The head of a large missionary organization told me that they are being sued by two of their members. These people had earlier dedicated their lives to missions.
Now they have various ailments. One man has ulcers. A woman, who lived in the tropics, has skin cancer. A "Christian" lawyer, hearing of their problems, advised them to sue the missionary organization. Their afflictions, he says, are "job related."
The mission director shook his head. "They were willing to give their lives—but I guess that didn't include stomach and skin." The missionaries and their lawyer have been infected with what Paul called "the spirit of the world" (1 Cor. 2:12).
Despite the classic Pentecostal definition, worldliness (the Greek word is kosmos) is far more than cosmetics. It is also more than R-rated movies or X-rated prostitutes. Worldliness is focusing on the things of time rather than things eternal.
The future of religious freedom could depend on a free pulpit to communicate fundamental, biblical principles to congregations across America. Pastors, led by Jim Garlow of Skyline Church in San Diego, Calif., are being asked to join a growing movement to preach biblical truth about candidates and elections from their pulpits this Sunday.
Would you join me and Bishop Harry Jackson on a conference call on Tuesday, August 21, at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST. Dial (530) 881-1000, code 760660#. I estimate the call will take 30 minutes. Bishop Jackson can explain it better than I can. However, he explains a lot in his letter below.
I’m writing this because I believe you are as concerned as I am about the way our nation is going. One of the most serious threats to our religious liberties and also an indication of the state of the moral decline of our culture is the fact that President Obama has come out in favor of same-sex marriage. I believe that if he is reelected he will take it as a mandate to push legislation to approve same-sex marriage.
I’ve come alongside Bishop Harry Jackson, who has a strategy that he believes will swing enough votes in seven key states to keep from electing Obama. He would reach out to black and Hispanic ministers who had previously supported Obama with the idea that the president has finally gone too far and that supporting same-sex marriage is too serious to support him again.
It's my privilege to introduce Lindy Warren Lowry, who begins serving as Ministry Today's newest editor with this issue. For many years Lindy served as the edi-tor of Outreach magazine, where she began as its managing editor nine years ago. She oversaw the print and digital initiatives for the magazine, which is best known for publishing a list of the top 100 largest and fastest-growing churches in the country. A graduate from the prestigious University of Missouri School of Journalism (magazine sequence), Lindy worked for me in the early 1990s on both Charisma and Christian Retailing before going on to a successful career at CCM, Aspire, Woman's World and Outreach magazines. "At Outreach, I discovered a deepened love and respect for the local church," she told me. "I truly believe the church is God's plan for bringing His hope to this world, and I'm passionate about coming alongside church leaders and partnering with them in His mission to rescue and restore. If I could wave a magic wand over every church and their leaders, I would want them to truly understand and act on Christ's command to make biblical discipleship the center of everything we do in our lives and churches." Besides winning many awards as a journalist, Lindy has been married to Chris for seven years, and they have a precocious 5-year-old son who often surprises her with questions such as, "How does the sun know when to come up?" Her husband is a college professor who teaches speech and coaches the debate team. Lindy will be directing our next issue of Ministry Today with guest editor Joyce Meyer. Also look for her work with upcoming guest editors Rick Warren, Ron Luce, John Eckhardt and Joey Bonifacio, among others. Lindy takes the reins from Eric Tiansay, who has done yeoman's work as the special projects editor for the past year as he assisted me in my role as executive editor. We began inviting guest editors partly to give us time to find the right editor to replace Marcus Yoars, who moved on to become editor of Charisma. That search has taken us two years, but the wait was worth it. What may have started partly as a necessity has become a real blessing. I hope you've enjoyed these issues and I'm excited about the future.
During my senior year in high school a group of women somewhere in the nation started a movement to have all competitive team sports—especially football—removed from public schools. Team sports, they complained, were too traumatic.
Children, they argued, should not be led to believe their team could win, then suffer the trauma of losing. They should only play games where everyone wins. They did not stop to think that there can he no victory where there is no possibility of defeat.
Who among us, regardless of how we voted last November, did not hurt for Michael Dukakis as he stood with his family on election night and—in a gracious New England way—conceded defeat. Yet the man who tries, even though he fails, is never a loser.
Those women in the early 1950s were right about one thing: defeat is definitely traumatic. But so is childbirth. And graduation. And marriage. Yet all are part of life. To eliminate them simply because they are risky would mean the cessation of life.
The risk-free life is a victory-free life. It means lifelong surrender to the mediocre. And that is the worst of all defeats. In politics the risk-free life leads to Marxism—where all risks are removed.
In religion, it leads to dead institutionalism. The man who is guaranteed against failure will never know the sweet taste of success. Today's youth are deathly afraid of risk. Yet, in what must be one of his-tory's great ironies, desiring safety, they escape into drugs—which is guaranteed failure and death,
Freedom demands risk. Eliminate the risks of freedom and you establish a slave state. Even then, if the risks of freedom are banned, tyranny takes over. Ask the Poles. The Czechoslovaks. The Cubans. Today's liberal is constantly crying for justice. But the question is not justice; it is freedom. Most definitions of justice call for the elimination of risk.
Eleven years ago, my daddy died. It was Sunday noon. We had just come in from church and the phone was ringing. It was my mother in Vero Beach, Fla.
"Daddy has just gone to be with the Lord." As long as I can remember she had called him Daddy. The kids all called him Daddy. Only his old friends—and he had outlived most of them—called him Walter.
Jackie and I went back out the door for the 30-mile drive down the Florida coast toward the old home place. My mind was whirling. He was 87 years old. Although his mind had been as sharp as when he taught English literature at DePauw University back in 1915, we all had known the time was short.
Twenty-five years earlier, kneeling in his orange grove, his life goals had radically changed. From making money to giving it away. Now he was satisfied. He owned nothing. He was ready to go home. The week before, I had sat on the side of the bed, listening as he quoted from Longfellow:
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!—
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
I knew, in his poetic way, he was telling me he was about to die. It didn't seem to bother him. He believed death was a beginning—not an end.
I believed that too. At least, I wanted to. But as I drove in silence, Job's question kept swirling through my mind, "If a man dies, will he live again?"
It's the question we all ask when death strikes. "Daddy has gone to be with the Lord," my mother had said. How did she know? How does anyone know where you go when you die? What's to prove you're not like ants stepped on by kids, or like leaves burned in the fireplace?
We pulled up in the carport and went inside. Mother met us in the kitchen. "He went peacefully, in his sleep. I've already had my cry. He's back there on the bed."
"I'll call the funeral director," Jackie said softly. "You go on back."
I was fresh out of seminary and the new pastor of a Baptist church in a little South Carolina town when Martin Luther King Jr. led his famous march from Montgomery to Selma, Ala.
We did a lot of talking about racial segregation in our deacons' meetings those days. Everyone was defensive. "We're integrated," one man said. "When Miss Jessie died we allowed her maid to come to the funeral and sit in the balcony along with her pickaninny."
Not too far away, in Greensboro, N.C., four black college students refused to move from a Woolworth lunch counter when denied service. It was 1961. By September more than 70,000 students, whites and blacks, had participated in sit-ins.
Our deacons appointed a special committee to patrol the street in front of the church in case "the darkies" tried to get in. "They got their own churches," Harry Lemwood, a grocer, used to say. "Let 'em go there."
I groaned over the injustice, but when King marched on Selma, I did not join him—even though I knew he was right. I didn't even stand up in my pulpit and applaud him. I kept silent. I wasn't afraid of Bull Conner. Or the snarling police dogs. Or of being put in jail.
