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example leaders leadership Uncategorized

HOW TO TRULY MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS

Neal Pollard

Bloomberg Businessweek’s Ira Boudway wrote a fascinating article about the perennially successful head basketball coach of the San Antonio Spurs. He called the piece, “The Five Pillars of Popovich.” Gregg Popovich, who has led the Texas team to five NBA championships in a little over 20 years, is the epitome of steady in a league notorious for constant change. Boudway laments that Popovich wouldn’t actually cite his own pillars of success, but the thoroughly researched column definitely exposes the principles that have made this legendary coach tick with exquisite precision. Those five pillars, in order, are:

  • Own your luck. That is, be modest, humble, and don’t try to take credit for things you didn’t do.
  • Do your work. The same tenacious ethic that made him way more of a player than he should have been has translated into his incredible success as a coach.
  • Unleash your anger (strategically). Know when (and how) to get angry, channeling your passion and conviction into others.
  • Widen your world. Always be a learner, and inspire others to do the same.
  • Know your people. Build relationships, taking time to really know the people in your circle of influence. Former player Will Perdue articulates what so many say of the coach, saying, “I was kind of amazed by how much he wanted to know about you as an individual… He saw you as a human being first and a basketball player second.” In Pop’s own words to Sports Illustrated in 2013: “Relationships with people are what it’s all about. You have to make players realize you care about them. And they have to care about each other and be interested in each other. Then they start to feel a responsibility toward each other. Then they want to do for each other.”

(Bloomberg Businessweek article)

We would modify and adapt the wording of some of the pillars, but the principles are unmistakably sound. When it comes to spiritual leadership, whether in the home or the church, these qualities are powerfully attractive.

Great leaders work hard to give others the credit and, most of all, God the praise. The goal is more important than the glory (Eph. 3:20-21).

Great leaders will not ask others to do what they won’t do (Mat. 23:3-4). They exemplify what they expect (Heb. 13:7).

Great leaders get the difference between the “big stuff” and the “small stuff.” Spiritual wisdom helps them channel their passion nobly. They reserve emotion for the eternal and temperance for the temporary.

Great leaders are learners, growers, and improvers. They hate complacency and disdain settling. Nowhere do they demonstrate this more than their pursuit of sacred truth, as consummate Bible students (2 Pet. 3:18).

Great leaders truly know those whom they lead. Assumptions, perceptions, prejudices, and appearances hamstring and even sabotage leaders. There is no substitute for loving people, genuinely caring about and being intimately involved in the lives of those whom they lead (John 10:1ff).

People are looking for leaders like this. They will follow them to the ends of the earth and, consequently, to heaven! None of these qualities necessitates a Ph.D. or a million dollars. They simply require dedication and discipleship! May God raise up more men who have the will and want to be successful leaders for Him!raburntrip-gunnison-9-21-07069

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Bear Valley church of Christ church church (nature) church function church growth church organization eldership leaders leadership Uncategorized

“I Praise, I Participate, I Proclaim”

