What pastoral lessons did I learn caring for a 106 year old widow?

I have had the honor of knowing an amazing lady in my church.  Tillie Roberts, affectionately known to most of us as “Ms. Tillie,” was 106 years old when she died, just 3 month shy of her 107th birthday.  Although she died a few years ago, I am often reminded of what an amazing lady she was and what the Lord had graciously taught me through her life and example. Here are a few of those lessons learned:

1) The “Having walked with the Lord longer than I’ve been alive” principle.

This is a good general rule for us as young pastors especially.  If there is someone in our church that has been walking with the Lord long before we were born, they will probably have a thing or two to teach us about life.  It may not be about the atonement, the active and passive obedience of Christ, or a complex breakdown of eschatology.  There is, however, much they can teach us about marriage, child-rearing, walking with the Lord through suffering, and many other insights a long life brings. So pay attention when they speak.  Ask them about their life, as I regularly did with Ms. Tillie.  You might be surprised what you will learn.

2) The perspective of history. 

I love history and loved learning it from this woman.  I remember lunch at Cracker Barrel with Ms. Tillie a few years ago where she talked me through the different antique farming tools hanging on the walls.  I was amazed not only in her knowledge of these things, but how she had remembered so well working with these tools while growing up on a farm.  When you talk with someone who remembers when there were not any cars, really lived through the great depression, and watched loved ones leave for war assuming they would not come back…a helpful perspective on our Internet, I-Pad, GPS, world is powerfully given.

3) The usefulness of a sharp mind.

Even as her final days approached, she has a stunningly sharp mind.  Less than 5 years ago, she could not only walk up to my children and call them by name, but knew each of their birthdays and how old they were (which meant the world to them).  Ms. Tillie could not do much physically in recent years, but she used her mind to the fullest, even into these much later years.  Until the day she died, she still read, studied her Bible, thought deeply about life issues, and was an inspiration to young and old to do the same.

4) Contentment in Christ.

This woman’s life testifies of the Christian calling that “with food and covering we will be content” (1 Tim. 6:8).  She was widowed almost 40 years ago, yet never remarried.  She bought a new car in 1970 and when she stopped driving it about 5 years ago it had only 25,000 miles on it.  She was unable to have children of her own, so she made it a point to adopt and invest in every new child (including mine) that had come into the church the last 10 years.  It is one thing for us to say we are content in Christ, yet it is another to race around seeking things in life that portray the opposite.  This woman was truly satisfied in Christ and powerfully reflected that satisfaction in the joy she had in her simple life.

This woman was a gift to know and shepherd.  If you have these kinds of elderly folks in your church, you are a blessed pastor.  If you do not, I am sad for you for there are many lessons to learn from these faithful elderly widows entrusted to your care.  I believe it is a part of God’s design to use these precious people to help us grow.


Posted in Caring for Widows, The Pastor's Soul

How do I endure through the difficulties of pastoral ministry?

One of my pastoral teachers and heroes, Bill Hughes, said goodbye to his beloved wife of over 60 years this past week who met her Savior in glory and is no longer suffering.  Bill spent most of his long and faithful ministry serving in Scotland.  Thinking about and praying for Bill this week reminded me of a simple, but profound truth I learned from him about how to endure through the constant struggles of pastoral ministry.  In an exposition of 2 Corinthians 4 I once heard Bill Hughes preach, he made this observation to answer the nagging question, “How do I endure through the difficulties of pastoral ministry?”

“Never forget the debt to mercy we owe.”

See what I mean?  Simple.  Stunningly true.  Yet, when measured against anything we might face as pastors, it produces endurance in every trial, struggle, and difficulty.  Bill instructed that when we remember who we once were and the amazing debt to mercy we owe to our Savior, we will be more patient, gracious, and merciful to even the most stubborn and petty of conflicts and complaints we experience in the church.  Likewise, if we forget who we once were  and presume upon this debt to mercy in the gospel, those same petty people and issues will eat us up and will destroy us and our ministry.

Dear brothers, if you find yourself discouraged, angry, wondering why some of your people do and say what they do and you can’t take it any more…do not forget the debt to mercy you owe.  It is a debt greater than you and I could ever payback.  It is a debt that should weigh heavier on our joyful hearts than the most difficult person in our church.  Apply this truth that I was so powerfully taught to me by this sweet and faithful man and see if you then find the hope and perspective you need for that struggling person or circumstance you face in your ministry.

Posted in The Pastor's Soul, Training for Ministry

Why should you attend a Practical Shepherding Workshop?

For those considering if you should attend a Practical Shepherding Workshop in the next couple of months (April 27 or June 6), here is a word from a brother, Eric, who attended the last one and shares why you should:

I had the privilege of attending the PS Workshop in Northern Kentucky last week and I highly recommend going to anyone who is considering it (and especially commend pastors to bring their interns (see below))! Brian gives valuable insight into the ministry from his decade-long tenure at Auburndale. I especially appreciated his candor about the highs and lows that he has experienced as a senior pastor. I’m a pastoral intern in NKY and a commuter student at Southern in Louisville. This workshop could easily be called “What I Didn’t Learn in Seminary.” I was pleased (and unsurprised) that everything he said was Scripturally-based and centered on bringing glory to God. From a purely economic standpoint, I’d pay $50 several times over to hear this advice and wisdom from a seasoned pastor, particularly the session “The Pastor’s Family.” Brian’s insights into the necessity of balancing work time and family time are already paying off and will be invaluable in the future as the pressure on my time increases.

Limited seating!  Don’t wait.  Register and pay to reserve your spot and any leaders and interns you wish to bring:

Register for Southern Indiana Regional Workshop Monday, April 27, 2015: Here


Register for Northern Kentucky Regional Workshop, Saturday, June 6, 2015: Here

Posted in Promotion, Training for Ministry

Mea Culpa: The story behind the book

I have known Kyle McClellan for over fifteen years.  I have watched him in each of his ministry posts and the struggles and sufferings he endured in them.  About two years ago, we were together reminiscing about those past days and I was struck with how powerful God’s redemptive grace is in Kyle’s story and life.  I pressed him to write a manuscript about his story.  He hesitated, after all, who wants to write a book about the mistakes we make?  That should already tell you something about my good friend.  I asked if he would write this amazing story, I would help find a publisher because I believe every pastor needs to know Kyle’s story.  In many ways it is every pastor’s story.  It was first published in the form of two articles which you can find here: Part 1 and Part 2.

Two years later the book has been written, the publisher was found, now it is finally available. Every pastor and aspiring pastor needs to get this book and read it.  Rejoice in God’s amazing grace and learn from a broken, but wise man who wrote it.  What I wrote in the foreword best sums up this book and why you need to get it:

The more I work with pastors all around the world, the more I am finding that those who have terrible experiences pastoring a church often leave the ministry altogether. The hurt and pain is just too much. Such is not the case for my dear friend, Kyle McClellan, who wrote this book. Kyle shares some of the lessons he learned in those painful years with a raw transparency that is refreshing and engaging to read…Kyle McClellan has gone into a church “with guns blazing” and he was quickly fired. He has experienced the disappointment of unmet expectations and left because of this. He has pastored a destructive church that chewed him up and spat him out. He has felt the pull of the bigger and better church trying to woo him away. He has faced the burnout and fatigue that many pastors experience that causes them to bail. Read this book. Learn from him. Receive the essential lessons from a wise, broken man who has lived it, possesses the scars from it, owns the T-shirt and yet by the grace of God still stands.

Find this book at amazon on paperback and kindle for a great price.

Posted in Book Recommendation, The Pastor's Soul

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