These things have I learned

Published 10:52 am Saturday, April 27, 2024

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By Michael J. Brooks

The way Baptists do it probably isn’t best, but nobody yet has made us change.

Some denominations require an apprentice program for fledgling ministers. But when a Baptist young person declares a call to ministry, the pastor says, “Great! You can preach next Sunday.”

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This is like throwing someone in the lake to teach them how to swim.

I know this because I was once cast into the ecclesiastical lake.

Heaven holds great reward for patient church members who’ve listened to 16-and 17-year-olds preach!

But on the other hand, starting young gives us seniors a measure of wisdom, much of which came about due to our mistakes.

I think I’ve learned a few things over the years. Here are a few nuggets.

One, there’s nobody sweeter than a senior saint who’s served the Lord and their church for many decades. Some seniors are critical and grumpy, but wonderful, church-going seniors are a joy to be around. They have good humor and good advice. They overlook the mistakes of their younger pastors, and they promise to pray for us every day.

Two, church critics don’t see all the good things congregations do since we try, as Jesus commanded, to “seek not the praise of men.”

Once in Wednesday night Bible study I told about one of our youth who didn’t have back-to-school supply money. Without church sanction we simply collected money and took care of this need. This kind of thing is repeated hundreds of times every week by loving and generous Christians who as Robert Schuller used to say, “find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it.”

Three, when church members get disgruntled and leave, they most often say, “I’m not mad at anyone,” but they are probably mad at someone.

I’ve contended most church disruptions aren’t about theology. I’ve seen a few theological disputes amongst Baptists about deacons and divorce. Paul explained the deacon must be “husband of but one wife” but doesn’t use the word “divorce,” so this is an interpretive issue sometimes debated in our churches. But other than this, disruptions seem to come from lesser things than the great fundamentals of the faith.

Four, since we’re granted redemption by our loving Lord, we must live redemptively with others, even in times of disagreement.

Jesus taught about a businessman who “mercied” a man (according to the Greek verb) who owed him a great deal of money, but this man refused to “mercy” his debtor who owed him little. The comparison is obvious.

It’s hypocritical for the forgiven to withhold forgiveness from others.

I’m grateful for patient congregations who have “mercied” me, and I look forward to learning more with them and from them.

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster. The church’s website is