at this very moment. God has blessed me tremendously! 

 

Spiritually – I’m growing.

Domestically – I am married to the woman of my dreams, with 3 healthy boys who are active, smart and growing in their knowledge of Who Christ is.

Financially – I’m not a millionaire; but I have everything I need, and much of what I desire (I don’t desire much!)

 

Ultimately…I am enjoying the process! My encouragement to someone reading this blog is for you to enjoy the process as well. Stop listening to the voices of the enemy. I have this voice that likes to remind me of much I have not accomplished at 37. “You’ve done this and you’ve been there….BUT…”

Get this: I am where God wants me to be. My job is to do the BEST with what I am given; and to remain faithful; and to BLOOM where I am PLANTED. I am doing that; and I am grateful!!! This is my continual prayer for me, my family and for you. 

 

Three Sundays in Review…

IMG_5590My schedule has been hectic!

In fact, I’ve taken a couple of days (Tuesday & Wednesday), clearing my schedule completely, doing absolutely nothing.  In fact FURTHER…I’ve discovered I really have forgotten how to rest and just be.  I am keenly aware of the fact that changes are not only necessary and imminent, but anticipated.  While God has shown me that the reward for GOOD work is often MORE work; and my busyness is a direct result of His rewarding our faithfulness and the gifts He has instilled within us, I am not expecting my ‘busy-ness’ to discontinue in 2016… In turn, I am simply anticipating things to STREAMLINE!  Please pray for yours truly.  I really need it!

All of the above being explained, I am going to do something that is unconventional.  I want to give three Sundays worth of review, beginning with where I left off.

Here’s the outline for my message on:

Sunday, February 7, 2016
Title: Winning in Crisis

Text: Genesis 32:22-32

C.I.T. (Central Idea of the Text): At times, God takes us down in order to show us the way up.

I. God takes over when we get out of the way.
a. God’s breaking process reveals the power of our flesh. (v.25)
b. God’s breaking process reveals the power of God. (v.26)

II. God blesses clingy people.
a. We won’t cling until we are at the end of ourselves. (v.26, 27)
b. Even in clinging, we are prone to use God, not submit to Him. (v.29)
c. Clinging to God in weakness is the source of our power.

Sunday, February 14, 2016
Title: For the Love of God

Text: John 3:16

C.I.T. (Central Idea of the Text): God loves us before we win, and He communicates His love to us through His Son.

I. The Width of God’s Love “For God so loved the world…”

II. The Length of God’s Love “He gave His only begotten Son…”

III. The Depth of God’s Love “That whosoever believes in Him might not perish…”

IV. The Height of God’s Love “…but have everlasting life.”

Sunday, February 21, 2016
Title:
Handling Life Between Not Now & Not Yet

Text: Genesis 37:1-9; 18028

C.I.T. (Central Idea of the Text): Even in the waiting room, we must not allow injustice to stop us from being faithful to God.

I. Remember that who you are is not Connected to what you Have

II. Learn to handle it when what you see doesn’t match what God says

III. Always remember you have a secret weapon. “Judah”

Grit to Great (Review)

  

Guts. Resilience. Initiative. Tenacity. According to authors Linda Kaplan Thaler & Robin Koval, these four aforementioned components are the essential ingredients of GRIT. In a real sense, the requirements in acheiving a superior level of success and achievement consists of no secret ingredients or magical nuances. No. Thaler and Koval contend that all persons who have acheived recognition & accomplishment in their fields have applied the learned (not born with) art of resilience, sweat, character, lessons from failures, perseverance and hard work. 
How can you explain…

• Colin Powell as a C average student?

• Michael Jordan’s coach deciding he wasn’t a good match for his team?

• Steve Jobs maintaining a 2.65 average in high school; and getting fired from Apple in the mid 80’s?

• Bill Gates dropping out of school?

• Jerry Seinfeld getting booed off the stage during his first stand-up gig?

“Grit to Great” teaches that we can encourage others to become people of grit by providing support and guidance, but also helping them, like the Jordans, Jobs, Gates, Powells and Seinfelds of the world, to learn on their own and push beyond initial limitations and disappointments. I agree with the authors who assert that the self-esteem movement that began in the late 1960’s have resulted in a rightful assesment of worth, but an unhealthy perception that we all deserve a trophy. Eventually, this concept numbs the desire of others to strive to live on the cutting edge of greatness. As a pastor and spiritual leader, I operate under no false illusion. People matter; and they are important! But I contend with Thaler and Koval when (Chapter 2) they state that talent plays only a small part in comparison to stamina and resilience. 

