Month: September 2013

Liberty Institute asks Fox Sports to reinstate Craig James

Former NFL running back and ESPN commentator Craig James of Celina, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2012, is working with Plano-based Liberty Institute in asking Fox Sports to reconsider his firing after the network said James’ views on homosexuality were incompatible with its workplace environment.

In an email to Liberty Institute supporters, President and CEO Kelly Shackelford said Liberty is “demanding that they reinstate Craig to his position as on-air college football analyst and stop discriminating against him. View the Demand Letter here.

“We need your help,” the letter continues. “Please call Dan Bell, Vice President of Communications for Fox Sports at 310-369-7771, or send him an email at Tell him to restore religious liberty and return Craig James back to the airwaves. 

“Craig’s love and respect for all people have made him a model colleague who works well with people of various perspectives,” the letter says. “He only asks for the same tolerance he shows others.”

James worked the first weekend of the college football season for Fox without a permanent contract. The following Monday he was fired when a video of a Republican primary debate surfaced with Craig stating, “People choose to be gay … I think it’s a choice. I do. Same-sex marriage, if someone chooses to do that, that’s done. And God’s going to judge each one of us in this room for our actions. And in that case right there, they’re going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions.”

After James was fired, a Fox spokesman told the Dallas Morning News, “We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here.”

James starred alongside another famous running back, Eric Dickerson, at Southern Methodist University in the famed “Pony Express” of the early 1980s.

After retiring from football in 1988, James worked on SMU football radio broadcasts and later for ABC television and then CBS television before rejoining ABC/ESPN in 1998, a stint that lasted until his announced run for the Senate in 2011.

James told “I have worked in broadcasting for twenty-four years and have always treated my colleagues with respect and dignity regardless of their background or personal beliefs. I believe it is essential in our business to maintain professional relationships with people from a diverse background and have tolerance for those of different beliefs. I have never discussed my faith while broadcasting and it has never been an issue until now.”



Disaster relief efforts aid flooded El Paso and Estes Park, Colo.

EL PASO—Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief ministry continues in El Paso after storms caused mass flooding on Sept. 11 and 12. SBTC DR efforts are concentrated in the Socorro community, 15 miles southeast of El Paso. Meanwhile, another DR team began work near Estes Park, Colo., aiding flood victims there. 

In El Paso, SBTC DR personnel were repairing and cleaning about 25 homes with more to be added as assessments continued, said Scottie Stice, who was serving as the incident management team leader. Stice noted that the SBTC group is working alongside Texas Baptist Men volunteers. 

DR workers have encountered severe and unusual damage. Homes in the Socorro community are literally filled with sand. 

“Flash flooding caused water to run off the desert toward the Rio Grande. Homes have three or four feet of sand in them as well as water damage,” Stice said. 

“I have never seen anything like it. The dirt and sand have washed up against the houses. It’s pure sand, like walking on the beach,” said Wayne Barber, SBTC DR chaplain who arrived Sept. 20. 

As DR teams rotated in and out on the weekend, SBTC efforts centered on clearing mud and sand away from houses to allow owners access to their properties. 

Chaplains continue to accompany the clean-up teams on their jobs. 

“Everything is set to have a good ministry here,” said SBTC DR chaplain Bob Sapp, who was among the first wave of volunteers. Efforts involve going house to house to check on victims and offer assistance and prayer. 

Chuy Avila, SBTC church planting missionary based in El Paso, is helping follow up on contacts, Sapp said. 

At least four people have trusted Christ, DR volunteers reported. 

Wayne Barber, the DR chaplain, with his wife Ann Barber approached a family resting in the yard of their sand-filled home on Sept. 22. An SBTC skid-steer team had cleared a path to the home, enabling the residents to begin removing furniture. 

“The family was muddy and tired, grateful for a rest,” Barber said. 

Barber, kneeling beside a teenage boy sitting in the yard, began sharing the gospel. The younger man did not speak English, but the Lord provided an unexpected interpreter. 

“An older lady who lived in the house, I think she was the boy’s grandmother, translated what I was saying. It was so neat,” Barber said. 

When the boy asked through the interpreter why Barber was kneeling, the chaplain replied, “So I can look you in the eye. I don’t want to look over you. I want you to realize that I love you and I want you to see God’s love in my eyes.” 