Neal Pollard

Yesterday afternoon, the Bear Valley eldership stood before us one by one to talk about their priorities both for themselves and for us. They distilled them into five simple words that describe five profound concepts: (1) Worship, (2) Communication, (3) Fellowship, (4) Accountability, and (5) Leadership. They told us that as the religious world is growing more homogenous in their worship style (a la community church model; rock concert-ish), distinctive New Testament worship has a chance to stand out even more. Yet, we need to always be improving our efforts in leadership and participation. They emphasized that communicating news, ideas, and needs is a process that will always need work and priority. No church ever arrives in this regard. They spoke of the importance of building a closer church family, knowing each other through age-related opportunities and entire congregation opportunities. This happens when we’re all together, in the classroom, and away from the building. They stressed the importance of holding one another accountable, for faithfulness, commitment, and support. Otherwise, there is no way to move from ideas to action. They told us that all of us exert leadership in some area. There is formalized leadership positions, as outlined in the New Testament (elders, deacons, preachers, teachers). But, inasmuch as we all have a sphere of influence (cf. Mat. 5:14-16), God expects us to lead. Throughout their entire presentation, they were specific about strategies aimed at helping us be successful. I appreciated the great challenge this was for us to work and grow. There were so many quotable sayings from their collective lesson, but the one that struck me most was made near the end. As we have adopted three planks of emphasis as a church, based on Acts 2:42-47 (praise—worship, participation—fellowship, and proclamation—evangelism), we were challenged to think: “I praise,” “I participate,” and “I proclaim.” It can be so easy for us to approve the church’s need to grow and improve in these areas or to expect the elders to do these things. But, no matter who we are, we can and must ask, “What can I do?” The key to being a great church is the willingness of every member to make personal application. It’s not, “What are they doing?,” “what are you doing?,” or even “what are we doing?” No! It must always primarily be, “What am I doing?” I’m thankful that our elders spoke with confidence and clarity about the fact that there is plenty of opportunity to be involved in making Bear Valley a strong, relevant church, a city set on a hill shining a light in spiritual darkness. Thank God for strong leadership, which encourages me to say, “Here am I, send me!” (cf. Isa. 6:8).

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criticism eldership hypercriticism leaders leadership Uncategorized

Armchair Elders

Neal Pollard

He shouts at his TV with a mouthful of Cheetos. “I can’t believe you! Four receivers downfield and you throw it behind the line of scrimmage to a man who’s double covered! You’re pathetic. Must be nice to get millions of dollars to make awful decisions. Where do I sign?” After several additional one-sided conversations with the TV, Mr. Potato (first name: “Couch,” aka “Armchair Arnie”) dusts crumbs off his potbelly with those trademark orange fingertips and limps into the kitchen, stiff from sitting three hours, to get another snack before the second half of the NFL doubleheader.

Water cooler wide receivers. La-Z boy linebackers. The game’s true experts do not prowl the sidelines with headsets, nor do they actually suit up, strap on, and sweat it out. The guys with all the answers are the ones who would crumble with fear if placed on the same field with the athletes they so roundly criticize for bungling with the ball.

I have observed that the same temptation can occasionally strike some with regard to elders. Whether it be their judgment or painstaking decisions, their handling of a member’s problems or needs, or their overall “job performance,” elders get taken to task more often than they realize by pew chair presbyters. They may criticize elders for what they did or for their failure to act, for being too strict or too lenient, for showing favoritism or trying to please everyone, for being too conservative or too liberal–all with the regard to a single action taken or decision made.

There is a striking similarity to the “armchair quarterbacking” done by unfit, unqualified spectators at sporting events. Those who can’t are apt to criticize those that can and do. It is far easier to question and condemn the actions taken by elders without the benefit (and angst) of wrangling with problems and decisions oneself. How we can eloquently outline the plan of action we would take absent the pressure and responsibility of being in the position.

Let’s pray more for our elders and pass judgment less! Let’s support them with might, not scrutinize them under a microscope. They need our cooperation and submission (Heb. 13:17). They could do with less backbiting and murmuring (cf. 1 Co. 10:10).

That’s not to say that elders are beyond reproach and rebuke (1 Tim. 5:20). Occasionally, an elder or eldership may be deserving of question–particularly in the area of doctrine or their personal qualification. As a longtime Falcons fan, I had to endure the likes of Scott Hunter, Pat Sullivan, and June Jones! They were terrible quarterbacks, though much better than I could ever have been. Elders will answer directly to Christ for their shepherding of the local flock. We, as embers, will also answer for how we cooperated with and supported them. Let’s all resolve to get out of the chair and join them on the field (cf. John 4:35)!

sedentary

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eldership leaders leadership Uncategorized

Watching Godly Elders

Neal Pollard

We are blessed with seven wonderful elders here! They span in age from 48 to 81, are of varying backgrounds, personalities, and skillsets, but collectively they reflect God’s wisdom for a plurality of godly men shepherding the flock. With the magnitude of the work and workload here, I cannot help but stand in awe of the great job they are doing. To watch men like these, I’m reminded of the powerful good done by apt, able elders. Far from an exhaustive list, they:

