Monday, November 7, 2016


"And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."  (Acts 2:42)

Last night I came across a brief article in the November 2016 issue of Christianity Today magazine that kind of "freaked me out"!  It was not a long article; actually it was just their Go Figure column entitled, "Our Favorite Heresies".  It seems LifeWay Research and Ligonier Ministries surveyed a group of evangelical Christian Americans and discovered they (or should I say "we"?) hold to a lot of beliefs that are incorrect and unbiblical!  (If you get Christianity Today or can get access to the November 2016 issue, this piece is found on page 19.)

I know this will sound like Family Feud, but I'm deliberately using the "Survey Says" terminology because we may need to have sort of a "family feud" in our churches to set the record straight on these matters!  Do you think that, "People have the ability to turn to God on their own initiative"?  (in other words, that a person may just decide out of the blue to turn to God with no prompting from Him).  The survey says that 82% of American born-again Christians believe this.  In fact, it's incorrect!  The New Testament clearly teaches that God [the Holy Spirit] draws a person to Himself and that even if a person thinks he or she is coming to God out of his or her own volition, it's just not so!  And, again, 82% of us got it wrong.  I was much more disturbed by what today's American evangelicals believe about the Holy Spirit.  Do you think that, "The Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being"?  Many cults believe that the Holy Spirit is only a force, but the survey says that's also believed by 57% of American evangelical Christians!  I would think that such a belief would grieve the Holy Spirit!  (In fact, if you check out Ephesians 4:30, you'll see that grieving the Holy Spirit is a really bad thing to do.  Might that be the reason the Holy Spirit is not mightily moving in many of our services?)  Is it your belief that, "...most people are good by nature"?  The survey says 54% of American evangelicals believe that.  In fact, the Bible teaches no one is truly "good by nature".  That's why we all need Jesus Christ, because without Him, we're all so messed up!

I won't go over the other categories.  I think you get the point.  It's been said that true Biblical Christianity, "is only one generation away from extinction"!  The late Chuck Colson was one of those who prophetically warned about this fact.  I know from my many years of pastoring that most Christians consider "doctrine" to be boring.  If a church announces that it's offering a class on "Spiritual Warfare" or on "The End Times", you can usually get quite a few people to sign up for it.  If, however, a pastor decides to have a class on someting like, "Sound Doctrine: Know What You Believe", even in a large church, he'd probably be hard pressed to get five people to sign up for it. Listen, I'm no different!  Right now, I'm not pastoring.  I'm a "regular church attender".  If a class is offered on "Spiritual Warfare" or "The End Times",  I'll usually try to go.  Regarding a "Sound Doctrine" class, I'm likely to say, "Well, I know doctrine; I don't need that," as I really think, "Boy, that sounds kind of dull!"

May God help us and have mercy on us!  Do we really "know the Bible" and are we really "sound in our doctrine" and unlikely to be tricked by a deceiver, or are we just kidding ourselves?  Yeah, that Christianity Today article really shook me up last night!

Sunday, October 30, 2016


"So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor."  (Luke 20:20 New King James Version)

I don't live in New Hampshire and I've never lived in New Hampshire, but almost every time I turn on a television set,  I feel like I'm being dragged into the gutter of New Hampshire politics whether I want to go there or not!  I think people from outside of New England would be surprised to know that the major Boston television stations are overflowing with [mostly negative] political television commercials at this time.  There are numerous pro and anti Trump ads and there are numerous pro and anti Clinton ads.  This may seem strange in what's been called, "the bluest of all the blue states"! The fact is, those ads are all aimed at New Hampshire viewers, as the major Boston television stations are watched [mostly via cable and satellite] all over the state of New Hampshire.  Along with the Clinton and Trump commercials, and along with commercials about the Questions on the Massachusetts ballot this fall [such as legalization of marijuana, and expanding the number of "Charter Schools"], there is an absolute flood of commercials about the New Hampshire U.S. Senate race.  It's almost impossible to watch T.V. without being blasted by an ad (seemingly) telling the viewer that Senator Kelly Ayotte hates old people, hates college kids, and is a money hungry idiot who is funded by insane right-wing billionaires, and then being equally assaulted by a commercial telling the viewer that Governor Maggie Hassan is a sleazy, left-wing, tax raising fool who was linked to a pedophile who terrorized a Massachusetts private school. The anti-Ayotte along with the anti-Hassan commercials have been just so disturbing to watch!  Listen, if you think the Clinton and Trump negativity is sickening, well, that's "small potatoes" compared to the vitriol between the Ayotte and Hassan camps, and I think even former Vice-President Dan Quayle would have to agree with me!  (For you non-political types, the Quayle reference has to do with "potatoes", but never mind!)

I don't profess to be an expert on either Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte or her challenger, Democrat Maggie Hassan.   Frankly, although I'm very much a "news and current events junkie" and even though at times in my life I've been quite politically active, I've been so disgusted by politics this year that I've scrupulously avoided writing anything about politics on my blog or on social media.  But something happened a few days ago that really touched my heart, and has prompted me to write this piece. Many of my readers know I'm a registered Republican and I would be classified as a "social conservative" on most issues.  Once in a great while I will vote for a Democrat, and once in a very great while, I'll take the liberal side of an issue, but for the most part, I'm a conservative Republican. If I did live in New Hampshire, I'd probably be voting for Kelly Ayotte.  Again, I'm not an expert, but from the little I have read about the race, I'm in agreement with Kelly Ayotte on most issues.  Kelly has come forward with a couple of positive campaign television commercials, most notably an ad which features her mother and her daughter.  I've also got to say, I love the one in which she's wearing a Red Sox cap at home plate and belting a bunch of baseballs.  There is an ad, however, that grabbed my heart a few days ago like no political ad has done in a long time!  That one was a commercial for Maggie Hasson.  I probably disagree with Maggie Hassan on ninety percent of the issues.  Prior to seeing that ad, I hate to admit it, but I think I was beginning to think of Maggie Hassan as some sort of evil queen akin to the queen in Snow White!   The ad that ripped my heart out featured the Hassan family and especially Maggie Hassan's very disabled son Ben. When you see Ben, it's difficult not to start weeping.  He seems like a great kid, and it's gut wrenching to see a fine young man suffering with such severe disabilities.  And, there was Maggie Hassan in the ad, no not a wicked Snow White queen, but rather a very loving mother pushing her son's wheelchair.  The ad included Hassan's daughter talking about her mom and informing the audience that it was Maggie Hassan's love for her family that motivated her to get into politics.

You know, I just couldn't dislike Maggie Hassan after seeing that!  Now, I'm not saying I'd vote for her, because I don't believe I would.  And, I also genuinely have come to like and admire Kelly Ayotte.  But since I've seen the ad with Maggie Hassan and her family I've been thinking, "These seem like two nice, hard-working, dedicated public servants.  So how did our society get like this?  How is it that we hate each other and 'trash' each other?  How is it that I could have seen Maggie Hassan as a wicked queen and so many liberals could view Kelly Ayotte as the epitome of selfishness and evil?"

