Monday, October 30, 2023

Is there EVER a CORRECT way to leave a church?

"Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."  (I Corinthians 10:31)

One of the two hundred or so members of a private Facebook page for Ministers shared an interesting article a few days ago.  The article is, "7 Ways to Not Respond When People Leave Your Church" by Barnabas Piper, an assistant pastor at Immanuel Church in Nashville.  I read the article with interest.  Ouch!  I was guilty of five of the seven bad responses, and I'd say I was "on thin ice" regarding the other two!  I gave that article a lot of thought over the next day or so.  It brought back a lot of mostly bad and painful memories.  During my twenty-three year pastorate in Framingham, MA I did often handle the matter of people leaving the church quite badly.  I went back to the Facebook page post and was surprised there were no comments and only a handful of "Likes".  (That's not typical for the pastors involved with this private Facebook page.)  I posted a comment which said I was surprised the article generated so little response.  I was frank about my own failures, writing that I wish I'd have read an article such as this, or even attended a workshop on the topic of people leaving churches during my pastoring years.  As of this writing, my comment there is still the only one.

Yesterday a gentleman asked me if I miss pastoring.  I told him I mostly do, although there are some things I don't miss.  He snickered, although I was quite serious.  I will say that were I currently pastoring a church I would not write this piece.  I think not currently pastoring, and yet having a lot of pastoral experience gives me an important platform to express what I'm stating here.  The title asks "Is there EVER a CORRECT way to leave a church?"  I think the obvious answer is yes.  And in the words of my opening Scripture, it can be done to the glory of God!

There will always be reasons to leave churches.  Moving out of the area is certainly one reason.  Another is discomfort with the doctrines and practices of the church you're attending.  And, sometimes a person, however nice or well meaning, is just not a good fit in a certain church.  I know of a situation where there were two middle-aged women in the church who were both outstanding cooks.  Each wanted to be the preeminent and supreme cook in the congregation.  There just could not be two.  One left.  And, I suppose if I continue to list all of the reasons people could and do leave churches, I could go on for many, many paragraphs!  But there is a good and reasonable way to leave, and there are certainly bad ways to leave.

My worst memories of people leaving the church I pastored are these three:

1.  The thirty-something single mom of three boys telephoned me on a Saturday evening around eight to inform me they were definitely, immediately, and permanently leaving the church.  This was a total shock.  I told her the method and timing she used to communicate this to me was "tacky".  Several days later, I received an angry call from her.  She'd had to look up the word "tacky" in the dictionary.  One definition was "low class".  She berated me, saying, "I may be low income, but I am not low class."  Was my use of the word "tacky" wise?  Probably not.  But let's face it, it was "tacky"!

2.  A Deacon who had one more year of a three year term to serve at our church turned in a letter for me to read at the church's Annual Business Meeting (which was held the next day) saying he and his family were immediately leaving the church.  I did read the letter at the Annual Business Meeting.  I also stated some negative personal opinions about it.  His wife immediately walked out.  Honestly, it was not my finest hour.  Several months later when they were established in a good church, I did humbly apologize to them, and have ended up having a pretty good relationship with them.  No, what I did was not right, but I will say that during the nine months prior to that Annual Business Meeting I had buried each of my elderly parents, and a prominent member of the church had been arrested and convicted of a very serious crime.  That was a difficult period for the entire church to walk through.  As wrong as it was, this family was sort of our church's "poster family".  I felt we couldn't afford to lose them, and that after all I'd been through during the previous nine months, I just couldn't deal with it. 

3.  One Saturday morning I walked into my office and there was a letter laying on my desk from a woman saying she and her husband were leaving the church immediately.  She held an office in the church.  As I recall, she left her key to the church on my desk, too.  That was what I call a "hit and run".  It hurt a lot!

Now, with all that out of the way, I want to recommend several things to seriously contemplate when you're considering leaving a church:

The First is TIMING.  There's that famous passage in the Book of Ecclesiastes about a time for this and a time for that.  Radio talk show host Jesse Kelly often says, "Timing is everything!"  He is so right!  A phone call to the pastor on a Saturday night telling him you're immediately leaving the church is terrible timing.  Departing a church abruptly when you and your wife are respected lay leaders, at the Annual Business Meeting and following the pastor's recent loss of his parents and even more recent navigation of a devastating crisis in the church is also terrible timing.  You may ask, "When is a good time to leave a church?"  And my answer may sound like a typical evangelical cop-out, but pray about it!

The Second is TECHNIQUE.  A man and his wife were key lay leaders at our church.  They'd been active in the church for about ten years.  She began visiting a close friend's church; first once a month, then every other week, and finally every week.  She told her husband she really wanted them to switch over to that church.  He decided to do so.  But then he asked for a meeting with me.  This guy could not have been more gracious.  He was a very vital part of our church, and he knew so.  That's why he gave me many weeks notice.  I hated to have he and his wife leave, but that notice of many weeks helped with the transition a lot!  Their departure was much more pleasant and much less stressful than it otherwise might have been!  Another key family who'd been at our church "forever" decided they really wanted to look at other church options.  They told me they were taking the entire summer off and would let me know after Labor Day whether or not they'd be back.  At first it was painful not having them around.  But by Labor Day, I was used to it!  I called the wife and asked if they'd come back just for one final service.  They did.  I prayed over them, and we gave them a loving and emotional send off.  Technique is very important.