If I may apply this to the Christian arena… Good churches become great churches not by pulpit personalities, talented singers or gifted acrobats; but by common people who are willing to remain vigilent, determined and intent upon seeing Christi’s vision for His church become ultimate reality. 

The greatest preachers are not the most intelligent, best-dressed or well-spoken. It is the one who digs deep into the truths of God’s Word; and diligently spares no expense to cut straight in the communication of it’s truth and application.

So it is in every arena of life, according to the authors of “Grit to Great”. Simply put, the authors say that talent will get you noticed, but it is GRIT that yields you a seat at the table. How is this done? : 1) Be an overpreparer 2) Get in the door 3) Go the extra mile! 

 Admittedly, the authors assess that moving from GRIT to GREAT will not happen overnight. It will require embracing moments of boredom and the celebration of small victories. One of the ways this is done, they say, is by debunking “WillPower”. They suggest that willpower is shortlived. Conversely, we should develop new habits for acheivement and put it on repeat. Ants don’t have a spoon; but they do have a strategy. In all that we do, whether it is writing, business ownership, church membership, parenting, in marriage m, friendship circles or anything else, it is important to utilize the resources that we have; adjust to every life-change and disappointment; learn to improvise; grow in your mindset and learn how to “fail forward.” 

There are many high points and new insightful challenges to our general paradigm of thinking. But one that stands out is how we have limited time in our days and lives. The authors point to the fact that the less we have in days, the more we are able to focus on what truly counts and really matters. We shouldn’t wait for the perfect moment to start walking. As we have often heard, God will give you more along the way than He does before you start. 

The most important component in grit to great for me is the essential piece of developing our character. As a Christian Leader, truth and character are vital if we would expect to stand before people as the visible images of an invisible God. Proverbs 28:6 says, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.” 

And it is important that “character building” (the term the authors use) begin with the building of character within us a leaders and people willing to instill the type of character in ourselves and others that makes people willing to dedicate themselves to creating a better world.  

I highly recommend this book. Around 150 pages in length; it follows the format of Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” bestseller. While there are no cited scripture references, sermon illustrations (though there are a great number of illustrations and quotes that are helpful preaching nuggets), or Greek words…every pastor and preacher should have this book on their shelves. Please follow the link to order a copy or kindle of this book!

 

Sunday Reflections

iStock_000001476421XSmall-320x212God be praised for a great meeting in the tabernacle on the Lord’s day!

After taking a break away from our exposition through the Psalms, I picked up where we left off and continued with Psalm 14.

This 2-week intermission was partially feeling a pastoral need to deal with internal matters within our church; and partially a difficulty and challenge in wrapping my homiletical hat around the 14th Psalm. I love exegetical work! Admittedly…there is the continual challenge of formulating the meaning of the text into a well-crafted sermon that lives in the practical ears of parishioners.

All in all….I just threw myself to the proverbial sharks, not wanting to delay another week. I’m glad I did!

Here’s my outline:

Title: Running Away From the God You Need
Text: Psalm 14:1-7
C.I.T. : While the entire human race rebels against God, the righteous long to see His kingdom established on earth.

I. The Folly Of Trying to Make It Without God
a. The World is Insane (vs 1a)
b. The World is Immoral (vs 1b)
c. The World is Impotent (vss 2-3)

II. The Response of God to Man’s Foolery
a. What Men Do
i. They never learn (vs 4)
ii. They never rest (vs 5)
iii. They never win (vs 6)

b. What God Does (vss 4-5)
a. He looks
b. He finds

III. The Joy of Trusting in God’s Loving Protection
a. For their salvation (vs 7a)
b. For their restoration (vs 7b)
c. For their celebration (vs 7c)

God breathed upon the message and I am thankful to have made it through. My goal is to make it to Psalm 15, and take a break to concentrate on working through a book I am trying to put together, in a series of sermons. Currently it is a composition of around 200 pages of full-page sermons of about 20 sermons I need to seriously edit, footnote, re-write and try on our people. I am believing it will ultimately bless our congregation and, in turn, bless others. With prayerful plans to begin doctoral work in July of 2016, I am hoping to have this done by the Spring of next year. I need every single prayer I can get.

In other news… My Cowboys finally win a game, after 7 weeks of losing without Tony Romo. I don’t know what’s worse – losing 7 games; or losing 7 games after a great season last year. I celebrate this current win!

How was your Sunday? Please take a moment to share your thoughts, subscribe and share this blog with others if it is a blessing to you.