That's what I'm asking here.  Part of me thinks it's too bad Kelly Ayotte couldn't just continue being a U.S. Senator from New Hampshire and that Maggie Hassan couldn't just continue being Governor of New Hampshire.  But, I know that's impossible and it's just idealistic wishful thinking!

Incidentally, as soft-hearted and respectful as I've suddenly become toward Maggie Hassan, I do have sort of a bone to pick with her and her supporters:   There's an anti-Ayotte commercial that particularly upsets me.  I think it really "hits below the belt"; and I wish it would be pulled off the airwaves.  That ad states Kelly Ayotte had stated she'd vote for Trump,  then it shows her being asked during a debate if she'd recommend Donald Trump as a role model for children, and she eagerly states she would do that.  Finally, it shows Kelly Ayotte speaking against Donald Trump and politically distancing herself from him.  Maybe those weren't Kelly Ayotte's finest moments.  But I have so much sympathy and compassion for her!  Have you ever been asked a difficult "no win" kind of question in public and then badly "fumbled" your answer to that question?  I have.

The quote I opened this piece with is from the passage where Jesus' enemies come to Him asking a bunch of tricky and ridiculous questions, trying desperately to get Jesus to say something stupid or inappropriate [or both] so that they could completely discredit Him.  Well, it didn't work.  But, Jesus is the Son of God!  Jesus is perfect!

I'm not perfect.  Have I ever "said something stupid" or said something in public that I later deeply regretted?  I absolutely have!  I pastored a small church for twenty-three years.  I'm probably not much of a businessman and I'm probably not much of a leader, but I am a powerful public speaker and teacher.  Despite my gifting as a teacher and preacher, I'm also fallible.  During my years in the pulpit, I gave many wonderful sermons and I said many wonderful things.  But I also said possibly as many as two dozen "really stupid and/or really insensitive things" from the pulpit.  [And, I'm not including occasional "off the cuff comments" in causal conversations with people where I didn't always use a lot of wisdom.]  I think two dozen comments I shouldn't have made during twenty-three years isn't too bad of an average.  Even so, I would hate to see a television commercial which proclaimed something like, "Bob Baril- listen to the stupid things he said as a pastor..." (then they'd run a montage of me saying one dumb thing after another for about twenty seconds) and the announcer would ask the question, " this a man who belongs in the pulpit?  Vote to rescind his Ordination on November 8!"

I can't imagine how ashamed and embarrassed I would be.  Yet, it would be very unfair to judge my ministry and my speaking based on that alone!  It's also ludicrous to judge our political leaders that way!  An often used old expression says it well, "There but for the grace of God go I!"

I think it would be cool if I wrote for a newspaper with a circulation of over 100,000!  In reality, a typical blog posting of mine gets about 60 "hits" in a month.  So, unless there's a miracle, not too many people will read this.  But, honestly, I'd love to see a miracle happen where both Maggie Hassan and Kelly Ayotte would read this blog posting, and where both of them would immediately agree to pull all their negative advertising off of radio and television!  Maybe it would start a new trend, and wouldn't that be refreshing?  I suppose they'd each say something like, "Well, I'll pull the negative ads if my opponent will."  No, each should just take that step regardless of what the opponent did or did not do!

I'm publicly making a commitment to pray each day until at least the end of 2016 for Kelly Ayotte and her family and for Maggie Hassan and her family.  I hope many Christians in New England will join me in doing this!  I pray God's touch on each of them and that each would draw very close to Him.  And I pray for God's perfect will regarding who wins that U.S. Senate race!

Saturday, October 22, 2016


"And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy   (Acts 2:17-18)

There are so many Bible verses I could have used to start this piece, but since it has to do with God supernaturally intervening in the lives of very ordinary people, I chose those words from Acts chapter two.  One of the hardest aspects of being a "Spirit-filled, Bible-believing Christian who believes in the dramatic and dynamic interventions of the Holy Spirit, and that absolutely nothing is impossible with God" is also coping with things when life is difficult, confusing, and seemingly unfair.   We sing a song entitled, Blessed Be Your Name, which has a line about, "when there's pain in the offering".  Yes, that's what I'm talking about.  The Israelites in the time of the exodus from Egypt got very angry with God and with Moses.  Many of them became so angry, despondent and faithless that they seriously desired to return to Egypt, ask the Egyptians' forgiveness, and just volunteer to be slaves again!  Yet, these were the people who'd experienced the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, and God miraculously sending free food [i.e. manna] on a regular basis.  They became so obsessed with their problems and difficulties that they [apparently] forgot about His miracles done to bless and help them!  I'm so embarrassed to admit that I'm so much like them!  I can focus on my immediate situation with its problems, perplexities, and difficulties and completely forget about great things God has done for me.  In fact, God has done many great things for me, although I'm in one of those "dry" and challenging periods of life right now.  Today is Saturday, and on this Saturday I've found myself thinking about a great intervention of God in my past.  

The year was 1988.  It seems like only about eleven years ago; I can't believe it was over twenty-eight years ago!  It was mid-June.  Our family was leaving for a one week vacation on Cape Cod.  We would be staying at a cottage owned by a family who attended the church we pastored in Framingham.  In those days, we had only one car.  (We did not become a two car family until 1993.)  Our car was a 1982 AMC Concord station wagon.  (Some people called it a "Rambler" which is fine because the name of the Rambler make was changed to AMC some years prior to 1982.)  We bought the AMC used in 1985.  For the most part, it was a terrible car.  It leaked oil- lots and lots of oil every day in any location in which it was parked!  Our driveway was covered with oil stains and looked horrible.  It "broke down" a lot! There were many vacuum leak problems with that car, there were many radiator problems with that car, and from time to time, there were carburetor problems with that car.  Frankly, I spent a number of very sad and frustrating days because of that 1982 AMC station wagon!  On that mid-June Saturday morning, we packed the car and I attempted to start the car.  There's no way the car was going to start!  I telephoned Bill Lincoln, a member of our church, and one of the finest mechanics I've ever known.  Bill came over, literally took out the carburetor, took it apart, cleaned it, put it back, and the car started.  What a way to start a vacation!

Driving to Cape Cod during that morning, I experienced something mystical and supernatural.  I did not hear an audible voice, but it was so real and so definite that it might as well have been an audible voice.  Deep inside my spirit was a silent yet very real and very powerful impression.  The message I was getting was this:  "You will leave this car on Cape Cod.  One week from today you will drive off Cape Cod in another car which you will buy while you're on vacation on Cape Cod."

I didn't say anything to Mary Ann.  I thought she might think I was nuts.  And I felt like maybe I was nuts!  You'd have to know me well to understand this, but I can be a very rigid and inflexible person.  Shopping for a car while on vacation on Cape Cod (or anywhere else) is something I would never, ever do for many reasons.  I was totally puzzled.  There was no way I was going to shop for a car or buy a car while on vacation,  so how could that inner impression be correct?  Yet, I knew I received that message, and I knew it was real, it was powerful, it was supernatural, and dare I say it:  It was God.