What I feared most was losing my "job" as pastor. I preached against segregation—which was acceptable because of King's sacrifice. But I knew better than to do anything rash—like marching.
I just stayed home and preached the gospel. I quoted Romans 13—that Christians should not break the law—to justify my stance. No matter that the law said blacks were inferior to whites. No matter that it was cruel, dehumanizing and anti-Christ. It was the law.
No book influenced my young life more than the Boy Scout handbook. In it I found a wonderful world of semaphore flags, sheepshanks, clove hitches, lean-tos and reflector ovens.
It was my personal guidebook from the time I was 12 until I was 16. It took me from Tenderfoot, through the exciting world of merit badges, all the way to the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.
Youth activities in our little town—aside from a spitball fight in Sunday school or a Friday night dance—were non-existent. Scouting was everything. In Scouting, I felt the tug toward manhood. Older boys discipled younger boys.
Scoutmasters took us on camping and canoe trips. I learned how to apply a tourniquet and a splint, salute my superiors, have my uniform inspected and feel pride—with hard-earned accomplishments.
As a Scout, I learned all the important concepts that would later make life rich and meaningful. I learned to relate to a small group in my patrol and troop. I learned to respect—not fear or destroy—nature.
With only a hatchet, knife, rope and compass I could live in the wilderness. I learned Indian lore, loyalty and how to be part of a world brotherhood. A Boy Scout loved God and country.
He respected his parents. He went to church. He believed in good deeds, loyalty, thrift, courage, physical fitness and—most of all—being prepared. I took a vow that I still try to uphold.
He must be prepared at any time to save life, help injured persons and share the home duties. He must do at least one "good turn" to somebody every day. But with the good times were times of disappointment—the same disappointment I have suffered in adult life and in my church.
It wasn't with Scouting; it was with Scouts. Particularly with Scout leaders. One August afternoon five of us—young teenagers—headed for the girly show at the annual summer carnival on the fairgrounds.
The first trip I made to Czechoslovakia was 18 years ago. I was there with a Dutch Bible smuggler. Be-sides distributing Bibles, we attended underground prayer meetings.
One of these was held in the basement room of a university in Prague. Vaclav Havel was there that night. I remember him especially, because he was a poet, a playwright, a writer like me. There were about 20 people present, sitting in a circle in a semi-dark room with shades drawn.
When I mentioned the word "freedom." my interpreter stopped speaking. Her face showed alarm. She whispered in English, "We can't use that word. There may be a spy present. They will say we are political." It's a good word," one man said with determination. "We need to hear that good word—'freedom,' We need to speak it always, for one day we shall be free again."
Dressed in a tattered sweater and old wool cap, he looked like most other Czech men. Only he was different. There was a fire in his bones. "His name is Vaclav Havel," my Czech host whispered. "He will get us killed—or he will set us free."
The next day I stood in beautiful Wencesias Square in the heart of Prague. I looked at the old museum, pocked by Russian machine-gun fire just months before when the Red tanks had rolled through the city.
I looked at the faces around me. I had never seen such a defeated people. Yet among the Christians I visited, there was resolution. Determination. The next week I visited a midweek service at a Baptist church in Levice. The music was stunning, led by a 40-piece orchestra that included 20 stringed balalaikas.
Everybody I know, when they consider the only alternative, wants to get older. Well, my daughter, Sandy, doesn't want to get older.
But she never has accepted that we can't halt time. She thought 9 was the magic age. "Daddy, I want to stay 9 the rest of my life." The same was true with 12, 16, 18 and now 21.
But everyone else I know wants to get older. My mother says now and then that she's ready to die, but I doubt it. I remember my dad telling us kids about an old man back in Indiana named Purcell who worked for my grandfather in the grain elevator.
Working in a grain elevator in the heat of summer was a miserable job. One afternoon, after a particularly hot, dusty, sweaty, fly-stinging day in the grain bins, the old man went into a nearby stable to pray. Grandpaw Buckingham was working in the feed lot outside and heard him calling out to God. "Dear Jesus, come quickly. Come get old Purcell. It's so hot, so miserable I just can't take it any longer. Come take me home, sweet Jesus."
Grandpaw took his shovel handle and thumped on the door. Loudly. There was a long period of silence and finally a frightened voice from within said, "Who there?"
"It's the angel of the Lord, Purcell," Grandpaw roared. "I've heard your prayer." There was an even longer period of silence and finally a quivering voice answered, "Purcell ain't here right now, but let him know you have been asking about him."
I think my mother's like that. She says she's ready to die—but she does everything possible to stay alive. Old age is not a disease. It is a marvelous condition that most everyone I know is eager to catch.
Unfortunately, it's not contagious and too many folks shuffle off before their time. But when you consider the alternatives, old age is a pretty good deal. There are a number of ways to keep from growing old. You might want to take up smoking. Or drugs. Drinking and driving is a sure formula.
Over-working, over-eating, over-worrying or a combination of any of the above will surely keep you from growing old. Or, if you really want to keep from growing old, have an affair. In fact, anything which keeps you out of God's will is almost guaranteed to keep you from growing old.
A friend of mine worried so much last year (he was especially concerned about losing his hair) that he finally had a heart attack and died. His worrying did accomplish one thing. He'll never have to be concerned about growing old.
Last year, I almost quit playing racquetball. Almost, but not quite. I'm glad I didn't. Racquetball is a high priority in my life.
By that I mean I play three times a week and often carry my racquet, shoes and shorts when I go out of town. When I'm at home, I divide my playing time between an outside court and a shiny new court in a condo project being developed by my friend, Brooks Watson.
I used to play doubles with Brooks, but on several occasions, he tried to change my good looks with his racquet. Brooks is left-handed—which makes him lethal when you put him on a court. One bloody afternoon it cost me $65 to have 12 stitches put in my chin because I forgot Brooks swings from the south while I swing from the north.
On the way home from the emergency room, I decided a 20-by-40 court is too small to contain four middle-aged men swinging clubs at a wildly bouncing ball—especially if one of them swings backwards.
Now I limit my game to singles—with an occasional threesome for variety. (More about that later.) My regular opponent is our pastor, Curry Vaughan. Curry is 10 years my junior, played first-string guard at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, has biceps like Godzilla, and goes after every shot as if he's charging downficld on a kickoff to smash a helpless midshipman into a pulp.
He's the kind of fellow who laughs after hitting you in the small of the back with a ball going 200 mph—and then uses it as a sermon illustration the next Sunday. It gives me great pleasure when I beat him.
I sometimes play with Harvey Hester. Dr. Hester is a psychologist who sometimes, just as I'm getting ready to serve one of my blistering corner shots, clears his throat and asks me if I hate my mother.
I also play with Al Reed who wears trifocals, which makes him even more dangerous than Brooks Watson, and with Kent Busing, who is ambidextrous and switches his racquet back and forth be-tween hands so he never hits a backhand shot.
Aside from disobeying and failing God, the one thing I fear most is becoming phony. Our American world, in particular, has spawned far too many phony Christians.
They are easy to spot, especially when it comes to money. It's hard to tell, any more, what a man means when he says: "Pray for me. I have a financial need." Does he really want my prayers? Or my money?
As the overseer of a flock, I struggle with this all the time. I am convinced God does not want church leaders begging for money. Nor does he want us to write letters to our "mailing lists" asking widows, struggling young couples and naive young Christians to "pray that God will meet our financial needs by next Tuesday."
