Serving the Growing Number of Bivo Heroes

Here’s a riddle for you.

What do a banker, a contractor, an elementary teacher, a chemist, an engineering professor and a farmer all have in common?

Answer: They are all faithful pastors.

Unbelievably, approximately 60 percent of the pastors in Tennessee are bivocational. Let that sink in a moment. The majority of the churches connected to the Tennessee Baptist Convention have pastors who have a vocation apart from their ministries as a church’s pastor. And, if you include churches that have fulltime pastors but whose wives have secular jobs in order to make ends meet, the number jumps to probably 75 percent.  Continue reading “Serving the Growing Number of Bivo Heroes”

Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something!

There have been some excellent Bible teachers over the last 100 years. Without reservation, I count the late Dr. Ron Dunn as one of them. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and anointed to teach like few men I have ever known. Every message articulated careful biblical exposition, clear illustrations and practical applications. He kept it real, relevant and preached with a compelling word from the Lord.

I was visiting Dr. Dunn and his wife, Kay, at their home in Dallas in early 1991. He gave me a signed copy of his then latest book, “Don’t Just Stand There Pray Something: The Incredible Power of Intercessory Prayer.” I will always remember that visit with the Dunns, and the title of the book has forever been etched on my mind. Continue reading “Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something!”

The Childlike Awe at the Wonder of God

Davis Walker, 4-year-old grandson of Randy C. and Jeanne Davis, enjoys the beach for the first time in Florida.

I always love going home. The beauty astounds me.

I grew up on the Alabama Gulf Coast and love it. But it’s a little more than just loving it, it’s in my blood. The majority of my earliest memories are of water skiing up and down the canal, fishing off the coast of Orange Beach, shrimping in Perdido Bay, and sitting at the end of our pier drinking coffee and watching beautiful sunsets with my family.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had a beach fix in years. Like many of you, our family loves the surf and sand, so we’ve been anticipating a vacation to Blue Mountain Beach, Fla.  Continue reading “The Childlike Awe at the Wonder of God”

Why I Am Thankful for Steve Gaines

Steve Gaines
-Photo by Morris Abernathy

Messengers to the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention stand at the threshold of two watershed days in our denomination’s history this week as the annual meeting convenes in Dallas. More importantly, these representatives from our network of churches play a central role in the outcomes that lie ahead.

There has been much in the news about Southern Baptists coming into this convention, and unfortunately little of it has been positive. Messengers have many decisions to make, and in my opinion one of the most important responsibilities is to prayerfully elect our next SBC president. But as we look beyond this convention, I want to look backward and express sincere gratitude to God and to the messengers who twice elected Tennessee’s own Dr. Steve Gaines as president of the SBC. Continue reading “Why I Am Thankful for Steve Gaines”

In Pursuit of the Perfect Pastor

Let me go ahead and say it: Pastors aren’t perfect.

Surely that isn’t new information for anyone, but I can almost hear you saying, “Well thanks for that news flash Captain Obvious.” But let me ask, if we already know that why do we expect different from our pastors?

Ironically, I’m not just talking to the dear brothers and sisters who gather each week in our pews. I’m also talking to the men who stand in the pulpit in front of those pews. Both groups know the truth yet too often live in the world of unmet expectations rather than reality.

I’ve obviously been a member of both the pew and pulpit groups and I know any pastor worth his salt has a high expectation of himself. He wants to serve the Lord and the Lord’s people well. He feels the responsibility of being God’s shepherd. Every pastor wants his church to thrive, grow, love the spiritually lost, and love each other. He wants to lead an evangelistic and financially generous church. Every pastor wants to succeed; no pastor plans to fail. Continue reading “In Pursuit of the Perfect Pastor”

Is Ministry Your Mushroom?

A strange phenomenon happened in the Pacific Northwest. Large patches of trees were dying in an Oregon forest. Scientists determined the problem was a single breed of mushroom that covered 2,384 acres, about the size of 1,600 soccer fields.

Apparently the white tentacles of the mushroom wrapped around root systems and tree trunks and robbed the trees of nutrients, carbohydrates, and water. In other words, the mushrooms choked the trees to death. 

Is ministry your mushroom? I talk to ministers every week who relate to the trees. While everything looks okay on the surface, hidden stressors suck the life out of them. Left unchecked, the consequences are disastrous. For instance, according to multiple surveys … Continue reading “Is Ministry Your Mushroom?”

Barely Making It, but Finishing Well

It wasn’t too long ago that the idea of hockey catching on in the South was laughable. Well, nobody is laughing now. The hysteria surrounding the Nashville Predators has boiled beyond Middle Tennessee and it’s been interesting to hear comments and see Facebook posts from around the state supporting the Preds. No question about it; Nashville is definitely a hockey town.

There wasn’t an abundance of hockey to watch growing up on the Alabama Gulf Coast so needless to say; hockey really wasn’t on my radar until a few years ago when Jeanne and I were given tickets to attend a Predators game. We knew zilch, nada, nothing about the game, but we had a blast. The energy, excitement and the quickness were amazing. And the way those guys cross checked each other; I cringed with every hit. I was a little concerned by how much my sweet, godly wife loved hockey! Needless to say, we’ve been Preds fans ever since.  Continue reading “Barely Making It, but Finishing Well”

Pausing for Poignant Moments

There are moments in life that are so obviously important that they need not scream to be recognized. The magnitude of their presence halts the daily hustle and quietly demands that we notice, and reflect, and determine that the nostalgic moment becomes a prelude to something greater.

I believe God has granted to Tennessee Baptists such a poignant moment and we must pause to understand its significance to our past, but more importantly, to our future.

Last Monday (May 22) the staff of your Tennessee Baptist Mission Board walked into the new Church Support Center, marking the end of what amounted to a 10-year pilgrimage. Relocation was an arduous process, but one in which God graciously led us to build a beautiful building in a strategic location in Franklin, repeating the grace we believe He extended to our Tennessee Baptist predecessors when He led them to building in Brentwood in the 1960s. The 45-year increase in the value of that property provided the possibility of Monday’s moment. Continue reading “Pausing for Poignant Moments”

Pastor: Nine Steps To Recovering Your Joy

It’s right there in the red letters:  “That my joy may be in you …”

This is a statement of fact made by Jesus Himself, and yet I’ve encountered so many pastors who haven’t experienced joy in a long time. The man behind the pulpit carries both pastoral and personal burdens, and it can be overwhelming. What once was a thrill becomes drudgery, and one day, pastor, you realize you’ve lost your joy. I know the feeling. Been there.

While I was a pastor, I signed articles and letters with the salutation, “It is a joy to be your pastor.” Once, however, the slightest typo slipped through — a single letter — and communicated something completely different: “It is a job to be your pastor.” Continue reading “Pastor: Nine Steps To Recovering Your Joy”

Eight Factors in a Successful Youth Small Group Ministry

170301student-meeting-library-teamSmall groups and youth ministry are subjects of lively debate these days. Is a youth Sunday school class a real small group experience? Should they meet on the church campus or in homes? Should they be co-ed or same sex? Should they all study the same curriculum or be allowed to pick their own? Should they meet all year round or take the summer off?

While these are all good questions worth thinking about, the truth is that none of these are the factors that most contribute to a successful youth small group ministry. Continue reading “Eight Factors in a Successful Youth Small Group Ministry”