An Inspired Appeal To Assemble

An Inspired Appeal To Assemble

Neal Pollard

I’m writing this during one of the best gospel meetings I’ve ever attended. Robert Hatfield is doing an incredible job! He has a way of telling even challenging truths with kindness while reaching the heart and the mind. He has been prepared and has presented each sermon masterfully. I’m also grateful our elders had the wisdom to invite him to come.

Have you thought about why special events like gospel meetings, like our “regular services,” are so beneficial? Why should they draw our interest and be important to us? The writer of Hebrews gives us at least three reasons in an exhortation in Hebrews 10:24. He writes, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds…” The context of this passage is assembling together. He contrasts “neglecting to meet together” with “encouraging one another” in verse 25, but the why is in verse 24.

COOPERATION–“Let Us…One Another”

You will find the exhortation “let us” three consecutive times in Hebrews 10, in verses 22-24. The first is about our relationship with God (22), the second is about our relationship with the world (23), and the third is about our relationship with each other (24). The writer identifies it as “one another.” It requires each of us to do our part, to decide to act. The more who embrace this encouragement, the more effective we will be at obeying this command. “Us” can be a small number of people or a large number of people, but truly “the more, the merrier.” 

CONSIDERATION–“Consider”

This literally means “think carefully about.” It pictures sitting down and being intentional. Perhaps visualize specific faces of brothers and sisters, those who are friends, new Christians, visitors, newcomers, family members, and the like. Visualize that great High Priest who is also there (19-21). We will hop in our cars after a long day (or week) of work and school and rally together when we have taken the time to reflect on who we are going to meet with. 

CAUSATION–“Stimulate…To Love And Good Deeds”

It never fails! When you think about how the reason for assembling is to praise and glorify our Lord and Savior, there is already ample motivation. But then there is what our mutual presence and participation does for one another. It causes us to think and feel and to do right. We constantly need that prompting and urging. The world is all too ready to be unloving and to either do wrong or neglect right actions. Every opportunity to assemble holds stimulating possibilities.

There have been non-Christian visitors at each service of our gospel meeting. That’s exciting! But just as exciting, you and I get to be together in a time of worship and study. We’ll come with buckets emptied by the day and week, then leave with them filled to overflowing. God knew that’s how life is! It’s why he urges us, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” He gives us assembling together as a powerful outlet. “Let us” take advantage!  

The Little Boy With The Front Row Seat

The Little Boy With The Front Row Seat

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

It was a great Sunday night crowd. Why not? Between the monthly Q&A sermon, the monthly singing night, and the ice cream fellowship, there were several additional drawing forces. It was so enticing for one grade-school boy that he made the unusual decision to sit on the front row, dead center. If you were there, you probably saw him. If you weren’t, you can see him on YouTube.

This young man had an unobstructed, undistracted view to some significant events. First, he was literally a couple of feet from Hiram as he preached. On multiple occasions, when he posed a question to the audience in his sermon, this young man nodded in silent answer. He was “locked in.” If he moved or squirmed, I didn’t see it.

Second, he witnessed the love, care, and support of the church family during the invitation song. One of our new Christians responded, asking for prayers and expressing a desire to live a more faithful life. Joe not only had the preacher on one side and an elder on the other, but the little boy had to move down to make room for several men who came down front to show their love and support for Joe. This great young man watched the emotion, joy, and concern of a church obeying the command, “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (Jas. 5:16).

Third, he sat there and sang several songs after the response. Each time I looked, he was enthusiastically trying to sing even songs he probably did not know. He has an expressive face, and the prevailing emotions I could see–including when I led–appeared to be all positive and interested.

After services, he was in the multipurpose room (MPR) indulging in some ice cream and having as much fun as a little boy could hope to. He was visiting and playing, and he was eating. Then, he went home.

I did not get the chance to ask him if he enjoyed being at church last night, but I think I know the answer. Children don’t do the best job of pretending, if they do or don’t like something. He appeared to have enjoyed himself. But he did more than that. He served as a great example to me. Not only did he come to the worship, but he came to worship. As he gave, he also received. I’d like to think his experience last night will be something he never forgets, something that serves as a foundation for his spiritual future. His mom brought him last night. Pray for him, that as he grows up, he will develop a faith that brings him to worship and carries him through life (cf. 2 Tim. 1:5).

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me…” (Mat. 18:1-5).

