U.C.W. Local 777 / United Church Workers

What if preachers formed a Union?  Hmmmm…..

Our Union Demands are as follows:

1.  We demand lightweight pulpit furniture.  Really. . . have you guys tried to move that stuff?

2.  We demand that one pew be filled with men who will “amen” at least 7 times during the course of every sermon.

3.  We demand that our congregants be as excited about worshiping God on Sunday as they are about the ball game on Saturday.

4.  We demand that all criticism be directed to someone besides us.  Anybody will do. . . just pick one.

5.  We demand that only one deacon fall asleep during preaching at a time.

6.  We demand that everyone everywhere understand that King James simply authorized an English translation of the Bible.  He didn’t write it.  Seriously, he didn’t.

7.  We demand that all the fat preacher jokes stop.  Well, okay a few of them are pretty funny.

8.  We demand that you please quit refering to our ministry as  “hard work” while you snicker under your breath.

9.  We demand that you quit setting your watch alarm to go off at 12:00 every Sunday.

10.  This isn’t really a demand, but could you please try to understand that we simply cannot conclude every church service like the Grand Ole’ Opry by singing “May the Circle Be Unbroken”.

If these demands aren’t met in a timely manor we will walk off the job.  Scabs will be heckled and verbally abused if they cross our pickett lines.

Published in: on February 24, 2009 at 1:02 pm  Comments (5)  

Rural Route Heroes: Part IV

wfamA pastor is so much more effective when he has the assurance that his family is on board with the ministry that God has called him to.  Rural route heroes come in all shapes, sizes, and ages.  I happen to be the father of 5 little stinkers (stinkers can also mean heroes) who are pictured above.  Even more important is having the support of your wife.  Her love, encouragement, and level of church participation often sets the tone for the rest of the family.  There is nothing that can help or hinder a pastor more than his family.

Almost 5 years ago (wow, has it been that long?) God called my family to a rural route.  We prayed, contemplated, asked very pointed questions, and even argued a bit about the decision.  In the end, though, we knew that God was calling and our opinions, “what if’s”, and arguments would be refined and winnowed out in our obedience.  It is hard to see what kind of “good” God will create through your obedience when you are packing that Penske truck.  Watching your kids say “goodbye” to friends and watching them help box up their lives is a humbling experience because you know they wouldn’t be doing this if you had some other job.  Watching your wife place her trust in God and play out her submissive role as she also says tearful goodbyes is both beautiful and difficult.

I see the sacrifice that my family makes everyday.  I see the many ways that they participate in the ministry that God has called me to.  If my wife were not a Proverbs 31 kind of woman we would not be able to sustain our little army.  She is the clipper of coupons which saves us unbelievable amounts of money.  While most people are just getting up on Monday morning, she is on her way to the grocery store in order to get the best meat and produce deals from the bargain bin.  While many families have found convenience in eating out several meals a week, she cooks every meal because it is so much more economical.   She runs her own photography business and contributes to our sustainability.  She makes a parsonage a home.

I see the sacrifice that my children make.  They do not have access to the money, cool hangouts, and programs that many children are accustomed to, but I have never heard them complain about it.  Oh, they are not destitute and deprived, but they could complain if they were lesser individuals.  They live under the intense scrutiny of the entire community.  Its not the community’s fault  . . . it just comes with the job.  I have never heard them gripe about putting off our plans when there is a ministry need.  My kids have a keen understanding that what we are doing here is bigger than our wants and so they just role with the punches.

My family is my rural hero today. . . and every day.  Heroes, not because they endure my ministry but because they willingly participate in it.   Heroes becasue of their selfless investment in the people and place God called us to five years ago.  They always seem to find a way to help me do my job.   Today’s post is for every preacher’s kid who has ever gone on a hospital visit with their dad just to spend time with him.  Today’s post is for every preacher’s wife who has made a little go a long way and made a parsonage a home.  They are truly my heroes.

Published in: on February 23, 2009 at 4:24 pm  Comments (4)  

This Afternoon: Rural Route Hero Part IV

Their sacrifice makes it possible for rural ministry to happen.   Come back this afternoon!