The Third is TERRITORY.  Sometimes a meeting in the pastor's office or in a disgruntled family's home is greatly uncomfortable.  Meeting at a restaurant and breaking bread together can be a great way to increase healthy communication and reduce tension.  One couple dropped hints they wanted to leave the church.  They invited me and two deacons out to lunch with them on a Saturday at a family restaurant.  (I forget who paid!)  They did inform us they were leaving the church, but said they did not want it to be a nasty thing, and they really wanted us to pray over them and give their decision our blessing.  We did!  That was and still is one of my most positive memories of my pastoring days. 

The Fourth is TRUTH.  Even though we all read that verse in Ephesians about speaking the truth in love, we (sadly) often dismiss it.  One woman wrote me a letter saying that after many years at our church she and her school-aged girls wanted to leave.  Her husband had dropped out of the church several years earlier.  She'd found a church which had excellent programs for her kids and where she thought her husband just might want to attend.  A deaconess at our church commented, "She has a very good point."  She did.  That was the truth.  It was hard to say good-bye, but we did.  Another memory of Truth is a phone call I received from a very elderly minister who was still pastoring full-time.  His church was about twenty miles from mine.  A couple who'd left our church (under not the best terms) was attending his church and had applied for membership there.  I kind of stammered, not knowing what to say to him.  I did not think he should take them into membership, but I did not want to give them a nasty reference, either.  "Look Bob," he said, "I don't want you to be uncomfortable.  I have already decided I'm not going to take them into membership.  It's obvious there's something wrong with them.  I just wanted to see if you had any helpful information to confirm my decision."  We then had a nice and truthful conversation!

The Fifth is THOUGHT.  In some situations, not enough thought has gone into the decision of whether to remain at a church or move to another one.  An older couple bought a nice new home and was moving over forty miles away.  The wife assured me they would continue to come to our church.  I told her I'd love to have them stay at our church but that I thought it was unwise.  It seemed to me that attending a church which was much closer to their new residence would make more sense.  They did find a church in the community they'd moved to.  It was a rather middle-of-the-road Methodist church where they made friends and felt right at home.  That was the right thing for them.  Sometimes, God just wants us to think!

I really hope this article was  helpful.  I would love to hear any feedback you have about it.  When it comes to the issue of leaving or not leaving a church:  "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."  (I Corinthians 10:31)

Wednesday, September 13, 2023


"So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."  (Psalm 90:12)

The quote from Psalm 90 verse 12 I'm opening with is from the King James Version.  In the more up-to-date New Living Translation, it's translated as, "Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom."

This is not a hint for presents or cards or anything like that.  I do have a birthday coming up in a few days.  Honestly, although I'm glad to be feeling better now, I was very depressed this year from about June 15 to about August 15.  I came very close to telling my wife and my sister, "Look, I'll just remember my age changes to sixty-nine this September, but I don't want anything special done this year.  I don't want to celebrate, so let's just leave it at that!"

My wife Mary Ann and my daughter Rachel also have September birthdays.  And, my sister Dianne is probably the biggest "birthday person" I've ever known.  So, I didn't make that ominous birthday announcement, and I guess at this point I'm glad I didn't.  

However, I did decide to use the birthday thing as an excuse to pester family and friends to read a blog post, and this is the blog post.  I almost gave it a title like, My Favorite Things, but I realized that sounds like some stupid, sappy title Oprah would use!  I think Stuff I Want to Say works better!

I recently read the weirdest memorial service invitation/announcement I've ever encountered.  A terminally ill woman is having a "Celebration of Life" event.  Now, I think we've probably all attended "Celebration of Life" memorial services.  But this one is unique!  It's planned to happen while she is still alive!  There will be balloons and lots of celebratory aspects to the event.  I guess she wants to attend her own funeral, and to have fun, at that!

I gotta tell ya, I'm very conservative, but I love the idea!  I like it so much, I wouldn't mind doing it myself some day - although I don't know if my wife or my sister would go along with that!  Anyway some of the Stuff I Want to Say may not surprise you a bit - but some of it just might!  Maybe someday when I do pass somebody will want to read this at the memorial service - and that might be a good idea!

I'm going to say a number of things that are very important to me, and I'm going to categorize them with using the famous questions:  WHO?  WHAT?  WHEN?  WHERE?  WHY?  and  HOW?  

