Change Happens but the Mission Remains

Life way buildingThe March 20 headline splashed across Christianity Today, The Tennessean and National Public Radio was one few in Southern Baptist life thought they’d ever read. There were variations, but in effect they all communicated the same thing: “LifeWay Christian Resources, the largest Christian retail chain in America, plans to close all 170 stores this year and shift its offerings entirely online.”

It was a sad day that revealed the lifelong emotional attachment many Southern Baptists have had with the bookstore. Frankly, generations of us have never known a world without a Baptist Book Store or a Lifeway Christian Store. Many expressed their anger with statements about how the bookstore was more than just books. It was the people who worked there — who ministered there — who made the stores what they were. Continue reading “Change Happens but the Mission Remains”

Somebody Tell the Pastor He’s No Cowboy

cowboy boots bibleToo often pastors develop an “old cowboy” mentality where they feel they need to “stay in the saddle” at all costs. Unfortunately, too many church goers feel their pastors should be old cowboys. That notion of pastoral “toughness” may sound romantic, but it rarely – if ever – ends well. Set aside the obvious sin of pride involved; no one can spiritually, emotionally or physically sustain it.

Pastor, if you feel you’re riding that horse, I’ve got four short statements of unsolicited advice you need to hear if you, your family and your ministry are going to survive. Somebody’s got to tell you so it might as well be me. I’ve ridden in that rodeo before. Continue reading “Somebody Tell the Pastor He’s No Cowboy”

The Heavy Hand of God’s Judgment

child-sad-silhouette-windowIt is a heavy blow when God determines to bring to light that which is hidden in the shadows. Sometimes the Body of Christ must bear the weight of His judgment when He does.

Such a blow was delivered yesterday morning in an article that appeared in the Houston Chronicle. The headline was, “Abuse of Faith.” The extremely thorough story reported 20 years of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches that affected at least 700 victims. Far and away the majority of the victims were children or youth; and far and away the perpetrators were ministers. Just in the past decade, at least 250 people who worked for or volunteered in a Southern Baptist church have been charged with sex crimes. Continue reading “The Heavy Hand of God’s Judgment”

Serving the Growing Number of Bivo Heroes

man holding bibleHere’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!

Praying Man BibleThere 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
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
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

pastor speaking podiumLet 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?

mushrooms growing on treeA 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

finish line race footIt 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”