Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is known as a civil rights leader and as a great orator. His iconic speech, “I Have a Dream,” is one of the greatest pieces of oratory in American history.

martin_luther_king

Yet before he was either a civil rights leader or orator, King was a preacher. He was pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., and preached widely in other pulpits.

Today’s pastors can learn a great deal from King, the preacher.

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There are two types of people in the world: prodigals, and those who love them. Or so I always thought.

prodigal son

“The younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living,” said Jesus in his story of the lost son (Luke 15:13).

There is the essence of prodigality and the great downward movement in this superb parable. Impatient, impetuous, dreaming of the more that lay just over the horizon, the Prodigal set of for a far country and there staged the mother of all orgies.

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She sat in my office, tight-lipped, teary, determined not to allow years’ worth of anger to boil into some sort of scene. “It’s taken me a long time to get this far,” she said. “But I think I’m finally ready to do this.”

“This” was re-joining the church after a lapse of maybe five years. Why now? Because her husband, a veteran pastor who had been in a non-parish assignment was ready to accept an appointment. If that were to happen, she would have to rejoin the denomination he served.

So, for the sake of her husband’s career, she was willing, finally, to move beyond the emotional beating she’d taken from a previous congregation and make her peace with the local church.

And that, right there, explains the unique challenge of being a pastor’s wife, something many churches and even some pastors do not understand.

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Your church website conveys lots of messages about your congregation, including some you may not be aware of. That’s particularly true when it comes to presenting pastor and staff member information.

What does your church website say about you?

While visiting hundreds of church websites in connection with a research project, I discovered that there is no such thing as a typical church site. I’ve seen everything from high-end, custom designs to Facebook pages to no web presence at all. Yes, really. About 24 percent of the churches I examined had no web presence.

Likewise, there’s a gamut of approaches to presenting information about the senior leader and staff (or not).

All of them are fine, so long as you know who you are and what you’re communicating through your pastor’s bio. I’m convinced that many pastors have little idea what the “Our Staff” page actually says about them and their congregations.

Here are some of the most common approaches.

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Over my nearly 20 years in pastoral ministry, I fielded many questions about other religions. Generally, I preferred to point people to Jesus rather than discuss what others believe.

Yet the growth of Islam in North America combined with rise of radical Islam in many parts of the world has all of us asking questions about Islam.

The silver dome of Our Lady of the Spasm Armenian Catholic Church and the golden Dome of the Rock rise over the Old City of Jerusalem.

As a consultant for Rose Publishing, I have the opportunity to speak about Christianity and Islam in radio interviews all over the country. I encounter some questions so frequently that it seems nearly all Christians wrestle with them.

Here’s how I respond.

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The standard advice to pastors these days is that they should under no circumstances do pastoral care. That’s been de rigueur in leadership circles since the late ’80s when John Maxwell began telling church growth conferees, “I don’t do hospital calls.”

The theory is that anybody can do pastoral care, so the pastor’s time is better spent energizing the leaders within the congregation. The sooner the pastor hands off hospital calling to small group leaders, the sooner the church will break attendance barriers.

Pastor visiting the hospital

Pastoral ministry doesn’t scale, which is why it’s taboo among pastors who style themselves as (or already are) leaders of a large organization. There’s no way for one person to do all the pastoral care for a congregation of 20,000 people. It’s a black hole that sucks time and energy without adding to attendance, so successful pastors avoid it.

I couldn’t care less.

Ministry of Word and sacrament is the primary task of a pastor. Here’s why every single one of them should be a pastoral care giver.

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Over the 30 years I’ve been writing and editing professionally in the Christian market, I’ve seen a huge increase in the quality of our work. Craftsmanship is improving, and that’s encouraging. Writers and publishers are willing to take on weightier topics and engage them honestly. All of that is good.

Good writing is about the reader, not the writer

However, returning to full-time editorial work last year (after six years in pastoral ministry) was a Rip Van Winkle experience. There have been distinct changes for the better, but familiar problems remain.

Attack these five symptoms, and you will eradicate from your prose the deadliest of all diseases, blogitis.

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