Categories
evangelism excuses God God (nature)

The Art of Excuses (Jeremiah 1)

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Someone once said, “Excuses are tools of the incompetent, and those who specialize in them seldom go far.” Ben Franklin is quoted saying, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” 

Jeremiah had a complete list of excuses ready when God called on him to be a prophet to the people of Israel. Many times the excuses of Jeremiah become ours when we are called on to proclaim God’s Word to this world. We see that with every excuse Jeremiah made, God gave promises in return. 

First, Jeremiah said, “the task ahead is difficult.” Jeremiah 1:5 says, ““Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” This is God speaking to Jeremiah, and notice what He says, “I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” The task ahead is difficult, so Jeremiah gives off a list of excuses for why he isn’t the one for this job. God gives a promise for Jeremiah’s excuses. He says, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” God knew that Jeremiah was the one for the job, even if Jeremiah didn’t think so. 

Second, Jeremiah said, “I don’t have the talent.” Jeremiah 1:6 says, “Then I said, “Alas, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.” Many times people blame their cowardice on a lack of talent. They say that it isn’t natural to them, that there are others more suited for the job. But God knows Jeremiah and the great good he can accomplish. In Jeremiah 1:9, God promises that He would put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth.  

As Christians today we have these same promises for our worries and excuses. Let’s not blame our cowardice on a lack of talent or the difficulty of the task. That isn’t a good excuse to God. Nothing is. He has promised that He will be with us, and we have HIS Word to teach to others. Let’s trust in that. 

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Categories
government politics priorities priority Uncategorized United States unity

Knowing What D.C. Stands For

Neal Pollard

Inasmuch as we don’t want laws or policies enacted that violate God’s Word and we want precious freedoms, especially religious ones, preserved and protected, we can really get into what is going on in Washington, from Capitol Hill to Pennsylvania Avenue. Many know that “D.C.” is an abbreviation for “District of Columbia,” an area of land created at about the time of our nation’s founding under the direct jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress that is not a state.

However, as politics has vied for sports and entertainment as an idol in our culture, it has become the source of unnecessary and even immoral strife between Christians. Blind support and allegiance for one major political party or the other can do more than make us inconsistent. It can make us a stumbling block. It seems to me that D.C. can stand for some dangerously different things.

Distracted Christians. Search high and low in your New Testaments, written during the time of the wicked, often unfair-to-Christians, Roman Empire.  The disciples were about the business of evangelism (Acts 8:4) and growing the church (Acts 6:7). Can the rumblings and drama from the nation’s capitol get us so transfixed that we cannot see past it or through it to our individual and collective mission as God’s people? He has us here to get people into the Kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1:13). Everything else is secondary. 

Divided Churches. For as long as I’ve been preaching, I’ve seen politics come between brethren in the local church. Thankfully, it does not usually become significant enough to trouble the entire congregation but I have seen it do so. What’s more, I’ve seen brothers and sisters become so confrontational and flagrant about politics–especially through the relatively recent medium of social media–that it has been a stumbling block to new and weak Christians. Perhaps the political world in our country has never been so intensely divisive as it currently is, and what typically troubles the world troubles the church. But, when souls are negatively impacted, God will hold the offenders accountable. 

Devil’s Cauldron. Please don’t misunderstand. Politics, like money, is a neutral matter. But, like money, it can become the root of all sorts of evil (cf. 1 Tim. 6:10)–enmities, strife, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, and factions (Gal. 5:20). Just prior to this list of activities that are the carrying out of the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16), Paul warns, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal. 5:14-15). Who benefits when things like politics distract and divide Christians? It is not the lost, the church, or the Lord!

I can think of a least three godly, wonderful Christians who are public servants in political office and making a profound impact for good–Bill Reiboldt, Sheila Butt, and John DeBerry. They demonstrate that God’s people can devote themselves to politics without sacrificing their faith and example. For those of us “on the outside looking in,” in our love of country and freedom, may we never allow our attitude, words, or actions to betray our highest calling. The more effectively we reach lost souls, reflect the mind of Christ, and reveal the hope of the gospel, the better our nation (and world) will become. What will that make us? Disciples of Christ!

