Who to Tell?

April 26, 2012

One bright Sunday morning a preacher woke up and saw how blue the sky was and how warm the sun, and decided he would rather play golf than preach. He phoned a preacher friend, and feigning illness asked him to preach in his place. It wasn’t long before our friend was on the fairway, his ball on a tee, ready to enjoy himself.

Jesus looked at God and said: “Father, that’s not right!” God just smiled and said, “Wait and watch.”

He swung his club, and the white ball flew into the air, forming a perfect arch. It dropped right on the green, then rolled toward the pin. The preacher watched with disbelief as the ball rolled right into the hole. A hole in one!

Raising his arms to the sky in joy, the preacher cried, “This is unbelievable! I can’t wait to tell all my friends at church…”

It was then he realized that he couldn’t tell anyone. In order to do so he would also have to explain why he was on the golf course on a Sunday morning!

Whenever a worship service is, well, under par, I wonder how tough it would be for those who missed to explain their absence to God. There is nothing you could do this Sunday that is more important than to be in worship. Nothing.

I can make some pretty direct links between spiritual growth and attendance. When you find yourself in the rough, it’s a good idea to count on God’s help. When in those notorious Satan traps, getting out is much easier if you have been with God regularly. I have observed golfers so dedicated that rain, wind and snow doesn’t prevent them from doing what’s really important to them. That’s a “fair way” from the lack of dedication many Christians demonstrate. Perhaps some Christians thought when they were baptized into Christ that they had merely chosen a club? Perhaps we should learn from the drive and commitment of golfers and returning from the back nine, wedge ourselves back into a pew.

I’ll be there to preach. The games we play, well, they can wait!

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1).

-Stan Mitchell

Heeding the Warnings

April 5, 2012

These days people are offended when you warn them.  They would rather have their feelings smoothed over than to avoid the calamity they are about to experience.

So we are offended at the doctor who suggests we need to lose weight; we are offended at the policeman who suggests we endanger human life when we flout the rules of the road; we are offended at the politician who suggests we should sacrifice rather than grab entitlements for the good of the country.

As Wilfred Owen once put it, “All the poet can do is warn.”

You can get annoyed at the weatherman, but you had better also get the umbrella if he says it’s going to rain.

The Bible, too, is full of warnings. These are not the popular sections of scripture.

“Except you repent,” Jesus cried out, “you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). So will we become peeved and perish?

“Whoever does not believe,” he warns, “will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). So will we believe and be baptized, or will we face condemnation?

Consequences for sin are real. Eternal punishment is real. God’s anger towards the unrepentant is real!

Sometimes a prophet shouts from the rooftops to convey his message. Sometimes he whispers his warning, even in tears. Paul did: “Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night and day to admonish everyone with tears” (Acts 20:31).

I remember a conversation when one speaker declared: “I like that church (the one she had just joined) because they don’t ask me to change anything in my life!”  Really? Was she implying that she did not need to change anything? Or that she resented the implication that she needed to change? Or that God requires no change in our lives? Beware the church that does not ask you to change! To repent is to change; to be converted is to change; to become a Christian is to change; to grow spiritually is to change!

We need warnings; we need to change. We will probably not do the second until we hear the first.

-Stan Mitchell

Eavesdropping

March 29, 2012

I picked up a book written by Dale Jenkins recently entitled A Minister’s Heart. It is packed with wise, heartbreaking, encouraging (and sometimes funny) advice. I’m glad he wrote it, and I intend to buy several copies and give them to some young preachers I know.

But I have a question. Would you “ordinary” Christians like to hear some of these items? Would you like to know how the church looks to a preacher? Any preacher of at least two years experience knows exactly what brother Jenkins means when he says:

* “At least three times, you’re going to wince when a guest speaker comes in and your arch enemy says clearly so that you can hear it, ‘Now that’s the kind of preaching we need!’”

* “You are going to bury your best friend and mentor.”

* “You are going to wonder who counsels the counselor”

* “You will be scolded for not visiting someone when they were in the hospital, even though they never told anyone they were going to be in the hospital.”

* “You will have at least two people say that they hate you. You will have to preach a message of ‘truth in love’ to those same people.”

* “You are going to have to defend your kids for doing something that if any other church member’s kid did, it would be overlooked.”

* “You are never going to make as much money in ministry as you could have using your skill set in the corporate world.”

* “You will study 20 hours for a deep, meaningful, inspiring sermon only to be told that it was a ‘nice little talk.’”

* “You will be told in every church where you preach that the ever elusive ‘they’ are not happy with your work.”

* “You will have every aspect of your work and personality critiqued and criticized. And you will wonder, ‘Should I just quit for the good of the kingdom?’ Don’t quit.”

Beloved brethren, I have allowed you to look over the shoulder of a more experienced preacher as he counsels a younger preacher. Perhaps you have seen by eavesdropping this way how the world looks to the gospel preacher.

I know there are false teachers. I know there are preacher “head cases.” I know young men make young men’s mistakes. But a young man with a good heart is worth preserving.

Could you do this for me, please: Be conscious of the effect your words and actions have on a young man. Understand that if he survives his young years as a preacher, he might become a massively important servant of the Lord in the mission field, in the US, or in a place that trains young men.

Satan wants these young people to quit the church in large numbers. Would you please do everything you can to disappoint him?

“Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease, night or day to admonish everyone with tears” (Acts 20:31).

Preachers are responsible for the congregations they serve; congregations are responsible for the preachers who serve them.

-Stan Mitchell