Here we go:

1.  WHO?  It might surprise you but there are many people in my life that mean a lot to me and who have had a profound influence on my life.  Of course this includes my wife and kids, but it also includes many others.  But, for this piece I want to name the two people I've known in my life that I consider the greatest Christians:  Opal Reddin and Norman Milley, Sr.  Opal Reddin was a professor at Central Bible College.  I believe she died in 2005.  Many students considered her lightweight, super-spiritual, not academically deep, and very unrealistic.  I never agreed with those students.  She was not perfect.  She did think Pentecostals were better than anybody else and she didn't particularly care for Billy Graham and his family.  (I did not agree with her about the Graham family.)  But Opal Reddin was just a really godly woman.  She taught a course on "Acts of the Apostles" at C.B.C.  Wow!  What a class.  From time to time she'd say something like, "Now class the Holy Spirit is wanting to move, let's start worshiping and be open to the Spirit."  I know that may sound foolish or extreme.  But in fact the Holy Spirit would move on those occasions.  I remember some of the sweetest times in the presence of the Lord were in her classroom.  Many years later I corresponded with her a few times.  She was happy that my daughter Amy was a student at Evangel and was hoping to meet her.  She passed away before that could happen.  As far as Norman Milley, Sr., he worked construction most of his life.  He was the Superintendent on the Mystic River Bridge job.  Milley worked for Perini Construction.  In his spare time he went out and started churches!  No kidding.  He became a Licensed Assemblies of God minister in 1936.  I can still see him.  He was tall with a head of white hair.  He had a strong Newfoudland accent.  When he just walked by you, you could feel the presence of God!  He was very humble, but people were in awe of him.

2.  WHAT?  I want to tell you WHAT was my greatest desire in life?  That was to serve and honor the Lord... to be a good pastor, to be a good husband, to be a good father, to be a good Christian, to be a godly man who regularly prayed and read the Bible and lived for God.
Next, WHAT was my greatest fear in life?  That was to fall far short of the goals of my greatest desire... to live a compromised, worldly life, to be thought of as a bad husband, a bad father, a bad pastor, and a superficial and inadequate Christian.  Specifically, if I would ever be dishonored as a pastor, disgraced, rebuked, and told what a poor pastor and family man I was, that would be my greatest fear.  Then, WHAT is my greatest regret in life?  It's that in 2010 my greatest fear HAPPENED!  I wrote about that recently on Facebook.  I am not exaggerating when I say I would easily have preferred a terminal cancer diagnosis or an early onset Alzheimer's Disease diagnosis.  I don't say that lightly.  My mother died of cancer.  My father had advanced Alzheimer's Disease.  As horrible as cancer and dementia are I'd have welcomed either of them instead of what happened in 2010.

3.  WHEN?  WHEN were the happiest years of my life so far?  Easily those were 2002 and 1982.  2002 was one of the few years in my life in which I was financially comfortable and in which I visited a couple of cool places.  And 1982 was the year Mary Ann and I got married.

4.  WHERE?  You're probably wondering WHERE those cool places are that I visited in 2002?  They are Alaska, specifically Alaska's Inside Passage, and Prince Edward Island.  In July of 2002 Mary Ann and I flew to Vancouver, and took a cruise from there throughout Alaska's Inside Passage.  Both British Columbia and Alaska are breathtakingly beautiful.  I wouldn't mind going there again!  And in October of 2002 we drove to Prince Edward Island.  My maternal grandmother was born near Souris, PEI in 1888.  If you like greenery and you like the ocean, you'd like Prince Edward Island.  The people seem as if they came right out of Little House on the Prairie.  It's such a peaceful and beautiful and cool place, it was difficult to leave!  Now I will give an honorable mention to two other place I love to visit:  Vermont, particularly the Stowe area and the Burlington area, and Cape Cod.  They're two of my favorite places in the States.

5.  WHY?  I want to tell you WHY there are two films I really love.  My favorite film is Field of Dreams and a very close second is The Apostle.  I know some of my Christian friends will argue that Field of Dreams is sort of a New Age film.  It is.  And I'm no fan of New Age.  But it's a fantasy.  No, a bunch of professional baseball players are not going to show up in your back yard playing catch.  You have to use your imagination and also look for the symbolism when you watch this film.  I've seen it many times and I never get tired of it.  I relate so much to the character Ray Kinsella.  He's idealistic to a fault.  So am I.  When I became a born-again Christian and later went to Bible College, these were not plans my sensible, practical middle-class parents had for me.  I always wanted my parents to see me as successful.  I don't think they ever did.  My favorite scene in that movie is where it's December and Ray is looking out the back door window watching the baseball field he built filling up with snow.  His wife is telling him they're in real financial trouble and they'd be fine if he hadn't built that baseball field.  In 1992, I "pulled a Ray Kinsella" in my own life and ministry.  I brought a totally bizarre, foolish, and unrealistic proposal to the church I was pastoring.  Actually, most people were willing to go along with it, but a minority reported it to my ecclesiastical superiors.  I was called in, and I had to agree to stop what I was planning to do.  I did.  I'm not mad at those guys.  They had to be practical and realistic.  I suppose if some guy brought a similar proposal to me today, I'd probably react the way those men did.  I thought about that recently.  And I wondered:  Just what if we had been allowed to do what I was proposing?  Would the church still have eventually declined and failed?  Or would great things have happened, and we'd have been on the cover of national magazines?  Only God knows.  As far as The Apostle, if you can, watch it.  I know Christians don't like this film, either.  The Rev. E.F. Dewey (Robert Duvall's character) is a drinker, womanizer, and murderer.  He's also a very idealistic and powerful man of God.  I know that may sound crazy, but he was "all that"!  And also that character is someone I relate to very much.  There's a scene in the middle of night in which Rev. Dewey is up "yelling at God".  He talks to God and prays to God like he's a little kid begging his Dad to increase his allowance.  I've prayed a lot like that, too!  Yes, I'm a lot like Ray Kinsella and I'm a lot like E.F. "Sonny" Dewey.  If you really get a hold of who those guys are, you'll have a good understanding of who Bob Baril is.  

