John PIper nailed it with this post.
Reggie McNeal: Kingdom Collaborators: Eight Signature Practices of Leaders Who Turn the World Upside Down
Reggie's latest. He still prompts me to change the way I think and do Kingdom life.
Gailyn Van Rheenen: Missions: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Strategies
Assigned reading but a great presentation of missions and mission strategies. Very practical help.
Dallas Willard: Living in Christ's Presence: Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God
Amazing and beautiful book on Psalm 23 based on talks given by Dallas Willard.
Gary W. Moon: Becoming Dallas Willard: The Formation of a Philosopher, Teacher, and Christ Follower
Bio of one of the men form whom I have learned over the years.
After 26 years serving as Lead Pastor at Riverbluff Church in North Charleston, I retired in 2014.
Well, not really.
After 40+ years of discipleship to Jesus, I am more convinced than ever that Jesus is the way to change the world. He literally is The way, The truth, and The life. So my efforts to make disciples aren't exclusively about growing a church, or getting people into heaven, or advancing a career. I genuinely believe it is the way to make the world a better place. I have embraced what I believe to be Jesus' method to change the world.
Making disciples has been the foundation of my work as a pastor for over four decades. I can't imagine doing something else because I have reached retirement age.
My ministry now is trying to help pastors and churches make disciples. Riverbluff Church has deployed me in my "retirement" to coach pastors and/or churches in how best to make disciples in the current culture. We call it "coaching" because we think pastors and churches want help in being and doing what God has called them to be and do in their specific setting. Coaching begins with the question "How can I help?".
As a ministry of Riverbluff Church I now coach pastors and churches. And we consider it a Kingdom investment so there's no charge.
Let me know if I can help.
Now that I'm retired I seem to see better. That is, I'm noticing things around the house that need attention.
There's a separation in the wall near the back porch.
The garage doors are aging.
The wall in the garage where I took down some shelving needs to be painted.
The steps from the garage into the laundry room need to be painted.
The lawn has been conquered by moles and their prey, mole crickets.
The side yard looks like a jungle.
There's a small hole in the back porch screen.
I realize that I have seen these things before today, yet today I really saw them. I stopped what I was doing (or on the way to do) and focused on the matter, seriously thinking about what needed to be done to fix the problem.
Scripture speaks about having eyes but not seeing or having ears but not hearing. (Isaiah 43; Jeremiah 5; Ezekiel 12: Matthew 13; Mark 18).
The idea is that seeing and hearing involves more than eyes and ears. It's possible to see and not see; to hear and not hear. To discipline one's self for the purpose of godliness" (1 Tim. 4:7b) surely involves the discipline of focus or paying attention.
Recently the Holy Spirit has prompted me to devalue multi-tasking in favor of singular focus. Especially while reading His word or in prayer. I am easily distracted so His Spirit gently says "Pay attention!" just like Jesus said to Martha. (Luke 10:41)
Psalm 46:10 says "Be still and know that I am God...".
That phrase "be still" could be translated "stop wiggling". My Granny Johnson used to tell me and my younger siblings to "stop wiggling" during church services. Even though Granny has been with Jesus for many years, I can almost hear her saying to me this morning: "Lee, stop wiggling and pay attention!"
"God is at work all around you. Be still and know. Be still and see. Be still and listen. Be still and understand."
Lord , I ask for your help that I may stop wiggling and pay close attention to You, to the people You've put in my life, to the strangers I meet today, to beauty, to blessings, to love, to hope.....
Just a thought from the back porch...
This morning I am reminded of the title of one of Sting's songs: "How Fragile We Are". I'm not suggesting anyone buy a copy, nor am I endorsing the lyrics or promoting Sting. It's just the thought that humanity is strong in so many ways, yet we are so fragile.
C.S. Lewis noted in The Weight Of Glory that we ought to “…remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature, which if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet it at all, only in a nightmare… There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations- these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit- immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
In August of 2011 I attended a small conference hosted by an Episcopal church in Birmingham, Alabama, where Dallas Willard said “I am an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.” I was struck with the simplicity and truth of this statement. Based on my Christian faith, I believe this to be true of each individual. As God formed each person in his or her mother’s womb, He formed an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in His great universe.
In the last few days and weeks, I have prayed often for pastors, church leaders, and simply disciples of Jesus who are enduring suffering. I suppose that it is in these times of suffering I am reminded most of how fragile we are.
But it is also in those times I pray for the tangible presence of Christ in the lives of those who suffer, of those who are currently aware of just how fragile we are. May they be strengthened because Jesus said “…I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age.” Matthew 28:20b (Amplified Bible)
Just thinking…and praying.
Mickey Newbury wrote a song years ago entitled “How I Love Them Old Songs”. Mickey was quite the poet and certainly knew correct grammar, but he also knew that most of the people who bought his music would probably say “them old songs” rather than “those old songs”.
