Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Is It Okay to Re-Preach a Sermon?


It’s summer.  The time of year when pastors and church members go on vacation.  Most churches slump a bit in attendance.  Most pastors try to catch their breath.  So what to preach?  A lot of pastors I know who come up with a good sermon series idea for the year, don’t look to preach that series in the summer.  They want maximum hearing and maximum impact.  Even in the days of live-streaming, it’s hard to get that in the summer.  So it begs the question: is it okay to preach a sermon you’ve preached before?

I’ve been preaching every Sunday since 1981, and I admit that I don’t re-preach much from those early years of preaching.  That’s when I was still trying to find my voice.  But by the same token, I have preached sermons several times from the shell of a handful of my earliest preaching even though I’m not sure some of my earliest preaching was worth preaching the first time.  God, who makes something out of nothing, used it then; God can still make something of it now even if it bears little resemblance to the original.  But is it okay to do this?  Does it break some kind of preacher-code of ethics?  Does God roll his eyes and think, “Oh no, not that again.  It’s a good thing I never sleep or slumber, or that sermon would put me in a coma.”   

So far as I know, God doesn’t weigh in on re-preaching sermons.  But others do, and some think it’s anathema: “God isn’t stuck in the past.  He has a new word for the church.  Listen for that word and preach it!”  True.  But that doesn’t mean a pastor can’t re-preach a sermon from the past.  Isn’t God the one who can make all things new?  Can’t a word that God used in the past, be a word he can use in the present?  It seems to me the Bible is a word like that.  Why would God give a preacher a sermon that only has a 30-minute shelf life?  It is not anathema to preach a sermon you’ve preached before.  It could be wisdom.

Sometimes pastors are hesitant to re-preach sermons because we overestimate the power of our sermons.  We assume people remember it.  I hate to bust your bubble, but they probably don’t.  When I’m sorting through older sermon titles, I can’t even remember what most of the sermons were about, and I spent hours preparing it.  The folks won’t either.  They tend to remember novelty sermons and transforming stories but not the meat and potatoes of our Sunday to Sunday preaching.  I know this from experience.  I’ve had a man say to me, “You’re preaching just seems to keep getting stronger and stronger.”  I hate to disappoint him and tell him that I preached that same sermon or that same series in 2009.  I’ve had a woman say to me, “That may be the best sermon I’ve ever heard you preach.”  I hate to disappoint her and tell her that she heard me preach that sermon in 2006.  People hear sermons through the lens of their current experience and needs.  We read that Bible that way, finding things in old texts we never noticed the 37 times we’d read it previously.  People hear sermons the same way.  Oh, and every church has a few members who record next to your text in their Bible the date you preached a sermon on that text, right?  I’ve had one man in particular who will approach me after the service, smile, and say, “You preached that sermon on May 3, 2005.”  I smile and reply, “Did you remember it?”  He smiles and says, “No.”

I have re-preached numerous sermons and some series over the years.  I’ve only served two churches in 37 years: one for about 14 years and one for 23 years.  If you serve a church for only 3-5 years, re-preaching a sermon has different challenges.  But I want to advocate the re-preaching of sermons from time to time—especially in the summer time or on holiday weekends.  And if you serve in one place long enough, even some repetition in Advent or Lenten/Easter preaching can be a helpful thing for pastor and church.

In my view, it’s okay to re-preach some of your sermons now and then.  If you’re thinking of re-preaching a sermon or a series, here are a few tips:

Be prayerful about the process.  Don’t just pull a sugar-stick; think: what does God want to say to the church?

Keep good records of past sermons.  I always record date and place preached on every sermon manuscript and in my sermon file.

If it doesn’t light a fire in you, it won’t light a fire in your people.  Leave it on the shelf.

Make necessary tweaks and changes: Do you think a bit differently about the text than you did when you preached the sermon the first time?  (If you’ve got a new commentary on that text, check it out.) Are the illustrations (stories, stats, figures of speech) out of date? Do applications need to change to fit the current situation in your church and community?  Necessary tweaks will make the sermon feel new to you and to one or two in the congregation who remember it. (By the way, if you’re re-preaching a sermon you preached in your previous congregation, make sure you adapt it to your current situation.)