Moments later, three members of the family—a teenager, a younger boy and a young mother—all accepted Christ while the grandmother looked on with joy. 

“We gave them Bibles and encouraged them to go to church,” Barber explained. “The first thing we try to emphasize to anybody is that we are not teaching church, we are not there about church. We are there about Jesus crucified.”  

SBTC DR volunteers are staying at Cielo Vista Church in El Paso, Stice said. 

“The people are really receptive to us coming in and helping them. The unit directors are doing a good job. El Paso Baptist churches are doing a great job of hosting us. We are in constant contact with the El Paso Baptist Association and Texas Baptist Men,” Stice said. 

DR efforts in El Paso will likely continue through late September, Stice said.


In Colorado, SBTC volunteers began work on Sept. 23 near Estes Park, Colo. Crews specializing in cleanup and recovery (mud-out), chaplaincy, operations/assessments, shower/laundry and feeding are serving victims of flooding there, said Jim Richardson, SBTC DR director. 


Worship that looks like heaven

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” —Revelation 7:9-10

The privilege of serving as president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has been a great highlight of my life and ministry. Working and serving the churches of this convention has been a joy. As the time approaches for my time of service to end, please allow me the opportunity of extending a heartfelt thanks for the wonderful support of the hardworking SBTC staff, all volunteer committees, Executive Board members and churches. Your words of encouragement the last two years have contributed to making this time of service a great experience.

It was also a privilege and honor to preach and teach in congregations where you are entrusted with the care of Christian souls. These times of multi-cultural and interracial worship were a reminder of what worship services will resemble for all eternity in heaven. Each time we shared in worship, we broke down walls that racially and culturally segregate us on Sunday mornings. I know God was pleased and the devil was horrified. As a convention, we are Christians from multiple ethnic backgrounds. We have a great deal of commonality in Christ, and yet we are so different in our ethnic styles of worship. The SBTC, as recent as 2011, was composed of the following ethnic churches: 1,572 Anglo, 212 African American/Black, 166 Hispanic, 75 Korean, 37 Other, 14 Chinese, seven Asian/Other, seven Vietnamese, five Burmese, four Filipino, three Asian-Indian, three Indonesian, two Laotian, two Nepali, two Cambodian, one Thai, one Brazilian, one Japanese and one Native American. The enormity of diversity in this convention is a wonderful sign of God’s approval. When we see the diversity of churches from all nations and kindred of peoples, one could say that we represent what heaven will look like for eternity. 

I believe the coming together of all people for worship is included in what Christ intended when he asked us to pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). While we are blessed by our diversity, we must be concerned if we have no personal relationships among the diversity of our pastors and churches. The reality is we don’t know each other. The SBTC has been given a great opportunity to show the rest of Christendom and the world what it truly means to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) by developing a time for multi-ethnic congregational worship services. Our SBTC Executive Committee has asked a racially diverse group of pastors and lay people from various churches to serve on a committee called the Look Like Heaven Committee. This committee is charged with the task of establishing a movement where SBTC pastors and churches across the state of Texas will be encouraged to participate in worship services with one or more churches from different ethnic backgrounds.

If postmodern Christianity is to overcome human divisions, it will involve struggling with the tough issues of living in an imperfect world. We must start with the command of Christ to love our neighbors. This includes loving fellow pastors and churches that are different from ourselves—ultimately this will take a tremendous effort and sacrifice by all pastors and churches if we are going to develop worship relationships together. The call for worship that looks like heaven may mean reaching out to those unfamiliar to us, and/or challenging contrasting practices or attitudes of the world that have invaded Christianity and keeps us divided. As Christians, we are often protective of our comfort zone and find it difficult to leave the conveniences of our places of worship. When Jesus taught the disciples to pray in Matthew 6:10 “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” this instruction is applicable for Christians to pray and step outside of our comfort zones into the kingdom of God. This may mean developing personal relationships across boundaries of race or culture. Christian theology has long valued racial and cultural differences since the beginning. However, Christians haven’t always followed through on the practice, as we can see today. Living in our neighborhoods, working on our jobs, and worshiping in multicultural environments may make us uncomfortable at first, if we are not accustomed to practicing this.