That is nothing more than manipulative begging. Especially if you enclose an offering envelope. I can't do much about the garbage which comes through the TV tube in the name of Jesus, nor have I been very effective in stemming the tide of mail which comes from Bible-waving, Mercedes-driving beggars.
But I can make certain that the leadership in our local body does not manipulate. The danger, however, is not so much that our people might misunderstand the genuine Christian's requests for prayer. The real danger is that we, in our effort to keep the ministry pure, might stop asking our friends to pray for us.
Some of my "faith friends" love to talk about George Mueller, who supposedly made his requests known only to God. Mueller, though, never hesitated in letting everyone know exactly what his needs were. But that's different from today's phony Christian who says he wants to get you on his mailing list so he can "pray for you" (when what he actually wants is your money).
Although I know it is God who answers our prayers, I also know that money does not float down from heaven like manna. It is given by people who have received information about specific needs. The danger lies in taking the shortcut: bypassing God and going directly to the people.
According to my friend Ollie Swenson, who also lives in the country, the second happiest day in his life was the day someone gave him a goat. The happiest day was the day the goat ran away.
Ollie went on to explain how his goat—the very first day he had it—climbed the fence and ate every one of his wife's expensive shrubs, including nine hanging baskets on the patio (rope and all).
The goat finished that off by devouring all the imported tulips from Holland and, without even a burp, ate one of his wife's eelskin shoes. The next day the goat butted Ollie's mother-in-law head first into the compost pile and then totally destroyed his neighbor's garden.
Two days later, the neighbor called to apologize. It seems the goat—quite by accident—had gotten mixed up with two cows the neighbor was taking to the market. The goat wound up at the slaughterhouse and no one could figure out how a thing like that could have happened.
Ollie said it was a time for rejoicing throughout the kingdom. Well, I don't know much about goats, but I can tell you about pigs and cows. And about horses that eat sand and have to be flushed out. Now that's quite an experience.
Mickey Evans, who runs an alcoholic rehab center on a large ranch, gave me a 34-year-old horse one time. One morning, I walked out to the pasture behind our house to lean on a fence post, watch the sunrise and pray in tongues.
I glanced out into the pasture and saw the horse lying on his side, looking like the Goodyear blimp. I mean he was so filled with gas he was about to float. I called the big animal vet. He arrived within the hour. "He's sanded," the vet said. By that he meant the horse was too stupid to know the difference between grass and dirt, and had eaten at least a bucket of sand.
The effect was the same as pouring dirt down your sink—it had clogged his innards. We finally got the horse on his feet, which was no easy feat. The vet told me to hold the horse's head. He then withdrew a 25-foot rubber hose from his satchel and stuck it in the horse's nose. It was hard to believe.
Nothing had changed—even though it was all different. We sat up late, talking, just as we had done 10 years ago. My wife, Jackie, Dan and Viola Malachuk, and myself.
Outside winter winds whistled through the barren trees on the dark New Hampshire mountains. But inside it was just as it had been in those days when Dan and Viola lived in the big house in New Jersey and Dan's publishing company, Logos International, was the hottest thing going.
Back then Dan Malachuk was one of the shakers and movers of the ascending charismatic movement. He, along with Demos Shakarian, Oral Roberts, Kathryn Kuhlman—well, they kinda put the whole thing in motion.
Demos took the message around the world with his Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship. Kathryn made it real with those dramatic miracle services. Oral folded his tent and built a university to train the next generation. But it was Dan Malachuk who published it for the world to read—and believe.
Viola was part of that dream. They went to work in the back of Dan's jewelry store in Plainfield, N.J. Dan dreamed, brought in authors and marketed books. Viola sat at a little desk preparing the manuscripts. Hundreds of titles with the Logos imprint covered the world. A national magazine, Logos Journal, was birthed. Huge conferences on the Holy Spirit were held in Jerusalem, Switzerland, South Africa.
Then it all came tumbling down. Now Dan and Viola sit in self-imposed exile in their little house in the backwoods of New Hampshire. "I'll tell you why Logos went bankrupt," a respected leader told me. "Dan was not straight. He was always making a 'deal,' which would benefit himself."
Perhaps so, and maybe it was by God's grace Dan didn't wind up with some big lawsuits. We would talk of that later. But that first night, sitting in their kitchen drinking apple cider and remembering, we only talked of good things.
I never heard my father and mother argue. I now know they often disagreed. But they considered it bad breeding to argue in front of their children. It was an unreal world for a kid to grow up in.
There was one time ... I was about 10 years old. I woke in the middle of the night and heard my mother screaming. My older brother, Walter Jr., had come in late from a Saturday night date. My mother met him downstairs, and there was some kind of horrible confrontation.
My mother was hysterical. Her words were shrill. Unintelligible. Then I heard Walter shouting something—also unintelligible. The door slammed, shaking the entire house.
By that time, I was out of bed. From my upstairs window, I saw my brother stomping across the dark yard toward nowhere, shouting back at the house. My mother, back upstairs, was still hysterical.
I was terrified and crawled back into bed, wishing it had never happened. Through the closed bedroom door I could hear my father's calming voice, "Now, now, he'll be back."
The next morning we all gathered as usual at the breakfast table before leaving for Sunday school. Each child, including Walter, was present. Mother was bustling back and forth from the kitchen, bringing in the Cream of Wheat in the big brown serving bowl with the blue stripe around the top.
My father, sitting at the head of the table in coat and tie, had us bow for the blessing. No mention was made of the catastrophic eruption of the night before. In fact, to my knowledge, this is the first time it has ever been mentioned by anyone in 43 years.
I had known for several months that my body could not maintain the pace. The time was December 1979—10 years ago.
The pressures in our church had brought us to another crisis stage. Writing deadlines, to which I had agreed the year before when things were less hectic, were now screaming frantically at me from the finish line. Then there was the traveling ministry. I enjoyed it because I could go into a different city each week and be treated like a king—and not have to live with or solve the problems I constantly created at home.
Running on wound-up energy, I was growing less and less effective in all I was doing. I first realized I was in big trouble in early December when I stepped off a plane in Bogota, Colombia. After stumbling through customs and finding myself standing on a dark curbside outside the airport terminal, I suddenly realized I didn't know where I was staying or who was meeting me.
It was an empty feeling. I was surrounded by my suitcase and boxes of supplies I was to deliver to missionaries. I wanted to sit down on the curb and cry. What in the world was I doing here anyway? I wanted to be home.
Suddenly, I heard a horn blowing and blowing. I looked up. There was an old friend—a native Colombian. He was motioning for me to get into his car. In a daze I did.
"What are you doing here?" I asked. "I was praying and the Lord said to go to the airport and meet Jamie. "I don't understand."
"You had written earlier, saying you were coming and would stay with me. But you never said when. Each night I have prayed. Tonight, the Lord said you had arrived and needed help."
I remember little about the trip to South America except the conversation I had with a friend on the plane back home. I was to arrive home in mid-December, then leave the day after Christmas for South Africa—returning home in mid-January via Israel.
I said to my friend, "I don't see anyway to slow down except to be struck down."
"Don't curse yourself with that," he said.
"It would be a blessing, not a curse," I mumbled.
When I was a child, our family made an annual pilgrimage to visit our "kissin' cousins" in the Bluegrass state of Kentucky. I loved the beaten biscuits and fried chicken for breakfast.
Most of all, I loved to watch the race horses training. Sometimes, early in the morning, we would drive out from where we were staying in Mount Sterling to a nearby farm. Sitting on the top rail of a white-washed fence, I could watch the high-stepping pacers prance around the harness-racing track.
