Monthly Archives: April 2014

Washing Dirty Feet

One of my favorite passages in Scripture is found in John 13, where Jesus gathers with His disciples to observe the Passover on the night before His betrayal and crucifixion. Jesus knew what the next day held, but He used this opportunity to serve the disciples, as well as teach them the importance of serving others.

When guests entered your home, it was custom for the host to make someone washed the guests’ feet. Since it was the most demeaning task of the day, it was done by the lowest of slaves. Jesus had instructed Peter and John to prepare the meal, which they did. The table was set, and I am sure that these two close followers of Jesus thought that Jesus made sure someone was present to wash the feet of the guests. Since this was not done when they entered, I am sure that by the time they reclined at the table that the disciples were starting to feel uncomfortable. “Somebody ought to at least wash Jesus’ feet,” maybe one thought. “Maybe if I wait, someone else will do it.”

Jesus got up from the meal, removed his outer clothing, wrapped a towel around His waist, poured water into a basin, and started to wash the disciples’ feet. The fact that no one spoke up during these preparations is proof of the pride that was in the room that night. The disciples would later argue about who was the greatest in the kingdom, then Peter would make his declaration (which the others agreed) that he would follow Jesus to death. Each of the men gathered in the upper room that evening were so full of themselves that serving others was far from their minds.

Fast forward 2,000 years and the upper room is a picture of the local church. We gather and celebrate our accomplishments but refuse to serve. We come together for our Bible studies and wait for someone to meet our needs. We hear of needs within and outside of the church, only to think “somebody besides me can do that.” Pastors like to fuss about this, but what do we expect when we sit in an office focused on a computer screen, rather than getting outside the church and meeting needs?

I will be forever grateful to Dr. Ken Gore, Chair of the Department of Christian Ministries at Williams Baptist College, for assigning his Supervised Ministry class the Bible study Jesus on Leadership. Supervised Ministry is the final class for all students in the Department of Christian Ministries, and it was during this class that I was called to my first pastorate. Prior to this call, I completed Jesus on Leadership, and it changed the way I ministered and has probably kept me from being fired. Jesus on Leadership focused upon the servanthood of Jesus, most notably the account about which I am writing. I was a student athletic trainer in high school and college and had wrapped many ankles during that time, so I knew that feet were nasty! Yet, Jesus calls us to such service, meeting the needs around us, regardless of the level of attraction.

Prior to completing Jesus on Leadership, I allowed my Type-A personality to drive my ministry. I believed that I would lead by telling people what to do, and I was ignorant enough to think they would respond to my “leadership.” It worked in youth ministry because teenagers were accustomed to being told what to do, but I realize now that without this revelation about servant leadership, I would never survive ministry.

God’s children are called to serve. I think that one of the reasons service is reduced is due to parents. Rather than teaching our children to serve, we give them all that they want. If parents do not model and teach servanthood to their children, we will continue to produce generations that focus on their own needs and neglect the needs of others. While not all our children will be ministers, some will be deacons, others will be Sunday School teachers, and still others will faithfully serve behind the scenes without any title or recognition. Parents can impact future generations and the health of the Church by modeling and teaching their children to serve.

As we celebrated Easter this past weekend, I pray that it reminded us that Jesus served by leaving the comfort of Heaven to face the cruelty of the Cross. Throughout His ministry, including some of the final hours before His death, Jesus taught that His followers were to serve, where to wash feet.

May the Lord open our eyes to dirty feet and give us a heart to wash them.

Growing Up too Fast?

During my morning scroll through Facebook, I noticed an article that someone had shared that addressed why our daughters are going from princesses to promiscuity. I encourage you to read the article, and the link at the bottom that addresses the same issue in our sons. The author made a statement that jumped out to me and has remained on my mind all day: “We need to stop putting our children in adult situations and expecting them to make wise, God-honoring decisions.”

Much has been made about children being forced to grow up too fast. Many place this blame on the education system, as children are learning things earlier than their parents- and at a faster rate. There is plenty of blame to go around, but the blame must start at home. While are children may be growing up too fast, are dad and mom stressing their spiritual growth? Are dad and mom growing in their walk with the Lord?