6.  HOW?  HOW would I most like to be remembered when it really is time for my funeral?  I'd like to be remembered as genuine and vulnerable.  And that's what I think I have been as I've written this piece.

I'd love to know what you thought of this piece!  Thanks for reading it!

Saturday, May 20, 2023

JOSEPH in the Conference Room

[Please understand that this is a post of fiction and fantasy.  None of what I say happened to me in this piece really happened.  But, boy I sure wish it did!  If you're open to fantasy, symbolism, and sanctified imagination, this piece can be at the very least enjoyable and at the very most absolutely life transforming!]

"He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:  whose feet they hurt with fetters:  he was laid in iron:  until the time that his word came:  the word of the Lord tried him."  (Psalm 105:17-19)

I can't possibly provide you with all of the details of how this meeting was planned and arranged.  It involved a lot of praying and hearing from God.  Do you remember the story from the Passion Week when Jesus told his disciples to go into a certain village and find and loose a certain donkey's colt?  And that the disciples who were sent on that mission were told to just say, "The Lord has need of it".  Well, it was kind of like that!

I had been directed by the "still small voice" of the Lord to drive to a certain large church in a certain New England community.  I had never been there before, nor had I ever met the church's pastor.  I'm going to keep the specifics secret.  I did drive there and I arrived at the date and time which had been arranged by the Lord.

I walked into the very large and very impressive church facility.  I easily found a sign directing me to the church office.  I was greeted by a secretary who picked up a phone and informed the pastor I had arrived.  The pastor was a guy about forty of medium height and build with brown hair and a well trimmed beard.  He walked in and greeted me with a big smile.  He told me I was to go to the Conference Room (he gave me the directions to that room) and that after about five minutes I could expect my "guest" to arrive.

I found the meeting place easily.  The room was a little bit smaller than I'd expected.  Inside the room was a long table (actually two tables pushed together) and around fifteen or sixteen really nice black leather chairs.  I sat and waited nervously.  In about five minutes, the door opened and a man wearing an impressive looking black suit, white shirt, and red necktie entered the room.  I started to rise but he immediately and confidently told me to remain seated.  He took a seat directly across from me.

With a huge smile he announced, "I am Joseph!"

His voice was masculine and a tad loud.  The really weird thing is that he sounded a lot like Rush Limbaugh!

I told him, "You sound like Rush Limbaugh.  Do you know who that is?"

"I know who Rush Limbaugh is," he confidently replied.

"Well, since you're Joseph of the Old Testament, I wouldn't have expected that."  I countered.

"This is the accent the Lord has given me for this meeting.  It's the accent of southeast Missouri,"  was his answer.

"How do I know you're not just some actor?"  I asked, "Why don't you say a few sentences in your native ancient Hebrew language?"

Immediately he rattled off several sentences in what sounded like Hebrew.  Then he added in English, "And I'll give you some sentences from the language I spoke when I was in Egypt!"

He did that!  And the Egyptian language did sound pretty different from the Hebrew.

"Where is your coat of many colors?"  I questioned.  And I added, "Surely you didn't wear that black suit in the ancient world?"

"You know what happened to my special coat." he said, "My brothers took it, killed a goat, and covered it with that goat's blood.  I'm wearing the black suit because that's what the Lord wanted worn.  And I look as I did as a 38-year-old."

I launched into what became a very long and powerful conversation.  I asked how he possibly remained faithful to the Lord during his terrible ordeal.  He told me the one thing he thought about and thought about over and over again during that thirteen year period was, "The guy I ran into in Shechem who told me to go to Dothan.  My brothers were supposed to be at Shechem.  But this guy there told me they went to Dothan.  I went to Dothan, and all the rest of me being sold into slavery took place.  If I hadn't run into that guy, none of those horrible things would have happened.  I would have just gone back to my father and told him my brothers were not at Shechem and I couldn't find them."