The very next day we were at the home of Fred and Shelley, friends of ours, in Mashpee.  Shelley asked what was happening in our lives and how things were going.  I mentioned that we were having a lot of problems with our car.  Shelley suddenly became both very still and very happy and excited.  She said with conviction and enthusiasm, "I believe God is going to have you buy a car and it's going to be very soon.  It's going to be a little scary, but the whole situation is going to be of God and you're to buy that car!" 

Wow!  I don't remember what I said at that point.  We went through a normal few days of vacation on Cape Cod.  On Thursday afternoon, we stopped to visit the Sandwich Fish Hatchery.  I'm not sure why we even went there, but when I was a kid our family had visited the fish hatchery, and I thought our kids just might like it.  About fifteen minutes after we'd started walking around, I looked and to my shock, a guy named Tom that we knew [who was both a fellow Assemblies of God minister and a car salesman] strolled onto the grounds of the fish hatchery with his daughter.  Tom walked right up to me and almost on cue asked, "Are you looking to buy a car?"

"Well," I replied, "in the flesh, no; but in the Spirit, maybe!"

Tom said he thought he had the perfect car for us.  He asked us to stop into the dealership in Hyannis on Friday morning, and we agreed to that.  The next day, Tom told me he'd been driving by the Sandwich Fish Hatchery and [similar to my own experience while driving to Cape Cod] he got a strong inner impression from God to drive into the fish hatchery and begin walking around.  He said he'd thought, "But I've already been to the fish hatchery!"  Instantly, that inner impression replied, "Yes, but your daughter hasn't seen it."  When Tom saw me he said he knew God was up to something and believed a very desirable used car on their lot was probably for the Barils.

On Friday morning, we test drove a 1986 Plymouth Caravelle.  (That was a mid-sized model, also marketed by Chrysler Corporation as the Dodge 600. )  We still were making payments on the AMC.  The payments on the Plymouth would be for four and a half years, and would be almost double what we were paying for the AMC, and frankly couldn't afford.  Yet, Mary Ann and I knew this was of God.  We said "Yes".  We signed the appropriate paperwork.  We were told this would all be processed through the local Registry of Motor Vehicles branch and that the Plymouth would be ready to pick up on Saturday morning.

After we made the deal, we went out for Chinese food.  In the parking lot of the Chinese restaurant, we smelled an unpleasant odor, and noticed green anti-freeze fluid pouring onto the parking lot.  I had to call AAA to come and help us!  Had we made the right decision to get rid of the AMC and buy the Plymouth?  It sure seemed like we did!

I'll never forget that shortly after we got home and showed the "new" car to a couple from the church, the wife gave me one of the dirtiest looks I've ever received from anyone!  "How did you possibly buy that car?"  she'd asked.  "I financed it!"  I'd excitedly announced, and that's what brought the dirty look!  During the 1980s there were many evangelical Christians who taught it was always wrong and always out of the will of God to finance an automobile.  I think she believed that.  And, frankly, we couldn't afford the car.  Well, we made the car payment every month for four and a half years, and we had that car for two and a half years beyond the payment book.  Mary Ann has an expression that we, "drive our cars into the ground".  Usually, we do exactly that!  On a late summer day in 1995, a flatbed truck pulled up to 40 Harrison Street in Framingham, loaded up the 1986 Plymouth Caravelle and hauled it away.

This is only one of probably scores of similar stories of God's intervention in my life that I've experienced.  Honestly, I don't know why sometimes God seems very silent and very distant.  I know He's not.  I also know at times I've cried myself to sleep wondering why a prayer went unanswered or a terrible disappointment took place, and wondering why God seemed to be not there.  I want Him to be as present and as real and as dramatic and even as cool and mystical as He was to me in that situation involving the purchase of the '86 Plymouth.  And, yes, this is why we teach "new Believers" that we "don't go by feelings".  I guess if those "mountaintop" kind of things always happened, we'd take God for granted.  A true story such as this one about the two Saturdays in 1988 keeps me on track, praying, reading my Bible, "witnessing for Christ", going to church services, and hoping for the future.  I needed to be reminded of it this week, and if it was helpful to you in any way, I'm glad, and I hope you'll give the glory to God!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


"As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them."  (Acts 13:2)

A couple of days ago, I posted the following on my Facebook page:
"VERY nice service this morning at First Baptist Church of Marlborough where my daughter Amy Baril Julian was guest speaker (sharing about her Missions call and ministry). Great music and worship! My friend Pastor Stafford Trapp looks GREAT!"

To my surprise, when I looked at that posting today, Norman Biagetti, one of my Facebook friends, had left a poignant comment regarding my posting.  He wrote, "Just what is a nice service? Except that your daughter was there."

I must say, Norman's comment sparked a lot of thought in me.  I suppose we could ask a hundred Christians what constitutes a "nice service" and we'd get a myriad of responses!  Some might describe a "nice service" as a "quiet service".  Many might describe a "nice service" as a short service in duration which did not make them feel uncomfortable.  Some would say a "nice service" is a service in which the sermon was interesting and they "got fed".  Many pastors would say a "nice service" is a service in which a large offering was received!  The type of Christians who tend to be very excited and exuberant might say a "nice service" included public utterances in tongues with the interpretation of those utterances, as well as Christians being filled with the Holy Spirit.  

When I described the service at First Baptist Church of Marlborough as a "nice service" I did not mean it was a nice service because my daughter Amy was speaking there.  Admittedly, that was part of it, but I meant much more than that.  The group was small.  I don't think there were many more than thirty present.  The people were pleasant and friendly.  The "worship team" who led in music and singing were truly wonderful!  The Bible passage which Pastor Trapp read (from the Book of Esther) was a very relevant passage to "where I'm at" at this time.  Amy's message was one I'd heard her give before, but it touched me in a special way.  Yes, that's what I meant by a "nice service".

The verse I opened with comes from Acts chapter thirteen, the chapter that begins what we call, "Paul's First Missionary Journey".
The chapter opens with, "the story behind the story", (to use a line from the late radio broadcaster Larry Glick) about what caused Paul and his companion Barnabas to embark on that great missionary journey.  Paul and Barnabas were very active in a young and dynamic church in Antioch in Syria.  At that church, they "ministered to the Lord, and fasted" and then God called them to the great work He had for them.   When I was growing up in the Roman Catholic Church, we called the public gatherings for worship, "masses", or "Sunday mass".   Most (but not all) Protestant churches call these gatherings, "services".  More correctly, they should be called, "worship services".  An important reason we meet is to teach and help and encourage and pray for one another.  That's taught in the Book of Hebrews chapter ten.  Another reason for holding public gatherings is to encourage friends and family to come and join us and learn about the Lord and His Holy Word.  Yes, those are important reasons, and they're part of why we meet and hold public gatherings, but they shouldn't be the primary reason we meet.  The primary reason we meet is found in the verse I opened with.  We meet to, "minister to the Lord".  It's about Him!  It's not about us.  It's a "worship service" because we gather to "serve the Lord in our worship."  And, when we do that, extraordinary things can happen- such as the Holy Spirit dramatically calling someone to serve as a missionary to a foreign land.