They looked like they could run forever—their heads high, moving two legs on the same side of their bodies together in a two-beat gait. I was bothered when the jockey, sitting low between the wheels of the sulky, would reach out and flick his whip against the horse's flank.
One of my cousins told me it was not to inflict pain, but to give a signal to the horse. "The horse runs the race," she said, "but the jockey sets the pace. The horse just obeys."
Race horses—the kind that gallop—can run only short stretches. If they push beyond that, they die. Trotters and pacers, however, can keep going for long stretches.
Recently someone sent me a newspaper column written by an old acquaintance, the pastor of a huge Baptist church in Atlanta. He was resigning his church after 26 years—quitting the ministry publicly.
I just returned from attending Converge 21 USA conference at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. It was tremendously inspiring, and there were many powerful speakers there, including Bishop R. Jackson Jr., recent guest editor of Ministry Today.
We continue to honor author/pastor Jamie Buckingham with a month-long tribute on the Ministry Today website. Before his untimely death in February 1992, Jamie served as editor of the magazine for several years.
You can also read the comments below from more readers who pay tribute to Jamie with their own reflections about him.
Ray Pile, a pastor for 35 years in Fredonia, Kan., knew Jamie from reading his columns and books.
"I remember as a young pastor reading Daughter of Destiny," he recalled. "It really impacted my life. What Jamie wrote did not so much elevate and glorify Kathryn Kuhlman as much as it highlighted what God can do thorough a flawed but yielded vessel. I grew in my appreciation of God because of Jamie's book."
Steve Bowen, community outreach pastor for the Dayton Vineyard in Dayton, Ohio, also knew Jamie from reading his columns. "To me, one of the most impactful stories Jamie penned was when he went to a retreat with a group of guys," Bowen said. "He was wanting to show the model of servanthood, so decided to go and clean the toilet. While cleaning, he then decided to let the guys know about his humble act of service.
Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company is offering two free webinars for churches later this month.
Set for March 19 from 4-5 p.m. EST, "Sexual Harassment Prevention for Ministry Staff" is designed to create policies in place to better equip ministry leaders to deal with situations and protect ministry employees. Kathleen Turpin, vice president of human resources for Brotherhood Mutual, will lead the webinar. She will discuss growing concerns, guidelines for prevention, policies and procedures, and how to handle an investigation if an incident occurs.
Scheduled for March 22 from 4-5 p.m. EST, "Preventing Child Abuse in Your Ministry" will be led
by Turpin and John Hein, corporate counsel for Brotherhood Mutual. Hein has handled the legal aspects of a number of child abuse cases and regularly provides liability risk management consultations for ministries across the country.
Turpin and Hein will discuss awareness of increasing concerns of child abuse in ministries, developing child protection policies, employee and volunteer screening procedures, communicating with the congregation, and dealing with sex offenders in church.
Both webinars will not feature a phone line for participants to call in. Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company recently formed a partnership to provide property and liability insurance services to Southern Baptist churches and affiliated ministries.
I stood in my den last August, stunned, watching my TV. There was Jim Bakker being half-dragged, half-led from his lawyer's office in Charlotte, N.C. His hair disheveled, his shirt pulled out at the waist. His face anguished in fear. His wrists in handcuffs. His ankles in leg irons. Federal marshalls put him into the backseat of a car where he collapsed.
He was later driven to a federal prison in Butner, N.C., and committed to the psychiatric wing for evaluation.
"What's your response?" the newspaper reporter wanted to know when she called me several hours later.
"A mixture of sadness and thanksgiving," I said. "I don't understand."
"I mean, there, but for the grace of God, go I."
I was sad for what Jim Bakker was going through, No Christian, regardless of our opinion of the PTL fiasco, has the right to feel smug about the Jim Bakker disaster.
Who among us can stand under the searchlight of scrutiny if it were turned on our hearts? Like Bakker's associate, Richard Dortch, we have no choice but to plead guilty.
The only difference between Jim Bakker and me is degrees. He got caught. So far, I haven't. No, I haven't done anything illegal. (Of course he didn't think he had either.) But I am immoral. If not in deed, certainly in thought.
Only by the grace of God have I not been hung up to dry in public—my sins exposed for the world to see. So I was sad. But also thankful. Deeply thankful I have been spared what Bakker and others have had to experience. The evening after the national news ran all those clips showing Jim Bakker's breakdown a local man called me on the phone. "Boy, what an act. They ought to give him an Oscar."
All I could say was, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner." I wrote Bakker a note that week. "Thank you for your years of faithful service. I thank God for people who found Christ through your ministry."
Well, it finally happened. I was on the platform during the early service that Sunday morning. Although I was not scheduled to preach, I was directing the service, Jimmy Smith, our soloist, was singing from the piano. It was powerful, moving.
"I will pour water on him that is thirsty...." As he finished, I turned to the guest preacher who was seated beside me. "I'm going to minister to the people before you preach," I whispered.
He nodded. I picked up the wireless microphone and walked to the pulpit just as the music finished. "Please bow your heads and close your eyes," I said.
Jimmy caught the mood of the moment and continued to play softly. I talked for a few seconds about the water of the Holy Spirit, which softens the parched earth of our lives. I asked the people to let Him come into their lives. Jimmy sang another stanza. Some of the people slipped to their knees.
I closed by asking them to receive the seed of the Word, which the preacher was about to sow in their lives. After the service, the guest preacher commented, "That was great. I wish you could repeat it just the same way at the second service."
I swelled a little, It was a good word. Fresh. Spontaneous. I nodded. If a thing is good for one group, why not for all?
In the second service, before a much larger crowd, Jimmy sang the same song. But something was different. The people were not responding as the first group had. But my course was set.
Once again I picked up the microphone and stepped to the pulpit. With solemn drama I called the people to prayer. My own eyes were closed. My head bowed. I waited, piously, through the dramatic pause.
One affliction common among grandparents is the urge to take over. I've watched my mother, who is 85, do this to our children. Now, as my own five children grow up, marry and start having children of their own I find myself doing the same thing.
In fact, it's hard to keep from taking over when you know you can do it better—and with my five grandchildren I am no exception.
"You don't have to make that mistake," I want to tell my children as they stumble clumsily through child rearing. "Your mom and] have already walked that path. It goes nowhere. Go this way instead."
It seems so simple. All they have to do is follow my advice and they'll rear perfect children. Yet, it may be that real maturity comes only by making mistakes and then having to find a way out of the corner into which you've painted yourself.
Reflecting back over the years, there are certain things I would do differently if I had the option of starting over. There are other things we did right—things which have really paid off. I wish, for instance, I had taught my children correct eating habits. I'm not talking of table manners, for we spent a lot of time on that.
Rather I am concerned that we raised an entire generation on junk food—ice cream and french fries. Now that Jackie and I have been convicted of OUT poor eating habits and are making drastic changes (no more white sugar and white bread, few red meats, lots of vegetables, fruits and grains) we find it painful to see our grandchildren eating the same things our children ate.
Your call from Tulsa, Okla., telling us that you are expecting your first baby has filled the old home place with joy. Your mom—and your brothers and sisters—are ecstatic.
You could tell, of course, when Robin grabbed the phone and started squealing. I believe she's more excited over your "good news" than over the birth of her own two children. What do I feel? Well, while the rest of the family is back in the kitchen celebrating, I have withdrawn to my quiet place back here in my study to think—and remember. I'm proud of you and Marion.
