Devotional Thoughts for Leaders: Are You Carrying a Bronze Shield?

bronze sheildAre you carrying a bronze shield?

Revitalization is tough.  When difficult times come into an organization, there is a temptation to ignore reality and pretend things are just fine.  That’s what Judah’s king, Rehoboam, did. When his nation fell on hard times, Rehoboam went into denial and built a set of bronze shields.

To understand the significance of this, we need to rehearse a little Old Testament history.  In 1 Kings 14:21, we learn that Rehoboam was the son of Solomon.  Because Rehoboam acted foolishly during his coronation, God split the nation of Israel and only allowed Rehoboam to rule over the much smaller nation of Judah. As king, Rehoboam took evil to a whole new level, leading his people to do everything that the Canaanites had done that had gotten them kicked out of the Promised Land (v. 22-24).

When Solomon was king, he had so much gold, that silver was worthless.  Solomon lined his palace with 200 large and 300 small golden shields that eventually became a symbol of Israel’s prosperity and security.  These shields were passed down to Rehoboam, but not for long.  In Rehoboam’s 5th year as king, God allowed Egypt to defeated Judah and take away all their treasure, include the golden shields.  This loss signaled the end of an era and the loss of God’s blessing and protection (v. 25-26).

Instead of facing reality and admitting his sin, Rehoboam had a set of bronze shields made to replace the golden shields that were lost.  In order to show that things were just as spectacular as they were in his father’s day, Rehoboam had his palace guards carry the bronze shields out in public whenever he went to the temple.  But when they returned to the palace, they put the “show” shields away (v. 26-28).

Rehoboam will forever be remembered as the king who spilt the nation of Israel and lost Solomon’s treasure.  His legacy should be an eternal warning to Christian leaders and even churches today who construct and carry a “bronze shield.”  Instead of being open and honest about their present difficulties – and changing – some people would rather recreate things that were successful in the past so they can preserve their reputation.  Ministries, programs, or emphases can all become “bronze shields” when they become excuses for going through the motions.

Here are 3 warning signs you or your church is carrying a “bronze shield.”

  1. Consequences, conclusions, and change are avoided.
  2. Energy is expending to recreate the past.
  3. Things that are done in public are not repeated in private.

Does that describe you or your church?  If so, are you willing to put down your “bronze shields” for a chance to be restored?

We’re Headed to Ashland KY, and Unity Baptist Church!

Downtown_Ashland

It has been a long journey, but my family and I are finally headed home – to our new home in Ashland KY.  This past Sunday, August 10, Unity Baptist Church voted to make me their next Senior Pastor.  We are thrilled that God has made His will so clear and given us such a strong, loving, and prayerful church family.

As we prepare to make our move, I would like to express my gratitude to the people and organizations that helped and encouraged us along the way.  I appreciate that Billy Yates and Alan Brady from Pedal Power Bike Shop let me live my childhood dream by building and selling bicycles.    I am thankful for the people at Central Baptist Church in Paris and Cornerstone Baptist Church in Lexington who loved and accepted my family and allowed me to serve them as an interim pastor.  I wouldn’t have made it through this transition without the help support I received from Paul Chitwood, Karl Babb, and the rest of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Ronny Raines from First Baptist Church Bradfordville FL,  and Ron Edmondson from Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington  In addition, David Stokes has been invaluable, even before he became the Executive Director of the Elkhorn Baptist Association (soon to be the Central Kentucky Network of Baptists).  I also need to mention Kevin Milburn, Senior Pastor of Union Baptist Church, for being such a good friend and counselor.

Thank you again, everybody, for all your thoughts, well wishes, and prayers.  We have some of the best friends and family in the world!  We are excited to see what God has in store in Ashland.  If you are ever in eastern Kentucky, stop in and visit us.  We’d be glad to have you.

Do We Really Need Mediation?

quotesIn a chapter calling pastors to the ministry of mediation, Alfred Poirier ties the ministry of mediation to Jesus Christ and the Gospel like this:

“From Genesis 3 to Revelation 21, the Bible is a book abounding with conflict – man against God, God against man, man against man.  But the Bible is more.  The Bible is God’s special revelation of his Reconciler.  It is the good news of God’s promise of a Mediator – the coming Prince of Peace.  The story of redemption is a story of reconciliation, and that reconciliation is all about assisted peacemaking.  Redemption calls for divine action; we cannot save or reconcile ourselves.  Reconciliation demands another.  Reconciliation requires the Messiah as Mediator.

-Alfred Poirier, The Peace Making Pastor: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict (Grand Rapids: Baker Book, 2006), 185.

The Care and Feeding of a Pastor and His Family

Shepherd-prepares-table-for-sheepThe coming of a new pastor can be one of the most anticipated and exciting times in the life of a church.  While the pastor is energized about his new ministry assignment, the congregation is eager to see how their new pastor and his family will fit into the life of the church.  During this time of high expectation, church members are usually willing to do whatever they can to help him settle in and be successful.  So how should a church care for their pastor and his family?  Here are three suggestions

1. Accept your pastor and his family and love them for who they are.

Pastors are called to do just that – pastor or shepherd the flock of God, under the guidance of the Chief Shepherd of the Church, Jesus Christ.  According to 1 Peter 5:1-4, your new pastor has not come to your church because he had to, but because he wanted to come. He did not come to get rich, but to serve.  He did not come to be over your church, but to become a vital part of it.   Caring for a church in this way is rewarding, but it is also very challenging.

Please remember that your pastor and his family are not perfect.  We all have our own struggles and weakness, including your pastor and his family. So don’t put them on a pedestal but embrace them for who they are. Also remember that your pastor and his family are not performers.   They need rest and relax just as much as everyone else.   In the case of your pastor’s family, remember they are not paid.  The pastor’s wife is not a buy-one-get-one-free staff member.  She should be free to exercise her gifts and abilities in the church without the added pressure of filling some official role.

2. Support your pastor.

1 Timothy 5:17-18 teaches that a pastor who leads well and works hard at preaching and teaching God’s Word should be respected and supported by the church. Depending on the size and resources of your church, the cost of living in your community, and the size of his family, your pastor should be offered a salary, housing reimbursement, insurance, retirement, and ministry reimbursements.   Instead of looking to get the “best deal for your money,” make every effort to provide for your pastor in the best way you can.

Financial support is good, but pastors also need spiritual and emotional support as well.  Ask your pastor how you can pray for him and his family and commit to pray for them regularly.   Look for ways to partner with him to build up the body of Christ according the model found in Ephesians 4:11-16.  Encourage and enable him to take time off and time away from your church and community.   A day off during the week and regular vacations will go a long way toward keeping your pastor and his family happy and healthy.

3. Let your pastor lead.

Leadership is inherent in the office and responsibilities of a pastor.  Different pastors lead in different ways, but every pastor is a leader.  Hebrews 13:17 warns churches against resisting the leadership of their pastor.  Your pastor is accountable to God for his ministry in your church.  But he must be allowed to exercise his unique talents, gifts, and abilities in leading your church.

Letting your pastor lead begins with trust.  Trust is built on relationships, so look for ways to get to know your pastor and his family outside of organized church meetings.  Be prayerful and open minded about any changes he may want to bring to your church.  And be aware of the stress and strain his family may be under as they support him in his ministry.

The newness may fade on your pastor’s ministry, but the anticipation and excitement don’t have to.  These are just three ways that you can care for your pastor and his family.   Can you think of more ways to help your pastor have a long and fruitful ministry at your church?