Kraig Lowell Pullam

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

Archive for the tag “Pastoring”

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?

 

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!

Personal Challenge

 

ImageThere are not enough hours in the day to get everything done!  I am amazed when I think of how swiftly time passes these days.  There never seems to be enough time to get everything done!  I can honestly say at the age of 35 (and counting) that it seems like I was 15 last year, graduating from KigHigh School in Corpus Christi a month ago, marrying my wife, graduating from Dallas Baptist last week; and in my first pastorate, graduating from seminary just yesterday.  Literally!!!

Where does the time go?

To be honest….it doesn’t get any easier as the time goes.  Not long ago, I was listening to a preaching class conducted by one of my favorite preachers, Dr. William H. Curtis.  He stated that, for every pastor, when leaving the pulpit on Sunday, the next Sunday starts in 5 (FIVE) minutes!!!  Add to this, he says, funerals, church emergencies, family traumas in the church, weddings, meetings and the life.  I tend to agree!  This is the life of the Pastor!  The challenges are great, but somehow glorious.  There seems to be a splendid blend and mixture of the ingredients of both AGONY and ECSTASY!

This week, I look back and reflect on 5 years ago as I was preparing to walk across the stage with a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in biblical languages.  I have an itch to pursue my Ph.D. in Leadership in the coming year.  I also have a growing desire to buckle down and grow deeply as an expositor of God’s Word.  These are pursuits that pull and nudge me for which I ultimately attribute to a divine call that will not let me go.  While I feel old, the truth is I feel that God is preparing me for something that is beyond me that will consume the rest of my life.  What that is – I do not know.  Whether that is an expansion and continuance of the things I am already doing or something completely unconventional and new, I would be satisfied either way.  But, my preparation has always been a serious and somber task and pursuit.  The challenge deepens and intensifies – as I desire to be a great father, an amazing husband, the consummate leader, an outstanding pastor….not to mention being elected as the President of the congress in my association and Secretary of the Educational Board in my state convention.  Oh yes…and I’m a full-time Chaplain in one of the largest and leading hospitals in the city of Houston and the world!

My challenge is this – HOW CAN I DO ALL OF THIS?  Is it possible to excel in all of these areas and maintain my sanity?  Do I need to give some things up or away?  Would it be easier if I had a secretary?  Are there any pastors who can provide a remedy to excelling in all of these areas with ease?

Well….as this is my challenge, it is also my intent to tackle the challenge and to make adjustments where necessary.  Oh yes….add to this, I would love to blog on a daily basis!  Please pray for me as I pray for myself and all pastors, Christians and leaders who seek to discipline themselves in the areas of time and excellence in their respective fields and endeavors.  Philippians 4:13 rings clear: we can ‘do all things through Christ’ who gives us the ultimate strength.

What are you thoughts?  How are you managing your time?

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?

Cheating for Priorities

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Several years ago I ran across a copy of Andy Stanley’s book ‘Choosing to Cheat.’ In this book Stanley offers a compelling argument against the workaholism that has plagued and inundated generations of American families. “Choosing to Cheat” is built on the premise that everyone cheats somewhere, be it work, school, family, spouse, church, etc. He affirms that there simply aren’t enough hours for everything and everyone pressing an vying for your attention and primacy. And of course, it’s easier to cheat our families than to cheat our families. Scripture teaches and avows a structuring of one’s life and prioritizing the elements of our attention in a direction that will ultimately strengthen us from the inside, out. As a bi-vocational Pastor with the growing needs of a growing congregation, challenges of serving as a chaplain to a level-1 trauma center in a large metropolitan area, and keeping up with my love for preaching, Christian education and learning the scriptures and writing – I can sometimes feel like I am drowning. Couple this with being a devoted husband to a wonderful woman for 14 years, Dad to growing boys, son to aging parents and a host of family and friends who cannot be measured in time increments – well, it all can become overwhelming; especially without an administrative assistant or full-time secretary. I tend to agree with Stanley’s notion when I say, in my own way, ‘Something’s Gotta Give.’