During your two years of marriage, you have proved yourselves hard workers and able managers. Marion has a great future ahead, and you are, already, an outstanding artist and illustrator. Thus when you announced, several months ago, that you wanted to have a baby, I knew it would cost you something. Choosing a baby over a career is a difficult decision. You and Marion are earning good salaries.
That will be chopped in half when you stop work—while your expenses will increase, But yours is the finer decision. Your mom and I are proud you have chosen a baby over money. There are, in the lives of most women, three significant times. They are menstruation, marriage and childbirth.
The first time begins at the marvelous moment when a girl's body announces she is no longer a child—but has become a woman. For some girls this is terrifying. They have not been taught that their body is fearfully and wonderfully made. They do not know that the sign of blood is not a signal of death, but the heralding of a new age—that the menstrual cycle is not a curse but the signal her body is now capable of bearing new life.
I realize, as a man, I've never had to go through the monthly bloating and cramping caused by the menstrual period. I remember, too vividly, all those times during your teen years when I would hear you moaning in the night. I would go into your room and spend long hours sitting on the side of your bed, rubbing your back and praying.
Most of my adult life, it seems, I've been trying to build bridges between people who don't want to come together. Last fall, I got tired of the process and decided to build a real bridge—the kind made with timbers and nails.
For more than 50 years, our family has owned a cabin on 15 acres in the mountains of North Carolina. Behind the cabin, a sparkling little stream winds its way through the deep woods. We call it Brushy Branch.
Over the years, three generations of Buckingham children have played in that follow wonderful stream. We've built dams, floated little boats, caught crawdads and even dug clay from its banks to make genuine Indian pottery.
Until last fall, however, no one had ever built a bridge. Instead, we used an old log, gingerly balancing as we crossed the stream. For years, every time I walked across that log. I dreamed of building a bridge.
Last November, I finally got around to it. Using a broken yardstick taped together with masking tape and a length of hemp string, I measured the needed dimensions. I estimated it would take a 16-foot span, 3 feet wide and 4 feet above the ankle-deep water.
On a sheet of paper, I sketched the diagram—the end posts, the braces, the spans, the planking, the side rail and the center posts that would have to be sunk in concrete in the streambed. This was going to be a real bridge. Not a suspension bridge like the Golden Gate nor an arch bridge like the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls. It was going to be my bridge.
"Why not just put another log across the stream?" my wife. Jackie, asked when I took her down to the building supply store and spent $70 on pressure-treated lumber.
"You don't understand," I told her. "I've got to build this. Logs rot or wash away in the spring rains. This will be here many years after we're gone—providing safe passage for little feet across the dangerous narrows of Brushy Branch."
I arrived at the new Founders Inn on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) campus on a Thursday afternoon. I was to be Pat Robertson's guest on The 700 Club Friday morning, then speak that night at the CBN Partners' banquet in the hotel ba1lroom.
The magnificent hotel had been open only five weeks. They were still laying sod. I was impressed with the hotel staff. The bell captain, I discovered, was a graduate of both Oral Roberts University and Asbury Seminary. He had been a Methodist pastor before assuming his new position. (He indicated this was a step up in his career.)
The hotel was crowded that weekend because of the Partners' Seminar. Every room was taken. After checking in. I picked up my bag, walked around the lake, past the physical fitness building to the James River Lodge.
When I unlocked the door, however, I was in for a surprise. The room didn't have a bed! Just a sofa, some chairs and a couple of tables. Strange. I began opening doors. Closet. Bathroom. No bed, A double door led another room, but it was locked.
I walked out in the hall and asked one of the housekeepers if she would come look. "It's our best room," she smiled. "We reserve it especially for visiting speakers." "Ah...it doesn't have a bed."
"Don't worry," she said, "we'll come in later this evening and fold down the sofa." Maybe none of the rooms in this new hotel have beds, I thought. I walked down the hall and peeked in a couple of rooms. They all had beds.
I seemed to be the only one in the hotel who was going to have to sleep on the sofa. Maybe the others had beds because they were large contributors. I blushed when I thought of the meager amount I had sent CBN last year.
"You get what you give," I'd preached. I'd just take what was mine and try to be thankful. That night, trying to get comfortable on my 4-inch-thick mattress that rested on an iron bar that went right across the middle of my back, I thought I heard God say: "Sleeping on the sofa is good for you."
We have honored author/pastor Jamie Buckingham with a month-long tribute on the Ministry Today website. He served as editor of the magazine for several years before his untimely death in February 1992.
If you haven't done so, we invite you to visit the special section by clicking here. http://www.ministrytodaymag.com/jamie You can read some of Jamie's best "Last Word" columns for Charisma that were chosen by his family and the magazine's article on Jamie's passing.
Additionally, you can read the comments below from several readers who pay tribute to Jamie with their own reflections about him.
"Jamie Buckingham was my pastor from April 1988 until his death in February 1992," recalled Richard Phelps, founder of Hope Ministries and chaplain of the Indialantic Fire Rescue in Indialantic, Fla. "My wife, Judy, and I had moved to Melbourne, Fla., with the dream of restarting our lives in a warmer climate than our native Rhode Island and finding new career opportunities. I had a dream of being a pastoral counselor and encouraging hurting people that God loved them, and He would make provision for them no matter their history of mistakes.
"In November 1988, Jamie approved an opportunity for me to begin a pastoral counseling ministry. Although I had very limited credentials for this ministry, I was permitted on the basis of my limited secular counseling experience, history of personal recovery, relationship with Christ and calling to the ministry.
"I have a special memory of Jamie. The very first public ministry that Jamie and Jackie Buckingham did after Jamie had his surgery for cancer was to attend our home group—a night that I will never forget! Jamie was very emotional that evening as he rejoiced for the success of his surgery and the hope for additional years. A very emotionally troubled woman in our home group asked Jamie if he would pray for her. Jamie knelt down in front of her speaking forth the most compassionate prayer that I have ever heard.
About a month ago, I wrote a blog endorsing Sen. Rick Santorum who is, I believe, the truest conservative and someone I consider "squeaky clean." I was interviewed on the PBS program Religion & Ethics and they wanted to know why I didn't endorse the other candidates.
For Mitt Romney I'm concerned about how he's flip-flopped. And I'm wary of the fact that he's Mormon (although that doesn't prevent me from voting for him—it only makes it more difficult). And with Newt Gingrich I'm concerned his many moral failures (which he says he has repented of and I don't doubt that's true) shows a deep character flaw. But Rick Santorum has a good record, projects the image of a leader and has strong Christian values.
My endorsement was widely circulated and the PBS program has a large following, but I doubt my support did much good. Santorum came in third in Florida. To me, I was mainly making a point that I wanted to back someone my friend Florida representative Scott Plakon says is as clean as a "Boy Scout."
What a difference a month makes in politics. Since then Santorum has won several primaries and is now ahead in the polls. And at NRB it seemed everyone I talked to is supporting him. It's as if a lot of people feel as I do—we want a leader with conservative values, voting records and strong moral values. The biggest difference is that people are beginning to believe he can win!
As part of the January-February issue on social transformation of Ministry Today, Guest Editor Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. interviewed Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel; and Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, who discussed why pastors should not stay away from political issues—despite scrutiny from the IRS and groups threatening lawsuits.
Staver, the dean of Liberty University School of Law in Lynchburg, Va., also wrote an informative article on what churches can do politically without losing their tax-exempt status. Staver notes that every election year, with 2012 being one, thousands of pastors receive threatening letters claiming their churches will lose their tax-exempts status if they engage in any political activity. He encourages pastors not to believe the hype.