How could I make more of Jesus in the sermon?  Is there a different or better gospel connection you can make this time around?

Don’t be afraid to use compelling sermons from a series as stand-alone sermons when you need them.

Early in my pastoral ministry, I heard Calvin Miller (a great preacher, longtime pastor, and preaching author/professor) say, “I never preach a new sermon in the summer.  I go back at least five years, find something relevant for the current day, rework it a bit, and serve it as fresh as I did the first time around.”  Miller went on to say that the hours he saves on sermon prep in the summer he uses to plan his future preaching schedule and do some more reading and learning.  Miller was a wise pastor and preacher.  I want to be one too.

What do you think, pastor?  And for you folks who listen to sermons rather than preach them, what do you think about a pastor re-preaching a sermon?



Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Graduation Prayer


I attended the graduation ceremony for Ouachita Baptist University a week ago.  (Go Tigers!)  I was pinch-hitting for the Chairman of the Ouachita Board who couldn’t make it.  My one responsibility was to say a prayer over the graduates.  Several people have since asked me for a copy of that prayer.  That has motivated me to post that prayer to my blog.

So, in this graduation season, here is a prayer that might spark your own prayers for the graduates you know and love …

********

Father, thank you for Ouachita Baptist University.  Thank you for faithful faculty administration and staff who love the students and work for their best.  Thank you for these graduates and for the education they’ve received and the lifelong friendships they’ve forged here.

Lord, as these graduates commence into their future, would you give them …
·         gratitude enough to remember from whence they’ve come
·         dreams enough to discern and live the great dream you have for each one
·         courage enough to try new things
·         skills enough to succeed
·         persistence enough to stay with it
·         joy enough to stay positive
·         friends enough to know they’re not in their journey alone
·         wisdom enough to give their lives to kingdom things that last forever
·         hunger and thirst enough to keep them in Scripture and prayer and righteousness and   church
·         trouble enough to keep them always leaning into you
·         peace enough to rest in you
·         hope enough not to let disappointments get them down for long
·         love enough to be a blessing to many
·         faith enough to keep their eyes on Jesus in good times and in bad
·         and desire enough to do all they do for your great glory.

And now, Jesus, as they launch into the next steps of their lives, please go before them as leader and guide, behind them as redeemer and love, above them as provider and guard, below them, as supporter and strength, beside them as companion and friend, and within them as Savior and Lord.  In your name, amen.


Monday, May 14, 2018

A Mother's Day Prayer


For the first time in I can’t remember when, I didn’t preach on Mother’s Day.  We focused on the issues of foster care and adoption, so our Youth Pastor, Bill Newton, whose family provides foster care, seemed like the right person to preach the sermon.  For me it would have been words alone.  For Bill it was word and life experience.  He did a great job.  Our congregation will grow in our commitment to foster kids and support those who do.

So I didn’t preach, but I prayed.  I spent some time fashioning a prayer for Mother’s Day.  Rarely have I had more people comment on a prayer.  I struck a nerve in some.  And I think I know why.  If your family is healthy, Mother’s Day is a great day.  If your family is hurting, Mother’s Day is a day you just want ignore or survive.  I loved my mother and she loved me, but our relationship wasn't perfect.  She was probably the most formative influence in my life, most of it good.  But our relationship was a bit complicated by family circumstances and our own stubbornness.  Mother's Day stirred a variety of emotions in me, not all of them the best kind.  So I tried to pray the range of emotions people brought with them to worship.  Here’s my prayer.  I hope it encourages you.

*******

We thank you, Father God, that you understand mothering too.  We thank you for the image in Isaiah where you described yourself as shepherd holding your lambs near your bosom.  And we thank you for that time where Jesus wept over Jerusalem and said, “How I have longed to gather you under my wings as a hen gathers her chicks.”  You understand mothering too.  You sure picked a good one for your son Jesus.