The preacher/pastor must set priorities. The challenges I faced at 25 are not the same as challenges I face now at 35. My life is completely different. Andy Stanley writes, “Following the principles of God results in the blessings of God.” The author’s dad, Charles Stanley, says, “God doesn’t reveal His will for our consideration. He reveals it for our participation.” The challenge is finding a way to emulate and become a direct reflection of the man described in Psalm 1.

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

God wants His people to flourish and lead a positive life in a negative world. But often, people tend to be creatures of habit and conventional routine. We often gravitate toward what is safe, not necessarily what is good. Or we settle for the ordinary rather than pursue what is superlatively greater. Tragically, this is often the case for those in ministry.

In order to succeed in one’s call, one must want to be successful in ministry BAD ENOUGH. One must desire more for every area of life—especially as it relates to that which is spiritual and eternal. This requires a willingness to obey God’s plan and principles; and a willingness to ‘cheat’ where needed, in order that priorities may be established and we may show ourselves, ‘approved’.

As I sort through how I can be a better 1) Follower of Christ 2) Husband 3) Father 4) Pastor/Teacher 5) Son 6) Friend….there are 5 ways that setting objectives and goals for cheating can help:

1. Imagination. Psalm 33:5 says that “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” I am asking God in prayer to rule over my imagination and my thought-life; and asking Him to show me how to creatively navigate through all of the challenges and pressures of my schedule, as I seek to prioritize what’s important to Him. In Jeremiah 29:11, we discover that God has ‘plans’ and ‘thoughts’ concerning the affairs of His people. The term ‘plans’ is a picture of a craftsman who gnits together fabrics for the purpose of creating a garment to be worn and adorned. The craftsman has a plan for the product. In like manner, we must visualize the dream and vision God has for us, and how He seeks to ultimately reveal His plan for our lives.

2. Anticipation. A man cannot truly know where he is going without knowing how he will get there. As you visualize and identify your goals, you place yourself in a posture to ask God (the Creator of the universe) specifically for what He desires and then to look for His prescription or provision.

3. Inspiration. How does God view your life? How does God view your priorities? What’s most important to God in your life? What in your life displeases Him? Is there any part of your life that others would view and make them think you don’t know Jesus? The ultimate aim is to see your life as the Father sees it, and then act on what He guides you to do. Psalm 32:8 clearly teaches that God is concerned about the direction of our lives, and is willing to instruct us and teach us the way that we should go.

4. Reflection. This is, essentially, meditation. Meditation comes through submission to the Father. I think we fail to often understand the Lordship of Christ. Someone has said, ‘If He is not Lord in all, He ceases to be Lord of all.’ As you meditate on His Word, you learn more about the lordship of Christ, the goodness of God the father, the leading of God’s Holy Spirit and His plan for your life.

5. Realization. True to His Word, God will faithfully guide His servant into all truth. I am convinced that God will reward those who are faithful. Whether one’s assignment is to preach to 10 each week, or you have been entrusted to lead thousands; or one’s spouse is gainfully employed or challenged to make ends meet – thank God for what you’ve been given as your lot. Let God better you and grow you, as you draw closer to Him; and watch Him reveal His plan for your life, even in life’s testing places.

The Makings of Ministry in Pastoral Life

Quite a few years ago, I was riding in the car with my parents.  I wanted them to hear a new r&b song from a ‘hot new artist’ by the name of Musiq Soulchild.  This song, entitled ‘Just Friends’ echoed a subtle sentiment of admiration of a guy’s feelings for a young lady.  Needless to say, my Dad was unimpressed and unincumbered by my interest.  Later my father, who is a music lover at heart, pulled out an old album of Curtis Mayfield and began to play for me ‘The Makings of You.’  The song began to describe every ideal of the perfect life at it’s finest, surrounded by aesthetic beauty, roses, well-behaved children and the like….and then he tells the object of his affection, ‘These are the makings of you…!’  Admittedly, I was completely floored and this began my quest of further learning the art of ‘real music.’