  • Show Hospitality—They open their homes freely and frequently, getting to know the sheep.
  • Keep Track—They make it their business to account for the sheep, knowing they will give an account for each of them ultimately.
  • Cast Vision—They do not lead from the rear; they thoughtfully, decisively get out front and show the way.
  • Greet Visitors—They care about our members, but they are constantly focused of who’s new around here.
  • Contemplate Problems—In the spirit of Solomon, they are presented with and must decide often complex, hairy matters…in real time.
  • Faithfully Pray—Listen to men pray and you get a pretty good idea how practiced they are. These men are devoted to it.
  • Show Heart—They aren’t afraid to demonstrate their care, concern, and love. We see it in their passion, their tears, and their involvement.
  • Manage People—Sheep are also of differing temperaments, needs, problems, and levels of maturity. They deal with “all kinds.”
  • Consult God—How exciting to see overseers humbly searching for and submitting to a “Thus saith the Lord.”
  • Balance Time—They do all of this while being competent employees, conscientious family men, and character-filled Christians.
  • Set Direction—They are tone setters in a basic way; What they emphasis, we will make important. We hear their voice, in the assemblies, meetings, and private conversations.
  • Make Mistakes—Despite sometimes unreasonable expectations from some, they are terminally human and inevitably subject to imperfection.
  • Follow Jesus—They are good shepherds walking behind the Good Shepherd. They want to serve, please, and imitate Him. Ours do a fantastic job of that.

Have you seen what a great job these men are doing? Have you taken the time to stop and let them know? Many churches veer from the straight and narrow path because of ungodly elderships. Thank God for the shepherds at Bear Valley!

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eldership leaders leadership Uncategorized

WHERE ARE THE ELDERS?

Neal Pollard

  • At the hospital, attending a surgery
  • At home, hosting a family or families and getting closer to the sheep
  • Hosting and attending church activities
  • In private meetings with hurting, needy members
  • In meetings together, praying over and discussing the needs of the sheep
  • Spending time with their wives and children, nurturing that needed part of their lives
  • On their knees and in their Bibles, strengthening their walk with the Good Shepherd
  • Teaching our Bible classes, leading our worship, and even preaching as needed
  • On the job, exemplifying Christ before the world in a superlative way
  • Weeping with the weepers at funerals
  • Found among our graduates, parents of newborns, celebrating newlyweds, and other happy moments experienced within the flock
  • In Bible studies with non-Christians or Christians wrestling with some Bible matter
  • Looking for visitors and new faces in our assemblies
  • Working, sleeves rolled up, on workdays and other occasions where they can serve
  • Enjoying fellowship, their very actions reminding us they’re normal and one of us
  • Watching and listening carefully, especially at the teaching and preaching that is done, ensuring the spiritual food their sheep ingest is healthy and nourishing
  • Holding up the hand of faithful gospel preaching, having their hands help up by their preachers
  • Touching base with the deacons, encouraging and aiding their success in ministry
  • Attentive to little children, the elderly, the alone, and others that many might unintentionally overlook
  • Ensuring the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, rooting out divisiveness
  • On the phone and in the homes with erring sheep, striving to retrieve them and, sadly, if necessary, leading the flock to withdraw fellowship from the irretrievable
  • Setting the spiritual tone, emphasis, and direction of the flock

Our elders, like faithful elders everywhere, do a lot that is unseen by the majority.  It is hard to quantify the time and effort each of these godly men put into their work, but God sees it. What is more, God rewards it. My prayer is that righteous elders everywhere will take heart at what an inspired elder once wrote: “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

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Bear Valley elders among our 2016 High School graduates
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church organization eldership leaders leadership Uncategorized

What God Does Not Expect Of Elders

Neal Pollard

Sermons preached on the qualifications of elders often, rightly, emphasize the importance of selecting men who qualify to serve. In the Lord’s church,  covetous, inhospitable, intemperate, cold, imprudent, biblically ignorant, pugnacious, and newly-converted men (among others) have been appointed to that important work who should not have been. That hurts the local church! Many times it has been said that “bad elders” are worse than “no elders.”