So, on this Mother’s Day we remember our mothers in prayer. 

For those who know the joy of motherhood and find parenting a delight, we ask that you deepen their joy.

For those who long to be mothers, yet for whatever reason cannot, we pray that you would help them fill their empty arms with a child somehow, some way.

For those who are brokenhearted over wayward children, children who died too soon, or the grief of miscarriage, we pray for comfort, peace, and the confidence that you do all things well and can bring good out of sorrow.

For those who have fostered and adopted children, caring for the least of these, may they find joy in doing for those children what you do and have done for us.  Give them patience and understanding, and peace.

For single moms who feel like the carry the whole load of parenting, please give them strength made perfect in their weakness, and the auxiliary help they need.

For those who are challenged by difficult children marked by disabilities or behavioral problems, we pray for wisdom, insight, patience, perseverance, and a sense of your presence in their struggle.  Please give such mothers enough victories to keep them joyful in their parenting.

And we also pray this morning for those for whom Mother’s Day is a difficult day.  Some are missing their mothers who have passed in death.  Others have difficult relationships with their mothers—relationships that make everything from picking the right card to making a Mother’s Day phone call a chore and a burden rather than a joy.  And still others have mothers that are difficult to honor and recognize on this day.  We pray that those for whom this day is hard will find your peace and mercy and strength to face their difficulties with faith.

So thank you again, our Father, for this day and for its meaning.  We pray that you’ll bless all women and make us a blessing to them.  In Jesus’ name, Amen


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Pastors


It’s opening day in Major League Baseball.  Hope reigns eternal even for my Baltimore Orioles who play in a division that’s loaded with high-dollar players.  This time of year I like to reflect on how a little baseball wisdom can inform a pastor’s ministry.  A caveat: these nuggets sound more earthy than divine, but God’s overarching providence and power are assumed.  Here goes.






·         The team belongs to the Owner; the coach’s job is to manage and develop the team.

·         The coach is going to take some criticism.  He needs to learn what he can from it and let the rest of it go.  His primary job is to please the owner.

·         Our opponent is a tough out.

·         Coach the team up, not down.

·         There are no roster limits—you can’t have too many players on your team.

·         I’d rather go down swinging than take a called third strike.

·         Laying down a sacrifice to advance a teammate is a worthy at bat.

·         Sometimes you’ve got to play small ball to manufacture runs.  Small ball = don’t swing at bad pitches, a walk is as good as a hit, bunt for a base hit, sacrifice to move the runners, take the extra base every chance you get.  Small ball is neither flashy nor glamorous, but it can get the job done.

·         A long fly ball to the warning track is still an out.

·         Every player and every team are prone to a slump now and then—coaches too.

·      If you bat .300 in sharing Jesus, you are an all-star; if you share Jesus at all, you’re a starter on the team.

·         Don’t forget to thank the bat boys, the grounds crew, and the folks who clean the locker room—they’re part of the team too.

·         Pound the strike zone.

·         Even though you’ll probably never change the call, it’s okay to argue with the umpire once in a while on behalf of your team (see Job, Jeremiah, and the Psalms).

·         Everybody makes an error now and then, so lighten up.

·         Make sure the team gets plenty of practice.

·         The positions are different but every position matters.  If one is mission, you don’t have a complete team.

·         Shuffle the line up every now and then; change the batting order once in a while.

·         The guys in the bullpen need to get their innings.

·         Don’t lose touch with the players on the Disabled List; they’re still part of the team.

·         Talk with each other in the field so there are no collisions and we don’t hurt ourselves.

·         The guy who scores and the guy who knocks him in count the same.

·         It’s okay to let a player rest and sit out a game now and then.

·         Work to maintain unity in the dugout and the locker room.

·         When you’re on a serious losing streak, a team meeting may be in order to clear the air and get refocused on the goal.