A quiet pebble beach is located on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is under the shadow of the Golan Heights, not far from the ancient village of Bethsaida.
It was here, early one morning, that Jesus stood and shouted across the water to His friends in a fishing boat. "Catch anything?"
Peter recognized His voice, jumped overboard and swam to shore. It had been several weeks since Jesus had risen from the grave. He kept appearing and disappearing. By the time the other fishermen got to shore, Jesus and Peter had a fire going and breakfast was almost ready.
What followed was one of the most personal and poignant encounters in the Bible. Pulling Peter aside, Jesus predicted the kind of death he was going to die: "When you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go" (John 21:18, NIV).
It was a disturbing prediction. Peter was going to be crucified. Peter's reaction was similar to the way many of us react when we get a glimpse into the future of unpleasant things—we divert attention away from ourselves to someone else.
Pointing at John, Peter asked, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus' response was instant. "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me" (John 21:22).
Like all of us, Peter was hoping for a guarantee of long life. He didn't like the possibility of early death—especially if it included suffering. He wanted to hold to all the healing verses of the Bible but omit the verses about Christians having to suffer if they follow Jesus.
I understand that feeling. Last summer, I emerged from my healing experience with cancer feeling invincible. Almost immortal. The doctors had told me I was going to die, but God intervened.
I not only survived—I was healed. But I didn't get what I really wanted: a guarantee the cancer would never return. That is the heart of Jesus' response to Peter: "God allows no guarantees. He does not want you to walk by knowledge—but by faith. "I alone control the length of a man's days,"
Jesus told Peter. "How long John lives is none of your business. You must follow Me." Following Jesus means risky living. God, however, is far more interested in what we become than whether we reach the goal.
In fact, the goal is really found in the following—not the arriving. That, sadly, goes cross-grain to the American concept of success. But God is more interested in building our faith than providing mental security.
One of the modern Greek playwrights wrote of the novice who went to stay on an island with an elderly priest.
One afternoon the young cleric, eager to learn, walked with the venerable man along the craggy shore. As their robes swirled in the wind, he finally asked his big question. "Father, do you still wrestle with the devil?"
"No, my son," the elderly man answered, stroking his white beard.
"I have grown old, and the devil has grown old with me. He does not bother me as before. Now I wrestle with God,"
"Wrestle with God? Do you hope to win?" The wrinkled old man looked his young consort in the eye.
"Oh no! I hope to lose."
Unfortunately, most of us seldom get to that place in life. We spend our years battling with Satan. The devil, however, is not man's real adversary—God is.
God's ways are not our ways. His kingdom is not of this world. His commands run counter to our concepts. Until we are defeated by God, we shall always be miserable.
Last summer, following the diagnosis of cancer in my kidney, I found myself in what I thought was mortal combat with the devil. His voice, so logical and factual, echoed through my mind at night after the house was quiet, striking fear and panic.
He would remind me of the doctors' prognosis...chide me for not having bought grave plots. ..show me the agonized faces of my children and grandchildren peering into my casket...list, one by one, the sins of my past—and present.
Then I discovered that even minor resistance in the name of Jesus causes him to flee. Of course, he returns—and he did, in the form of another cancer.
Now I am back in the wrestling match. Only this time I am not battling Satan, for I know he is already defeated. Instead, like the old priest, I find myself wrestling with God.
As the radiation treatment gradually shrank the tumor, I had time—a lot of time—to spend on the mat. Our conversations, while gentle, were always pointed.
One quiet afternoon, sitting in the home of my physician in St. Petersburg, Fla., I found myself battling with Jesus' words from Luke 9: "Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it" (v. 24. NKJV).
Did this mean I should not take measures to save my life from the cancer? Surely not, for God had told me to resist evil. No, it meant I was not to save my life for my sake—but so I could be at God's disposal, delighting to do His will.
Several years after my father's death, I had the heart-wrenching task of moving my mother, Elvira, into a Baptist retirement center in Florida. My father had donated the property to the center before he died, planning for the both of them to live there later.
Dad never got to live there, but Mom stuck to the plan. She moved only a few things with her, urging us children to divide up the rest. After the big pieces of furniture had been shipped out, my two brothers, my sister and I wandered through the old house.
Every keepsake had a memory attached—different to each of us. We decided to take turns choosing, I wanted only one thing: the tattered "prayer book" that my parents had used every morning for years. Actually, it was an oversized photo album with seven pages—one for each day of the week.
Each page contained the pictures of those they prayed for that day. My dad had made a little stand so that the album could stay open on the breakfast table, and each morning before eating their meager breakfast, they prayed for their friends. I took the old book and sat on the back steps, looking at each page.
Monday, they prayed for their local Gideon chapter—an organization dedicated to the distribution of Bibles. Tuesday, they prayed for the Billy Graham organization—and for Billy's crusades. Wednesday, they prayed for Tom and Betsy Smoak, then missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Colombia, South America.
I recall sitting at breakfast with them, listening as my mother's voice broke with emotion as she prayed for the six Smoak children by name. Thursday, they prayed for two elderly women who had given their lives as missionaries to mountain people in Appalachia. Friday, they prayed for old friends. Saturday, a family picture helped them remember all their children and grandchildren.
Sunday, even after they were too feeble to attend, they prayed for their local church, and for the staff and residents at the retirement center. Now mother was in that same center. The book had been left behind. I took it home. It remains in my study, closed. The stand, however, is on our breakfast table. It holds my prayer book—complete with pictures.
Every year, for the last 15 years, a group of us—dressed in old clothes, carrying shotguns, rifles and sleeping bags—have gathered in a little hunting cabin deep in the swamps of south Florida.
We come from different towns and states. Each year we add or subtract someone, but the core group has remained the same. The four days are spent in the woods southwest of Lake Okeechobee on the edge of the Florida Everglades—30 miles from the nearest phone.
Early mornings and late evenings, we wait in deer stands in trees or walk through the woods with our guns. Nights, we gather in the little cabin with its tin roof, nestled deep in a hammock—a thick stand of oak, cypress and palm trees surrounded by a slough.
This year was different from all the other years. Months earlier, when news spread that I might be dying of cancer, the men had prayed for me. When I arrived, there were genuine tears of thanksgiving. My old friends, you see, had wondered if my cot might be the one left vacant.
Something else was different. The thrill of the hunt was still there; but rather than taking life, my purpose had changed. I had come to get quiet—and talk to God. Martin Buber, the Jewish theologian, once described God as "wholly other." I used to think of Him that way. Distant. Apart, A Creator removed from His creation.
Last summer, though, I discovered Him as Abba. He's my Daddy, and He loves me far more than I loved my sons who accompanied me on the trip. The last morning of the hunt, the alarm went off at 4 a.m. Rather than going out. I opted to stay in camp alone. I snuggled into my sleeping bag and listened as the men dressed, checked their weapons and quietly made their way outside.
I heard someone start the big swamp buggy. Minutes later, men aboard, it rumbled out into the darkness, its oversized airplane tires squishing across the swamp, taking the men to their tree stands.
Just before dawn, I got up, dressed and walked outside. The brilliant stars provided light as I found a huge oak that formed a natural chapel. I sat on a low branch, my back against the rough bark of the trunk, watching as the sun resurrected the world. Few things on earth match the beauty of a Florida sunrise over the Everglades.
The summer after I graduated from high school, my father had surgery for a double hernia. The operation was performed in a small hospital in Asheville, N.C., near my parents' summer cabin in Hendersonville.