Kevin praying for Joe, with our little fella on the front row (far left next to Bryce)
Light Of The World (Season 2, Episode 1): Hiram Kemp

Light Of The World (Season 2, Episode 1): Hiram Kemp

Debut Of SEASON TWO (Cutting Out Complaining by Hiram Kemp)
“Weak, Foolish, And Afraid” 

“Weak, Foolish, And Afraid” 

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

It’s hard to miss the unique tone of 2 Corinthians, a letter full of self-disclosure  and self-defense and written in such an intimate way. Paul’s apostleship has been questioned and his extensive work with the Corinthians undermined. But, he was willing to “spend and be spent” for them (12:15). A man who has given so much for the cause of Christ chooses not to boast, but to humble himself in an effort to persuade and encourage these brethren in their spiritual progress.

WEAKNESS (12:7-10)

Due to the “surpassing greatness of the revelations” (7) Paul had received (1-6), he was given a “thorn in the flesh.” It’s useless to speculate about what this specific “thorn” was–poor eyesight, physical pain from being stoned at Lystra, some unspecified temptation, etc. Perhaps it is better for us, not knowing exactly what it was, since many of us as Christians may have to wrestle a thorn in our own flesh. It’s interesting to note how Paul describes it: “humbling” (to keep me from exalting myself), “Satanic” (a messenger of Satan), “tormenting,” “persistent” (8), “perfecting” (9), and “empowering” (10). Is there some physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual struggle in your life that you might describe in some or all of these ways? Perhaps we’re quick to identify the negative aspects, but what about the potential positives that can come out of it? It can perfect and empower us to live a better Christian life and make us content with reverses suffered “for Christ’s sake” and say, with Paul, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (10). 

FOLLY (12:11-19)

Paul returns to a theme he has touched on several times throughout the letter (5:13; 11:16-19; 12:6). He resorted to defending his motives, position, decisions, and authority against the aforementioned charges. But, Paul points out that this was more for their “upbuilding” than for his own defense (19). He’s not some insecure preacher or missionary whose feelings have been hurt by some perceived slight; he’s fighting for the hearts and souls of relatively new Christians influenced by the culture and false teachers. He wants them to understand that neither he or his co-workers, like Titus, have taken advantage of them. They have loved and served the Corinthians, willing to bear insults, condescension, and rejection in order to help them be saved. As preaching is called “foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:21), those who preach and teach it must be willing to be thought fools for Christ. 

FEAR (12:20-21)

It’s hard to find a man more courageous than Paul. What did he fear? First, he feared failure. The time and the teaching he had done would be wasted, if they were given over to “strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances” (20). Read through the two letters Paul wrote to them and notice how he addresses all these matters. Second, he feared emotional trauma (21). His mourning over their past sins would be compounded if they had not repented. Neither of these fears was irrational. Have you ever invested a lot of time, energy, and emotion into someone only to see them teetering on the ledge of apostasy and unfaithfulness? 

God wants and needs faithful Christians who care about the church. He needs us to fully invest ourselves, to “spend and be spent” for others. The great news (and Paul not only understood this; He wrote about it) is that God gives strength for our weakness, wisdom for our folly, and courage for our fear. He will help pull us out of such figurative valleys as we hold onto His capable hands. Let us do our part and devote ourselves to one another. 

“PREACHERS ARE PEOPLE TOO” (2 Corinthians 10)

“PREACHERS ARE PEOPLE TOO” (2 Corinthians 10)

Tuesday’s Column: “Dale Mail” 
(As Dale’s wife, Janelle, is in the hospital, I am “pinch-hitting” for him)
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Neal Pollard

Of course, we know that preachers are people but sometimes some may have a picture that preachers have super-spiritual abilities when tempted or troubled or that preachers don’t face the same challenges everyone else does. As one of my dearest friends, a preacher, is in a severe health crisis as I type this, he wasn’t insulated from illness more than a non-preacher would be. His wife, children, & other family are experiencing what every family does in these moments.

Paul reverses focus from Corinth (chapters eight and nine) to himself in what we identify as chapter ten. His words serve as a good reminder, first for preachers themselves but also for others who view the preacher. What important truths does Paul reveal here?

PREACHERS WONDER HOW THEY ARE COMING ACROSS (1-2)

Paul sought to urge them with Christ’s meekness and gentleness, but he appears to wonder if that was how they perceived him (1). He was concerned about what tone he would have to take when he saw them, between having some unnamed critics and risking his relationship with the church as a whole (2). While some preachers appear to relish the rebuke and scold approach, they are a distinct minority. Yet, every preacher labors under a divine order to “not shrink from declaring…anything…profitable” (Acts 20:20) and “not shrink from declaring…the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). That includes some challenging subjects, and preachers want to be faithful to that while obeying Paul’s instructions to be kind rather than quarrelsome, correcting with gentleness (2 Tim. 2:24-25).