Author George Yancey reminds us that “Christians are also members of the Church, the multicultural, multiethnic, body of Christ. As Christians we must also learn to see our primary identity as Christians. When we meet other Christians, we must see them as brothers and sisters in the same family. This belonging to a new community is our eternal identity. Our oneness with other Christians is deeper than the identities that divide us on earth, such as ethnicity (Jew or Gentile), class (slave or free), and gender (male or female), which are not eternal. In the church, at least, Christians should manifest this eternal reality, and not be captive to the world around them. And all this must be modeled by those who are mature in faith. But Christians must do more than tear down the walls that divide people so deeply. We need to celebrate our oneness and build relationships of unity and love.”

What a divine opportunity we have as SBTC churches to start a trend of worship services that look like heaven. As we build unity and oneness among our churches and establish it on earth as it is in heaven—we look forward to the day when “a great multitude, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” We should be reminded that our worship on earth is a rehearsal for our eternal heavenly worship. We will stand among every nation of people, in all the splendor of God’s glory, and give worship to the Lamb of God.

San Antonio nondiscrimination law could prevent SBC, SBTC from meeting in city facilities

SAN ANTONIO—A new San Antonio nondiscrimination ordinance likely will prevent the Southern Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention from holding annual meetings in the city’s convention facilities because the law requires all city contracts to include a statement that the contracting party will not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity, said an attorney who represents both conventions.

“The likelihood is that if there is any ambiguity in the minds of the conventions as to what it is they’re agreeing to, that city will simply be bypassed. Or at least the city-owned facilities will be bypassed,” James Guenther, general counsel for the SBC and SBTC, told the TEXAN.

The ordinance, passed Sept. 5 by an 8-3 vote of the City Council, also allows city officials to be removed from office if they discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and forbids businesses in the city, with few exceptions, from discriminating based on their opposition to homosexuality. An earlier draft of the ordinance that would have made it illegal to demonstrate “bias by word or deed” was removed in the final version in favor of the term “discrimination.”

Religious organizations, according to the text of the law, would be exempt from the law’s hiring requirements.

The SBC last met in San Antonio in 2007 in a city-owned convention hall. The SBTC met in San Antonio last year, but at Castle Hills First Baptist Church.

It’s not clear how the new ordinance would apply to a convention leasing the city’s facilities, Guenther said. One possible interpretation is that no official statement of the convention would be allowed to denounce homosexuality. Another interpretation is that the convention would only be barred from denying seating to homosexual messengers.

Either interpretation is problematic, Guenther said. Neither SBC nor SBTC governing documents specifically exclude homosexuals from being messengers, he said, but they forbid churches that affirm homosexuality from sending messengers.

The SBTC constitution, article IV, states, “The SBTC will not consider for affiliation or continued affiliation any church that has taken action affirming, approving, or endorsing the practice of homosexuality. Such actions include but are not limited to the licensure or ordination of homosexuals, marriage or blessing of homosexual relationships, and endorsing homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.” The document only allows affiliated churches to send messengers to annual meetings.

The SBC constitution, article III, states, “The Convention shall consist of messengers who are members of missionary Baptist churches cooperating with the Convention.” It goes on to specify, “Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.”

Whether either convention “discriminates” against homosexuals is a “nuanced” and complicated issue, Guenther said.

“If someone walks in off the street and is not a messenger but is known to be homosexual somehow, he’s still welcome (at an annual meeting),” he said. “Obviously if he misconducts himself, then he’s not welcome. But we do not, to my knowledge, bar the presence of persons who are homosexual per se in the meeting.”

But “if a church sent a person as a messenger and that person was known to be one who himself was homosexual or one who championed homosexual causes, that would raise the question of whether the church is in friendly cooperation. And if the church is deemed to be not in friendly cooperation, as evidenced by the church’s selection of that messenger, then the convention could act to deny the seating of that messenger,” Guenther said.

Other cities have nondiscrimination ordinances, but neither the SBC nor SBTC has been forced to sign a contract for an annual meeting promising not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, Guenther said, adding that the San Antonio ordinance is particularly problematic.

“When one reads the San Antonio ordinance, I think one would conclude that the convention commission, or whoever operates the convention center that a convention wants to lease, would have no authority to execute a contract unless it contained this provision,” he said.