I met Mickey years ago and even spent time with him at his place on Old Hickory. He introduced me and a buddy named Ken to Don Gant at Acuff-Rose. I’m pretty sure he persuaded Don Gant to publish some of our songs even though they both knew our stuff was not hit material.
It is now decades later and I have recently retired from almost 40 years in the ministry. My buddy Ken retired from a management career. Don Gant had a successful career in the music publishing business before he died in a boating accident; and Mickey Newbury lived off royalties from numerous hits until the day he died.
Recently I played with The Villagers for a Super Sixties Reunion in my hometown of Union, South Carolina. Over 750 people who had graduated between 1960-1969 gathered at the Union County Fairgrounds to connect with old friends and dance to a band from their high school days. It was great fun and the guys in our band really had a good time playing "them old songs". We led off with “My Girl”, followed by “In the Still of The Night”, then “Knock on Wood”. We played about 30 songs from the sixties and we actually sounded pretty good to be a bunch of old guys playing old songs. We even got invitations to play other gigs.
Apparently there are a lot of people who love "them old songs”.
Sunday morning in my devotional time I came to the next psalm in my regular reading which began “Sing to the Lord a new song for He has done marvelous things.” (Psalm 98:1a)
It was a defining moment for me.
After retiring, I committed my remaining years of Kingdom ministry to helping other Pastors. The church I pastored for 26 years commissioned me as a “Kingdom Coach” to help any pastor or church seriously seeking to make a difference for the Kingdom. So I meet with pastors, staff, or church leaders over coffee asking “how can I help?”. Perhaps something in those years of service will be of help to other pastors or churches. Riverbluff Church considers this to be a ministry to the Body of Christ so it’s offered at no charge to pastors and churches.
So the emotional rush of the Reunion in Union was met with a clear word from the Lord Sunday morning after the reunion: “Sing to the Lord a new song for He has done marvelous things.” He HAS done marvelous things in my life… all of my life.
I guess I will always love “them old songs” from the sixties. And I will forever be grateful for the experience of playing again with the Villagers.
But as time goes by, I’m pretty sure “them old songs” will increasingly be replaced with the new songs and the new Kingdom work God has called me to.
While driving to the upstate Saturday, the old hymn "This Is My Father's World" came up on Spotify. I hummed the tune for a bit, but when the music came to the chorus, I loudly sang in my best quasi-operatic voice. (Yes, I was alone in the car!) It was as if I were in some imaginary choir and we had been instructed to sing "full voice'. I was completely oblivious to anyone else driving along the interstate with me. And I felt really good after this musical outburst!
That morning in my time alone at start of day, after praying for pastors, my prayers had focused on the current troubles filling the news. There were (and are!) plenty of things for us to pray about.
But as I sang that old hymn, The Spirit reminded me of the Heavenly Father who "owned" this world. He prompted me to thank God for the blessings of life. So many blessings came to mind: the air we breathe. Music. Grandchildren. Love. The beach. Water. Strawberries. Friends. Otis Redding. (You can insert your favorite singer here.) If there were a scale to weigh them, the blessings of life would far outweigh the troubles.
After naming several people and things in my life, I thanked God for the greatest blessing I have ever received- Jesus. The day I trusted that Jesus did everything necessary to make me right with God was truly a day of personal freedom. It was the day I experienced His Amazing Grace and began to live the Good and Beautiful Life.
I think that's why I sang that way that day.
Of course, singing an old hymn full voice is not a therapeutic way to divert one's attention to more pleasant thoughts. Neither is it a way to escape from the troubles of the world. Indeed, escaping the troubles of the world is not His strategy for his disciples. Jesus' plan for us is to get smack dab in the middle of the troubles of the world and bring love, prayers, serving, truth, and blessing We overcome evil with good. We're not escape artists, we are change agents.
But the hymn that morning reminded me of a beautiful truth: As a disciple of Jesus, I now live in His presence 24/7, and there is nothing that can ever change that. So once again, as I drove to meet some buddies from long, long ago, I decided that I will pray for the people experiencing the troubles of the world. I will act on the promptings of the Holy Spirit to bless others. And I will choose gratitude until it becomes the default attitude of my heart. And sometimes that will move me to sing!
So if you see my alone in my car singing as if I'm Andrea Bocelli, don't laugh. Join me.
From Joe Still:
In light of the tragic shooting death of Walter Scott, I believe God is calling HIS people to pray. HE has chosen prayer as HIS channel of blessing and is waiting to answer us and supply our needs. We desperately need God to step into our community and bring HIS healing and HIS peace.
God uses our everyday troubles to remind us that we need HIM to intervene in our lives and that we need to take prayer seriously and call on HIM passionately. Stop and think for a moment about the difference the promise of 1 John 5:14 – 15 can make in your life and in our community: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to HIS will, HE hears us. And if we know that HE hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of HIM.”