·         Don’t let the guy on the bench who would rather watch than play soak up all your energy; give your best attention to the ones who take the field.

·         Don’t be afraid to bring up the guy from the minor leagues and give him a shot at the big-time.  He just might become the rookie-of-the-year.

·         Most every team member thinks he’s a free agent, and some of them will leave your team to join another.  Don’t worry too much about that; you’ll probably grab your share of free agents too … whether you want them or not.

·         When team members get too old or infirm to play and have to take a seat in the stands, tip your hat to them now and then and honor them for all they’ve done.

·         In the course of a long season, some games are more important than others.  It’s important to discern the difference.

·         When on a winning streak, stay humble and stay hungry.

·         Eat a hot dog and some apple pie now and then but not too much or you won’t be in shape to do your job.

·         And no matter what happens with the team, remember this: the Owner always has your back.

Go Pastors!  Go Church!  And go Orioles!

What would you add to this list?

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Remember the Manger

Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said that on Christmas, he preferred to go to a church where there was no sermon, only music, art, and drama.  "Words just aren't up to it," he said.[1]  Niebuhr’s right.  Words aren’t up to it.  That’s why we’ll keep our words to a minimum today.  But there is good news in Christmas worth telling.  A few of those words are found in Luke 2:8-12.  Mary has just given birth and laid Jesus in a manger.  They were ready for visitors, and God invited some shepherds to come visit the baby Jesus.  Fitting, huh, because Jesus is the Good Shepherd who is also a lamb.  Hear the word of the Lord … 

8 In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.”

Near the end of November a few years ago, I was driving up Higdon Ferry and noticed the message on the sign at what was then Roland’s Barbecue.  (Hated to see that place close.)  I wasn’t sure what the sign meant.  So the next time I was in there, I asked the lady who waited on me, “What’s up with the manager?”

“What?” she asked.

“The manager—is everything okay?”

“You want to see the manager?”

“No, I just was concerned that something was wrong because of your sign.”

“Our sign?”

“Yes, your sign.  You know, it says ‘Remember the Manager.’  So I figured the manager needed prayer or something.”

“Our sign doesn’t say ‘Remember the Manager.’  It says, ‘Remember the Manger.’”

No wonder she looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears.  And you’ll be glad to know that I neglected to tell them that I was the pastor of First Baptist Church.  (I told them I was Methodist.)  You’d think if anyone would be able to read that sign it would be a pastor.  Trust me, my antennae are usually pretty honed in to anything of a spiritual nature I see in our secular world.  But boy, did I miss that one!

Well, I’m not going to miss it today.  It’s Christmas Eve.  It’s time to remember the Savior who is Christ the Lord and that his first bed was a manger.  Remember the manger.

We’ll remember a lot of other things today: to pick up that extra gallon of milk, our favorite eggnog recipe, to purchase a couple of more stocking stuffers, the words to the familiar Christmas song on the radio, to make up the bed in the guest room.  There’s a lot on our minds today.  And not just adults either.  Kids too: “What’s in that big box?” “How much is in that envelope on the tree?”  “Will Christmas morning ever get here?”  Lots of things on our mind, lots of things to remember.

Just don’t forget to remember the manger.  Eternal word putting on human flesh and making his home among us.  Deity in a diaper.  Creator in a cradle.  Lion of Judah a helpless cub.   Feeder of multitudes nursing at his mother’s breast.  Eternal Word unable to speak a word.  Sinless perfection trusting himself to human beings broken by their sins.  Remember the manger.

Remember the depths to which God would stoop.  Christ has always existed, eternal in the heavens, the Word was with God and was God.  When Christ emptied himself to come down and save us, he didn't just do it halfway.  Jesus checked his pride at the door on the way down to earth.  He didn't say, "I'll go so far and no farther."  He didn't say, "I draw the line at a manger."  He didn't say, "I refuse to be born in that dump."  No, Jesus was willing to do whatever it took, willing to stoop as low as he had to go, willing to make his beachhead on the earth in a musty stable in Bethlehem.  Jesus came all the way down.  Now, no one can say, "Jesus, didn't stoop low enough for me."  No one can say that—not the poor, not the outcast, not the man without a home.  Born as he was in a stable, Jesus demonstrated total commitment to go as far as he had to go to seek and to save lost humankind.  Remember the depths to which God stooped.  Remember the manger!