The SBC and SBTC are “very sensitive” to the development of nondiscrimination ordinances and will “take care on the first occasion” that a contract is presented barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, Guenther said.

“We have discussed this development with both conventions, and those officers who make convention arrangements are sensitive to them,” he said. “We’ll simply have to wait and see how these ordinances get interpreted.”

Multiple groups have announced plans to file legal challenges to the ordinance, and efforts are underway to recall Councilman Diego Bernal, the measure’s author, and Mayor Julian Castro, who supported it. Elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, have raised concerns as well.

Under the law, wedding-related businesses, such as photography studios and caterers, could be targeted for legal action if they refuse to participate in homosexual commitment ceremonies, for example, said Jonathan Saenz, an attorney with the conservative Texas Values. Printing businesses could also be cited if they refuse to print literature or articles of clothing for gay pride events.

“Primarily, you’re going to see small businesses targeted,” Saenz said. “They don’t have the type of support or financial ability to withstand any type of attack or challenge on these types of issues.”

Businesses that deal with the city government must include in their city contracts a statement that they do not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Violation of the law by businesses or property owners is a Class C misdemeanor.

“People that want to advocate [the homosexual] lifestyle and silence the other side from opposing it” plan to use the ordinance “as a weapon to make people be quiet and force them to either forego their religious beliefs and essentially support the homosexual lifestyle or go out of business,” Saenz told the TEXAN.

Legal challenges could be triggered if the ordinance is enforced against a business or city official. A challenge could also precede any alleged violations if a lawsuit claims the law violates free speech and freedom of religion, Saenz said.

City officials received 11,000 opposition emails in the weeks leading up to the vote, and five City Council meetings on the ordinance drew hundreds of residents who expressed their opposition. In an Aug. 28 meeting, city officials appeared confused about the measure’s legal consequences, as the city attorney struggled to answer questions and expressed concerns that he was embarrassing himself.

In addition to recall efforts, Saenz said the measure’s supporters could face challenges in the next election and may have strained their credibility with San Antonio residents.

The ordinance prohibits any “appointed official or member of a board or commission” from engaging “in discrimination against any person, group of persons or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age or disability, while acting in their official capacity, while in such public position.” The council voted separately on adding “veteran status,” with that language gaining approval 9-2.

“Violation of this standard shall be considered malfeasance in office” and the City Council is “authorized to take action as provided by law to remove the offending person from office.”

Last-minute amendments clarified that the measure does not require businesses to allow transgendered persons to use restrooms or locker rooms intended for people of the opposite sex—a change that angered some of the ordinance’s supporters.

Several previous amendments attempted to calm the swell of opposition. Thanks to one amendment, a “religious corporation, association, society or educational institution” may limit employment to members of the same religion. Another amendment added the qualifier, “Nothing herein shall be construed as requiring any person or organization to support or advocate any particular lifestyle or religious view or advance any particular message or idea.”


The right Man on our side

Is anyone else dizzy or disoriented? The last six months of cultural developments have come across the plate with the heat of a Nolan Ryan fastball. Step outside the batter’s box and get your bearings if need be. We’ll all understand.

In fact, just since June when the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the changes have seemed to accelerate. Without DOMA, chaos is coming, sooner or later, to every state where the federal government does business. Emboldened, homosexual activists and their enablers are on a cultural blitzkrieg.

There are other problems we could get ulcers over. Our economic system is on borrowed time, nearing $17 billion in federal debt, a currency that is increasingly weak and a looming federal healthcare law that looks from here like an iceberg 20 feet from the bow. Then there’s the Syrian problem, which is potentially cataclysmic.

Worst of all and most fundamentally, our homes, and by extension, our churches, are struggling too. Researchers tell us about the rise of the “nones.” We hear that Christian parents are not giving children a sufficient biblical worldview that is “owned” by the kids when they leave home. One speaker I heard recently said the most looming challenge for the church is a fading belief in the exclusivity of Christ among the young.

Depressed yet?

If Christian believers were to get discouraged right about now, who would blame them? Far as the eye can see, things are not friendly toward the things of God. But our walk is by faith, not by sight. And remember, we are citizens of two kingdoms, the current one being temporal, even vaporous, the Word tells us.