My Thoughts

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It has been some time since I’ve last blogged.  Four months to be exact!  Since blogging back in April, my world and our world have not failed to keep on moving.

  • More unarmed minorities have been killed by law enforcement officers.
  • Crimes against those who protect us have tragically resulted.
  • Gay marriage has become the law of the land, getting its stamp of approval from the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that same-sex partners have a constitutional right to marry, sweeping away state bans on gay unions and extending marriage equality nationwide.
  • Bruce Jenner has become Caitlyn Jenner.
  • Floyd Mayweather defeats Manny Pacquiao.
  • Bobbi Kristina, the only daughter of Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston together, has died.
  • Kermit & Miss Piggy have broken up. (I can’t make this up!)
  • Ashley Madison (a Canada-based website who promised discreet encounters to those in committed relationships) broke their promise and were hacked! (note: Ed Stetzer predicts that 400 pastors will resign this coming Sunday because their names surfaced in the hack)
  • Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are running for POTUS!

On a personal note, I have just been taking some time away from blogging.  To be perfectly honest, I have no excuses.  Yes, I have growing sons who’ve consumed my Summer, preparations for making my printed publication a reality (long overdue), attempts to begin Ph.D. work (now halted), 15 year anniversary trip with my wife (check), the list goes on and on.  But I am discovering excuses are relative and they are inexcusable.

An old friend of our family, the late George O. McCalep, would commit an hour each day to just write.  He would sometimes find himself unclear on the direction of his writing matter…but he would write unencumbered by any distractions.

I love to write.  My biggest obstacles are procrastination, writer’s block and wanting things to be perfect.  The more I live, the more I am convinced that God gives many of us with limited ability more ALONG the WAY than He does before we start.  So that is my renewed commitment….to just start writing!

I am now 37 years of age!  Going into five years of pastoring the Mt. Salem Church, 15 years of marriage, my eldest son on the brink of being a teenager, approaching 22 years of preaching….I’ve seriously been evaluating where I am in ministry; and where God is taking me.  I can honestly say that I’ve viewed people’s attempts to see what’s next of what God has in store ahead, sometimes, as vain and narcissistic.  But the older I become, the more I realize it is necessary; and something I’ve actually been doing all of my life.  I don’t have time to waste!  It is my prayer that God grants me many years of life… But I am more interested in making my life count.  My focus is to leave my mark, and be as much of an original as I can, rather than a cheap imitation of someone else’s life, ministry and legacy.  That is where I am!  That is my focus!

Currently, I have been preaching through the Psalms.  At the beginning of the Summer with Psalm 1, I am now on Psalm 8.  My focus is to complete Psalm 8 in the morning, and then move forward.  What began as our “Summer in Psalms” may continue for a while.  I’m enjoying the challenge and the luxury of some predictability in my preaching preparation.  I love leaving one verse and going to the next.  In ways, for me, it is much easier but also more of a challenge.  I love it!

I am praying for every Pastor who leads God’s people; and every proclaimer who shares God’s Word faithfully, consistently and accurately.  This is no small endeavor.  Leaders are being attacked.  I’m not necessarily referring to those leaders who were hacked.  But good men and women who are just trying to serve the Lord, love their families, do right by God and His people….they are being attacked; and they are discouraged.  My prayers are with them, as well as those who are guilty of failing and falling.  I pray we never fail to realize that Shepherds BLEED, and healers are often WOUNDED.

May God faithfully reveal His grace and strength to them and all who need His care!

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Sunday Reflections

IMG_4699God be praised for another Lord’s Day!

At our church, April is the Month of Reconciliation & Forgiveness. At every teaching and preaching opportunity during the course of this month I have used as a chance to teach and preach on forgiveness. On Wednesday, God simply took over our Bible Study time and walk us through His Word and shed light on the subject of forgiveness and reconciliation with the leadership of His Holy Spirit.

It was a busy weekend! On the heels of laying to rest the remains of D’Ani’s paternal grandmother, and my former member, Ada Thomas…the weekend was filled with sports activities, a physical Saturday morning for my oldest son, Kai, who will be playing sports in 7th Grade next year…and all of the other things going on. The impression and impact Ada Thomas made upon my life and ministry go far beyond mere words. Growing up a catholic, she grew to prize and cherish her faith tradition. To see her one day join the congregation where I pastored (a Baptist church) and be baptized were a gift that God saw fit to entrust me with; and I will always cherish the memory of every moment with her and in her presence. It is surreal to know that she has departed this side and “moved on.” Until the day she left, she called me her pastor. I will not only miss her; but she will be one of the first I look for when I get to the other side. Prayerfully, that’s a long time from now!