It's sad that some "church services" are nothing like what I've described here, indicating what they should be.  Sometimes they involve people who are on "power trips" or who want to push a private agenda, or who want to "show the pastor where he's wrong".  (Many years ago, a gentleman attending the church I was pastoring told me his job was exactly that- to show me where I was wrong!)  Of course,
church should involve practical projects to help the needy and other benevolent actions.  That's part of it, too.  But I think we often forget; and listen, many times, I've been guilty of forgetting, that the matter of a "worship service" and of "ministering to the Lord" is "where it's at" and will be the action which facilitates all of the other "good things" that a healthy church practices!

Saturday, October 8, 2016


“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”  (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

In our amazingly fast-paced, instantly on-line society, it seems there are fewer opportunities to “stop and smell the roses”.  I had one of those rare moments yesterday around Noon.  I’d gone to meet my wife prior to us heading to Logan Airport to pick up our daughter Amy.  We’re so thrilled that Amy’s in the area for ten days or so to do several public appearances regarding her family’s missionary call.  I arrived a bit early at Marian High School in Framingham where Mary Ann works.  It was such a pleasant day that I decided to take a few minutes, sit on one of their outdoor benches, and just enjoy the atmosphere.  My eyes quickly zeroed in on the beautiful autumn colors of a tree located just off the school’s parking lot.  Suddenly, I remembered a scene from my own high school days.

It was this time of year, early October of 1968.  I was a fourteen-year-old freshman at Canton High School.  Miss Starr’s English One class overlooked a courtyard which included a small number of deciduous trees.  Miss Starr commented to the class that she’d taught at Canton High for several years in that very classroom.  Every autumn, she enjoyed watching the few trees as their leaves changed to bright fall colors, then dropped to the ground.  I remember her commenting that the trees changed color one tree at a time, in the very same order every year.  I don’t know why I remember Miss Starr saying that.  At that age, it would never have occurred to me to watch a specific group of trees changing color during autumn, or that they all went through the process in the same order each year.  Such a thing would have been about as interesting to me as watching paint dry!  Now, here I was, at Marian High School, forty-eight years later, a sixty-two-year old man, watching a tree off the parking lot in beautiful fall colors and remembering Miss Starr and her observations.

I had some very good teachers at Canton High and I also had some very bad teachers there.  I think of a few of them from time to time.  Miss Starr was of the vast majority of my secondary school instructors whom I’d considered somewhat “in-between”.  As I’ve thought about Miss Starr over the past day or so, I realize she was far more than a mediocre teacher.  Miss Starr left Canton High after that year and I never saw her again.  I remember that we read Charles Dickins' Great Expectations that year.  I also remember Miss Starr introducing us to great poetry.  I was really not interested in that material at the time.  I just sat through it, looking at the clock and waiting for class to end.   We read and discussed works such as Richard Cory and My Last Dutchess.  I even remember that Miss Starr played a recording of The Kingston Trio singing,  Tom Dooley.  Today, I’m a guy who loves good poetry and great short stories.  Did Miss Starr contribute to that appreciation of good writing that I now possess?  Maybe she did!  I don’t know where Miss Starr is today.  She probably has a different last name.  Several times in her class, another kid named Steve and I were laughing and fooling around.  I remember that one day, she kind of verbally laid in on me, saying this was my “seventeenth time” of fooling around, and that day she moved my seat to a different location.  My seat in her classroom remained in that location for the remainder of the year.  In those days, it would never, ever have occurred to me to thank Miss Starr for all she was teaching us and trying to do for us.  Today, I wish I could do that!

Yes, all of this came to me as I sat at Marian High School and watched a tree displaying its beautiful fall colors.  I wonder if those trees are still standing at Canton High School?  Trees typically live a long time.  My guess is, they probably are.  If they are still there, their leaves are transforming to bright fall colors, one tree at a time, in the same order as they were changing back in 1968.

1968 was a presidential election year.  Those were tumultuous times!  Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated.  Rioting broke out at the 1968 Democratic Convention.  The major party candidates were Democrat Hubert Humphrey and Republican Richard Nixon.  Humphrey was Vice-President under Lyndon Johnson. He was seen as a man who wanted to retain the status quo.  Nixon seemed at least somewhat phony and like a throwback to the 1950s.  The country was pretty disheartened and unimpressed with these presidential candidates.  Sound familiar?

No fourteen-year-old kids at Marian High School or any other school could imagine how fast forty-eight years go by!  It seems like only yesterday.  Today, I thought about how old I’ll be in forty-eight more years.  It will be 2064.  I will be a hundred ten years old!  Frankly, I’m one of those Bible-believing Christians who believes we’re very close to the second coming of Christ and the end of this Age.  It’s difficult for me to believe we’ll reach 2064 without the Lord having come back!  The bottom line is, this life as we know it will all be over so quickly!  And each autumn, in their order, the deciduous trees in North America continue to change color and drop their leaves.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


August 20, 2016


"...the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”  (from Acts 20:35)


Recently, a church's outdoor sign caught my eye!  It proclaimed:


I hope you'll seriously consider this "different" idea which COULD become a great blessing:

My 62nd birthday is Monday, September 19, 2016.

Two years ago, for my 60th birthday,  I THOUGHT I had a cool idea!  Since it was a "milestone" birthday, I e-mailed out a list of 5 ministries and charities to many of my family and friends.  I asked each to choose at least 1 of those ministries and charities and send a small donation to them; and then to let me know about it.  I envisioned at least 100 people doing this!  I thought it would be SUCH a wonderful thing to do on the occasion of my 60th birthday!

About 8 people participated. 

Frankly, I appreciated those 8; but I was disappointed with the response.

SO, it's with "fear and trembling" that I send THIS out; aware that perhaps nobody will act upon it!

I'm hoping the reaction to this request will be much better!

This year, on the occasion of my birthday, I thought it would be SO great if many, many OTHER people could receive special cards and encouraging notes during the week of September 19.  Yes, I KNOW people could send e-mails or text messages, but I'm asking that you not send the messages that way!  I'm asking you to send actual HARD COPY cards or notes!

Here's why:

-  There are many veterans out there who never receive an encouraging card or note from anyone.

-  There are many senior citizens (vets and non-vets alike) who never receive an encouraging card or note from anyone.

-  There are many people of all ages who are going through difficult crises, who never receive an encouraging card or note from anyone.

---  I'd love to see scores of them receive an encouraging card or note during the week of September 19!

If you THINK about it, you can come up with SOMEBODY worthy of receiving one of these cards or notes!  Yes, this COULD require an hour or so of your time and a few dollars to pick out a card, write a couple of encouraging sentences, put a stamp on the envelope, and mail off the card or letter.

That's not much! 