It would be easy to hold grudges, to put up our dukes for a cultural fistfight. Certainly, we contend for truth and do well where we can. That involves cultural and political engagement in a fashion that does justice and loves mercy. We are, after all, our brothers’ keepers. But winning the culture war is not the aim of the church. Winning souls is. The two endeavors may aid each other at times, but they are not equally important.

As Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore said in his inauguration sermon, we cannot be reaching back for Mayberry, as if we could. If we ever were a moral majority, we aren’t now. The kingdom of God is “not made up of the moral. The kingdom of God is made up of the crucified,” Moore reminded his audience.

We have nothing to say to a haughty and rebellious culture if our own lives are rotten, if our marriages are fleshy, if our pulpits lack a prophetic voice—in short, if we are not living crucified lives.

If the sky is falling, we may be the cause of it. But if the sky does fall, be of good cheer, Jesus said. He’s overcome all of it. He’s our Mighty Fortress and Strong Tower.

I like how Martin Luther said it, translated to English, of course: “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same, And He must win the battle.”

This is no time to fear. Nor is it a time to retreat from the mission of the gospel. We rest under a Mighty Fortress in the temporal with the expectant joy of a new home to come. We grieve for those who have no such hope and bring along as many as will come into our shelter. We have a rescue mission.

Jesus was clear at the end of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:20 that he is with us always, “even to the end of the age.” There is no depth or height and no power able to separate us from his loving grasp (Romans 8:38 and John 10:28-30). David found strength in the God of Israel while breathlessly on the run from oppressors. Paul was tested and perplexed but not defeated. Stephen in his martyrdom uttered God’s words and glowed with God’s glory.

So rest easy and stay on mission. The Creator of the cosmos has got this.

Texas Southern Baptists and immigration reform

I agree with the efforts of the Evangelical Immigration Table ( to encourage bipartisan action on immigration reform. The EIT has lined out six principles that I take to be non-negotiables in whatever legislation may be put forth. These principles include respect for the God-given dignity of every person, the unity of the immediate family, the rule of law, secure national borders and fairness to taxpayers. This effort of the National Association of Evangelicals has drawn a wide selection of supporters and has invested close to $1 million in targeted congressional districts around the country.

A survey of SBTC and SBC resolutions in 2006 and 2011 would seem to indicate that Southern Baptists broadly agree with the six principles of the EIT. Our resolutions specifically hit all but two of the six and by implication hit the second and last principles. In fact, this is one of those rare places where we agree with a majority of our fellow citizens.

Here’s what is puzzling. The EIT is spending big bucks in Texas and other states partly because, a) they think this will be a difficult push in the U.S. House of Representatives, and b) conservatives, even religious conservatives, are the biggest obstacle to passage of any realistic reform. To this I answer:

This need not be a conservative/liberal issue. Between the extremes of “no border regulation” and “bus millions home” is a huge number of people who would like to support a sane immigration policy that the U.S. government is committed to implement and enforce. The fact that some liberals have signed on to the EIT plan doesn’t mean conservatives should run; these liberals have affirmed the priority of border and security and the rule of law. That’s good news.

Our nation should be ashamed of having done so little and having done it so inconsistently over the past decades. Doing nothing, which is the actual alternative to embracing the EIT’s six principles, is self-destructive and cruel. It also means that many things will get worse for all who live in our country.

If politics in our country are so polarized that the majority cannot influence their elected representatives then conservative Christians must disengage (at least on this issue) from those who cannot see the negative impact of the status quo in clear enough light to support something better, even if they must compromise.

Our Southern Baptist Convention resolution from 2011 even goes further than the EIT principles explicitly go. Our resolution, while disavowing amnesty, does endorse “a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures.” Though this is implied in the EIT principles and should be understood as a necessary part of any true reform, Southern Baptists, the conservative wing of evangelicalism, saw the necessity of reform that will deal compassionately with those who are already deeply rooted in our society. I recognize that our resolutions only represent the thousands who attend a particular annual meeting but these thousands are a high concentration of denominational leaders. It’s not reasonable to suggest that they do not largely represent the opinions of our millions of Southern Baptists.

Can we not see a way forward in these principles our national and state conventions have generally endorsed? I think it is possible if we can avoid falling into the abyss of partisan politics. Here’s what that might look like.