It kind of haunted him that the strange man directing him to Dothan set everything in place for what happened.  He told me he'd wondered if that "guy" was an angel or some kind of a prophet, or if he was literally just some guy who was there at that time and place.  The main thing he told me was the events of our lives are no accident if we're truly following God.

I poured out my heart to Joseph.  I told him how difficult the past thirteen years have been for me.  I added that I was a very simple and naive young man when I was Licensed and later Ordained as an Assemblies of God minister.  I had hopes and plans and dreams for my life.  I did not expect to do this, but I broke down crying; sobbing really.  I'm glad there was a box of tissues in that room because I needed them.  

"I felt so discredited when the church closed and I was asked to step out of ministry.  I was humiliated.  I lost so much.  I was so ashamed."

"How'd you like to be a slave?" Joseph asked me. "How'd you like to be accused of trying to rape your master's wife?  How'd you like to have done time in the joint?"

"You called it the joint?"  I asked.

"No, but Rush Limbaugh would have!"  he replied.

We both laughed.  Joseph then told me some people are called to experience great detours, great changes, great disappointments, and great setbacks in their lives.

"Don't expect other people to understand this," he firmly cautioned me, "but it doesn't matter what other people think!  It doesn't matter what other ministers think!  It doesn't matter what your family thinks!  It only matters what God decrees!"

He told me Potiphar's wife was a "cougar".  Yes, he understood what that meant!  He told me that in an instance where a foreign slave tried to rape an Egyptian government official's wife, that slave would typically be executed.  He specified that Potiphar knew he didn't try to rape his wife.  But Potiphar had to save face with his wife.  Thus, Potiphar threw Joseph in prison.  I asked if there had been any sentence of time to spend in prison decreed for him, but Joseph said it was just left open ended.  

I asked if he ever got really discouraged in prison.  He told me, he did!  He fully expected the Chief Butler to talk to Pharaoh and that arrangements would be made for him to be released.  But after two years, Joseph said he felt he had no hope to get out of prison.  I asked if he then gave up on God.  To my amazement Joseph told me despite his discouragement and even despite his hopelessness he never gave up on God.

"It's hard to explain," he said, "but I always knew God was with me and I always knew God loved me."

We talked about his surprise release.  We talked about his wife and kids.  We talked about his brothers and father and family members coming to live in Egypt and the amazingly powerful and important position he was given in Egypt.  We even talked about Joseph's confusion when his father Jacob gave his younger son Ephraim the blessing that goes to the firstborn.  He described being kind of perturbed about it and trying to correct his father, but Jacob insisted it stay that way.

Then the subject came back to me.  I was shocked that Joseph talked to me about Nelson Mandela.  Would you expect Joseph to talk to you about Nelson Mandela?  He told me Nelson Mandela spent many years in prison under dire conditions.  Yet, Nelson Mandela eventually had his life completely turned around and spent several years as President of South Africa prior to his death.

I wanted desperately for Joseph to tell me exactly what my future will be and if things in my life will turn around for me as they did for Joseph and for Mandela.  So, I asked him.  I was shocked when Joseph bluntly told me, "I don't know."

He said God was absolutely not revealing that to him.  Joseph also told me my life may not substantially change from what it is now.  I admit, I felt a little angry.  Then he said, "Bob, the most important thing is your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and that God loves you so much!"

I began to protest, "But I don't even have much money or assets, and I don't even have any definite hope for the future."

Now it was Joseph who sounded angry.  

"God went to all the trouble to have me meet with you and talk to you.  God went to all the trouble to have me encourage you.  And are you going to be like the Israelites, complaining in the wilderness?"

It was very silent in that room.  I did feel very ashamed.  I told him I was very sorry for my attitude.  I thanked him for coming.  I told him I'll always cherish his visit.

I actually said to him, "You're right.  I don't care.  If the rest of my earthly life stinks, I don't care.  I have the Lord.  I'm going to Heaven.  I will be with the Lord in peace and serenity for all eternity.  You're right.  It's all good!"

Then - Joseph disappeared!

I wondered why he walked into the room like a natural person in the beginning, but then disappeared in the end.  I don't have an answer for that.

I stopped by the church office when I was leaving.  The secretary said "Good-bye" and the pastor suddenly walked into the office saying, "Glad you could meet here!" and wished me well.

I departed from the building, started up my Toyota, turned on K-LOVE radio, and drove out of the parking lot.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Mother's Day/Father's Day - IS THERE A BETTER WAY?

"Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." (Exodus 20:12)

I posted a piece very similar to this on my Facebook Timeline a few days ago. It received some positive comments. I decided I'd write a similar piece to post here on my blog. I hope this isn't "Shameless Self Promotion", but I hope a lot of people read it. I think it's something pastors and church leaders should think about. And, I hope that "thinking" could lead to some changes being made...if not this year, then in the future.