As I reflect, I cannot help but wonder – what are the makings of ministry?  Further, I wonder – what are the makings of ministry in Pastoral life?  The ministry of the Pastor is more than meets the eye.  Jeremiah 3:15 says, “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”  God says that He will do the giving while shepherds are given the responsibility of doing the feeding.  When one looks at the dynamics of a culinary artist, many of the details of their works is behind closed doors.  We may often enjoy the products of their due diligence; but we often fail to see their labor, toil and endeavors.

As stated before, we celebrated 3 years together as Pastor and People at the Mt. Salem Church.  To date, this has been the greatest outer expression of love from a congregation I’ve felt as a Pastor.  That being said, we had a few challenges with initial renovations of walls in our sanctuary.  In the past 48 hours, I have privately called these walls, ‘The walls of Jericho!’.  On the day prior to my anniversary celebration, I went through the ordeal of how to work around these incompletions and, in my ‘perfectionist’ complex, I thought I was going to fly to the moon.  In addition, our toilets were not flushing at the church.  At some point, I simply prayed, gave it over to God and dealt with what I could.  Amid my own private realities (one of which was picking up my ‘anniversary suit’ from my suit guy of over 10 years and for the first time I didn’t try on the suit-since they always get it right-it was wrong….pants were 2 inches TOO LONG!  Not good…)  I got through it.   I went to bed Saturday night at peace and confident in God’s faithfulness.

Needless to say God blessed the entire day!!!  Amid all of this….I still found myself dealing with the usual joys and sorrows, twists and turns of pastoral life.  In the midst of great celebration, I had to contemplate how to deal with the issues of the ‘Jericho Walls.’  In the midst of great celebration, I asked one of my beloved members how they were doing and how a recent doctor’s appointment had gone; only for that member to inform me that cancer was in her blood; and while her doctor is saying it is ‘non-aggresive’, it can turn ‘aggressive’ at any moment.  In the midst of this, I closed out the day hearing from one of my young members (who was instrumental in launching our praise team and re-shaping certain aspects of our worship service) he will be transferred to Fort Worth, Texas later next month with his job.

These are the makings of the ministry of pastoral life.  This happens every week; and often every day of the week.  Having the heart of a Pastor is essential in leading God’s people.  If we fail to love God’s people, we will fail to feed them.  And there is nothing more detrimental than a starved, malnourished, neglected and abused flock.  If you are a Pastor and reading this, I pray for you daily.  If you are a layperson, PLEASE, pray for your Pastor.  Your Pastor may not be perfect; and you may disagree with some of the moves made in the ministry or vision of Christ’s church; but please pray for your Pastor.  My experiences of this past weekend, for me, simply point to the reality that I am where God wants me; and where He has planted me.  I’m loving this ride; and looking forward to what God will continue to unfold along the way.  The BEST is truly YET to come!!!

Three Years, and counting….

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This Sunday marks three years of pastoral service for me at the Mt. Salem Baptist Church of Victoria.  These few years have been a great time of growth, development, intensified joy, healing, maturity and clarity of my call.

When coming to Mt. Salem, I was in a strange place in ministry and in life.  The church I had founded in Pearland (Cornerstone Church) was fledgling with gradual growth.  Starting in 2005, my Cornerstone congregation, in mid-fall of 2010, made the decision to move our primary service to Saturday afternoons.  Looking back, this should have been more of a time of 1) prayerful searching and divine direction rather than a quest to be creative or relevant in a Houston suburb and 2) I should not have asked for a vote; but as the Founding Pastor, I should have made the decision (as was my instinct) to hold the course.