Remember the lengths to which God would go.  We’re not talking a mission that takes him from Hot Springs to Dallas, or Little Rock to Paris, or even Pine Bluff to Siberia.  We’re talking heaven to earth, eternity to time.  We’re talking safe house to danger zone, holy habitat to Sinville, sure thing to risky business.  We’re talking about going from being the subject of worship to being subject to abuse and scorn and murder on a cross.  But God’s love was so true, his promise so sure, his commitment so deep, that no length was too far to go on his mission to rescue us from our sins.  James Irwin was part of the crew of Apollo 15 that landed on the moon in 1971—one of only 12 men in history to have walked on the moon.  He did a lot of speaking in churches after that moon flight.  And the tagline for his talk and for the autograph he signed on a picture of him standing on the moon was this: “It is more important that God walked on earth than man walked on the moon.”[2]  Irwin’s right.  Irwin and his crew traveled 238,900 miles to walk on the moon.  Jesus traveled way longer than that on so many levels to walk on the earth.  And his was no triumphant landing in some exotic place like the moon, televised for all the world to see.  Jesus landed in obscurity, in a podunk town where few eyes would see him.  Jesus landed in a stable there.  Jesus was laid in an animal’s feeding trough.  Remember the lengths to which God would go.  Remember the manger.

And remember the price God was willing to pay.  You think Christmas costs you a lot?  Consider what it cost God.  The price of condescending to the likes of us, the price of emptying himself, taking on flesh, humbling himself—the Lord becomes the servant—the price of subjecting himself to the care of sinful, broken people in a sinful, broken world, seems steep enough price already.  But the price ratcheted even higher when, as a man, he gave himself to be broken on a cross to save us from our sins.  The sinless one died for sinners, taking our sins on himself so he could kill sin’s penalty and power for those who put their trust in him, for those who come to him for salvation and life.  God sacrificed his only Son.  Jesus gave everything thing he could give so that we could be saved, so that we could enjoy abundant, eternal life on earth and beyond the grave.  Crucified.  Dead.  Buried.  And raised from the dead on the third day.  That’s the price of our salvation.  Jesus refused to sit on his throne twiddling his thumbs and let you die in your sins.  No!  Jesus was willing to stoop lower than you can imagine, travel farther than you can chart, and pay a price so high only God the Son could pay it.  Now, if you die in your sins and spend eternity in hell, it’s on you.  It’s not because God stood by and did nothing to save you.  He paid it all.  I know: it’s not Good Friday; it’s Christmas Eve.  But hulking over the manger on that dark night was the shadow of the cross.  It’s why he came.  It’s why he was born to die that we may have life.  So even here at Christmas, remember the price God was willing to pay.  Remember the manger.

John Shea tells a story he calls “Sharon’s Christmas Prayer.”  It was about a little girl—she was five-years-old, sure of the facts, and recited them with dignity, convinced that every word was revelation.  This is what she said:

“They were poor, they had only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to eat and then went a long way from home without getting lost.  The lady rode a donkey, the man walked, and the baby was inside the lady.  They had to stay in a stable with an ox and a burro but three Rich Men found them because a star lighted the roof.  Shepherds came and you could pet the sheep but not feed them.  Then the baby was borned.  And do you know who he was?”  Her quarter eyes inflated to silver dollars.  “The baby was God.”

And Shea says she jumped in the air, whirled round, dove into the sofa and buried her head under the cushion—which is the only proper response to the Good News of Christmas.[3]

Don’t impoverish yourself in the face of such good news.  Even in the hectic busyness of today and tomorrow, take time to remember the manger.  And when you do, it’s okay to whirl and twirl and fall on your face in worship too.  It’s Christmas: God is with us.  God has come to save us.  Remember the manger.