In those days, it was customary to employ a private nurse because there were very few hospital staff nurses available. The surgeon recommended a mountain woman by the name of Julia Baldwin. Julia was typical of the raw-boned, hard-working women who live in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
She came into my father's room the morning he was to have surgery. "Praise the Lord," she said, grinning. "Let's pray!" I was embarrassed. It was a critical time in my life. I was getting ready to leave for college. I wanted a relationship with God, but I was afraid of what that might mean.
Now here comes this ruddy-faced, middle-aged woman—bubbling like Alka-Seltzer in water. She assumed, when she heard I was enrolled at a Christian college, that I had a relationship with Jesus.
"Come visit my church," she said. "You'll love it," There was no way to back out. The following Sunday, using my mother's car, I drove out to the little Christian and Missionary Alliance church.
The service was just starting. The people were singing and clapping. I'd never heard this kind of music. Julia was in the choir. She saw me come in, grinned and waved, motioning me to join her. I was terrified. People turned and looked. Then, incredibly, she came down out of the choir loft, took my arm, and suddenly I was up there—singing and clapping my hands with the rest of the congregation. I loved it!
It was the first time in all my life I had been in a church service with vigor, and the people responded vocally—with even more vigor. I had only heard of folks who said "Amen!" in church. Now I was surrounded by them. That morning of my 18th year, sitting in the little choir loft of a Christian and Missionary Alliance church, something sparked in my heart.
This was what I had been looking for and didn't even know existed. I ventured out and said my first hesitant "Amen!" It felt good. After church. Julia took me to her house. I still remember he location on Merrimon Avenue.
She fed me lunch and talked about God. She was the only person I had ever met who talked about Him in the present tense. She was also the first person I had ever warned to tell all the sins in my life. As I was leaving, she gave me a book with a green dust jacket. It was called Rees Howells, Intercessor by Norman Grubb. "It will save your life," she said. I mumbled my embarrassed thanks and left.
When I was in high school, I had a football coach who met every player at the sideline as he came off the field, shook his hand and said, "Good job!" I remember very little else about him—but I remember that.
No matter how badly I had played, he shook my hand when I came off the field. Under his coaching, we went undefeated for two years. An incredible feat for a tiny Florida school with a graduating class of 58.
One New Year's Day, after our second undefeated season, he took the entire team—all 33 of us—to the Orange Bowl in Miami. His alma mater, the University of Tennessee, was playing, and he had gotten us tickets. He piled us into a bus and drove 130 mites down the coast, coming back the same night.
It was his way of thanking us for a great season. The next summer we heard he had been fired. There might have been other reasons, but the one we were given was that the Quarterback Club—a group of businessmen who met on Monday mornings in the local drugstore to discuss Friday night games—said the coach had lied on his application.
He was not a graduate of the University of Tennessee. He had gone to a much smaller school. Some said he had never even played college ball. They said he was just a super-promoter who had fooled a bunch of folks. We kids didn't even get to tell him goodbye. When we reported for practice two weeks before school began, there was a new coach on the field.
"He was a fake," we were told. "We don't need someone like that in our town." We didn't know about that. All we knew was that he won ball games. He taught morality. If he heard us cussing, we ran laps until we dropped.
When he found out our star fullback was bragging about his sexual exploits, he benched him. We loved our coach because he was tough—but clean. And because he gave us confidence. I remember the Sunday night before the big Thanksgiving game with our longtime rival.
Author/pastor Jamie Buckingham had a huge impact on my life and on our organization. He encouraged me to start Ministry Today and wrote in it many times. He served as editor several years before his untimely death in February 1992.
You can read some of Jamie's best "Last Word" columns for Charisma that were chosen by his family and the magazine's article on Jamie's passing. Additionally, you can write your own tribute or reflections about him by commenting on the various articles.
As part of the January-February issue on social transformation of Ministry Today, James Robison, the president of Life Outreach International and the co-host of the Life Today television program, wrote a challenging and informative column on what pastors and churches can do to help avert a cultural tsunami.
In the social transformation issue, which goes beyond political activism. Guest Editor Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. invited other outstanding authors such as Chuck Colson, David Barton and Tony Perkins to write. The end result is something much more powerful—an issue on social transformation, which involves being involved politically. Read it and be transformed, so you can in turn transform society.
I recently made the very picturesque journey from my hometown, Melbourne, Fla., to the beautiful, small city of Vero Beach, Fla.
This quaint old city has the prudence of huge oak hammocks as well as the tropical views of giant palm trees. The air is persistently humid and filled with the sweet fragrance of orange blossoms, with an occasional trace of the not-so-sweet Indian River.
I absolutely love Vero Beach because of the wonderful memories of my grandfather, Jamie Buckingham, that resurfaces whenever I visit. This particular trip was special because I made it with my grandmother and Jamie's widow, Jackie Buckingham.
I had the ultimate tour guide, and she didn't disappoint. We drove by Vero Beach High School, and I saw her eyes light up as she recalled all of the mischievous things my grandfather had done in his youth like racing his old Ford pick-up truck as fast as it would go down the steel railroad tracks.
As I listened, it was obvious why she never remarried. Jamie's playful spirit and tendencies to be unpredictable had won her over as a teenager, and she was still very much in love with him two decades after his passing in February 1992.
She recalled with a laugh how she had to wait to wear her engagement ring until she was enrolled in college because my great grandfather, Walter Buckingham or "Daddy B" as we all called him, said that it would not be proper for her to wear it while still in high school.
We even drove down to the Baptist church where my grandfather spent his summer home from college as the acting youth pastor—his first real role in ministry. I suppose that was where he had his calling confirmed as he spent the rest of his life in ministry.
Shortly after my dad became a Christian, at age 62, he began looking around for things he could give away. Although he had been successful in his Florida business and in citrus agriculture, and had
accumulated many things, giving became more important than getting.
He spent the last 26 years of his life giving things away. He once told me his goal was to be like Job, also a successful businessman, who left this world as he entered it—owning nothing.
He came close to meeting that goal. The afternoon after he died, at the age of 88, I went through his remaining possessions. Everything was within reach of his bed—either on or in his little nightstand.
He had been wearing most of his clothes: a pair of khaki pants, a tan dress shirt, a black bow tie and a pair of fuzzy white socks. He also owned two other pair of socks, two sets of underwear and a pair of pajamas.
On top of the nightstand were his dollar pocket watch, glasses, a soft hairbrush and his worn, dog-eared Bible. His final possession was a narrow-bladed grapefruit knife, which he loved to pull from his pocket in the citrus grove to show us kids how to peel a grapefruit in a circular fashion so the peeling never broke.
He indeed left as he arrived—owning virtually nothing. Other possessions—house, properties and money—had been given away before died. I suspect what he inherited in heaven, apart from his salvation, was in direct proportion to what he gave on earth.
He had been very direct with his five grown children. He would wisely give money when needed: when we were getting started in life and career. But he was specific: There would be no money for us in his will.
He left an inheritance to take care of our mother who, now at 93, is continuing to use it. But he knew that money or property left to children often divides families. All his possessions—and they were considerable—had been given ahead of time or were willed to the churches and mission organizations he believed in and loved.
Few things traumatize us real men any more than being kissed by another man. I vividly remember the first time it happened to me.
The fellow was a transplant into our church from Ohio. Broad and bearded, he came forward after the service to introduce himself. I tried to shake his hand. Instead he kissed me on the cheek. I could feel my face turn flaming red. I knew ought to kiss him back.