Harboring unfair expectations of men who would serve as elders is another hurtful trend that occasionally surfaces. A hypercritical spirit is a quality of human nature, though a quality the spiritually-minded ought to fight to personally eliminate. Let us briefly consider what God does not expect of elders.

  • More Than The Qualifications Specify. Gut feelings, intuitions, and hunches might work well when hunting, fishing, or making March Madness picks, but there is no call for them in selecting men to serve as elders. God does not need our help, tacking on additional requirements for an elder than He felt the need to supply for us. Adding to the Word of God carries a stiff penalty (cf. Rev. 22:18); therefore, our scrutiny of a man’s fitness to serve needs to stop where the Bible’s does.
  • Sinless Perfection. He expects maturity (1 Tim. 3:6), ability (Ti. 1:9), and stability (1 Ti. 3:4-5), but not impeccability (the Latin origin of this word means “not to sin”)! If so, no man could ever conceivably qualify to serve. Gnat-straining can keep a qualified man from serving as surely as camel-swallowing can allow an unqualified man to sit as watchman. With a 1000-tooth-comb, some would inspect the minutia of his life and his family’s. Those searching for flaws, who look hard enough, will always find things. Yet, such findings do not necessarily prove anything except his humanity and fallibility (cf. Rom. 3:10,23).
  • To Neglect Their Own Families. It is unfair to expect a man, as elder, to always place the needs of the congregation over those of his own family. Too many wives and children have been deprived of husbands and fathers due to disproportionate expectations of time, resources, and attention placed upon elders by members. Elders need the full cooperation and understanding of their families, while elders are obligated by God to supply the needs of their families (cf. 1 Tim. 3:4-5,7). Elders (and their families) are entitled to vacations and nights at home together. Elders will answer for not only their service as elders (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pe. 5:4) but also their influence and leadership in the home (1 Tim. 3:4-5; 1 Co. 11:3; Eph. 6:1-4).
  • To Be The “Complaint-Receiving Committee.” It is impossible but that complaints will come, but woe unto him (or her) through whom they constantly come. Murmuring and complaining got Israel into trouble (cf. 1 Co. 10:10), and members who find it impossible to speak to elders without doing such may find themselves in the same predicament. How many times has an elder heard you say something positive about another member, a successful program, or their efforts on your behalf? How many of your complaints have they fielded? Elders will answer for our souls. Let us find ways and opportunities to encourage, praise, and support them. Complain whenever you must, but compliment whenever you can.

Did you realize members have qualifications to meet with regard to the elders?

  • Love and appreciate them (1 Th. 5:12-13)
  • Honor them (1 Ti. 5:17)
  • Do not recklessly accuse them (1 Ti. 5:19)
  • Obey and submit to them (He. 13:17)

As we examine who would serve as elders, let us not forget to examine ourselves (2 Co. 13:5). How spiritually fit are we? Jesus’ words about beams and specks apply to our relationship with elders, too (cf. Mt. 7:3-5). Let us have high expectations of elders, but let us have only those expectations God has!

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eldership leaders leadership Uncategorized

The Shepherd Of The Sheep

Neal Pollard

“That grass is greener,” so he thought,
The sheep who wandered from the fold
Watching carefully the shepherd caught
The wanderer, so soon in the overseer’s hold.

The roaring waters so dangerously near
Forms a hazard for the trembling herd
But the herdsmen is wise, his vision is clear
With his guidance their safety is assured.

Surveying the cliffs or helping them rest
His vigilance is timely and needful,
For the sheep he labors to give them the best
For their well-being the shepherd is heedful.

The Lord chose imagery, graphic and vivid
To illustrate how His church should function
Lackadaisical leadership leaves Him livid
He urges them have compassionate compunction.