[1]Cited by Leonard Sweet, Giving Blood: A Fresh Perspective for Preaching (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 212.
[2]Cited by Mark Galli, The Galli Report, Jan 16, 2015 ChristianityToday.com.
[3]John Shea, “The Hour of the Unexpected,” Christianity Today (Dec 6 1999), 48.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Thanks, First Baptist, Hot Springs

So, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed yesterday and came across a post from a pastor that I follow, Sam Rainer.  He linked to one of his recent blog posts: "Ten Reasons I’m Thankful for West Bradenton Baptist Church."  That got me to thinking about the church I serve.  God has given us more than 22 years together.  There’s a lot to be grateful for!  Here are the blessings I’m counting this Thanksgiving.

You love my family and me the way we are.  In 22 years a church gets to know its pastor.  A pastor and family could put up a pretty good front for three or four years maybe but not for 22.  Real life, real issues, and real struggles that unfold across two decades break down any fa├žades and reveal what is really in the heart of a pastor and family.  They know we’re not perfect.  They don’t expect us to be.  They have loved us at our best and at our worst.  They have loved us on the mountaintop and they have loved us in the valley.  Never have they asked or insinuated that we should be anyone else than who God created us to be.  When a minister’s family is loved as they are, they find a freedom to grow and to thrive.  Thank you, FBC, Hot Springs.

You love the Scripture.  The Bible is our textbook at First Baptist, and our people wouldn’t have it any other way.  It provides our game plan for ministry.  We teach the Bible in multiple venues.  We give a lot of Bibles away.  “Is it in the Book?” is a question we ask a lot.  Thanks, FBC, Hot Springs.

You are good listeners.  The church has grown a lot over the years, but there are still a good number of folks in the church who have had to listen to my sermons and my teaching for since my first Sunday in June of 1995.  And they keep coming back.  I don’t know how they do it.  In 22 years, I’ve never stood up to preach or teach thinking, “How am I going to get and keep their attention?  Will they stay awake today?”  Never.  Not once.  I’m sure we’ve got some sleepers—every church does.  But most of our folks are right there with me, engaging, thinking, considering what they are hearing.  Some engage me in conversation or via email after sermons.  Knowing I’m not preaching to a brick wall every Sunday is critical for me as a preacher.  But what makes them good listeners is that plenty of them try to put what they learn into practice.  I do not take that for granted.  It makes me a better preacher.  Thank you, FBC, Hot Springs, for being good listeners. 

You value unity.  We realize we can do more when we do it together.  It’s also a lot more fun.  Our people work at unity.  We tackle controversial matters rather than sweeping them under the rug.  That's why our unity is more than skin-deep; it’s heart deep.  Unity provides an image to our community of the unity in our Triune God.  Thanks, FBC, Hot Springs.

You surround me with a great staff team.  All of them are as committed to the church as I am.  All of them are gifted and devoted to Jesus and the Great Commission.  I wouldn't be near the pastor I want to be without their hard work and dedicated service.  We love each other and we love the church.

You have an incredible volunteer spirit.  We rarely have to beg for volunteer leaders.  Hundreds of you serve in areas in which God has called you to serve.  You're not just doing a job in the church; you're fulfilling God's calling in your life.  And you make a difference for the kingdom in Hot Springs and around the world.

You aren’t afraid of change.  No pastor can stay at a church as long as I have if the church isn’t willing to change along the way.  Our church is 181 years old but if you were to visit, you’d never guess we were such an old lady.  Old churches like ours are often on their last legs by now.  They are slow to change.  They prefer the old to the new, the known to the unknown, the sure thing to the big risk.  Churches as old as ours are often bed-ridden or even on life-support, spending time reminiscing about days that were never as good as we remember them.  Not us!  Our folks embrace change because they worship a God who does new things, a God on the move, a God on mission.  This is not to say we haven’t had to work through some crankiness when we have made some large changes.  We have.  But people come along.  They get it over time.  And they get behind it too.  Thank you, FBC, that you aren’t afraid of change.