It's not much at all, but what an encouragement it would be!  If you also want to include a gift card to a coffee shop or a supermarket, that would be very nice, but you certainly don't HAVE to do that.

I think it would be so wonderful if you'd "get on board" with this;
and even pass this information on to a friend or two!

AND if you're on Facebook or another form of social media, please copy and paste the link (URL address) to this post on your Facebook (or other) page and add a comment saying something like, "I'm sending a note of hope on 9/19!"

Imagine what could happen if most of my friends (and most of their friends) DID "get on board" with this!


Thank you,


Wednesday, June 15, 2016


[Note:  It should be obvious to all readers that the story in this posting is a complete work of fantasy!  Please use your imagination as you read it; but please don't receive its message lightly!  The story may be fantasy, but the message is one of utmost importance at this hour.]

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" (2 Timothy 3:16)

The title I've chosen to both highlight and sum up the amazing experience of which I write has a double meaning.  For readers from around the Boston area, especially those familiar with Boston's Hyde Park and Readville neighborhoods, Paul's Bridge is a familiar landmark.  It's a very old stone bridge which spans the Neponset River between suburban Milton and the City of Boston's Readville neighborhood.  If you do an on-line search you can find more information about "Paul's Bridge".  The story here is not about the Boston landmark, though.  It's about the Apostle Paul (also commonly known as "Saint Paul") and an unforgettable visit I received from him!

One does not expect someone to just appear out of nothing and suddenly be sitting in your presence.  In fact, he not only appeared out of nothing, but the Hollywood director type chair in which he sat appeared out of nothing as well!  I'm not sure how I instantly knew this was Paul the Apostle, but I did.  He was sitting for the whole visit which lasted an hour or so.  He was short.  I'd guess he was maybe five feet five inches tall; perhaps less than that.  He was lighter complected than I'd have imagined.  His hair was part gray and part reddish brown; well, more brown than red.  He wore a full beard.  He wasn't completely bald.  There was a bit of hair on the top of his head, but he definitely was suffering from "male pattern baldness".  He greeted me loudly, crying out, "Paul, the Apostle, visiting twenty-first century Massachusetts!"

I marveled that he spoke English.  In fact, I marveled that he spoke English with what sounded like a Baltimore, Maryland accent.  I commented about that.

He laughed.  "Yes, this is what could be called a textbook Baltimore, Maryland accent," he proclaimed, followed by the exclamation, "Very good!"

I commented that I'd have expected him to be speaking in first-century Greek or Aramaic (the language Jesus spoke) or even Hebrew.  He shook his head, stating that it was important I understood what he had to say.  I was also surprised that he was wearing blue jeans, a Promise Keepers tee-shirt, and a pair of sneakers.

"Well, I wanted to look as I would have looked in 2016!" he laughed. 

I spent the next fifteen minutes or so quizzing Paul.  I asked him what many of you would probably consider very silly questions, but hey, how often does the Apostle Paul show up in your home?!  This was my chance to fire away with questions!   Incidentally, he refused to tell me exact meaning of his "Thorn in the Flesh" (from 2 Corinthians 12) and I was kind of disappointed about that.

The conversation turned to much more serious and pertinent matters.  Paul soundly rebuked me; well not just me.  He soundly rebuked virtually all of today's American Christians.  He told me we were "very soft, very lazy, and very clueless" about the times in which we live and the manner in which we live.  I asked him who he'd be supporting for President of the United States this year.  This is almost word-for-word what Paul had to say:

"Well, if that isn't the stupidest question!  You and your fellow believers sound like the Israelites in the days of Samuel of old when they wanted a king.  They wanted to be like all the other nations.   They failed to understand that God was their king.  They failed to understand that all men and women are fallible.  God reluctantly gave them Saul, for whom I was named.  (Readers may know that he had two names all of his life:  Saul was his Jewish name, and Paul was his Roman name.)  But it was never to be so."

I asked if it was wrong to vote and to be interested in politics.

"No, of course it's not wrong," he admonished, "But the believers of today have everything backwards.  They fight and argue to 'defend the Constitution' but they fail to realize that the Bible is far, far more important.  They wonder why the current choices seem to be so poor and inadequate.  The fact is, they're not praying for their leaders, nor for the people who aspire to be their leaders.  And, they're not living and praying with an attitude of humility and repentance.  It's true that Peter and I did not always get along!  Boy, did we have our confrontations!  But, how many of you know what it says in First Peter chapter four verse seventeen?  Read it!  And, don't just read it.  Remember what my friend James said in James chapter one verse twenty-two?  Well, ninety percent of today's believers have no idea what it says, but it challenges God's children to not just read and hear what the Bible says, but to do what the Bible says, for Heaven sakes; and I mean it:  For Heaven sakes!" 

He was yelling when he said that.  The next part is embarrassing and difficult for me to write:

"You know, Bob, you're so soft, man.  Have you ever been beaten for being a follower of Jesus Christ?  I was beaten many times!  Have you ever been jailed?  Also, many times.  You guys and gals today get into fights about what worship music you like and what worship music you don't like!  Would you like to see me throw up?  Because that's what I feel like doing when I see and hear things like that!  Do you think anybody cared what "worship style" Silas and I were using when we sang the praises of God in the jail at Phillipi after we'd been beaten with rods?!"

He wasn't done.

"In fact I ended up being beheaded.  Yes, my head's on now; how'd you like to have met a headless Paul?!   Listen, were I ministering in America today I'd have little patience for people who can't make it out to church services, for people who can't make it out to prayer meetings, and for people who whine about the stupidest things!  Some say 'Church goes on too long';  have you ever read about the time I preached until Midnight and a young guy fell down from an upper story dead?!  And, I raised that young man from the dead!  You 'sweet little Christians' wouldn't have been able to do that; why?  Because you don't pray consistently and you don't believe!"

I felt myself turning red, and I looked down at the hardwood floor.

Suddenly his voice got very soft.  It was so soft I could hardly hear him.  I looked up.  Tears were streaming down his face.  He began to sob.  I actually handed him a paper towel!  I know it may sound a bit unspiritual, but he blew his nose.  Then he said in that very soft voice,

"Bob,  will you just remember my visit?  Will you tell people about it?   Will you tell them what I had to say?  And will you please tell them to read their Bibles?  And will you please tell them to stop all the focus on carnal issues that really don't matter?!  You want to have any kind of victory and influence in these days, Bob?  Well, remember Daniel and his companions!  You gotta be a Daniel and that goes for your fellow believers, too."

Instantly he was gone.  His director's chair was gone.  The paper towel was not gone.  It had fallen to the floor. 

He kind of was a bridge through time and through eternity.

If you don't like this, I'm going to say what I'm sure Paul would say:  Don't take it up with me, take it up with God!

Thursday, June 9, 2016


"The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty,
But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty."  (Proverbs 21:5 New King James Version)

The simple conversation quickly turned into an intense and shocking monologue.
It was at a laundromat, fairly early this morning.  One female customer began making small talk with the laundry attendant on duty who was also a woman.  It was the laundry attendant who launched into a disturbing rant.  