Watchful shepherds who tend with care
Are assets in the heavenly realm
Who carry, calm, who steer and spare
Who are willing to assume the helm

Stewards for the Great Shepherd of the soul,
They lead as they point out the way
And help us keep our sight on the heavenly goal
And prepare us for the Great Judgment Day!

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Judgment leadership revenge

ROUGHING UP THE REFEREE

Neal Pollard

Perhaps you have seen the video of two John Jay High School football players targeting an official late in their loss last Friday to their Marble Falls, Texas, opponent.  Marble Falls was running out the clock to preserve their win.  Details have not been divulged to explain why the players were angry or why they took apparent revenge by blindsiding the unwitting official. It does not take too much discernment to conclude they must not have liked something this referee said or did prior to their inappropriate response.  Whether or not the official provoked these young men to anger, all would have to agree that whatever moral authority they might have had disappeared after their vicious tackle of the defenseless man (Read and watch here).

Umpires and referees exist to keep order, to enforce and interpret the rules, and make judgments about whether the game is being played as it should be. They are not a popular lot, as attested by the heckling they can receive and the jokes made about them. We may even wonder what draws a person to take on such a job.  They make an easy target for those who often know less than and have a worse view than the one on the field or the court who must execute their judgment in real time.

While as a preacher and the son of a preacher I have seen and experienced ministers blindsided by angry hearers who confused the message with the messenger, I see a much more maligned, misunderstood, and marked group whose judgment and decision-making has occasionally been unfairly attacked.  No wonder Peter promises faithful elders that they will receive a superlative reward (1 Pet. 5:4). There is certainly such a thing as bad leadership and decision-making, and elders are fallible human beings. Yet, I have never yet seen an eldership practice church discipline without at least a few members taking a cheap, undeserved shot at them for trying to follow and get God’s people to follow His “rules.”  Whenever they are faced with a difficult decision in the realm of judgment, like eliminating an ineffective ministry or starting a challenging one, a change or alteration to the place of meeting, letting a preacher go or hiring another one, or the like, they may get figuratively roughed up.

The New Testament urges a different attitude from the spiritually mature.  Paul says appreciate and highly esteem them in love (1 Th. 5:12-13). The writer of Hebrews tells us to be the kind of sheep that bring our leaders “joy and not grief” as grievous fellowship isn’t profitable even for us (Heb. 13:17).  Be careful what you say about elders (cf. 1 Tim. 5:19). In fact, why not let them know, out of the blue, how much you appreciate their efforts to shepherd the flock (cf. Acts 20:28).  That may knock them off their feet, but it will be in the good way!

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leadership

HE WAS COACHING ON ONE KNEE

Neal Pollard

What I’m about to do is painful and very nearly contrary to my nature.  It involves praising something about New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Bellichick, he of “Spy Gate” and “Deflate-Gate” infamy.  Yet, something he was witnessed doing on the sidelines during the late stages of Super Bowl XLIX gives great insight into why he has coached a record-tying four Super Bowl champions.  While Pete Carroll was on the other sideline, commendably patting players on the back and showing excitement and energy, Bellichick was seen on the other side of the field down on a knee speaking with players on both the offense and the defense.  For whatever we want to say about what we don’t like about him, he’s renowned within the team as a strict disciplinarian that even makes players nervous.  Without negotiation, he expects everyone to give their best.  And, he expects it done without fanfare, a Wall Street Journal article showing this with a memorable Bellichick quote: “Playing well is playing well. You can break it down into 17,000 adjectives, but it’s doing your job” (Kinkhabwala, 1/15/11).  But, when the Pats were down by 10 and panic might have overtaken him, he was calmly, coolly sharing an expectation or going over a game-plan to overcome the adversity.

So, I still don’t have to like him or the Patriots, but I appreciate that.