Published in: on February 23, 2009 at 1:14 pm  Comments Off on This Afternoon: Rural Route Hero Part IV  

Rural Route Heroes: Part 3

This is Fred. . .  uh, I mean Dr. Fred Shackelford.184

He spent thousands of dollars, a kidney, and one big toe to pay for his education at Union University and at Southern Seminary.  It would have cost him an arm and a leg, but he had some scholarship money.  He worked very hard and spent years to obtain that Doctor of Ministry hanging on his wall.   He can, and has, finished triathlons faster than 99.9% of all Southern Baptist Pastors.  He is smart, young, and upwardly mobile.  The Southern Baptist Convention is his to conquer.  You might think that he is the pastor of First Baptist Megaville. . . right?  Wrong!  There is nothing wrong with Mega churches if you are into that sort of thing.  Fred, rather, is investing himself, his family, his education, his time, his energy, and his passion at Springhill Baptist Church in Rural Henry County TN.183

Fred, like many of us, had doubts at first about coming to a rural setting, but in the end saw that God was leading the way to a Rural Route.  Fred and his wife Jennifer had a list of “what if” questions that needed to be answered about God’s assignment for them, but in the end had to (insert old Baptist Hymn here) trust and obey

The Western District Baptist Association, Henry County, The Tennessee Baptist Convention, and Spring Hill Baptist Church are all glad that Fred was obedient to God’s calling.  He is truly gifted and is the REAL DEAL.  Fred is one of my Rural Route Heroes because he represents, what I pray, is a trend toward more young, gifted, passionate, Doctors of Ministry behind rural pulpits.  I genuinely appreciate Fred and Jennifer for their sacrificial obedience to God’s call.  Fred could preach anywhere and sound heroic.  What makes him a hero though is simple obedience.  Pray for them as they continue to minister at Springhill Baptist Church.

Published in: on February 18, 2009 at 4:00 am  Comments (3)  

What Do You Think?

Why are pastors leaving small rural places?  Is this article on point or not?


Published in: on February 17, 2009 at 1:14 pm  Comments (7)  

Rural Route Heroes: Part 2


Deacon’s meetings are usually memorable for all the wrong reasons.  Not so at Cottage Grove.  Our deacon’s are men who love God and serve their Church diligently.  On September 7, 2008 I met with our deacons as I always do on the first Sunday of the month.  As usual we joked around, conducted business, and then prayed together.  This deacon’s meeting stands out in my mind, not because of the business that we conducted or the jokes that were told but because it was the last time that I would verbally talk to Payton Bullock for another 3 months.

If you have read this blog before you are familiar with his story.  I just could not leave Payton and his wife Stacy off my list of Rural Route Heroes.  On Monday, September 8, Payton ate breakfast, got in his pick-up-truck, and drove 5 miles to Kevin Bomar’s (Payton’s best friend) house to pick up a tractor trailer full of grain.  Once there, he got out of his pick up but never made it to the cab of the Semi.  We wouldn’t know for another several hours that he had a massive brain stem stroke. For the next ten minutes Payton, whose sight was impaired by the stroke, laid on the ground trying to see the numbers on his cell phone in order to call his wife Stacy.

Stacy rushed to the scene, picked Payton up, and took him to the E.R. where he drifted in and out of consciousness for a few hours.  Payton ended up at Jackson Madison County General Hospital where he was finally diagnosed correctly.  I visited with them on Tuesday and felt confident in his recovery because Stacy and the rest of the family believed that things were turning around.  I got that phone call that all pastors dread around 1:00 A.M. on Wednesday morning.  I was told that Payton had taken a terrible turn and that Payton wasn’t expected to live through the next couple of hours.

We would later learn from Payton that he remembered every conversation and every agonizing moment that occurred during that Wednesday morning.  He remembered that breathing felt like drowning.  He remembered trying to talk but not being able to speak and how frustrating that was.  He remembered the conversations going on around him about his life and death struggle and how frightening that was.  As a last resort Stacy made the heart wrenching decision to put her 31 year old husband on life support.  The combination of drug induced coma and the breathing tube helped stabilize the situation but the next few hours were very touch and go. . . so we prayed.

I began to notice something in Stacy through those early morning hours.  The more critical Payton became the more resilient she became.  Everyone else around her was falling apart but she was busy.  She was busy talking to God, talking to doctors, and talking to Payton.  With every bit of bad news she ratcheted her game up a notch.  She believed that Payton was going to make it.  She knew her husband better than anyone else in the hospital and she had not lost faith in God or Payton.  She remembered the one thing that most of us had forgotten.  She remembered that God decides the issue of life and death.  She also remembered that Payton was a stubborn, strong willed, go down swinging farmer.

Payton was fighting.  Payton was Praying.  Payton, to our amazement, was recovering one little bit at a time.  He began to communicate by blinking.  He graduated to spelling  words with a letter board.  He began to whisper and “mouth” words.   Then he began to speak by blowing enough air over his breathing tube so that we could hear him.  Payton began to practice, by himself, moving fingers and limbs.  The Shepherd’s Center in Atlanta saw how determined Payton was and how committed Stacy was so they invited them to participate in Shepherd’s world renowned physical therapy program.  At Shepherd Payton and Stacy got the encouragement they needed to continue the fight.  Today Payton is talking and has more movement than anyone believed possible on September 10, 2008. . . . everyone except for Payton and Stacy that is.

