My First Sermon

My First Sermon

Neal Pollard

My dad was holding a gospel meeting somewhere in the Carolinas and he asked me to preach the Sunday evening sermon of the week he was gone. It was April 12, 1987, and I was a Junior at Bradwell Institute (high school) in Hinesville, Georgia. He gave me one of his sermons and I basically, with little change, got up and preached it. I remember being scared out of my mind. I had no formal training (which is obvious from the grammar and pronunciation). Afterward, the congregation flooded me with compliments, which says everything about them and nothing about my abilities. But, it encouraged me. It helped solidify my desire to preach and became the foundation for my willingness to go preach around the area over the next year-plus (preaching in such places as Glennville, Jesup, and Brunswick, GA). It led me to choose Faulkner University, to major in Bible and meet great preachers and teachers like Wendell Winkler, Ken Randolph, Carl Cheatham, Leonard Johnson, Eris Benson, Donnie Hilliard, and others. My family led me to believe that gospel preaching was an honorable, important occupation. So did the Hinesville church of Christ, on that occasion and subsequent ones. So did brethren in those places where I filled in.

What an important lesson for families and congregations today! Paul asks some questions of eternal consequence: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” (Romans 10:14-15).  I pray that more adults will send a clear message to young men: preaching is important, respectable, and valuable! It should be considered as an option exercised by normal and even talented and intelligent individuals.

We’ve been engaged in full-time ministry for 28-plus years, and it has blessed our lives tremendously! It’s thrilling to watch our three sons giving themselves to that life, too. Let’s send more preachers!

(It’s hard for me to listen to, but it should encourage anyone who says, “I don’t have any talent for preaching!”)

Why Is A Generation Leaving Religion?

Why Is A Generation Leaving Religion?

Neal Pollard

Pew Research Center recently revealed that “Four in ten millennials (those, according to this source, currently between 23 and 38) now say they are religiously unaffiliated”(fivethirtyeight.com). The data seems to indicate that “today’s younger generations may be leaving religion for good” (ibid.). A contemporary study put out by the American Enterprise Institute reveals at least three reasons why: (1) They didn’t have strong religious ties growing up, (2) Their spouses are more likely to be nonreligious, and (3) They feel religious institutions are not relevant for shaping the morality and religion (or nonreligion) of their children. Parental example, dating choices, and biblical literacy and faith, then, are major drivers in this discussion. 

Those polled revealed their thinking. A majority felt that religious people are less tolerant of others, less informed or even intelligent than their secular counterparts, and less necessary for shaping their family’s moral viewpoints. At least, reading this one study and the authors’ interpretation, it seems that leaving church is a deliberate lifestyle choice of people who at least sometimes are encouraged out the door by poor examples of faith. 

Notice the startling closing paragraph of the article, which states,

Of course, millennials’ religious trajectory isn’t set in stone — they may yet become more religious as they age. But it’s easier to return to something familiar later in life than to try something completely new. And if millennials don’t return to religion and instead begin raising a new generation with no religious background, the gulf between religious and secular America may grow even deeper (“Millennials Are Leaving Religion And Not Coming Back,” 12/12/19, Cox, Daniel, and Amelia Thompson-DeVeaux). 

I found it important to share those findings for these reasons:

  • It is a matter of crisis. People abandoning God’s Word and will is foreboding (Judges 2:10ff; 2 Timothy 3:1ff; 4:3-4; 2 Peter 3:3ff). It is happening, and it must matter to us. It does to God. 
  • It is a matter of correction. The home can change course if it is on the broad way. Individual Christians can improve their ethics and morality in public (Ephesians 4:25ff). Soul-conscious Christians can make the most of our opportunities to share Jesus in Christlike fashion (2 Timothy 2:24-26). We must change what we can change. 
  • It is a matter of consequence. A culture does not get where ours currently is as the result of sincere devotion to Christ and His Word. Hosea 4:6 is incredibly relevant. The law of sowing and reaping is immutable, for good and bad (Galatians 6:7-8). Whatever we exalt as guide is leading us somewhere.
  • It is a matter of courage. The only way I can see for this to change is for you and me to not just believe something or hold a conviction. The early Christians didn’t confine their faith to the holy huddles of the assemblies. They stood up for Jesus every day and every way. 

Two of my three sons are millennials and the third is only a couple of years too young to qualify. This is, largely, their generation. They and their faithful Christian peers are faced with reaching them, and they need our help. Talk to them and have honest conversation about how to raise your effectiveness together in stopping and reversing this exodus. This is not about preserving a comfortable lifestyle, which is threatened by sin (Proverbs 14:34). This is about preserving souls, which will face Jesus some day (Matthew 25:31ff). 

Walking Away

Selling Children

Selling Children

Neal Pollard

In March of 2007, in Owensboro, Kentucky, a couple tried to sell the woman’s 15-month-old daughter for $3000 and an SUV. The noble purpose behind this attempted transaction was “money to pay off [the boyfriend’s] fines for previous criminal charges.” Surprisingly, they denied the allegations and maintained their innocence, an effort that would eventually be unsuccessful.