In the Protestant church world, Mother's Day and Father's Day (especially Mother's Day) can be very rough and traumatic for some people. The pastor is expected to celebrate these Special days and in most cases to celebrate and affirm the mothers in May and to celebrate and affirm the fathers in June. Is that a nice and appropriate thing to do? Sure it is. Often those with the most children and the most grandchildren are recognized. Cards and gifts are often distributed. What could go wrong??

Well, there's another side to Mother's Day (and to Father's Day). This past Sunday morning at the church I attend, the female guest speaker told of running out of a church building in tears one Mother's Day. You see, she's unable to biologically have children. A couple of days ago, I read an online post from a young woman who wrote about - you guessed it - running out of a church building in tears one Mother's Day. My sister who never had kids has often told me of the heartache Mother's Day has been for her. One year all of the mothers at the church service were recognized and given gifts. She said, "There were three adult women still sitting in our seats and it was uncomfortable and embarrassing."

Just a thought: When I was pastoring, our church had a special gift for every adult woman on Mother's Day, and a special gift for every adult man on Father's Day. On Mother's Day I might read a semi-humorous piece entitled "The World's Meanest Mother" and on Father's Day I might read Paul Harvey's essay entitled "What Are Fathers Made Of?". But all women were honored and appreciated on Mother's Day and all men were honored and appreciated on Father's Day.

I'm unaware of anyone ever running out of any such services at the old First Assembly of God of Framingham. I admit the church was small and I admit that I may not have been much of a success as a pastor. But I think this is one matter we handled well, and I just wanted to share it as Mother's Day is on the horizon this week, so to speak.

On Facebook, my daughter Amy Baril Julian (a medical missionary to Papua New Guinea), commented that at the church she and her family attended for a number of years in Springfield, Missouri, "... all women 18+ are given a gift on Mother's Day and the same with men 18+ on Father's Day and they stress that these people are the mothers and fathers to the generation below them in the church no matter if they are biologically related or not". That church is Oak Grove Assembly of God. I'd say Lead Pastor and Mrs. Morein at Oak Grove have a great and positive philosophy about the whole Mother's Day/Father's Day thing!

I'm not trying to lay guilt trips on any pastors or church leaders. They've already got plenty of people doing that! I'm just trying to point something out that I think needs to be pointed out!

Happy Mother's Day, May 14, 2023!
Happy Father's Day, June 18, 2023!

Sunday, April 16, 2023

"I GOTS MY JOY" thoughts about Rev. Billy Meek Jr.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."  (Psalm 116:15)

My dear friend the Rev. Billy Meek, Jr. passed from this world into Heaven on Saturday, April 15, 2023 at 6:20 p.m. Central time.  I am having very mixed emotions about that!  Of course I rejoice that he has "crossed over Jordan" as his son wrote online.  But I truly loved Billy and for me this is a big loss.  I wish I could attend his funeral.  Since that will be many hundreds of miles away from me (in Tennessee) I think the next best thing I can do is write this eulogy online.  

I have given this a lot of thought.  Billy would not want me writing a piece about what a wonderful person he was unless I would tell about what the Lord Jesus Christ meant to him.  Many years ago, Billy received Jesus Christ as his Personal Savior and Lord.  He read the Bible regularly and practiced what he read.  He was sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit and walked in the Spirit.  God was everything to Billy.  That is what made Billy Meek, Jr. a great person!

I offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends of the Rev. Billy Meek, Jr. and to The Assembly at Hohenwald where he pastored for many years until just a few months ago.

I never met Billy in person, nor did I ever speak to him over the telephone.  Thus it may seem very strange that I'm describing him as a friend who was pretty close to me.  I got to know Billy somewhere around eighteen years ago on the old AOL Assemblies of God Message Board.  I not only would leave messages there but would also correspond by email with Billy and another pastor, Wade Martin Hughes from Kentucky.  In more recent years we all communicated a lot on Facebook.  A few years ago Billy posted that he loved Good 'n Plenty candy.  That didn't bring him too many positive comments, but I posted that I also love Good 'n Plenty!  I promised him that if I ever visited him in Tennessee, we'd share a box of Good 'n Plenty!  This morning I remembered that several years ago as he attended District Council in Clarksville, TN I posted a video of The Monkees' Last Train to Clarksville on Facebook in his honor.  He got a big kick out of that!

I went through some very difficult times over the past thirteen years or so.  During that time, Billy was always encouraging to me.  If I were to actually eulogize him at his funeral in person, I think I would stress that Billy was always a Faithful Friend to others and a Faithful Servant of God.

One day during the Autumn of 2020, a family member had posted online that Billy had become very seriously ill and that he might pass away.  I was at work at a call center job when I read that post on my phone.  I quickly signed off the computer, walked into the men's room, and broke down weeping.  In less than five minutes I asked God to work a miracle and please spare Billy's life.  At that time, God did exactly that!  I then began praying for Billy and his wife Pam every single day!