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From my last trip to Washington, a few summers ago. 
Categories
church growth evangelism friendliness Uncategorized

“Hello, My Name Is Roger Johnson”

Neal Pollard

Yesterday morning, I learned how much of a sense of humor the Lehman Avenue church members have. I prefaced my sermon by sharing a great tip a fellow-preacher passed along to me last week. He told the folks at his new work, “Please introduce yourself by name until I greet you by name when I see you.” So, I decided to give an example, saying, “Every time you introduce yourself, say, ‘Hi, Neal, I’m Roger Johnson (if that is your name)…” Well, that helped me ferret out some of Lehman’s finest comedians. Did you know there are 15 or 20 Roger Johnsons here (except that the guy I thought was Roger introduced himself as “Frank Sinatra” after church). But, everyone was upstaged by young Kamdyn Depp. Kamdyn came up to me right before evening worship, promptly shaking my hand and saying, “Hello, my name is Roger Johnson.” She deadpanned it perfectly, and it took me a while to stop laughing.

Kamdyn may never know how much it meant to me that she did that. First, it meant she was listening to my sermon. Second, as I found out it was her own idea, it meant that I meant enough to her for her to take the time to come tease me (side note: my mom used to tell me that people only tease you if they like you). It told me she was thinking about me. Third, it meant she was willing to engage me. We don’t know each other very well yet (though last night was a great head start), but she took the initiative.

Much talk is made of being a friendly church and how important that is to church growth and evangelism. All of us should take a page from Kamdyn’s playbook. Pay attention to people. Care about them. Don’t be afraid to engage them. You may quickly forget your act, but the recipient won’t!  We will have visitors at most of our assemblies. Your taking just a moment of time with someone might be the first seed that germinates in such a way that he or she ultimately is in heaven. It’s that big of a deal! So, go on up to that new person, smile, look them in the eye, and introduce yourself, but it’s probably best if you use your real name. Even if it isn’t Roger Johnson!

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This is NOT Roger Johnson
Categories
evangelism poetry Uncategorized

From The Pollard Poetry Archives (II)

The “Wishwewouldas”
Neal Pollard

In the place of “Wishwewoulda”
Lived a people who surely could ‘a
Reached the lost in their great land
But all the “let’s” got soundly canned!

There in impious “Wishwewoulda”
All those Christians surely should ‘a
They had the money, had the skill
But lacked the love, they lacked the will

Those Christian folk in “Wishwewoulda”
Failed to consider the eternal good ‘a
All those lost folks dyin’ in sin
They expected the outsiders to walk on in

In life, they said not, “Wish We Woulda”
Self was tops in the neighborhood ‘a
All those lost folks; But, then, a fearful thing
Those “do not” Christians each went before the King

He asked them, one by one, “Oh, why?
You let these opportunities just lie!
You get no crown, though you sure could have.”
Say they, “We won not one. We wish we would have.”
(December 15, 1996)

Categories
evangelism example poetry service soul-winning Uncategorized

Evangelism Effectively Executed (POEM)

Neal Pollard

We need to know the Bible, to study and apply,
And teach and share with others, their faith to solidify.
But often, before they’ll listen to a consonant or vowel,
They need to see us on our knees, with our basin and our towel.

For fine speech can lose its luster, and argument its shine
When its power in our own lives, is unseen and unapplied.
“I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day,”
Is the common man’s mantra, as he’s searching for the way.

And a teacher whose compassion and listening ear is offered,
Will open up a heart before one single verse is proffered.
For the adage, often spouted, is a proverb we need to share,
People do not care how much you know til they know how much you care

The way to reach an eternal soul involves more than the mind,
And every servant of Jesus knows it takes service pure and kind.
Loving care that costs us in terms of money, effort, and time,
Will soften hearts made hard by worldly greed and grist and grime.

Dear Christian as you pray to God, “Lead me to some soul today,”
Keep your eyes peeled for a struggling, straggling soul astray,
Then be a neighbor, show him mercy, you just might be surprised,
When he listens to the truth of God you have actively exercised. 

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Categories
church church (nature) church function influence Uncategorized

Dark Churches

Neal Pollard

I was intrigued by an article written by Janet Thompson of crosswalk.com. The eye-catching title asked, “Why Is The Church Going Dark?” She meant this literally. Her complaint was about the design of many auditoriums having dim lighting and being windowless, almost like a movie theatre or concert venue. She wondered if this was to reach a younger generation or to set a certain mood. 

While I prefer a well-lit room, there is a more significant concern. Jesus taught, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 5:14-16). His words have nothing to do with church building designs, LED lighting, or window sizes. Preaching to His disciples, Jesus wants us to know that those reflecting His light cannot be hidden, but shine in such a way that others will see our good works and glorify God. 