Let’s try to know what we’re talking about: Harsh as that sounds, I’ve had more than one conversation on this issue with those who have not read the article they are criticizing. As I walked these friends through the actual column or article, their opposition faded a bit. Of course that does not mean that all who disagree with me on reform are ignorant, but the fact is we do often get excited about things before we know the details.

Consider who we are talking about: I don’t favor our cultural trend of basing every argument on sentiment but our neighbors are in fact the issue. It’s easier to deal with immigration issues if you don’t think of that person in your church or that family that could be split by some ill-considered response to our immigration crisis. Perhaps you should have a conversation with someone of Mexican heritage. I guarantee the issue is personal to that person or someone he loves, and it should be somewhat personal to all of us.

Accept that compromise is inevitable: Our immigration policies and enforcement have proven inadequate to the need of our time. Mere enforcement of current laws is not realistic and will have consequences beyond our imagining. As I read the EIT principles I see apparently contradictory imperatives—this is a document hammered out by those who compromised some ideals. At this point our nation needs something better and workable, not something perfect. Unwillingness to compromise will result in delay. Eventually we’ll have to do something far more distasteful than compromise. Our choices this year are much superior to those we’ll face five years from now. The compromises we have to make now are less painful than the ones that will be forced on us by a deepening immigration crisis.

I know that people with whom I have great accord on other issues disagree with me on this. That’s OK with me if it is something they can bear. I also see that some with whom I have few convictions in common are working for immigration reform. Those are irrelevant and distracting observations. For millions, even tens of millions in our nation, the status quo is a matter of great frustration and anxiety—one that threatens even the integrity of their families. It’s impossible for me to see that doing nothing in favor of waiting for a perfect solution will serve our nation or our neighbors in any godly way.

Appreciating your pastor

Several groups have declared October Pastor Appreciation Month. One that is humorous to me is the Hallmark greeting card company. While Pastor Appreciation Month is a worthy project it just seems a little odd to me that a company that stands to profit from the observance would be promoting it. Just send your pastor money. It is better than a card.

The pastor is God’s man for the church. This is not a sexist statement. Women are gifted to serve in many capacities in the church but the office of pastor is reserved for a man. Some churches have a multiplicity of elders but there is really only one lead elder in the church. Too many examples in Scripture show us that God has “a” man to shepherd the church. The role and responsibility of the pastor is diluted when he becomes an equal among many. The pastor is answerable to God for what he teaches, how he lives and who he is in his home. Being a pastor is not for the weak or wimpy. It calls for the highest level of leadership. I am grateful for the unique calling of the pastor.

Almost 20 years have passed since I was a pastor. I was privileged to pastor some of God’s choicest people. I learned more from my favorite chairman of deacons about ministry than from my seminary education. He taught me how to navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of pastoring people.

During my early years of pastoring I think I received more than I gave. Caring, loving people provided food, money and encouragement when I needed it most. Godly church members supported me through my educational endeavors. Praying intercessors lifted me to the Lord during dark times. I remember scores of church members traveling over 200 miles to attend my dad’s funeral. They wanted to say I love you. Their ministry of presence more than returned the visits that I made.

My wife was not the only one who endured pitiful sermons. Church members listened to sometimes doctrinally questionable messages that had to be corrected later. They occasionally heard rants about personal hobby horses. It is a wonder that I didn’t get voted out of every church. The longsuffering of God’s people is amazing.

Perhaps the most rewarding moment for me as a pastor was when a church member finally got it. They understood what it meant to follow Jesus. They began a walk of faith that would give them victory over a certain sin or that would enable them to follow through with an act of obedience. Pastor appreciation came in those times when the sheep lived out what the under-shepherd had been trying to model and teach.

I now serve the Lord in a different capacity than pastor. I have a pastor I want to honor. He is a good and godly man. He is young enough to be my son yet I respect him for being God’s man. I pray for him regularly. My wife and I express occasionally in a tangible way our gratefulness to God for having a faithful pastor. My wife personally spends time with our pastor’s wife. We are blessed.

You know how to express appreciation. Do something thoughtful. Do something financially helpful. Do something personal. The most important part of pastor appreciation is that you show that you care. Give your pastor the permission to be human. Above all else pray for him to be God’s best for God’s glory.