You practice grace.  Our people cut each other a lot of slack.  We take sin seriously, but we take repentance and forgiveness and holiness seriously too.  We are not what one person once called a Miranda church where anything you say or do can be held against you.  Our people practice grace.  My family has been on the receiving end of that grace many times.  We love restoration stories.  We love second chances and more.  We practice grace.  Maybe that’s why there so much joy in the church family.  Thanks, FBC, Hot Springs, for practicing grace.

You give generously.  We are a people of the open hand: glad to receive God’s blessings, glad to share them with those in need.  We make budgets.  We exceed mission offering goals.  We support three church plants.  We help those in need.  We pay our ministers generously.  This is a church of extravagant givers.  Thanks, FBC, Hot Springs, for being a church that gives generously.

You love the nations.  Put a stethoscope to the heart of the church and you’ll hear the Great Commission beating in our chest.  Our people pray, give, and go.  Hundreds of our people have traveled at their own expense to work in our strategic mission partnerships around the world.  The nations start across street, and our people work there too.  We love missions.  We love missionaries.  We love Hot Springs.  We love the nations.  Thanks, FBC, Hot Springs.

There is so much more I could write.  This is already longer than I intended it to be, so I’ll stop here.  Dayna and I are so grateful God sent us here and has kept us here across the years.  There are days when I lose sight of how blessed I am, but that sight returns quickly.  In fact, most days, I have to pinch myself to make sure it’s not just a dream that I get to pastor this congregation.  So in this Thanksgiving week, I want to say thank you, First Baptist, Hot Springs.  We love you!  

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

St. Jack

On this All Saints’ Eve, I want to say a word about one of the saints in my life.  His name is Jack Enloe.  In February 1974, in my senior year in high school, I got serious about Jesus.  I had been in church all my life, but Jesus was more an add-on to my life than the very core of it.  Not long after I made that commitment to Jesus, I met Jack Enloe.  He was the Minister of Music and Youth at First Baptist Church, Branson, Missouri—my girlfriend’s church.  

I attended that church now and then so I could sit with my girlfriend (who later became my wife).  Okay, I’ll admit it, my attendance was more about glands than God, but God can even use glands to get us where he wants us.  He wanted me there.  He wanted me under the mentorship of Jack Enloe.  I am the better for it.  Jack was the first person I told about my call to ministry.  Jack taught me how to share Jesus with others.  Jack taught me how to minister to youth.  He modeled the Christian life for me.  He taught me how to do basic car maintenance on the junker I was driving at the time.  Mostly, Jack just made time for me.

Jack and his wife Carol spent last weekend at our house.  We hadn’t seen them in 40 years.  Dayna and I were thrilled to host them.  And we were thrilled to have them as guests in the church.  I wanted him to see how God had used his investment in me to impact the kingdom because his fingerprints are on every life I touch, every ministry accomplishment God brings to bear through my life.

I tried to tell him one more time how deeply I appreciate his investment in me so many years ago.  He just sort of dropped his head, not sure what to make of my comments.  And that’s when it hit me.  I said, “Jack, you don’t get it.  I understand that.  I’ve been at this ministry gig long enough to have been for some others what you’ve been for me.  And when they tell me how much I have blessed them, I don’t get it either.  It never seems like I did much of anything.  But it sure seemed like much to them.  And Jack your investment in me means more to me than I can say.  Thank you for being God’s person in my life when I needed you.”

I still don’t think he gets it.  But I do, and I will never forget it either.  So on this All Saints’ Eve, 2017, here’s to St. Jack.  I’m a better Christian and a better pastor because God put Jack in my life.  And, because Jack took time to invest in me, the kingdom of God is wider and broader too.  Thanks, Jack.  The impact of your ministry is so much larger than you thought it was.  Your ministry was not in vain.

Who invested in you that you’d honor on this holy day?