Category Archives: ministry

4 Lessons I Learned from a Dead Guy

Have you ever heard of a dead guy named John Mason Peck? He is largely forgotten now, but, as one our nation’s first Baptist church planters, “home” missionaries and the founder of one of the earliest colleges west of the Alleghenies (Rock Springs Seminary, 1827), he used to be famous.

I recently wrote a chapter on Peck (1789-1858) for a larger book on the History of North American Evangelism which will come out next year. I was reminded of Peck’s life and legacy. He came to St. Louis in 1817 where he started the wild frontier town’s first Baptist church and baptized new believers in the Mississippi River. Within a few year, Peck moved the center of his operations 18 miles to his farm in Rock Springs, IL where he lived until the end of his life. (Rock Springs is today part of O’Fallon, IL and Peck’s homesite is less than a mile from where I write this in my office at FBC, O’Fallon.)

In his forty years of ministry, Peck participated in the starting of 900 churches, helped to ordain 600 pastors, printed bibles by the score, wrote histories of the region and biographies of people like Daniel Boone and helped keep Illinois from changing its constitution to allow slavery. Oh, and he found time, when he wasn’t farming in order to feed his family, to start the aformentioned Rock Springs Seminary to train pastors and teachers.

Here are 4 lessons I learned from John Mason Peck.

1. A life of obedience leaves a lasting impact. The sheer number of churches Peck helped start seems overwhelming. His impact on so many churches and so many pastors and other believers is incredible. But any life, fully devoted to the Lord, can make a lasting difference in ways not always noticed at the time. Peck just obeyed the Lord for a long time and God used that obedience to impact the region and beyond.

2. God uses people we might not have picked. Peck had very limited education in his early years. He did not come from a wealthy family. He did not come to know the Lord as Savior until almost a grown man. He didn’t become a Baptist until after the birth of his first child. He did not verbalize a call to ministry and further his education until after that. In fact, almost nothing in his early years suggested he would become what he became–except his ever growing confidence in God.

3. Opposition comes but can be overcome. Peck was opposed by gamblers, thieves and infidels when he came to the West. But he was also opposed by other ministers, including fellow Baptists. Some distrusted those from the East or anyone with education. Some believed that missions was an attack on the sovereignty of God and they responded by personal attacks on Peck. The response of Peck was to stay faithful, keep preaching, print more bibles, start more churches and Sunday Schools and to disagree agreeably. Through much travail, Peck would see the kingdom of God expand.

4. God honors faith. Peck never had much money. There were chronic shortages in the churches he served. Problems of every sort abounded. But, through it all, Peck believed God was able to accomplish great things because he is a great God. He lived by faith and he found God to be faithful. God honored Peck’s faith by providing just what was needed, just when it was needed. Trusting God counts and God blesses faith.

I think about old John Mason Peck once in a while. After all, he spent most of his ministry in the same area where I’ve spent most of mine. And, I’m thankful that his life can still teach us today though his body was placed in a grave long ago.

Maybe God will teach you something today from a dead guy. I sure hope so!

Random Thoughts on Preaching

Here are some of my random thoughts on preaching from my 34 years as a senior pastor.

1. Boring preaching is criminal. The most important and amazing message in history and you are going to make it sound boring? Jail time.

2. It is hard for preaching to be boring if the preacher is excited about the text.

3. The preacher’s devotional life affects his preaching. Maybe you can get away with it for a while, but neglect time alone with God and preaching will suffer in the long run.

4. You can’t separate who you are from the task of preaching.

5. Preachers who read a lot Continue reading

Preaching Tips for Pastors, part 1

My pastor friends will say to me as I write on preaching, “Physician, heal thyself!” I don’t even want to know what my enemies might say! But I want to provide some thoughts on this work in which I have been engaged for the past several decades.

Preaching is an incredibly daunting, challenging and difficult task. It takes skill and effort and practice. But it also is incredibly rewarding– not to mention that we pastors believe God has called and compelled us to preach.

Here are three basic and fundamental thoughts on preaching every preacher should understand.

1. You are the preacher God called. If God called you to preach, he called you to preach. He didn’t call you to become someone else who will then preach for you. He has called you to preach. While you can and should learn from other preachers, you must never try to be another preacher. God made you to be you. Be the best version of you, but be you. Continue reading

Keep Learning

Robert Fulghum famously titled a book, “All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” It is a great title, but a lousy philosophy of life. There is much to be learned after kindergarten- algebra, geology and how to cook a good steak, to name a few.

The best leaders are life long learners. They don’t stop learning after school ends. They don’t believe they possess they sum of all knowledge or that what they currently know is sufficient. They ask questions, seek information and try new things.

Christian leaders especially need to continue to learn. Our calling cries out for continuing education- formal and informal. We would do well to keep studying, thinking and searching. There is much for us yet to learn about God’s word, his plans and the ministry he calls us to.

Perhaps, like me, you finished kindergarten long ago. But here are five reasons ministry leaders need to continue to learn as long as God gives us life and breath. Continue reading

Get Back Up

I was a young, energetic high school freshman football player. All enthusiasm, no experience. We were punting and I was running downfield to cover the punt, foolishly looking up to see where the ball was. Wham! I was knocked flat by an opposing player rudely taking advantage of my vulnerable state.

Know what I did next? Well, first I rolled around on the ground trying to get my bearings and calling out for my mother. But, eventually, I did what every football player must do at times. I got back up.

Football players aren’t the only ones who get Continue reading