Leadership is about so many different, vital qualities. Energy and effervescence, passion and praise all can play a part.  However, there is hardly a substitute for a mentor, one who is serious, thoughtful, and caring enough to pull someone aside and give him or her individual attention.  The word usually translated “exhort” in the New Testament is from a Greek word which means “calling to,” “appeal to and earnestly request,” or “call to one’s side” (Kittel, np, Louw, np, and BDAG, 764).  Who doesn’t appreciate the loving, caring approach of an elder or other spiritual leaders, whether preachers, older members, deacons, and the like, who guide us and help us with biblical understanding, moral dilemmas, and ethical quandaries. They have that timely word when we are discouraged, that nugget of wisdom that seems meant for that moment.

I think we all desire leaders who will get down on one knee with us, as it were.  Leaders like these are who Paul had in mind when he wrote, “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another” (1 Th. 5:12-13).   Thank God for great leaders who, with weighty responsibilities on many fronts, take a moment to come alongside us with encouragement and insight.

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eldership leadership oversight

 What It Means to Be An Overseer

Neal Pollard

Elders are identified with three broad terms.  As Gary Hampton has put it, those who serve congregations in this honored way should not be offended that the term most often associated with them is the one that identifies them as old.  Not only are they “elders,” but they are also “shepherds” and “overseers.”  “Shepherd” describes their pastoral function:  caring for the spiritual and emotional needs of the flock, knowing the sheep, and building relationships with the sheep.  Too often, people confuse preachers as the ones associated with this role.

They are also “overseers.”  In one way, this term is almost self-defining.  They are to oversee the affairs and activity in the congregation they serve.  In another way, there may often be confusion about what it means to oversee.

  • They should not be “over hearers.”  They must be communicators and “contactors.”  They cannot rely solely on hearsay and rumor.  They cannot afford to be so detached from sheep life that they are uninformed. While they rely on information from preachers, deacons, and the “general membership,” that cannot be their sole means of information regarding church life.
  • They should not be “over meeters.”  I have heard it said that elders should visit two hours for every one hour they meet.  Although that may be unscientific, is it not saying that personal contact with church members is at least twice the job that coming together and making decisions about those members is?  How can anyone best decide about sheep with whom they have not spent quality time?  Certainly, lengthy meetings are draining and frustrating to elders.  Often, overseers are in danger of burn out from marathon sessions.
  • They should not be “over workers.”  God has not placed the entire workload of the church on elders’ shoulders.  Almost always, men are appointed elders because they have proven themselves diligent workers in various areas of church life.  Yet, as it was in Moses’ day, when elders are overloaded with the church work “alone” (Ex. 18:14) what they are doing “is not good” (Ex. 18:17), it is “too heavy” for them (Ex. 18:18), and they “are not able to do it alone” (Ex. 18:18).  That means elders should not be doing deacons’ work and deacons, by definition, should.

David E. Smith, an elder with the Birdville congregation in Heltom City, Texas, said, “Let me confess up front that I’m guilty.  Guilty of not letting deacons do their jobs so I’ll have more time to do mine.  I think most elders fall in this category from time to time.  There is an urgent need for us to change our “modus operandi”! …Sometimes I get overly involved with our deacons’ work which distracts my attention from spiritual matters.  And there is never a lack of spiritual matters needing attention” (“Questions Of Eternal Consequences,” Ft. Worth Lectures 1999, pp. 267-268).  With regard to church work, let overseers be delegators of work rather than devourers of it all.

  • They should not be “overreactors.”  Faith is vital to effective pastoring.  Financial contribution is vital to church work.  Disgruntled members are an unpleasant reality from time to time, and some can never be placated short of letting them always have their way.  People are growing older.  Most every church should be more evangelistic and all churches could be growing more.  These are some of the burdens God’s shepherds must bear.

Elders no doubt regularly lose sleep and generate stress over such matters.  Yet, as God makes elders overseers (Acts 20:28), He will supply their needs (Phil. 4:19).  It is God’s work, and He blesses all Christians who step out in faith in service to Him.  That certainly applies to the valiant work and oversight of His shepherds.

We cannot “over praise” elders.  They are definitely not over-rated.  They work over time. It is amazing that they are not overcome by the heavy task they execute.  Let us all be reminded of what these special men known as overseers are truly called to do.  It takes extraordinary men to do this heavenly task. “Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb. 13:17b).