What my grandfather taught me about the essentials of ministry
by T.J. Buckingham
It has now been 20 years since my grandfather, Jamie Buckingham, passed away. I cherish the 11 short years I had with him. He inspired me to pursue a life in ministry, for which I am very thankful.
Jamie was a unique man, and consequently a unique pastor. He often spoke and wrote about the various traits and the type of character required of those who have been called into ministry. They remain relevant for leaders today, and I am pleased to be able to share some of them with you to honor his memory.
Be real. Jamie often preached and wrote about his many flaws, citing specific examples of ways he had fallen short. He discovered how God could work in those imperfections to give encouragement to others. Living and preaching like this takes a lot of courage (and, according to my grandmother, requires permission from your spouse), but it allows you to experience an intimacy with others you might not otherwise find.
Jeff Farmer was recovering from cancer surgery when he read the statistics in a World Vision newsletter: 1) Every 45 seconds a child age 5 and under dies from malaria, according to the World Health Organization; 2) Although the United States successfully eradicated malaria 60 years ago, this deadly disease spread by infected mosquitoes kills nearly 2,000 children every day.
The World Health Organization's commitment to wipe out malaria across the globe by 2015 has been joined by secular organizations such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the NBA and many others.
Among Christians, however, charismatic and Pentecostal churches have been missing in action for the fight to eliminate malaria. But that changed when the Holy Spirit gave Farmer, president of charismatic Open Bible Churches, a wake-up call to help bring an end to the disease. Farmer had been meditating on Psalm 91 during his ordeal of discovering he had cancer and the ensuing surgery when God began to speak to him about malaria—a stealthy, silent killer.
by Jamie Buckingham
Michele Buckingham, my daughter-in- law, had her first book published. It's called Help! I'm a Pastor's Wife (Creation House).
Although listed as "editor," Michele spent months rewriting the 30 stories submitted by wives of some of America's best-known pastors. In her foreword she tells of chatting with a couple of friends in a swanky cafe outside Washington, D.C., and telling them she was writing a book by and about pastors' wives.
One of the women remarked, "What's it about? How to throw the perfect tea party?" I guess a lot of people think that's what pastors' wives do—play the piano at church and pour tea at the monthly social.
In other words, they rank pretty low in kingdom pecking order. I've not had much experience with pastors' wives. (My own wife has seen to that.) But I have had a great deal of experience with pastors.
Most of us have suspected that, despite their diligent efforts to conceal it, pastors are people just like us. Granted, a lot of them seem to go out of their way to convince us otherwise. But if we dragged them out of their Cadillacs, took off their collars, snatched away their microphones and forbid them to use words such as "brethren," "yonder" and "eschatology," we would discover they're just like the rest of us. Plain old people.
The reason most pastors look and act differently from ordinary folks is they were taught—mostly by other pastors—that there is a certain pecking order in kingdom strata. Obviously, pastors who drive Cadillacs are higher in grade than pastors who drive pickup trucks.
And the man who drives a BMW or (sigh!) a Mercedes, ranks even higher. Ultimate status is achieved when the pastor and his wife drive color-matched Jaguars. In the words of Sambo, he's the "grandest tiger in all the jungle"—especially if he polishes his fingernails. Kingdom ranking has been around since James and John.
by Jamie Buckingham
My old friend Frank Gray, small-town Episcopal priest with whom I used to sit over a cup of coffee and crack jokes about pompous bishops, has just been elected to the establishment.
He's just become the bishop of Northern Indiana. I wrote him a condolence letter. I know how he feels. Earlier this year, without asking for it (or even buying it), I was awarded an honorary doctor's degree by Oral Roberts University (ORU).. After all these years of making fun of people who are honorary doctors, I are now one.
When the letter came from the university I went into shock for three days, "I told you not to poke fun at people with honorary degrees," my wife, Jackie, said. What if I get out to Tulsa for graduation and find that folks such as Kenneth Copeland, Robert Tilton or Lester Surmall are getting degrees, too?
The last time I attended an ORU graduation Jesse Jackson was the commencement speaker. What if they invited Pat Robertson this time? Surely a loving and merciful God would overlook the fact I had made fun of ill these folks in the past. Surety He would not drop me in the midst of such company and have me "doctored!' at the same time. But He did.
"It's not the degree," I told Jackie. "Secretly I've always wanted to be called Dr. Buckingham. I'm tired of being called 'Jamie.' Rodney Dangerfield ain't the only one who don't get no respect." "Then what's the problem?" "What if it's a DD? Nothing could be worse than having a Doctorate of Divinity." "With or without walnuts?" Jackie quipped. I didn't think that was funny. All I could think of was: There was a young preacher named Tweedle, Who refused to accept his degree. It's bad enough being Tweedle,
Without being Tweedle, DD. But God tempered justice with mercy: I'm not a DD. I'm a Doctor of Humane Letters. "Now, that's not so bad," Jackie said after the ceremony. "You see, God just doesn't want you poking fun at all those people out there who have honorary degrees. He defused your bomb by honoring you."
by Jamie Buckingham
After years of theological debate, I have finally discerned we have a sock-gobbler in our washing machine. In short, my machine is possessed of a demon. My wife disagrees. She does not believe a washing machine can have a demon.
I, on the other hand, believe a washing machine can have anything it wants to have. "If there really is a sock-gobbler," Jackie asked, "why does he eat only one sock out of a pair? If one sock fills him, why doesn't he eat the spare sock on his next visit?" I had no answer. I only know he is there.
To prove it, I have 17 unmatched socks in my sock drawer—widowed victims of the sock-gobbler. And that's just this year's count. Each year about this time, I go through my drawer and throw away the singles.
Last year, I put 13 of them in the trash can. This year set a new record. I keep my unmatched singles in the bottom drawer of my dresser hoping their mates will somehow reappear. It never happens. Each year I reluctantly round them up and drop them in the waste basket in my bedroom.
Expensive racquetball socks, formal blacks, blues, greens, grays, fuzzies—all were favorites, but without mates, they're useless. I've considered forming a club: Socks Without Partners. At first I thought it was Jackie's careless washing procedures. "The reason my socks don't come out even is you don't put them in even!"
I howled when my most expensive and favorite pair of socks became a single. "Not so," she argued. "I gathered them two by two. Believe me, Noah didn't do a more complete job. I took two pairs from your shoes under the bed, a pair of wet ones out of your boots, a stiff pair from the ceiling of the closet where you had kicked them when you came in from racquetball, a mud-caked pair from under the front seat of your pickup, a moldy pair from under the dryer...."
"Aha!" I screamed. "I bet the rest of the mates are under the washing machine." However, my search turned up nothing but a bucketful of lint, three green pennies, two rusty washers, a 12-year-old skate key and a flea collar from our cat that died last year.
"Inside this washer is a little trapdoor that pulls in one sock from each pair and holds them captive. Somewhere in this machine is a secret treasure chest of unmated socks."