Billy was a great pastor and he led a great church there in Hohenwald.  I know the people of that church were very supportive and helpful to Billy during his time of ill health.  May God continue to richly bless that church!

There is so much more I could write about Billy.  I entitled this post, "I Gots My Joy".  Billy was constantly posting those words on Facebook.  In my own life I've often struggled with negativity.  So, Billy was a tremendous inspiration to me!  I want to be an "I Gots My Joy" kind of a guy!

His son Billy Meek III posted that he would carry on his father's Legacy.  God bless Billy III!  ALL of us who knew Billy Meek, Jr. in any way, let us ALL carry on his Legacy! And even any reader who did not know Billy Meek, Jr.  - well, now in a sense you do know him!  YOU carry on his Legacy, too!

Monday, April 3, 2023


 "And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward."  (Matthew 10:42)

I heard from a truly wonderful person last night - A Real Christian - and I want to tell you about it.

The typical format of Assemblies of God churches has greatly changed over the past forty years or so.  It used to be that almost every AG church had Sunday School for all ages every Sunday morning, immediately followed by a Morning Worship Service which lasted about an hour.  The big service of the week was Sunday night.  In most churches, the Sunday evening event started at 7:00 p.m. and could last till 9:00 p.m. or in some cases even later.  These evening services were well attended, and where you'd be most likely to experience the Gifts of the Spirit such as Tongues and Interpretation or Prophecy and where it was not uncommon for people to be Baptized in the Holy Spirit or for just about any other wonderful spiritual experience to take place.

During the 1990s, attendance at Sunday night services began to drop, as did the supernatural events which took place during those services.  In some parts of the country AG churches still hold Sunday evening services, but in most of New England they disappeared entirely around 2005.  

At Bread of Life Church where Mary Ann and I actively attend, we have a once a month Sunday night time of fellowship.  It starts around 5:30 and ends around 7:00.  Last night was the April fellowship night.  There's a class for parents of kids who are mostly age 12 and under.  There's a Bible Study for other adults and teens. And, there's a special evening children's church during which Mary Ann really does a magnificent job ministering to what my Aunt Estelle would have called "the kiddos".

At last night's Bible Study, Pastor Gary focused on the Story of the Good Samaritan from Luke chapter 10.  We  spent time talking about "Wounders, Wounded, and Healers".  He did a great job teaching and facilitating the discussion.  Now, I opened talking about a truly wonderful person - A Real Christian; and that is what I want to share with you in this post.  I don't know she or her husband well.  I'd say they're about my age (I'm 68) and maybe just a tad older.  I don't want to use the woman's name.  I don't have her permission to do that, and she might not be comfortable with me using her name.  In the course of discussing being a "healer" to the "wounded", she humbly told us her story.  It was the story of ministering in a church on the west coast a number of years ago.  She's not a pastor or an evangelist or anything like that.  She's what most people would call, an ordinary Christian.  In fact, after what she shared, I'd say she's more of an extraordinary Christian.  She and her husband attended a small Assemblies of God church located near an Indian reservation.  (I guess today it might be called "A Native American Reservation".)  She led a Missionettes group in those days.  (Up until about fifteen years ago, Missionettes was the program for Girls sponsored by the Assemblies of God and available at most AG churches.  Today it's called "Girls Ministries".)  She said her Missionettes group was small.  I got the impression the girls were maybe around 12, 13 or 14.  She said most of them were Native Americans.  And, most of them came from homes where there was a lot of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and in some cases teenage premarital sex.  The woman said she tried her very best to minister to and help these girls.  You could tell she truly loved them.  She remembered that one night she went to the Missionettes meeting and one girl told her she'd tried to phone her a couple nights earlier.  The girl added, "I overdosed..."  As this dear woman told the story, she was fighting back tears.  She told of how the girls told her there were boys who wanted to attend Missionettes.  She informed them the boys really couldn't attend Missionettes because it was for girls only.  But she got a great idea.  She started a youth group in that church for both boys and girls!  "I'm not a youth pastor," she said, "I didn't know what I was doing, but I did what I could."

I'm almost getting choked up as I'm typing this!  The woman added that a number of years have now gone by.  Sometimes she does hear from some of those people she'd ministered to.  Sadly, a number have gone on to repeat the same cycle of alcohol and drug abuse and illicit sex, although some have not.  

So many times in evangelical churches we make heroes out of great singers and musicians (and please don't get me wrong, I love to hear great Christian singers and musicians) and we make a lot of pastors and teachers who can speak very well.  I can speak very well.  But I've never done anything as great as what I believe that dear woman did at that little church near the Native American Reservation!  She really made me stop and think.  In fact, she made such a big impact on me last night that I felt compelled to write this piece.

Many times we don't think we matter - we don't think we're very important - we don't think we make a bit of difference for the Kingdom of God.  When God calls us, often it's to something that's not glamorous or easy.  We may feel so inadequate.  But He just asks us to say "Yes, Lord" and to trust Him.