Needless to say, our beloved congregation made the decision to move to Saturdays beginning in November of 2010.  Within a few weeks, I was asked to preach for a congregation that 1) was a congregation in the association where my father serves as Moderator and 2) a congregation I had recommended they extend a call to one of my friends.  The minister in charge asked if I would be a candidate, to which I respectfully declined.  I had no intentions of either leaving my congregation and certainly no plans of pastoring there, to be honest.  The minister said, will I come and just preach.  I informed him that my plan was to be out of my own pulpit the weekend following Thanksgiving, and that would be the only time I could even consider coming.  To make a very long story very short, I preached that Sunday.  In a shear attempt to convey I had no intentions, to myself and I guess to God, that I would not be going there, I suppose I did at least two things to prove my own point.  For one, I didn’t bring my family!  My wife wanted to travel with me; and the boys would’ve loved the journey.  But I asked her and them to stay behind…so that no one would get any ideas.  Also, I preached a sermon out of Philippians 1:12-19 entitled, ‘Knocked Down but not Knocked Out!’  This congregation had been through quite a big storm, were shocked by it’s devastating effects, and it was very public and embarrassing, to say the least.  I was simply there (so I THOUGHT!) to give them a ‘pep talk’ – to let them know they could ‘fall forward’ and use the experience (without going into details regarding their experience) to their advantage, as Paul, to further the gospel.  Unfortunately….God moved and smiled on the message!  I was asked to come back in late December, as I recall; and then asked to serve as Pastor in January of 2011.  Both congregations knew that I would continue to serve both congregations (as crazy as that sounds).  After all, I would be doing a service at Cornerstone on Saturday, and at Mt. Salem on Sundays.

Two things happened.

First, I am unfortunately, very focused and loyal.  Therefore, it became a challenge for me to divide my time and stretch to the level of leading two different congregations.  While some Pastors do it, I felt like I was cheating on one for the other.  Second, we were discovering the ‘Saturday thing’, even prior to my being called to Mt. Salem, just wasn’t going to work; especially as the primary worship experience.

Maybe you can see my new dilemma and ordeal.  I am now at a new congregation with whom I’ve made a commitment, preparing for an installation.  This new congregation has already been scathed by leadership.  On the other end of the spectrum, I have my ‘baby’ whom I love; and it has proved more effective to move back to Sundays.  Yes….hindsight says, ‘Well, why did you even say yes to the new church?  Didn’t you think you all would go back to Sundays, at some point?’  Yes, in hindsight….

What in the WORLD am I about to do?  It was one of the most difficult and trying times in my life.  But I knew, in my instinct, what I was going to do: I’M LEAVING MT. SALEM.  I had a letter written out to send to the oldest deacon in the church.  It was a letter addressed to him, Cephus Clifton, to inform him that I had a change of heart; and I would not be able to continue as Pastor-elect.  But….I never sent the letter.  For one, God never told me to send the letter.  And I couldn’t put on God that was a mere instinct driven by my own proclivities and desires.  In addition, I somehow felt in my heart that I couldn’t abandon the people of Mt. Salem.  So I prayed; and did what I felt was the right thing to do.  I prepared to transition our congregation with a new leader, who happened to be one of our associate ministers; and that I would attempt to teach to them during midweek services.

But many things, I reflect, made this move ineffectual.  First, for years, the people heard MY vision.  Even the man I was attempting to move to my role was adamant about my remaining there.  Another thing is that those who had bought into the vision, those whom I had baptized, wed, trained, etc. began to feel abandoned by their leader.  But I was resolute in keeping my word to the people of Mt. Salem and Victoria, at that point.  Eventually, after about a year, Cornerstone disbanded.  Even now, it hurts to even write that.

My wife and I have miscarried twice.  And I can say with all my being that hearing of Cornerstone shutting it’s doors felt the same and probably worse.  It hurt; and still hurts!

That being said, I am somehow convinced that God led Mt. Salem and I together as Pastor and People.  I lost my ‘baby’, but God has given me a ‘family’ in the people of Mt. Salem.  Sometimes I have gotten frustrated….there are so many differences between pastoring a church your founded and a congregation that is 140 plus years of age.

But amid all of the challenges, there have been some tremendous rewards.  I’ll never adequately describe the sorrows I’ve felt with my loss (especially as it happened the way I’ve described), but I will also never adequately explain the unusual joy and peace I’ve enjoyed in this new field.

I have no idea how God will continue to unfold either my story or the story of the great congregation of Mt. Salem, but I am committed to this work; and I will continue until God says, ‘Well done!’

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