"A guy brought in a bunch of pennies and he wanted me to change them into quarters," she began. Quickly, she was yelling about her refusal to accept the pennies, but it didn't stop there.

"I hate pennies!" she went on, "No, I mean I really hate them!  I throw them away.  Anytime I have pennies, I throw them into the trash.  When I've found out my kids had any pennies, I've thrown them into the trash." 

It didn't stop there.  She continued on for at least a paragraph, laced with 'F-Bombs' and all sorts of blasphemies, profanity, and offensive language.  The level of hate she was manifested was amazing.  She mentioned that people have told her pennies are money and therefore should not be thrown away.  It was that objection which others have given to her regarding throwing pennies into the trash that made her the angriest of all.

I was so tempted to say something to her!  I wanted to tell her I'll give her a plastic container; that she can just deposit any pennies into it and once a month or so, I'll take them from her!  I also wanted to tell her that I understand that pennies can be an inconvenience, but that people who save them and bring them to the bank sometimes end up leaving the bank with tens of dollars, and occasionally even hundreds of dollars.

In the Assemblies of God, children bring in little plastic barrels filled with change once a month.  (That program is called "B.G.M.C.", which stands for "Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge".)  The money goes to missionary projects all over the world.  A number of years ago, my wife led the little church we pastored in a B.G.M.C. project to bring in pennies for a "penny weigh".  As I recall, it was boys against girls, and the side who brought the most pennies won.  I forget what they won and I forget who won, but I do remember that on the following day, Mary Ann and I wheeled an old-fashioned children's "red wagon" into the lobby of the (then) Shawmut Bank on Union Avenue in Framingham, Massachusetts.  The employees were very cooperative in helping us make the deposit.  As I recall, it was over $600. and that was from a very small church of under fifty in total attendance.

The attitude of that laundry attendant spoke volumes today.  To Mary Ann back in the late 1980s, the pennies were a wonderful tool to help the missionaries.  Eternity will reveal the many blessings that came from the large pile of copper coins.  To the laundry attendant, pennies (i.e. legal tender) are simply something to be thrown away.

This is really the classic example of:  One person's trash is another person's treasure!

What do you think?  Shall I print this out and bring it in to that laundry employee along with a shiny copper penny?  Do you think she'd just throw my article and penny away?

Please leave a comment or e-mail me!  I'm really interested in your feedback!  And if you want to give some pennies to your church for missions, I don't think your pastor will refuse that donation!

Saturday, May 7, 2016


"Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all."  (I Thessalonians 5:14 New King James Version)

I just finished reading "Broken Hallelujahs" by Beth Allen Slevcove.  It's a brand new book (copyright 2016) published by InterVarsity Press. 


It's a paperback of around two hundred pages and in many respects an "easy read".  Yet, it's the kind of book that (in a good way) can "rock your world".  I was unfamiliar with Beth Allen Slevcove, a Spiritual Director and a Lutheran from San Deigo, California.  I'm one of those former Roman Catholics who couldn't get far enough away from liturgical churches and traditions once I "got saved" over forty years ago.  And, after having spent many years in evangelical and classical Pentecostal circles, I'm one of those who is very comfortable with certain spiritual and secular practices and very uncomfortable with certain others.  Lutheran Beth Slevcove is one for whom liturgical services and practices are very imporant and very much part of her world.  In the book, she also speaks positively about the practice of "running with the bulls" in Pamplona, Spain, getting a tattoo, and a few other such practices.  Ordinarily, speaking positively of such matters would make most Assemblies of God ministers and churchgoers over the age of fifty want to run, not with the bulls, but as far away from these topics as possible!   Although, I went back to the practice of observing Advent about twenty years ago and back to the practice of observing Lent about ten years ago,  much about "liturgical worship" and about earthy and funky practices makes me want to say, "thanks but no thanks" and to safely retreat into my own private world.  But God has been stretching me over the past several years in ways I'd never have imagined or chosen.  I often do say I'm a person who is both unconventional and eccentric.  My sense is that Beth Slevcove is unconventional and eccentric, as well.  I'm glad I didn't put her book down when parts of it felt uncomfortable or weird.  I'm glad I read the whole book.  I suspect it's one of those kind of books that I'll read again and again and again over the next few years, and I'll probably get something new and different out of "Broken Hallelujahs" each time I do.

I wish this book was available for me to read six years ago.  It's mainly about the losses we experience in life that often create doubt, anger with God, and loss of faith.  It's about the whole process of trying to cope with disappointment with God and horrific and unfair circumstances.  It's about the ugly pain of grief that well meaning friends often make much worse by some of the inappropriate things they say.  She has real trouble with the Christian phrase, "Let go and let God".  I'll save what she says about it for when you read the book!  I actually don't have any problems with, "Let go and let God" but there are a number of phrases that nearly sent me over the edge after the small church I pastored was closed and I found myself out of the ministry, working a low-paying secular job and feeling very much lost and displaced.  I recoiled at statements such as, "Move on"..."Get over it"..."I did it, why can't you?"... and so many others.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I do understand that friends, relatives, and colleagues who said these things honestly meant well.  I'm ashamed of the fact that in my early days of ministry, I sometimes said very stupid and insensitive things to people who were grieving.  I did receive a "crash course" in how difficult grief is when my brother died unexpectedly in 1983.  Six months later, I went through a terrible depression.  The Lord revealed to me it was grief, and it was normal, and it was something I'd have to walk through. 

Ironically, Beth Slevcove also walked through the death of her brother, which was an enormous loss for her.  I won't spoil the book for you, I'll let you read it.  She shares a lot of her own disappointments, pain, and losses.  She shares what she learned, what worked to get her through the difficult and dark times and what didn't work.  The book is made up of twenty-six mostly short chapters.  At the end of each chapter is homework for you to do, if you like, but she makes it clear early in the book that if you don't care for that sort of thing and want to skip the exercises at the end of the chapters, that's fine.  She admitted that when she reads books with homework at the end of the chapters, she usually skips it and doesn't find it helpful.  Boy, did I like her honesty!

Yes, it's a book about grief and loss, but some of what she writes is very funny!  At times, I was just cracking up laughing!  At other times, I was just very quiet and reflective.  For me, the best parts of "Broken Hallelujahs" were the first few chapters and the last few chapters.  I found the middle difficult and more challenging.  Yet, that even fits something she wrote about "the U-bend of life" and I won't spoil that, either; I'll let you read it.

Listen, this book cost me around fifteen bucks and it was well worth it.  Pastors, it's well worth the read, and it's the kind of book you'd want to give to someone going through a difficult time with grief and loss.  I can't stress enough, get "Broken Hallelujahs" and read it!

Saturday, April 2, 2016


"Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;"  (Revelation 1:19)

I wonder as I write this piece if I'm like "Father McKenzie" in The Beatles' song Eleanor Rigby :
"Writing the words of a sermon that on one will hear" ?  I suppose the content might be "a snooze" to some folks, but I hope there will be a few "brave souls" who will stick with this!  It just might give you a totally different perspective about the Book of Revelation; specifically about the writer of the Book of Revelation that you probably never thought about before!