That's all.

Saturday, November 12, 2022


 "For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand." (Acts 7:25)

"A Misunderstanding".  I'm sure we've all experienced that.  In fact, I'm sure we've all experienced many misunderstandings in the course of our lives.  Just a few days ago, a good friend misinterpreted something I'd said to him.  He texted something to me and I texted something to him. Things became just a bit tense in our relationship.  As I thought about it, I realized the whole thing was a misunderstanding.  Within twenty-four hours he got in touch with me.  We had a really good talk.  In the end, all was resolved.  "It was a misunderstanding," he concluded, and I affirmed this: "Yes, it was a misunderstanding".

I wish it was always that simple!  About eight years ago I experienced what I still consider to be a very painful and traumatic misunderstanding.  I learned some things from it, but it's still upsetting to think about.

I had a friend that I will call "Gilbert" who was over ten years older than me.  Gilbert died after experiencing a number of health issues.  I had visited him just a few weeks prior to his death.  At that time, we had a great visit.  He urged me to come back and see him again soon.  I did call him once or twice after that and asked if I could visit but he told me he was much too sick and just not up to having visitors.  It was not long after that when I heard the news of his passing.

Gilbert was one of the most complicated people I've ever known.  He had a brash and intense personality.  Very few people were neutral or indifferent about Gilbert.  People either absolutely loved him or just couldn't stand him.  Gilbert had been a public figure, but on a small scale.  (The kind of guy that just about everyone in a certain Boston suburb was very familiar with, but who was pretty much an unknown more than a couple hundred miles from home.)  I'd known and had dealings with Gilbert in many different circles and situations.  He did some great things in his life.  He raised money for the needy.  He inspired a number of people to do things they never thought they could do.  Some of these folks went on to do truly great things.

In the early 1990s, Gilbert's life completely fell apart.  He and his wife divorced and he married a younger woman.  He moved far away from New England.  He got involved with some business he never should have gotten involved with.  He committed a serious crime and ultimately was incarcerated.  In time, he was released from prison.  He divorced his second wife.  He found work.  After a number of years he moved back to New England.  I mentioned that people either loved him or couldn't stand him.  Now, after his return to New England there were a number of individuals who had deeply loved Gilbert at one time and who now couldn't stand him.

It's not easy to talk about the period in my own life in which everything fell apart and during which I was suicidal.  During that time, Gilbert truly became one of my closest friends.  Gilbert was a passionate kind of guy and he passionately wanted to help me.  He passionately wanted to see me become mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy again and to ultimately become a successful person in life.  That's why I took his decline in health and his death so hard.  

I wrote what I consider one of the most powerful posts I ever put on my blog.  It was about Gilbert, just hours after I'd learned he died.  I knew there were a number of people who could see nothing good about Gilbert.  In my post I wrote very frankly about his failures and his imprisonment.  But I also wrote about how he had saved my life.  (I truly believe he saved my life during that suicidal time.)  I wanted folks to know he should not be defined by the failures in his past but by the wonderful person he became during his final years.

That post brought a tremendously positive response!  People emailed me saying my post completely changed their feelings about Gilbert.  People thanked me, saying my words had helped them to see Gilbert very differently; to forgive him, to truly love and esteem him again.  I felt so good about this!  I felt this tribute to Gilbert was one of the finest things I'd ever done in my life!  I began to ponder it all.  I mused that Gilbert's family would probably contact me, thanking me for what I'd written.  I figured they'd probably ask me to speak at Gilbert's funeral - perhaps to read my blog post during the funeral service.

A few hours later I was driving along and a call came in on my cell phone.  It was from Gilbert's son.  I was ecstatic!

"I understand you wrote and posted a frank piece on your blog about my father." he said.

Enthusiastically I affirmed I'd written it.

"I want you to take that piece down!"  he said bluntly.  "We're getting all kinds of questions and comments about my father's past.  It's very upsetting.  Take it down!"

I could barely get a few feeble words out of my mouth.   "Well ...  yes ...  I will ...  I will remove it".

I did.

I have no words for how distraught that call made me.  I did remove the post.  I seriously considered keeping a copy just for me, but I did not.  Ironically, that weekend I was scheduled to be the "M.C." at a special public prayer gathering for the MetroWest area.  I should have backed out of that commitment. I did a terrible job running that prayer service.  I was fumbling, distracted, incoherent, not helpful, and I made a total fool of myself.  In forty years of ministry that's by far the poorest job I ever did in a public speaking situation.  I was so upset about what happened, I just couldn't function.

I almost did not attend Gilbert's funeral.  I thought maybe his family would hate me and maybe I would not be welcome.  But I did attend.  I actually had mourners at the funeral home coming up to me and asking, "Did the family ask you to take that blog post down?!"  I said they did, but I downplayed it.

I thought about that this week for some reason.  

A misunderstanding.

Wow.  That was the greatest situation of a "Misunderstanding" I've ever experienced!