PREACHERS ARE AT WAR WITH THE DEVIL (3-6)

I know preachers who served in the military, and they no doubt have greater personal appreciation for Paul’s military metaphor. Our warfare is not against the flesh, but our weapons mighty before God (3-4). Part of our work is destructive (4-5) and aggressive (5-6). There is a readiness and activeness apart of this work (5-6). We are not at war with members or other preachers. Paul will say in verse eight that his God-given work was for building them up and not tearing them down (8). But, when we stand against the devil, we know that we may have to stand against those who are ignorant of his schemes (2:11) and led astray by his craftiness (11:3). Yet, we should never relish this part of our work!

PREACHERS WANT TO BE UNDERSTOOD & ACCEPTED (7-11)

Paul knew what his critics said about him. They attacked not only his “preaching style” (cf. 11:6) but even his appearance (10). But, Paul hoped his writing and his words would help these brethren see his heart and better understand where he was coming from and who he was trying to be. I think the vast majority of preachers want that same thing. Each of us has plenty of quirks and flaws, in style and even personality, that become crosses we bear. However, our confidence is that most brethren are so charitable and can see past those impediments (4:7) and allow God to work through our imperfections to his glory.

PREACHERS WILL BE JUDGED AGAINST WHAT IS RIGHT, NOT
AGAINST OTHER PREACHERS OR CHRISTIANS (12-18)

It is apparently an ancient practice for preachers to measure their own success by what others have accomplished. Who’s had more baptisms, speaking engagements, local church growth, debates, books and articles published, recognition, etc.? It sounds pretty petty when read in print, doesn’t it? How much does God care about that? 

Paul writes, “We are not so bold to class or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding” (12). “But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord (Jer. 9:24; he also quotes this in 1 Cor. 1:31). For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends” (17-18). Let that resonate and sink down into my heart. God is the only measuring stick that matters. Our consuming obsession must be with being good stewards of the opportunities He puts in our laps (13).

Most preachers do not enter preaching for financial gain, fame and glory, or as an outlet for some frustration. We love the church, love God, love the lost, and love His Word. But, it is easy for anyone to lose their way or forget their original intentions. After all, we have our own struggles in the flesh and deal with our own humanity (12:7; Rom. 7:14ff). Some of God’s people may need the reminder of 2 Corinthians 10, and even more preachers may need it. Thank God for His wisdom, who was “pleased…through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). 

Some of the great local preachers in and around southern Kentucky
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!”)

“BLESSED”

“BLESSED”

Neal Pollard

I’ve never known a day when I didn’t live in a “preacher’s home.” “Preacher’s homes” are very much like every other home–problems, inside jokes, traditions, hobbies and interests, sin, laughter–except the chosen profession of the father is to serve either full-time or part-time as a proclaimer of God’s Word. At times, the home I grew up in was made of figurative glass, meaning I was occasionally subjected to unfair favoritism and criticism.  Kathy, also a lifetime resident of a “preacher’s home,” knows that feeling, too. Then, we subjected our sons to the exact same thing!

Whenever we are asked about what it is like to live this unique life (and lifestyle), different words would be appropriate:

  • Challenging–There can be elevated expectations and unrealistic assumptions about the preacher’s personal life, marriage, parenting, and the like. What Shakespeare’s Jewish character says of his people in the “Merchant of Venice” applies: “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?” Life’s pressures and temptations visit our homes, too. 
  • Lonely–Occasionally, we feel alone and stand alone because of the message we preach. Usually, it’s not others who make us feel this way, but an innate part of the life.
  • Ordinary–Most preachers probably love to hear church members and those in the community say, “You’re just an ordinary person with an ordinary life.” To be genuine and real is, in my view, a worthy aim. See the opening paragraph.

But, please understand that the most fitting, usual words used to describe the life in preaching are positive, superlative words and phrases–“important,” “exciting,” “fulfilling,” “full,” “rewarding,” “humbling,” “meaningful,”and “uplifting.” Yesterday, we said “so long” to one of God’s greatest churches as we prepare to move to work with another one. I asked Kathy to describe a one-word assessment that best described how she felt in light of the generous words and acts from our spiritual family throughout the day. She used words like “Overwhelmed,” “grateful,” and “touched.” But then, scanning her brilliant mind as if to find that perfect summary word (as she usually does), she simply said, “Blessed.” 

We’ve been blessed by a lifetime of living the “preacher life.” Blessed by 27 years of full-time preaching. Blessed by 13 years of preaching at Bear Valley. Blessed by the opportunity to preach in this “next chapter” of life at Lehman Avenue. Blessed, as cracked pots (2 Cor. 4:7), to be used by the Master Potter. Far from a perfect life, it is certainly a blessed life. 