Jesus tells HIS followers in Matthew 5:9 “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. .” Our Father’s plan to bring HIS peace to our neighborhoods and our community is through HIS children and Riverbluff, we are the children of the Living God.
Making HIS peace begins with prayer and as Jesus told us, part of praying involves asking God to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13) We need to ask God to deliver us from the evil in this world and from the schemes of our enemy.
This morning in our SOAPing through God’s Word together we read Jesus’ Words in John 10:10 “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” The enemy of God’s Peace will set out to steal, kill, and destroy the peace that God desires. That has already happened in this tragic shooting death. Many families are grieving this morning, experiencing loss and destruction and suffering great pain. The enemy of God and HIS people would like nothing more than to unleash more Hell into our community, but you can make a difference in prayer.
Our Father tells us clearly that “If HIS people who are called by HIS name will humble themselves and pray and seek HIS face and turn from their wicked ways, HE will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) God says “If HIS people will…then HE will”
Will you humbly seek God in prayer today with a repentant heart that is seeking HIS Holy Face? If we will, HE will! HE will stir up forgiveness and healing in HIS community here in Charleston.
Would you join me in praying:
After 26 wonderful years as Lead Pastor of Riverbluff Church in North Charleston, I retired.
After three months of retirement, I’ve concluded I have not retired. I have "kinda-sorta-almost-retired" with a new Kingdom assignment.
Part of the Riverbluff Church DNA is helping other churches. Sometimes we send speakers. Sometimes we conduct Vacation Bible Schools for other churches. Sometimes we loan equipment. Once a year we cancel our services and worship with other churches giving them our prayers and offerings. Several times we have asked members to serve these other churches for a season to help them get strong. Once we loaned a staff member to The IMB in the Middle East for three months because they had an emergency personnel need. Our Counseling Center serves all Charleston area churches, and often pastors and/or their families.
So the idea of a person who helped other churches wasn’t new to Riverbluff. We simply added a bald guy who loves coffee and helping pastors.
What do I do? At this point, it’s drinking a lot of Starbucks with pastors. After getting acquainted a bit, I ask “How can I help?” Most of these guys don’t want to be Riverbluff or Curt Bradford, so they don't want mentoring. They would like to get a little counsel from a fellow pastor with no agenda other than Kingdom building. So I try to help according to their agenda. Quite often my role is encourager. Other times I’m the one they “bounce ideas off”. At times I have been simply a “safe person” to talk to. I'm like a coach who helps someone reach the goals God has given.
I wasn’t sure how God would connect me with these pastors and/or churches, so I decided to use a unique strategy- I would pray about it and ask God to bring the people He wanted me to work with.
And He has. I’m having a ball working with some great guys and great churches!
Just thought I would update the three people who read this blog (give my grandchildren a hug, please!) and ask you to pray for the work we’re doing.
Thank You Lord for this Kingdom retirement assignment.
I just left my dermatologist’s office and he asked “How’s retirement?” I paused before answering, “I don’t know yet.”
It’s only been a month since I retired after 26 years of pastoring Riverbluff Church and almost 40 years in full time ministry. Retirement is still unknown to me so I don’t know yet how it is or how it will be.
Of course all my retired friends are gracious enough to share their experiences and I’m grateful. Their input has ranged from wonderful experiences and emotions to horror stories and sadness. Some are amazingly active and others are looking for something to do. I remember from Scripture that David couldn’t wear Saul’s armor, so I suppose I’ll just have to experience it to know. I’m not afraid or even apprehensive because I have walked with Jesus long enough to know that He knows so I don’t have to know.
Maybe after a few months I will be able to respond with a little more clarity; but for now, I don’t know.
More to come…obviously! 8-)
After 26 years, this Sunday will be my last official act as Lead Pastor at Riverbluff Church.
It’s been a wonderful experience and blessing to me and I don’t think I will ever be able to say enough “Thank You’s” to the Lord and the congregation for their kindness and patience as I learned this thing called pastoring. Of course, I never quite learned how to do it as well as my mentors and models; but I gave it a good try.
Serving as pastor of this church called Riverbluff (formerly Midland Park Baptist), never degenerated into work. I enjoyed going in because it always seemed to be Kingdom stuff I was doing and that never grew old. It was also a privilege and honor to serve people who were so gracious and generous and giving. These folks allowed me to be “Imperfect Curt”, a work in progress; and I don’t think any pastor could ask for more than that.
My new assignment in retirement will be to help pastors and churches who may be struggling. There’s a bunch of them out there and I really believe all of the experiences and learnings from my time at Riverbluff Church are to be treated as blessings to be stewarded. That is, what we have learned and experienced needs to be shared so we will. I look forward to opportunities to function as a Kingdom Coach for pastors and churches.
As my mentor Jim Herron told me in an email this morning, “The call never goes away”. My calling to make disciples who make disciples who change the world will always be what I do. Hopefully God will open the doors to pastors and churches who could use an old bald guy’s help.
Blessings and I'll see you on the retirement side.