My personal Bible devotional reading for today was Revelation chapter one.  I've read the Book of Revelation many times.  I've taught classes from the Book of Revelation.  During the first few months of 2000 (since we thought of that as such a significant year at the time) I preached a series of sermons from the Book of Revelation on Sunday mornings.  Today, I have no new theological view of the Book of Revelation, nor do I have some great end times message which will send chills up readers' spines.  I do have a new perspective to report!  I thought about something I'd never thought about before as I read and pondered the words of the first chapter of Revelation:  I thought about the author and what he had to be feeling and going through just prior to experiencing the spectacular Revelation of Jesus Christ that he received.

John was an old man at the time.  Tradition says he was a really old man at the time.  In fact, John was often called "The Elder".  He used that name in two of his epistles.  I want to make it clear that this guy was not "John the Baptist".  This was the man who is called "St. John the Evangelist" by Roman Catholics.  He and his brother James were among the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ.  This is the John who wrote The Gospel of John.  Scripture tells us that when James and John were young and actively following Jesus they were called the Sons of Thunder.  They literally hoped judgment would soon fall on their enemies.  James was martyred decades before John experienced what he described in the Book of Revelation.  And, John, who'd been a rather hot-headed young guy had become known as the "apostle of love" as an old man.  My, what a difference the years of walking with God in humble service and obedience had made in John's life!

John may have been as old as ninety when he wrote the Book of Revelation.  He'd been exiled to the island of Patmos.  (It's a barren island about twenty-four miles off the coast of Turkey.)  I was reading this morning that John was exiled to Patmos by the Emperor Domitian.  The exile lasted for about eighteen months, and then tradition says John went to live out his final days in Ephesus.  I was always taught that Patmos was totally barren; that on one lived there.  It was surprising to learn today that there was a Roman administrative center on the island in the first century, so John was certainly not "all alone" on the island as we've sometimes believed.  It's likely he was not held in a dungeon or anything like that.  Domitian probably just wanted him stuck on that island so his influence on others could be very limited.

I spent some time this morning thinking about what it must have felt like to be elderly John on the island of Patmos.  Boy, I'd love to have been able to go back in time, speak his language, and interview him.  Was he depressed?  Was he bored?  Was he hopeless?  I imagine he must have been tired.  He'd lived quite a full and meaningful life, but it certainly would not have been an easy life.  Was his wife still living?  Did he have children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren?  If so, where were they?  Was he lonely?  I'd guess he must have been lonely.  The big questions I wanted to ask John were:  Did you feel like your life was over?  Did you feel like your ministry was over?  Did you feel like your best days were all behind you?  Did you feel like you had nothing particularly to look forward to in this life?  Did you feel like you'd accomplished pretty much all you were going to accomplish, and that now you were just waiting to die?

I can't prove it, but I suspect he may have felt some or all of those things. 

At Christmas time, we hear a lot about the whole "Elf on a Shelf" thing.  (I won't address that now; I really don't like that whole idea!)  I certainly can't relate to being an "Elf on a Shelf" but I can relate to feeling like my own life has been "on a shelf", and that my best days and most important and significant days are behind me.  (I could write pages about that, but I will not.)  No, I'm not ninety, and I've got a long way to go till ninety, but that feeling of being bored and "all washed up", well, let's say "it's pretty lousy!"

I thought about John, and all of a sudden I liked what I was reading!  I got so blessed by reading Revelation chapter one today!  I'm a very verbal guy, but I'm at a loss for words to tell you how excited, and happy, and hopeful, and (yes) blessed I felt as I read it!  Here was an old guy on an island pretty much thinking not much was left for him in this life and "POW!"  What a Sunday that must have been for John!  Yeah, it was a Sunday; check that out!  I wanted to ask John, "Which Sunday was more exciting for you- that first Easter Sunday we just celebrated a few days ago, or was it this one?!"  I know you probably think it had to be the day Jesus rose from the dead, but don't be too sure about that!  I suspect it was this one!

I wonder how long the Revelation experience was for John?  Three hours?  Four hours?  Five hours?  More?  And, when he wrote the Book- where'd he get the scroll and the pen and ink?  Did he write the Book of Revelation from Patmos itself, or was it later from Ephesus?   What a project it must have been to write it!  Think of it- no computers, no typewriters, no copy machines, no printing presses.  It was a labor of love.  Later, others- scribes- have to have handwritten out copies of it for distribution to the believers of that day.

It's 2016.  And, I'm reading that Book.  And, all over the world, people are still reading it, and still studying it, and talking about it, and arguing about it.  But think of it!  God cared about an old guy on an island who was lonely and who probably thought there was nothing more (in this life) for him!  And God gave him that great revelation and that great assignment and responsibility!  I've often said that someday in heaven, I want to "look up" Gideon from the Book of Judges and Joseph from the Book of Genesis and just talk to them- interview them- hear their personal stories.  Well, I've got to add John to the list.  You may be surprised that it's not about his years walking with Jesus as a young man that I want to talk about- I want to talk about when he got that "Revelation of Jesus Christ"!

Yes, this really touched me and did something for me today!  And, for those of you who didn't get "scared off" at the beginning of this piece, I hope these words have touched and blessed you today, too!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


"This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work."  (I Timothy 3:1)
(Many Bible scholars would say it's permissible to substitute the words "elder" or "overseer" or even "pastor" for "bishop" in I Timothy 3:1.  If you read it as "pastor" it's quite fitting with this piece.) 

Most of my close friends and relatives who are reading this are well aware of my life story over the past few decades, and also know about my present life circumstances.  For the sake of readers who don't know that information, I want to briefly state that I'm an Ordained Assemblies of God minister.  I pastored a small church in Framingham, Massachusetts from 1987 to 2010.  That small church was closed in 2010.  I began a secular job in March of 2010 that I was released from just a few weeks ago.  I'm now in the process of trying to find a new secular job at the jolly age of sixty-one!  I've been spending quite a bit of time in the past few weeks pouring over job postings on-line at some of the most popular job seeking sites. Although I'm looking for a secular position, just a few days ago, I thought it might be fun to check and see if there were any "pastor" positions that had been posted.