  • Dark churches are situated in neighborhoods that know nothing about them.
  • Dark churches are so indistinct that the world can see no difference between themselves and those churches. 
  • Dark churches have no vision or plan to fulfill God’s purpose for them.
  • Dark churches exist to assemble, but not much more.
  • Dark churches focus inwardly, but neither outwardly nor upwardly. 
  • Dark churches operate from fear and prefer the safe route, taking no risks and attempting only what they can produce.
  • Dark churches are disconnected from the Light of the world.

It is good for us to constantly challenge ourselves, when setting budgets, making plans, gauging our true priorities, or evaluating the leadership or the pulpit. Are we doing what will help us be “Light-Bearers” or what will cause us to be “Dark Churches”? What an important question! Our actions determine the answer. 

dark churches

Categories
attitude positivity preaching Uncategorized

I Just Can’t Share Their Bitterness

Neal Pollard

I write this as someone who has spent his entire life in a preacher’s home. I grew up a preacher’s kid, whose dad was fired twice (once for baptizing a black woman and later for standing against the “New Hermeneutic”). I have been a full-time preacher for nearly thirty years myself. Now, my sons are devoting their lives full-time to preaching. To an extent, our family’s lives have revolved around preaching. Have there been hurts, disappointments, and occasions of mistreatment? Certainly. Of course, plumbers, lawyers, accountants, engineers, and builders will tell you the same. But, we work with Christians, who should know better? That’s true, but they are still humans constantly struggling with the battle of self. 

My dad has always spoken of the value and blessing of the church, even when dealing with personal hurts. He loves the Lord and His church. As we grew up in the home, he taught us to have a high esteem for the precious bride of Christ. In college, I had one teacher who especially counseled us to look at the church–and the people who make it up–with hopeful, optimistic eyes. We generally find what we are looking for. If we are looking for injustices, offenses, and disappointments, we’ll see an endless supply of it whether we’re looking at elders, deacons, long-time members, or new or weak Christians. If we can view the foibles of others with patience, compassion, and empathy, we are likely to help each other grow and transform. We will definitely steer away from an “us versus them” mentality.

If you are in full-time ministry for any length of time, you will have some stories to tell. Some will be full of joy and excitement. Share these generously. They will encourage and edify. Some will be unbelievable, but not in a good way. Use wisdom and discretion about how, who and if you tell those. What are we hoping to accomplish by such sharing?

Preaching is not lucrative business. It’s not paradise on earth. It’s not easy and not everyone can (or should) do it. But, it’s the greatest work in the world! It constantly impacts eternity in seen and unseen ways, in a way that perhaps nothing else can match. There will be some lumps and bumps. Ask Paul (2 Cor. 11:23ff). But, listen to Paul, too. In prison, he wrote of rejoicing about preaching despite its various pitfalls (Phil. 1:14-24). Some seem bitter about how they have been treated in preaching, and I hope they can work through it. But, I love this life so much, and I just can’t share their bitterness!

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Our staff introducing themselves to the 2019 Future Preachers Training Campers
Categories
evangelism preaching teaching Uncategorized

Speaking What Must Be Heard

Neal Pollard

In World War I, German intelligence was able to steal American plans at will. Tapping enemy lines was extremely easy, especially at night. Faced with such a dilemma, a regiment full of Choctaw Indians thought of a potential solution. The commander inquired into how many Choctaws knew their mother tongue. The men hesitated. The first English word some of them had learned was “soap.” In basic training, they were threatened with having their mouths washed out if caught speaking their native language. Now, their regimental leaders wanted them to speak it. The Choctaws were dispersed among the various divisions and attached to communications. From that point to the end of the war, all important orders were passed along in Choctaw. The Germans were stymied and finally caught off guard by the Americans’ war plans (from PBS’ American Experience: The Great War, Episode 3).

Today, our society does not want to hear us speak the message of Christ. Many find it offensive and restricting. They may even put great pressure on us to keep quiet. But, we cannot. These have been taken captive by the devil to do his will (2 Tim. 2:26). Especially when someone sees the spiritual crisis in his or her life, there will be a desperate desire for an answer. Where will they turn? If they have heard us speak of Christ and His way, they may need us to communicate the most important message ever spoken. Don’t keep quiet about Jesus, especially given the dire danger in this spiritual warfare (2 Cor. 10:3-5). God is counting on us to speak for Him, and so is a lost and dying world! Keep sharing Him.

