I’ve been thinking about the kind of writing I want to do, the kind of blogposts I want to publish, and a firm thought has been forming in my mind. I’d say it is a calling, a sense of direction from God, but all you thorny cessationists out there would just get all hostile, right?
I’m sure no one has noticed, but my blogging around here has been growing more rare and spare in recent months. That has been for a variety of reasons – time, motivation, inspiration, passion, procrastination, lack of discipline. It seems that much of my writing has been issue-oriented. For one reason or another, SBC Voices has become a place that people come to when news breaks in the SBC. I’m not an investigative reporter, but we do try to post on breaking news to give people a chance to discuss things. Those items bring our highest daily hits. We will continue to do these, when the situation arises.
Frankly, if “ratings” were all that drove us here, we’d follow several other blogs and wade into every fight there is and just engage in battle blogging day after day. Problem is, I hate it. I do it when I have to, when I feel it is essential, but I hate it. There are some people who seem energized by the battles, who feed on them. They drain me. I engage in them only when I feel like I must. Frankly, I’ve even avoided some I probably should have waded in on, just because I hate the strife and the battle.
I love to do theological, biblical and devotional posts, and we will continue to do those. Several of our writers do those and I am glad. Frankly, if you look at our posts, these account for the majority, I would guess. They do not garner the majority of discussion here – that’s about controversial issues, politics, race, Calvinism (if I can’t avoid it), denominational issues and such. If we simply wanted to build traffic, we’d stick to that stuff, but that’s not where my heart is leading me.
Thinking about the Pastor’s Conference
I love the Pastors’ Conference at the SBC, but unfortunately, it is not for the preaching (anymore). There was a time, years ago, when the conference saved my ministry. I think it was in St. Louis in the mid-1980s, when I arrived as discouraged as could be. Lo and behold, the theme of the conference was enduring through hard times. Pastor after pastor preached about sticking it out through the tough times. It saved my ministry.
Maybe I’m just getting older, but what I’m seeing now is less emphasis on biblical preaching and more on celebrity pastors telling us how they built their ministries and how if we just did things the way they did things we could see the results that they saw. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my three and a half decades of ministry it is that there is a Johnny Hunt and I’m not him. There’s a Ronnie Floyd and I’m not him. I’m not a young hip pastor (though one of these days I may need a new hip) and I’m probably not going to do things the way a young hip pastor is doing them in his young hip church that is exploding in growth.
Here’s the fact – the spotlight of the Pastor’s conference, and many other conferences as well, is on that 3% of churches that are (as we used to say) clicking and exploding in growth. Most of us are laboring week after week in churches, just struggling trying to apply the spiritual duct tape in the right places to keep things going. I leave the conference feeling that I live, work and pastor in a very different world than most of the guys who speak at those conferences.
I’m not putting them down. Facts are facts – they are likely impacting the kingdom more than I ever will. But that isn’t who I am. I’m not going to shed my suit, don a plaid shirt, get a spiky haircut and start wearing sandals to preach. I use social media, but every time I read an article about how to use it, I realize that I am a) probably using it wrong and b) WAY out of date.
Here’s the thing. There are a lot of pastors and churches that identify with the men who speak at the pastors’ conferences. God bless you. They are good men doing good work. But most of what they say about life and ministry does not translate well to MY life or to MY ministry.
Here’s what I’m thinking. If statistics are correct, most of the pastors and churches in the SBC are more like me and my church than they are like Ronnie Floyd and his church. Again, please do not hear me blasting Ronnie Floyd. He gets that enough from others. He is gifted in ways I never will be. But the goal of my life is not to be more like Ronnie Floyd, but to grow to be more like Jesus.
I think there are pastors who might like to talk about real life pastoring instead of being compared to the latest superstar pastor.
That’s what I want to write about. Because that’s what I’ve been. I’ve been a real pastor for three and a half decades in Southern Baptist churches. I’ve been a youth pastor. I’ve been a single staff pastor. I’ve managed church staff. I’ve never been fired, but I would guess that in my first pastorate in Virginia there were a couple of times when the vote might have been close if someone had made the motion! I’ve pastored in Florida, in the Deep South and in Iowa. I’ve worked with deacons (you know why pastor’s kids go bad? They grow up with deacons kids!)
I have done a few things well and I’ve made a ton of mistakes. As anyone who has been reading this blog any length of time knows, I observe things and form opinions. I’d like to share those opinions with you.
- I’d like to talk about what it takes to persevere at a church through tough times.
- I want to talk about balancing family and ministry.
- I’ll talk about friendships and the church.
- I’ll talk about the importance of preaching, exposition, study, and it’s disciple-making impact.
- I’ll talk about discouragement in the ministry. Wow, I’ve been there.
- I’ll examine time usage and ministry.
- We’ll examine dos and don’ts on weddings and funerals, on baptisms and the Lord’s Supper.
- I’ll talk about accountability for pastors.
- We’ll talk about practical issues of church discipline.
- I’ll give suggestions about trying to mix traditional and contemporary elements in the church.
- We’ll examine marriage and pastor’s wives and the hardships of ministry on them.
- We’ll examine a host of other topics. It’s probable that terms like millennial and generation x will not come up, because I don’t understand them – being the curmudgeon that I am. (And no, though I was formally accused, I am not the Church Curmudgeon. I wish I WAS that brilliant!)
A few years ago, I was at a BCI pastors meeting and a group of us were hanging out in the hot-tub at the hotel after the meeting (I apologize for that mental image). We were chatting and suddenly I had a revelation. It was me and a bunch of young whippersnappers. I was giving advice and passing along the wisdom of the years. I asked Jenni, as I returned to the room that night, when I stopped being a young guy and became the old guy the young guys came to for advice. It was a jarring moment!
I believe that I’ve learned some things through the years that I can pass on to other pastors. Some of them are eternal and universal principles based on the Word of God that should be true in any church of any size in any place. Some advice may be more practical to those in churches like mine. You young whippersnappers in hipster churches won’t understand me anymore than I understand you – that’s okay. God paints in infinite variety. I don’t have to be you and you don’t have to be me. I do believe that there are a lot you out there fighting the same battles I’ve fought through the years.
So, I haven’t decided whether to call these segments “Pastor’s Perspectives” (sounds so generic) or “Pastoring in the Real World” (don’t mean to insinuate that megas or hipsters aren’t real world) or some other catchy name I’ll come up with. But I want to energize my blogging with segments about real world pastoring in real world churches.
If you have an addition to this segment, feel free to submit it. There are some guidelines, though.
- This CANNOT, yea MUST NOT, be a “Here’s How I Solved the World’s Problems” segment. We aren’t looking for bragging or self-aggrandizement. There is nothing that adds to the discouragement of discouraged pastors like hearing other pastors trumpet their successes.
- These need to be real issues that pastors face every day.
- These should have solutions that are both biblical and practical.
- There can be different perspectives on the same issue.
- Alliterated posts might bring the death penalty.
Pastoring is hard. Most of us are prone to discouragement. We need to help each other. Blogging is famous for dividing people. I’m hoping this series can bring help and encouragement.
Any suggestions on a snappy title?