On Sunday, we observed our Family and Friends Day, all day long. Rather than inviting a morning guest, I preached! I took a parable Christ tells to His disciples in Matthew 18 that is often labeled, “The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.”

Here is my outline:

Text: Matthew 18:21-35
Subject/Title: Forgiven to Forgive
Big Idea: God’s forgiving grace towards us warrants and compels an inner desire to forgive others.

Outline:

  1. Forgiveness Should be Thankfully Received
    1. Forgiveness is Free, But it is not Cheap (Vv. 23-25)
    2. Forgiveness is Full, and it is not Partial (Vv. 26-27)
    3. Forgiveness must be Final, and not Temporary (Vv. 27)
  2. Forgiveness Should be Humbly Rendered
    1. Forgiveness Experienced Should be Forgiveness Expressed (Vv. 28-33)
  3.  Forgiveness Should Not be Regretfully Refused (Vv. 34-35)

Thankfully, I made it through the message! However, I am disappointed in the overall flow of the sermon. I preached this text in 2013; and it flowed much better. Challenging myself, I tried not to reference that sermon; and started from “Ground Zero.” Big Mistake! All of the hours I put into constructing the sermon before, it would have been helpful to go over all of my previous man hours, rather than feeling a need, in my own pride, to flex my proverbial “sermonic muscles.” All in all, you live and your learn! I thank the Father for His grace, patience with me, and humbly pray He gives me another opportunity to stand for Him in the future.

In the afternoon, it was an honor to have with us at Mt. Salem, Pastor Paul Wilkinson, Sr. and the New Light Baptist Church of San Antonio. What an awesome privilege to have them with us. One of the preaching giants of yesteryear in the area I grew up was P.S. Wilkinson, Sr. He was a favorite of many of the preachers who were my favorites. For years, Dr. Wilkinson pastored New Light until his passing. Paul is his grandson. I’ve been blessed to hear Dr. Wilkinson on recordings. I can honestly attest to the fact that Paul, who now leads New Light, is a great preacher in his own right. We were tremendously blessed by his sharing with us God’s Word.

In other news, many know me to be a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and a DIE HARD Dallas Cowboys fan. I shall never waver on my Cowboys; but the Lakers have tested me for some time. I have always liked the Houston Rockets and tolerated (and had MUCH respect) for the San Antonio Spurs, my dad’s team. My other favorite teams were Cleveland (When Lebron went the first time) and Miami (When Shaq and Wade were together); but I didn’t like Lebron and Miami together, AT ALL! My favorite team these days has been the Rockets, even above the Mavericks. I’m looking for them to pull off a victory in this first round of the playoffs. We shall see.

I would like to know…how was your weekend? What did you preach about; or what did your pastor share? Please take a moment to subscribe and share your thoughts. Blessings.

Sunday Reflections

IMG_0329God be praised for another memorable weekend and Lord’s Day.

On the heels of Spring Break, I’ve been glad to get back to a certain level of sanity. On Saturday, I was happy to attend a scholarship banquet of the Gamma Zeta Omega Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. One of the honorees was my wife, D’Ani. Not only was it a blessing to have her honored on this affair; but to see several Pastor’s wives recognized during this event, including Zelda Johnson (the wife of Pastor Manson B. Johnson of Houston); it was an encouragement to see young people receiving scholarships to further their education in a context and surrounding of excellence and hundreds of people supporting this event. D’Ani has been a blessing to so many; and it is my continued prayer that God would continue to use her to touch the lives of others, including her patients, Christian believers, the unsaved and many others. I was also pleased to see a few of our members. Should they read this blog, I want to personally express my gratitude for the sacrifice and time committed to attend and show their support. You are a blessing!

I left that event and headed to take my eldest son Kai Livingston (who is now TWELVE-let the countdown begin) to a soccer game. They won, 7-2.

It has been a rough time for me for one reason – ALLERGIES! Nothing affects me like the changing from winter to spring. It never fails to touch me in a not-so-kind way.

Interestingly…I did not preach this past Sunday! While I am far from being a superb preacher (though I am striving to be better), it is rare for me to go a Sunday without preaching, unless it is my anniversary or I am on vacation. God has been kind to me these 21 years (I’ll write about that later) of preaching. At the Mt. Salem Church, we had a special treat for our Monthly Youth & Young Adults Sunday. Rev. Quincy D. Mosley is a very gifted and anointed proclaimer of God’s Word. Preaching since the age of six, a native of Corpus Christi (my hometown), a membership minister of my father’s congregation…I’ve been blessed the few times I’ve heard him share. He shared from Psalm 34, one of my favorite scriptures. Five of our young adults came forward! God be praised!!!