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Categories
church growth involvement Uncategorized

I-N-V-O-L-V-E-M-E-N-T Equals Church Growth

Neal Pollard

The early church grew (Acts 2:41; 5:14; 6:1,7; 9:31; 11:24). As we read of this growth explosion, we see the key role member involvement played. Christians were spreading the word (8:4), involved in each other’s lives and in the lives of the lost around them. This is such a simple concept, but churches not practicing it are not growing. What is involved in involvement?

  • I–“I” am the heart of involvement. I must resolve to be involved. I must do my part, for I will give an account for my level or lack of involvement (1 Cor. 3:8).
  • N–“Negativity” is the enemy of involvement. “I can’t help.” “It won’t do any good.” “I don’t like working with that person.” Listen closely. Involved Christians rather say “I can do” (Phil. 4:13) and “we are well able” (Num. 13:30).
  • V– “Visitation” is a part of involvement. Matthew 25:34-46 confirms it. Non-Christian visitors, sick, imprisoned, and needy folks need it. Those who do it are richly rewarded, and those who are recipients of it profoundly appreciate it.
  • O– “Obedience” is the cause of involvement. Faithful Christians believe the commands to make disciples (Mat. 28:19), build up brethren (Rom. 14:19), and meet needs (Js. 1:27).
  • L– “Love” is the motive of involvement. Paul says good deeds, without love, are profitless (1 Cor. 13:1-3). The counsel of Scripture is “by love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).
  • V– “Victory” is the goal of involvement. By being involved, we help others win the victory (Js. 5:19-20), we help the cause of Christ advance, and we aid our own walk in the light that leads to eternal reward (1 Jn. 1:7).
  • E– “Everybody” is the scope of involvement. What able-bodied Christian is excluded from the work God has given the church? Once, a man did nothing and gave every excuse imaginable. We remember how that turned out (Mat. 25:28-30).
  • M– “More” is the adjective of involvement. That is, “more involved” and “more people involved.” Has there ever been a church with too many involved? God is able to do more than we ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20), and He wants to see us always trying to do more for Him!
  • E– “Evangelism” is the fruit of involvement. Active churches attract the curiosity of the community. Those involved in the church’s work naturally grow more spiritual-minded, and by this grow more bold in sharing the gospel.
  • N– “Now” is the time for involvement. What in our lives do we definitely know will change between now and the never-seen tomorrow (Prov. 27:1)? Let’s kill the excuses! Resurrect the enthusiasm! Start today!
  • T–“Teamwork” is the mindset of involvement. We’re to work together. No one man, no staff, no eldership, no group of deacons or others can or should do the work of an entire congregation. The local church is a team.

To become adequately involved, let’s ask three questions.

“What needs doing in this church?”
“Who needs help in doing it?”
“What can I do?”

Be an Isaiah, a child of God who enthusiastically says, “Here am I, send me” (Isa. 6:8)!

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Categories
influence Uncategorized

THE MYSTERY OF INFLUENCE

Neal Pollard

Several years ago, a fourteen-year-old girl named Shannon Smith was shot to death in her own back yard. A bullet lodged in her brain. Though already tragic and horrific, the story was made more tragic by the inexplicable nature of the shooting. Police, judging from the trajectory made by the entry would, concluded that the bullet fell from the sky. Somewhere nearby, some unknown person had fired a gun for no known reason. The bullet completed its path of travel inside an unsuspecting teenager. Tragic, indeed!

Who fired the gun and why? The action pales next to the consequence. Someone aimlessly fired a weapon. A child died and parents were left to mourn her loss. It was all so unnecessary and avoidable!

Christians are a special people, a God-possessed, holy group (1 Pet. 2:9). The world sees Christians (Matt. 5:16). They react to children of God, either “glorifying” (Matt. 5:16) or “blaspeming” (2 Sam. 12:14) Him. Christians are either transformed from worldliness or conformed to it (Rom. 12:2). Conformity carries tragic consequences.

Influence is an inevitable burden carried by every Christian. Others watch what we do, hear what we say, and evaluate our judgments. What we wear, how we talk, where we go, and with what we entertain ourselves may seem harmless or at least harmful only to us. Yet, we can aimlessly fire and eternally wound another’s soul by our influence.

The man or woman who fired that gun may not realize even now what they did with one “harmless” squeeze of a trigger. Maybe they will not know on this side of time. Just so, we may be shocked on that day to realize how many or exactly whom we influenced. We’re on a spiritual battlefield (Eph. 6). Let’s be careful not to shoot at the wrong side! We may wind up doing harm to the very people we’re commissioned to save. Let’s watch our aim!

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Shannon Smith (undated photo)