Monthly Archives: March 2014

Ministry in the Trenches

In my previous pastorates, I have been blessed to minister to people from all walks of life. While most of our churches are composed of people that are similar in race, background, lifestyle, etc., there is a world full of people that do not look like the average church member. These individuals are usually characterized by their problems, such as an addiction, a criminal history, broken relationships, and/or any other possibilities. Most churches have not been successful in reaching such individuals, largely due to the fact that they are not trying to reach them.

It has been my experience that churches will give anyone a chance once they come to church. But what about those that do not believe they will be welcome in a church or are afraid that someone will recognize their name from the arrest report in the local paper? Just as war is won by what happens in the trenches, Christians must engage in ministry in the trenches, where it is dirty and things are not always in the correct order.

As you minister in the trenches, here are some things that I have learned:

First, call people to surrender to Christ. People in the trenches often want change but they do not know how. They have tried rehabs, counseling, 12-step programs (all of which have an important role), but the first step must be to surrender their life to the lordship of Christ. If we offer other suggestions, we are only dealing with symptoms, not the real disease.

Second, prepare to get messy. You will see things in the trenches that are not accepted. There will be words said that have no place coming out of any mouth. Some of what you say will not be accepted. You might be treated harshly. It comes with the territory, but do not let the mess keep you from experiencing the rewards.

Yes, there will be rewards. There will be victories; lives will be changed. Battles will be won. People will overcome sins that have marked their family for years. Relationships will be restored. People will place their trust in Christ and experience the promise of Heaven. When you minister in the trenches, you store up treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:20). I have found ministry in the trenches to be some of the most fulfilling ministry I have ever experienced.

Last, do not give up on the ministry or an individual. The alcoholic may relapse and disappoint you. A relationship you helped mend might have more difficulty. You will invest in people and the return may not be sudden. Do not let the disappointments cause you to give up on an individual or even give up on ministry in the trenches completely.

Ministry opportunities in the trenches surround us. Many churches are located on high spot in the trench and the people walk through the trenches to get to church but never minister to those around them. It is time to get dirty.

I Will be There!

The last week has been full of every possible emotion as my family and I began our transition from Hampton to Yazoo City. We were blessed by a great reception at Hampton on Sunday night and the people of Yazoo City have been so gracious to us. I am ready to worship with them Sunday morning for the first time as their pastor!

While it was difficult to make this move due to the relationships in Hampton, it has been easy on the other hand because we knew we were walking in obedience to the Lord.

The hardest part of this process is moving our children. This is the first time for them and we did not know how it would go, but we never guessed that the original reaction from Addison would be as difficult as it was. Her natural reaction in our seven-year-old mind was “I won’t have my friends” and other things along those lines. In the midst of that conversation, of which Jennifer had to direct since I was in no emotional shape to do so, Whitley looks at Addison and says, “It is ok, Addison, I will be there!”

Whitley’s assertion has been on my mind a lot lately as we face so many unknowns. I can sense the Lord saying, “It is ok, Clint, I will be there.” As I have stressed over how the kids will adjust, Jennifer taking the Mississippi Pharmacy Law test, getting the house bought and then painted, learning new people, getting adjusted at the church, and so many other things, the Lord reminds me that He is Immanuel, “God with Us.”  In His sovereignty and power, He has handled each of the situations that brought me stress, and I have found His grace to be sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).

If you find yourself struggling with many unknowns, I pray you are comforted with the reality that the Lord will be there!

Priorities

This is a big week for Hampton as it prepares to host the AA State Basketball Tournament and show off its fine facilities. The weather in the northern half of the state has already forced the tournament to be postponed one day. The semi-finals were originally scheduled for Saturday, with the finals for every classification the following weekend. With the postponement of the tournament by one game, the semi-finals are now scheduled to be held on Sunday.

I have never been a fan of the Arkansas Activities Association, as I do not believe their main concern is the students. That is beside the point. It has been a long-standing rule of the AAA that a school cannot schedule any games on Sunday. A friend of mine rescheduled a rained out game for a Sunday several years ago, resulting in his school being placed on probation. The AAA penalized the school until they needed to adjust it for their benefit.

Within the past two years the state baseball tournament experienced record rainfall and had to be pushed back, and games were played on Sunday. A cousin of mine, who is a successful high school football coach and athletic director, called me and asked me to write a letter of compliant to the AAA about this decision. He called several other pastors and we all wrote a letter- but never received a reply.

The AAA’s decision to play on Sunday is a reflection of our society and its priorities. Sunday afternoons have been a popular time for teams to practice on a regular basis over the past few years (not to mention Wednesday when it interferes with church). The weather is warming up, which means that many families will choose to participate in other forms of recreation on Sundays, while some will choose to lay in the bed as long as possible, regardless of the weather.

I regularly hear people complain about being busy, but we have brought it on ourselves. We have neglected the Sabbath, the day the Lord set aside for rest. You can choose to debate about whether it should be Saturday or Sunday, but you cannot debate the fact that God created us as people who need rest; therefore, His original design was for us to have a day of rest.

I regularly see parents let their children and their children’s schedule and demands rule their life. If the kids want to do something or do not want to do something, then that is what mom and dad do, whether they want to or not. It does not matter that practice is held on Sunday afternoon that will keep you from church, or if there is a tournament that keeps you from church on Sunday, or if an activity interferes with services on Wednesday night. “There is always the next service,” we think.

I do not want my children to grow up thinking that gathering for worship is an option that is reserved for when it is convenient or when there is nothing else to do. Parents are responsible for their children’s spiritual education and foundation. I was blessed to grow up in a home where there was never a discussion on Saturday night or Sunday morning about whether or not we were going to church. Guess what? I do not have hard feelings about that. It has not caused me to seek professional help; rather, it established a way of life that I believe I would keep even if I were not a pastor.
 
My friend John Yates has shared that when he was 10 years old, his baseball team had practice on Sunday afternoon. His dad told him that he would not attend, then called the coach and told him that his starting third baseman would not be at practice. By the coach’s rule, John would have to miss the next game, which he did. He said that he was not very happy about it while he sat on the bench, but many years later, he treasures the fact that his dad took a stand and set an example for him about priorities.
 
What priorities are you setting for your children? God expects, and your children deserve, for the Lord and His work to be the top of your priorities.