Two instances stand out in my mind over the last several years. I think of the father who was adamant that his daughter was going to live a life of purity. He had talked to her about the issue in her pre-teen years and had the attitude that many dad’s have, “I will kill you and him!” As she became a teenager, he had several of his rings made into a purity ring for the girl, took her on a date, and gave her the ring and a challenge, and bragged at church about the evening. Within a couple of years, the father had his second (at least) affair, which destroyed the girl and the basis for the ring and her commitment. She soon became sexually active.

I also think of the teenager who attended church with her mother, yet she and her mother both had a sexual relationship with an older teenager.

Those examples may be extreme, but understand: our parenting has long-lasting effects on our children. I have seen multiple times that a child’s relationship with their parents, especially their father, has a significant influence on how they perceive God. For perhaps the first time in church history, many of those inclined toward belief–our own children–are actively rejecting or passively abandoning the faith. I am convinced that the problem is not what is happening at church but what desperately needs to happen at home.

No matter how creatively we proclaim God’s Word to children at church, they are more likely to believe their experience of the faith at home. That is why when the Youth Minister is pulling his hair out to determine why he cannot get the teenagers to attend faithfully and serve regularly, the Pastor is in his office without any hair over the same concerns with their parents.

While there are some things mentioned it the article that can be done to keep our children from growing up too fast, we need to be concerned about their spiritual growth. That same concern should exist for our own spiritual growth because we cannot lead our children where we have not been.

Let me offset the stories above with a positive example. There was a family in the church that did not attend faithfully. I visited with them regularly due to their lack of attendance, and they always had a good excuse. Most of the excuses, though, had to do with hunting season or the fish biting. I began to see some growth in the parents, which was confirmed one morning when the mother was asking about some youth activities and mentioned that the son did not want to participate because he would rather be hunting. Then, she said, “We have had it all wrong and we are making changes in our family.” They did make changes in their priorities and I watched this teenager develop a strong faith. That is what it is all about!

Tiger Woods became a great golfer because he had a highly intentional dad who taught him the disciples of golf at an early age. In a similar manner, we must be intentional about the spiritual growth of our children. It is one area where they cannot grow up too fast.

Planting, Watering, Harvesting

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6).

I had the privilege this past Sunday of participating in my first baptism at Yazoo City. A young girl was brought to church, along with her two brothers, by her neighbor. All three of the children have made professions of faith, and I had the privilege of talking to the girl before church and baptizing her at the end of our service, as she and her family have moved to Alabama and it was the last time she would attend church here. One lady brought her to church, others taught her and shared with her, she professed Christ, and I got to be part of it!

After I got home, I scrolled through Facebook, where I often see other pastors celebrate what happened in their worship service each Sunday, as well as church members that post about the service. I noticed a post from someone in the church at Hampton about an individual who was visited during FAITH Evangelism making a public profession. Curiosity grabbed me quickly, so I sent a text to find out a name. It turned out to be a teenager that I had visited numerous times, as well as other members of his family, who was visited the last Tuesday night I was there and has attended church faithfully since then. I immediately thought to myself, “I wish he would have made that decision when I was there,” but it was not in the sense that I wished he was living for Christ earlier. Selfishly, I wanted to be part of what occurred that morning. Then, the Lord reminded me of the verse above and the fact that I was able to participate in a similar experience just an hour before, although I had done none of the work.

The church at Corinth was the picture of dysfunction with several factions. Some people committed to follow Paul, other Apollos, and the really spiritual committed to Christ. Paul points out that he and Apollos were only servants fulfilling the tasks the Lord assigned. One would plant the seed of the Gospel, the other would water, but it was the Lord who brought the harvest.

The key is that each of us have a role to play in the harvest. My years of living in the middle of rice fields in Northeast Arkansas taught me the importance of every step in the process: preparing, planting, watering, fertilizing, nurturing, harvesting. None could be skipped.

Never think that your role in the spiritual harvest process is not important. You might not get to participate in the harvest, but remember, it is not about you! Look for opportunities to plant a seed as you share the Gospel with a friend or meet a physical need of a neighbor. Pay attention to the seeds that need a little water and nurturing, where you get to build upon the work someone did to plant the seed. Then watch the Lord bring the harvest.