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Thank you, Bear Valley, for your many acts of kindness–yesterday and for the entirety of our time with you in Colorado. We love you and will miss you!

I Just Can’t Share Their Bitterness

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

PREACHER, DON’T BE DISCOURAGED

PREACHER, DON’T BE DISCOURAGED

Neal Pollard

Recently, a young woman present to hear me speak in Kentucky asked me if I was related to a “Neal Pollard” who preached in Missouri in the 1960s. She had just attended her father’s funeral, and in going through his things after his death she found his baptismal certificate. I was elated to hear these details. Her dad and his mother, her grandmother, were baptized on October 13, 1963, by a young Freed-Hardeman student. This young man who was baptized would go on to serve for many years as an elder in the Lord’s church. Later that night, I called my dad and found out that Charles Eddy was one of 15 people who was baptized when he preached his “tryout” sermon at Kewanee. He had only preached four times in his life and this was his only sermon at that point. It was on the judgment and entitled, “What Will The End Be?” He had no idea what had happened with any of these men and women he baptized when only 19 years old. That was 55 years ago.

I have seen my dad go through some trials as a gospel preacher. There have even been times when he has been mistreated, but he has faithfully preached the gospel for well over half a century. In that time, he has done countless Bible studies, counseled Christians and non-Christians over literally tens of thousands of hours, ministered to young and old, healthy and sick, preached “in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2) and even occasionally “endured hardship” while fulfilling his ministry (2 Tim. 4:5). He is a man of great faith and prayer, but I’ve seen him discouraged. He has wondered if his efforts mattered very much. That is often a side-effect of service.  But, I reveled to hear his excitement as we relived that memorable day and talked about that first work–of course, he was hired after having 15 baptisms in his “tryout” sermon! Dad also has done local work in Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia for those five-plus decades. Now that he’s retired, he still preaches every week for the church in Andrews, North Carolina. At 74-years-old, he’s still studying with and baptizing people and helping to build the faith of all different kinds of people. My dad has always been very evangelistic, but I don’t know how many have been baptized under the influence of his preaching. But, he’s also helped so many stay faithful and encouraged their growth and development. Occasionally, I still get to hear from them in person or through social media.

There are so many men through the years who have labored, like my dad, in anonymity–not considered “big names in the brotherhood.” Yet, many, many people will be in heaven because of their work. May every one, including but not limited to preachers, be encouraged in doing the Lord’s great work!  “But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good” (2 Th. 3:13).

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The first of many, many times my dad would fill out one of these. 

Paul’s Portrait Of God For Timothy

Paul’s Portrait Of God For Timothy

Neal Pollard

Devoting himself to a theme of godliness in writing his spiritual son, Timothy, Paul writes to encourage him to teach godliness to people who enjoy financial prosperity (1 Tim. 6:3-10, 17-19). Part of his instruction is to point rich Christians (the case can easily be made that American Christians qualify as this in nearly all instances and many preachers in foreign lands on U.S. support do, too, among their fellow natives) to where the truest treasures lay. Along with encouraging righteous behavior, Paul points to God. He gives life to all things (13). Paul also points to Christ Jesus, who is faithful (14) and who is coming again (14) to give “life indeed” in “the future” (19). Certainly, as Christ is divine, this picture describes Him, though it is obvious this is a portrait of God. He depicts God as:

  • Privileged—“Blessed” (15)
  • Particular—“Only” (15); “Alone” (16)
  • Predominant—“Sovereign” (15)
  • Preeminent—“King of kings and Lord of lords” (15); “Whom no man has seen or can see” (16)
  • Possessor—“Possesses immortality” (16)
  • Phenomenal—“Dwells in unapproachable light” (16)
  • Praiseworthy—“To Him be honor and eternal dominion!” (16)

Why would Paul remind a preacher (or have a preacher remind Christians) about who God is? As we see in the second letter to this young man, motivation is vital! What keeps me serving God when life is difficult? When the world around me ignores Him, mocks Him, rebels against Him, blasphemes Him, and dismisses Him, I need to serve and glorify Him. What will help me do that? I need to see Him for what He truly is! So Paul pulls out a series of superlatives to drive home the point, “How great is our God!” 

In a world full of ungodliness, of “worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’” (20), we must be on “guard.” Nothing clarifies the task better than intently focusing on the nature of God. He provides (1:4), He is (1:17), He saves (2:4; 4:10), He is one (2:5), He lives and rules (3:15;4:10), He created (4:3-4), and He sees (5:21). What motivation!

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