I was also able to attend and support the 5-year pastoral anniversary of one of my childhood mentors, Rev. J.R. Miller, in Corpus Christi, Texas. Pastor Miller is not only a gifted preacher, but an innovative pastoral mind who has been instrumental in my desire early in life to be a preacher who thinks and studies God’s Word. I haven’t always been the greatest supporter and encourager. But, the more I experience the loss of loved ones, the more my commitment to showing my love towards those who mean the world to me, strengthens.

At our church, this is the Month of Reconciliation and Forgiveness. This coming Lord’s Day, I am looking forward to having with us the New Light Baptist Church of San Antonio and Pastor Paul Wilkinson, Sr. as our special guest for our Family and Friend’s Day. I am looking forward to their being with us.

The Cowboys (my team all the way!) haven’t secured a running back; but Adrian Peterson is interested in possibly heading to Arlington. Of course, the Vikings are saying “not so fast!” While I would love to have him on our roster…the fact is, there are many running backs would prevail with the superb line the Cowboys have managed to put together. However, he’d be a great addition.

I am looking forward to beginning a teaching this Wednesday, Lord willing, on Forgiveness.

It is my prayer that my blogs serve as not only personal reflection and a tool to strengthen my writing ability; but most importantly to encourage others. I would love to hear from you and ask you to please subscribe to my blog. How was your weekend? Blessings!

Reflections!

imageGod be praised for a wonderful week of God’s good, grace, faithfulness and favor!

This past Lord’s Day, I had the opportunity to preach the Youth Day at the historic New Light Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. During my formative years, I would hear my grandfather, Dad and preachers who would talk about the late, great Dr. P.S. Wilkinson, Sr. For years, I had tried to attain a copy of his publication, “Pilate’s Judgement Hall” to no avail. Last year, my aspirations became realized. It is, by far, one of the most valuable books I have in my library. Never did I think I’d be preaching there! The congregation is now lead by Dr. Wilkinson’s grandson, Paul Wilkinson, Sr. He is doing a phenomenal job carrying on the legacy and leadership of this great congregation and family. It was an honor just to share, especially for a Youth Day! I am 36; and I typically get invitations now for revivals, annual days, workshops, pastoral days, etc. It is refreshing to get an occasional invitation to preach a Youth Day! While some preachers my age who are pastors could possibly see this as a step back, I see it as an affirmation of my youth! I love it! I actually shared a very modified version of a text I’ve preached before from Psalm 118 regarding praise to the Lord. In the first few verses, I see an affirmation that God’s people are called to praise Him because of 1) Who He is 2) What He has and 3) What He does.

During the week, I also had the opportunity to share in revival at the Zion Fair Baptist Church in Sinton, Texas. It was an enjoyable time of fellowship; and also gave me the opportunity to be home in Corpus Christi, Texas (my hometown) for a few days. I believe I shared what the Lord placed upon my heart; and in dealing faithfully with God’s Word, God in turn, was pleased. A special thanks to Pastor Alton Coleman for the opportunity to come and share with this precious congregation and people.

I am looking forward to being in my own pulpit this coming Lord’s Day. This is the Month of Prayer at our church; and my hope is to continue on prayer this Sunday.

My schedule has been so hectic… I am looking forward to working through the finalization of my Ph.D. application and also begin the process of my Board Certified Chaplaincy. With my schedule, I am convinced that God has given me the best wife in the world! There is no possible way I could be half of who I am were it not for her support, sharing the load and being present when I can not be. Whether it is following up with a sick member, attending an event, praying and listening to one of the young girls in our congregation….it makes life and ministry so much easier. I really believe that the best is yet to come!

In other news, I am not happy about basketball season and the fact that football season is over. Really looking forward to the fall!

What are your thoughts? How was your week?  Please take a moment to subscribe to my blog and also share with friends, family and coworkers.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday Reflections

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This past Lord’s day has been a bless-ed one!

Let me back up a little. This past weekend has been a great one!