Five times the Bible says we should greet one another with a holy kiss. That's more times than it says we should be born again. But I couldn't. I just couldn't. It took me weeks to recover. A month later, after doing my best to evade the man on Sunday, he kissed me again. But I simply could not pucker up in return.
Real men, I had been taught from childhood, don't kiss other men. They shake hands. It was tough enough just learning how to hug. I got my first exposure 23 years ago at a Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship convention in Washington. D.C.
It was horrible, crammed into that hotel lobby with 4,000 hugging charismatics. Two things stood out about that group. First, they were a people who vocalized their affection to God with unabashed shouting—even in public places. Second, they showed their affection to each other—by hugging.
It was as if all charismatics had adopted a slogan: "No handshaking allowed." Even my own father didn't hug me. But these people hugged everyone. And worse, they pounded you on the back at the same time, shouting "Praise God!" to draw attention to their bizarre behavior. Eventually, in self-defense, I too became a hugger.
It was easier to throw my arms around everyone than it was to try to determine who was a handshaker and who was a hugger. Then 1 ran across those verses about holy kissing. did everything I could to escape it. I checked all the different Bible translations, only to discover the Bible translators were as inhibited as I. Kenneth Taylor. from Moody Bible Institute, translated 2 Cor. l3:12: "Greet each other warmly in the Lord" (Living Bible).
It was Ghandi, legend has it who said, "I would be a follower of Christ were it not for Christians." A restaurant waitress from Pueblo, Colo., struggling with that same problem, asked, "Why are Christians so rude to waitresses?" Every place she had worked, she wrote, this was a hot topic among the waitresses.
"'Believe me, sir, I'd rather serve a party of drunks than a party of Christians—and I'm a Holy Ghost-filled Christian woman."
I sat reading her letter, imagining a group of waitresses standing in the kitchen talking about the loud, rude bunch of people who had just come in from a church meeting.
"Church people demand beyond reason—then they don't tip at all."
Well, she's right about that. I was with a man recently who, after sending his meal back twice because it wasn't cooked to his taste, punished the waitress by not leaving a tip. I could have lived with it, since he was paying the bill, had he not made a big deal of bowing his head and praying out loud before we ate—while the little waitress stood to one side watching.
After we got outside I excused myself, returned and gave her a double tip. I told her I was doing it for two reasons: One, because she had earned it for having to put up with my friend; two, because God wanted to bless her in a special way. She cried.
I have a young friend who is raising a child as a single parent—working as a waitress at Denny's. She leaves for work at 5:30 a.m.—six days a week—in order to drop her baby off at the day-care center. She makes $3.25 an hour, the rest on tips.
"Non-Christians tip best," she says. "Christians leave small tips and sometimes a gospel tract. Some don't even tip—especially breakfast," "It's hard enough," she told me, "to go to church on the one day I don't have to work. But what really stinks is finding yourself behind the loudmouth who's always complaining that his coffee is cold, then leaves 25 cents—which I have to split with the bus boy."
For a quarter century, his words gave shape, substance and hon-esty to the charismatic movement. Whether he was poking holes in religious balloons or poking fun at himself, his stories had a way of bringing us face-to-face with Jesus.
Others may take up his mantle, but no one will ever take his place. His parents named him James William Buckingham II, but everyone just called him Jamie. Born on March 28, 1932, in Vero Beach, Fla., he was educated at Mercer University (A.B.) in Macon, Ga. After graduate studies at South-western Baptist Theological Seminary (M.R.E.) in Fort Worth, Texas, Jamie became a Southern Baptist pastor.
But by 1967, he had been fired twice and was disenchanted with ministry. "I was in terrible despair," Jamie once said of this painful time. "I didn't know where to go or what to do." Desperately searching for God's direction in his life, he saw an advertisement in Guideposts magazine announcing a writers' workshop.
The ad invited manuscript submissions, so Jamie dashed off a piece, submitted it, and was invited to the conference. That week, editors John and Elizabeth Sherrill concluded that his was a "major talent." They recommended Jamie to Dan Malachuk of Logos publishing company (later Logos Fellowship International), who persuaded him to write the story of converted gang warlord Nicky Cruz.
Jamie was hesitant; he thought he knew nothing about book writing. But when he sat down at the typewriter, he later recalled, "everything came natural. From the moment I got into the project, I knew I was going to do this for life." The result: Jamie's first book—Run. Baby, Run—was a best-seller, catapulting both Nicky and Jamie into international fame.
That writing project did much more, however, than simply launch Jamie's writing career. While doing research for the book, he attended a Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship meeting in Washington, where he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Soon he was occupying a prominent place in the emerging charismatic movement as a popular speaker and author.
Well, it's the end of another year and I'm looking back at the things I wish I hadn't done. Especially do I wish that I hadn't wasted huge amounts of time doing things which later proved to be totally unproductive.
The majority of my wasted time has been spent attending public meetings—either listening to preaching, or (sigh!) doing the preaching myself. Over the last 11 months, according to my records, I have preached 203 sermons and listened to an additional 49 messages—not including tapes.
That, it seems, borders on spiritual overkill, It would seem, after attending meetings for more than 50 years, a man would be able to discern what wastes time. Yet I continue to sit through dozens of dull, boring meetings—snoozing, staring stupidly while a preacher rattles on, or writing magazine columns while people think I'm making notes on the sermon.
What the kingdom needs is more preachers like Mike Evans from Fort Worth, Texas. Two years ago, I sat listening to Mike preach at a pastor's conference. I was just thinking, "He doesn't know what he's talking about," when he stopped in mid-sentence. He paused, scratched his head, and then with wonderful honesty confessed, "I don't know what I'm talking about."
With that, he sat down. Now that was a sermon worth hearing. Most meetings I've sat through, however, were wasted time. Of the 54 sermons I've heard this year, I can remember small portions from only two.
The problem: the subject was meaningless; or I was sleepy or preoccupied with a deadline; or, as in Mike's case, the speaker didn't know what he was talking about (even though he may have tried to make up for it by shouting). It takes a smart man to know when to shut up and sit down.
As an entering graduate student at Fort Worth's Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1954, I had virtually no concept of what the term "greatness" meant. I knew there were "great" preachers.
These were, I was told, the magnificent orators, the well-known evangelists and the pastors of large churches. I knew there were "great" singers. They were, back then, the soloists who had cut records or had been asked by Billy Graham to sing at one of his crusades. But greatness?
As a freshman theolog, with a great disdain for anything religious, I suspected "greatness" was in no way related to "great"—as in great preacher—just as I suspected quality had little to do with quantity.
I had never been in the presence of greatness, but I imagined that if that ever happened I would recognize it by feel rather than statistic. I also suspected it was rare. Very rare. My first experience with it came while sitting in the third row of Ethics 203. The class was taught by T.B. Maston, chairman of the Christian ethics department. Ethics, the catalog said, was the study of moral principles and values.
It involved the principles of conduct governing an individual or group. I was interested, but not excited. A cynic, I had never known anyone who seemed to be able—or who really wanted—to live up to the standard they set for others. Sitting in that class, however, I began to feel there was something about this rather frail, gray-haired professor which rang true.
I had signed up because I wanted to sit under someone who was doing something, rather than just talking about it. Maston was a pioneer in the field of race relations among a people, and in a region, where the, burning cross was often seen as synonymous with true doctrine. A quiet scholar, he was also a bold reformer, using his pen as a sword to slay the dragons of racial inequality, religious bigotry and injustice against the poor.