They continue to encourage the rest of us with their full faith in God.  Payton’s insurance didn’t pay for a motorized wheel chair that he needs so they prayed.  In one week the company that makes the chair decided to give it to him.  With that need taken care of they are now praying for a van with a wheelchair ramp.  They believe God will provide just as He has provided for them time after time.  Stacy and Payton are coming home on February 28 almost 6 months after the stroke.  Some people would say that they have lost 6 months.  They would say that they have gained a new appreciation for God, each other, and life in general.

They have become two of my rural route heroes.  Heroes, not because Payton survived, but because he persevered.  Payton kept the faith.  He never lost sight of the fact that he was in God’s hands, live or die.  He was able, with God’s help, to transition from farmer on 9-8-08 to a full time recovery program on 9-9-08.   Stacy is my hero, not because she “stood by her man”, but because she stood on the firm foundation of God’s Word.  She allowed God to help her transition from house wife on 9-8-08  to coach and physical therapist on 9-9-08.  She is Payton’s greatest cheerleader.  Their roles will, undoubtedly, change again.  Payton and Stacy will be ready for the next challenge  and they will be confident that God is leading them to a good place.

Published in: on February 16, 2009 at 3:40 pm  Comments (4)  

Real Men Drink Pink Lemon Tea With Their Daughters

I don’t dress up for many occasions.  Lunch at the Magnolia Tea House  with my daughter is one of those occasions.   mila1

Published in: on February 14, 2009 at 4:47 am  Comments Off on Real Men Drink Pink Lemon Tea With Their Daughters  

Rural Route Heroes: Part 1

Take Hwy 54 from Dresden, TN.  When you reach Como, TN you will make a right onto Hwy 140.   Go about 3 miles and make a right onto McCain Road.   McCain Road will turn into Tumbling Creek Road once you leave Henry County.  Tumbling Creek Road will take you to the nexus of  Nowhereville, TN.  Tumbling Creek Baptist Church, by all accounts, is located in such a way that it should not be able to grow numerically.  It is WAY off the beaten path.  The church defies all church growth logic.  Enter. . . Gene Price!  Gene Price is the pastor of Tumbling Creek Baptist Church.  He is one of my Rural Church Heroes.  Gene came to Tumbling Creek right out of seminary. . . . in 1984.  Do the math and you will find that Gene has been there for 24 years.

Let me give you some perspective.  Ronald Regan, Bush I, Bill Clinton, Bush II, and now Obama have been president during Gene’s tenure at Tumbling Creek.  The world has changed significantly during Gene’s time at Tumbling Creek.  Ronald Regan opened the Summer Olympics in L.A.in 1984.  In 1986 we all watched the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.  In 1989 Communism fell with the Berlin Wall.  The world was glued to their T.V.’s in 1991 as Cruise Missiles hit the Center of Iraq in Gulf War I.  I was ten years old in 1984.  Gene has been there a long time.

Long tenure, although impressive, doesn’t make Gene a hero though.  Gene’s tenure has been filled with activity.  Lives have been changed because God has been faithful in using Gene’s availability.  Souls have been saved.  Ministers have been raised up.  Buildings have been enlarged to accommodate the unusual and unexpected growth.   Gene preached to 51 people on his first Sunday.  Last week he preached to over 250.  That might not be impressive where you are located, but 250 is a mega-church where Gene is.  Gene has stuck with it and persevered.  Gene isn’t one of my rural church heroes because of tenure.  He is a hero because, after 24 years, his members still describe him as a great shepherd.  Gene is a rural route hero because, after 24 years, he still sees “so much to do”.                          215

The new sanctuary holds a few more than 51.  216

Gene still looks like a 26 year old Seminary Graduate!219

Published in: on February 10, 2009 at 2:54 pm  Comments (11)  

Rural Church Heroes

They don’t leap steeples in a single bound, wear capes, or (thankfully) wear tights, but they are my rural church heroes.  Check back this afternoon for installment # 1.

Published in: on February 9, 2009 at 2:01 pm  Comments Off on Rural Church Heroes  

The Rare Rural Resource

I don’t know how I have missed this one for so long.   The Rural Home Missionary Association (RHMA) helps existing rural churches and plants new rural churches.  Their director, Ron Klassen, is responsible for one of my favorite books called No Little Places.  Their web page is full of good resources and information so here  you go. . . .


Published in: on February 3, 2009 at 1:25 am  Comments (1)