Admittedly, I didn’t want the weekend to come. Witnessing he earthly departure of my remaining grandfather is something that hasn’t quite sunk in fully. There has been a closer bond to my maternal grandmother (my Memaw) and my paternal grandfather (Granny PawPaw) through the years, but I have always had a connection and closeness to them all. And while my paternal grandfather went home to be with the Lord last November, the recent passing of my maternal grandfather (Memaw PawPaw) hit closer to home. In my reflection, I have come to several reasons why. Not only have I reflected on the spiritual connections of my grandfather and his impression upon me as my only preaching grandfather who pastored several churches; but the fact that now BOTH of my grandfathers have departed, and ‘gone home.’ In the words of the late Robert G. Lee’s ‘negro’ nanny ‘Mam Lindy’, their ‘wooden wagon was changed into a golden chariot.’ I am unable at this time to express in words the tranquility, peace, sadness, grief and somberness I feel in my emotions. I was there at Rev. Alvin Francis, Sr.’s homegoing; but, in a sense, it hasn’t all the way sunk in. Interestingly, I’ve received many more phone calls, texts, inboxes, condolences and well-wishes during this time over the last. It is also difficult to see my own mother weep and literally wail over anything, but especially the passing of the man I’ve always heard her affectionately term as the man she first loved. That, coupled with seeing my Memaw surrounded by many loved ones and well-wishers, but leaving his remains…is something I can’t begin to describe. It is also sad in realizing I haven’t always been a great grandson. My paternal grandfather would say to me at family gatherings, ‘You know, Kraig, PawPaw doesn’t have much more time’ or ‘I don’t have much longer.’ I would always respond, ‘PawPaw, you are a young man’ or ‘You are going to be around here for another 50 years’ and dismiss such talk. But the truth is, whether young or old, all of our days are numbered and few, in contrast to eternity. I missed invitations to ‘dance’ with my grandfathers more in their final years. I want to do better. And on that note, I have two grandmothers who are here and doing well; but I pray for their strength and continued peace.

Didn’t mean to write all of that…

The upside of my grandfather’s home going was being able to see so many family members from far and near. To see all of my cousins, uncles and aunts in one place, in a strange way…was just a joyous time for me personally. Preachers and pastors who are close to our family, and like family, were also present. Rev. J.R. Miller is one of those men of God who has always been a constant encouragement and mainstay to our family. Another is Rev. Arthur Lane. Him, along with Rev. Lance Mann, are like brothers. I have a few brothers in Corpus, Oklahoma City, Dallas, etc.; but these brothers are also adopted as sons to my parents. So, they are sort of unimpeachable!

Good to see them all.

I was sort of protesting the fact that my room at my parents house is no longer my own. My big brother, Kevin, came in first and traveled the farthest away; and as a consequence, he took over ‘my’ room that they now call ‘Kai’s room’. So, I didn’t stay in Corpus. Dee and I took advantage of having no boys with us; so we stopped in Victoria for the night; and just enjoyed our time together…without the intruders. The next morning we headed to Houston; and I went to support Dee that afternoon. D’Ani is a gifted speaker and encouragement to women in Christ. I am really praying that one day she will begin to write and share with women what God has given to her. But, when I met her, she was a gifted praise-dancer. And that she is. My Pastor’s wife, Dianne Clemons, asked Dee to dance at the retirement party for her sister. D’Ani did a great job; and I am still amazed by her gift of liturgical dance.

Finally….this past Lord’s Day, our church held its Annual Men & Women’s Day of Victory. Our morning guests were Pastor Keith Sanders & the Rising Star Baptist Church, from Edinberg, Texas. Keith is one of my childhood preaching friends. And his wife, Tammy, is like a sister to me. I was in their wedding years ago; and it was so refreshing to have my old friend there to preach for me; and to see God using him in preaching ministry. I had been encouraging him to attend the EK Bailey Preaching Conference. He did this past July. I saw that he was hungry to grow as a Pastor and Preacher and, boy, did it show yesterday. He shared from John 12:1-4 on “He To Be an Overcomer.” Just awesome!

In the afternoon, our guests were Pastor Derrick Reaves and the St. John Baptist Church, Corpus Christi, Texas. Dr. Reaves and St. John were such a blessing! Their choir blessed us tremendously in the ministry of song. And Dr. Reaves shared a classic Christian text out of Ephesians 1:3-6 and titled the message, “Blessed.” He did a wonderful job; and so glad that he was able to come and share with us. I’m looking forward to both of them being with us again in the near future.

This coming week, I am looking to continue our series in the Book of Acts; and hope to redeem myself from m last week’s disappointment, Lord willing.

How was your day? I would love to hear from you; and ask that you subscribe to future blogs!

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?

 

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