As you might guess, there were not many "pastor" or "clergy" positions that I found.  Sometimes there are "chaplain" positions available.  They usually require a minimum of an M.Div. degree and pretty extensive experience in a healthcare or educational setting, along with graduate credits in some very specific areas.  It's very rare to find a "pastor" or "associate pastor" job position posted on a major internet job seeking site, but (amazingly) I did find an associate pastor position posted, and it was at a church in one of Boston's suburbs.
I'm very familiar with the church.  It's what I'd call a "mainstream evangelical" church;  definitely "theologically conservative/Bible based" but not particularly "Pentecostal" or "charismatic".  I've got some good friends who attend this church, and I've attended some special events at their large and attractive church facility.  They're a very good church with a lot of good ministries offered, and some excellent and highly gifted people on their staff.  That church is specifically seeking an "Outreach Pastor".  The job description was quite long, quite detailed, and rather complicated.  As I read and tried to mentally digest the job description, bluntly speaking, what I was reading just about blew my mind!  What "freaked me out" about it is that the man (or woman) this church is planning to hire could not possibly exist!  I can't imagine (were he alive, healthy, and able to speak English) that even the Apostle Paul would have a remote shot at being hired!
The job's educational requirement is actually quite simple:  It requires only a Bachelor's degree.  That surprised me.  I'd say over half of pastors at Pentecostal and charismatic churches hold only Bachelor's degrees (I have only a Bachelor's); but usually an M.Div. is the minimum allowed at mainline evangelical congregations, with a preference for D.Min. holders.  Yes, the education required is not a big deal, but after that, we get into the "unlikely" and perhaps even "impossible" qualifications!  There's a list of twenty-one "Responsibilities" the Outreach Pastor will be expected to fulfill.  I won't list all of them, but the following is a list of less than half of them:
  • Determine the critical impact project(s) to engage the congregational for community transformation
  • Advocate, recruit, train and deploy ministry partners for service;
  • Evaluate the process and potential for continuing missional activity in the particular area;
  • Imbed missional activity and identity into the DNA of the congregation.
  • Church Growth
  • Oversee and have principle* responsibility for the process of developing guests into regular attendees who are involved in Faith Groups.
  • Leadership with Outreach Partners
  • Form an outreach team;
  • Connect church ministry partners with outreach partner ministries based on passion and gifts.
  • Work with the Executive Pastor toward creating missional multisite churches.
*I (Bob Baril) think they've spelled that word wrong and that they probably meant "principal".
The Outreach Pastor is also expected to:
"Serve as an active member of the Executive Ministry Council representing Outreach, giving direction to the strategic development of the church’s ministries, with an understanding of the interdependence of the represented ministries. Build a global outreach perspective in staff and church leaders; continually educate church leaders and the congregation regarding the biblical foundation and imperative for outreach."
Again, keep in mind I've exactly quoted well under half of their entire job description here!
We evangelicals are often (rightly) criticized for using our own jargon in such a way that ordinary people in our modern North American society (frankly) can't even understand what we're talking about.  We talk about "witnessing" and "testimonies" and "mass evangelism" and "V.B.S." and "contemporary Christian music".  Yet, you've got to admit those terms are "small potatoes" compared to the "state-of-the-art" and "cutting edge" elite Christian-ese presented in that church's job description!
I understood probably seventy percent of the job description.  The "multisite" thing, for instance, is a trend that's been going on during the past fifteen years or so, in which larger churches that draw from a broad geographic area establish new "sites" in their region.  This isn't really old-fashioned "church planting".  It does have elements of that, but it's a church establishing a "campus" on a new "site" that still maintains a very strong identity with the original church.  Sunday morning sermons may be simulcast on video from the main campus to four or five (or more) satellite locations; yet there's also interaction, prayer, Bible study, pot luck dinners and all sorts of other offerings at each satellite location.  There are pros and cons to the satellite location model, but the biggest pro is that it absolutely reaches more people for Christ and makes a far more powerful impact on a whole metropolitan area than any large and successful church in one location ever could hope to.  The term "missional" means more than "being a missionary".  The idea is that it's a whole "outreach/evangelism" mentality that has the potential to absolutely permeate a society with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I'm not sure that we really needed a new word for that.  The New Testament itself is "missional" and every Christian and church is supposed to be "missional" although the word "missional" is now the new and cool word and philosophy that's being bandied about in evangelical circles.
I would never qualify for that "Outreach Pastor" position!  I have many, many minister friends.  They're mostly men but several are women.  Many are Assemblies of God ministers, and many are Baptist, some Nazarene, some Congregational, some Lutheran, and some with the Evangelical Free Church.   I would guess that about a fourth of my minister friends could perhaps qualify for about half of what that large Boston-area church is looking for in an "Outreach Pastor" but no one could possibly meet all the requirements nor fulfill all the expectations!
I must admit, I shared the list of requirements for that "Outreach Pastor" position with a couple of friends of mine who are laypeople.  In fact, one of those laypeople attends that very church!  The first person's reaction was, "That church is expecting the moon when it comes to hiring an outreach pastor!"  The other (the one who actually attends that church) said, "I don't have the Gift of Interpretation of Tongues so I can't understand what the job posting is even saying."  That person then added with obvious concern, "God help us."
I stated previously that this church is really quite a good one.  Most of the pastors that I'm acquainted with would be thoroughly delighted if the churches they pastored were drawing one-third the number of people that this church is drawing and if their churches were offering one-third the number of ministries this church is running.  Most of my pastor friends would be thrilled to have the use of a church building and property such as that congregation owns, along with the resources they have.  I almost wonder if this church even needs an "Outreach pastor".  It's possible that the present pastoral staff could connect with churches around the country which have successfully grown and established multisite ministries and "pick the brains" of the leadership of those churches.  If the present church is finding itself in a rut or lacking vision (and that certainly can happen), perhaps certain key ministry people could be brought in to address that issue and to motivate the congregation on certain Sundays of the year.  Perhaps each staff person and key lay leader could take just a piece of that "perfect and ideal" job description and "own" it.  With faith and trust in God, and obedience to God's Word and to the Holy Spirit, it's possible they would accomplish much more in that way as a group than the church's present leaders are hoping to accomplish by hiring an individual Outreach Pastor.  Back in the early 1980s, when I was in my beginning days of ministry, the senior pastor I served under taught a series of classes on "Making Disciples" to the lay leaders of the church.  He stressed many key points, but one that stands out in my momory is, "Learning to walk in the truth that we already know".  He pointed out that we really do study and learn and know so much about discipleship, outreach, and evangelism, but the key thing is, we just have to start living it and doing it!  In addition, I think there's no substitute for that church's present pastoral staff and key lay leaders to each develop mentoring relationships with people in the church and "pour themselves" into those people.  When a "good sized chunk" of the laity get "plugged in" it's truly miraculous what can be accomplished!  And, I know this is going to sound very "Pentecostal" of me, but along with all that, how about some "old-fashioned altar services" and some "old-fashioned prayer meetings"?!  I know mainstream evangelical people can get very uncomfortable with those practices, and sometimes Pentecostals and charismatics have gone "overboard" with hype and emotionalism.  But, to my mainstream evangelical brothers and sisters, I say, "Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater!  You may not need to hire a person who doesn't exist, after all!  (Listen, no matter who you hypothetically would hire as an Outreach Pastor, that person will never really fulfill what you're asking them to in your job description, no matter what he or she may promise you!)   You may just need to focus as never before on loving God, loving people, and changing your way of thinking!" 

This piece is not meant to offend anyone; it's a word from my heart, but to quote from the Apostle Paul, in writing it, "I think also that I have the Spirit of God".