How heartbreaking that anyone could act so heinously. Truly, “Children are a gift of the Lord…a reward” (Psa. 127:3). Yet, while they are a gift from the Lord to us, in another sense they still belong to Him (cf. Ezek. 18:4). We cannot sell what ultimately does not belong to us.

What Charles Hope, Jr., and Amber Revlett did in Kentucky was certainly criminal, but they are far from salon among those trying to “sell” their children for one reason or another. In order to give their children popularity, gratification, or material success, some parents are encouraging their children to live a life of sin, worldliness, and selfishness. Secular courts would never convict them, but what they are doing is even more heinous than that attempted by those lowbrow schemers from the Bluegrass State. As Christian parents, we have an obligation to recognize this tendency and not “sell our children” out to anything that could replace their undivided loyalty to serve Christ. We want their hearts centered around Christ and His will (Mat. 6:33).

Let us both teach our children and realize ourselves their intrinsic value as ones made in the very image of God (Gen. 1:27). Within each of our children is a soul, every one of which is more valuable and important than the whole world (Mat. 16:26). May we never do anything that would lead them to exchange their souls. Whatever they gain, they will lose everything! To the extent we, as parents, can influence this, let us do with diligence. God has placed their training and spiritual wellbeing into our hands (cf. Deu. 6:4-9; Eph. 6:1-4).

Stack Of Cash

Teachers’ Aids

Teachers’ Aids

Neal Pollard

Several of our classes have assistants to the Bible class teacher.  She (or perhaps in select cases “he”) serves in a support role, helping students do handwork, find Bible verses, or occasionally keep order.  These are vital roles, and often a teacher’s aid later actually becomes a teacher.  Teachers’ aids are part of a great team and education system that benefits everyone in the classroom.

There is a constant, pressing need for more teachers’ aids.  I don’t mean in the actual classroom during the “Bible class hour.”  These aids are needed Sunday afternoons, late Wednesdays, Saturday afternoons, and/or opportune moments between these times.  These aids have even more power than those helping the teacher in the classroom.  They are the parents and care-givers of the students.  There are several ways they can “aid” the teachers who put in hours of preparation time and tons of energy and emotion into the task of teaching.

Aid teachers by making sure your children do their homework.  Most teachers give homework, memory work or activity sheets.  This is a vital supplement to the actual lesson taught in class.  When children come to class with their homework done, teachers are elated and made to feel that their efforts are appreciated.  They feel that their students take the class as seriously as they do.

Aid teachers by asking about what they have learned.  Ask your children what they talked about in class that day.  Ask them to review as much as they can.  Ask them what they learned and how they can make application from the class.  What better topic of conversation can parents and children discuss on the way home from services?

Aid teachers by making sure they feel appreciated.  One way to do this is by making sure you practice the first two suggestions.  However, having the child send a thank you note or by personally thanking your child’s teacher, you are aiding through the means of encouragement.  Everyone likes to feel appreciated.  Teachers are no different.

The qualifications are simple enough.  To be this type of teacher’s aid, simply do all you can to partner with the efforts of your children’s teachers.  Your child, your home, and your child’s teacher all will be blessed by it.

teacher-talking-with-students

“Addressing The Huge Unmet Needs Of Young Children”

“Addressing The Huge Unmet Needs Of Young Children”

 

Neal Pollard

The philosophically liberal magazine, American Prospect, included an article in the January/February, 2014, edition, by Sharon Lerner entitled, “Starting Smart.”  The article begins by asserting that there is almost universal support in the public, business, and political sectors for mandatory, universal Pre-K education.  Lerner, considering such broad favor, ardently calls for leveling the playing field wherever there is a perceived gap, and mandating public education for the nation’s youngest citizens is alleged as the way to go (62-65).  While I have multiple problems with the content of the article, my biggest disagreement is that social, economic, or other physical needs are, as the article contends, a small child’s greatest unmet needs.

The hugest unmet needs of young children in this and every culture are spiritual.  It would be interested to know what percentage of our nation’s children get even weekly Bible instruction.  For several decades, there has been a steep decline in spiritual interest in our country.  Secular interests have far eclipsed spiritual interest.  I am confident that such tragic facts, when we stand before Christ at the Judgment, will help explain the moral volcano that has spilled its damaging influence over just about every aspect of society.

While our evangelistic efforts can help us reach more “unchurched” folks and incorporate them into our Bible school program, something else has amazed me.  Growing up in the church, I have for all my life seen neglect from some members of the church in this area.  Parents did not bring their children to Bible class regularly if at all.  When those children grew up and left the home, they usually left the church, too.  I still witness that same trend, both in congregations where I have preached and in places where I travel to speak.  In essence, this robs children of the solid foundation they must have to navigate the turbulent spiritual waters of this life.  Parents, let us take Solomon’s words to heart and do all we can to properly train our children for later life and eternity (Pr. 22:6)!  God has entrusted their eternal welfare into our hands.