A digital commonplace for a Regular Guy called Charlie Pharis

Category: Ministry (page 1 of 1)

About My Neighbor…

OK, boys and girls…here’s one for you…

Sometimes God has a sense of humor. And sometimes He uses that sense of humor to punch us right in the gut to get our attention. Today was one of those days.

We loaded up our church stuff in the car as usual this morning, and headed out of the driveway. About halfway between our house and the front of our neighborhood, we saw an olive-green car sitting at the bottom of the hill with its flashers on. As we approached to pass by, the driver was opening the door, and sitting with one leg out of the driver’s side.

My first thought was, “I wonder if she needs help?”

My next thoughts, in quick succession, were, “But I’ll be late to church,” “I don’t have time to stop now,” and “I sure hope she’s OK.”

When we got to the entrance of our neighborhood, I stopped at the stop sign. I had to wait for an approaching truck before turning left out on to the street. As the truck turned into my neighborhood, I thought, aloud to the lovely and gracious MrsCharphar, “I guess that guy will stop and help.” And with that, off we went to church.

Here’s where God’s sense of humor and the “ouch” came in.

Today’s message at The Crest was Part 6 of a seven-part series called Upside Down Stories. Throughout the series, we’ve been diving into some of Jesus’s parables. Today’s installment was from Luke 10, and dealt with…

…wait for it…

…wait for it…

…the Good Samaritan.

*Paraphrase of Luke 10: 3031…

“Jesus replied, ‘A woman was going down from her neighborhood to somewhere else in Cherokee County, and her car broke down, leaving her stranded at the bottom of a steep hill. Now by chance the pastor of Stonecrest Church was going down that road, and when he saw her he passed by on the other side.’”

Ouch, indeed.


My Biggest Blunders, Part 1…

I’ve made plenty of stupid, boneheaded mistakes in 31 years “in the ministry.” Most of them have been relatively minor, and the relatively major ones were graciously forgiven by God and His people.

The biggest blunder in my ministry – and the one which has impacted me the most since – was going to a church without really “going to” that church. The second biggest was leaving that church before it was time, because I had never really “gone to” that church in the first place.

One of my heroes in the ministry once opined that there are two kinds of pastors in Georgia: the ones who want to go to Atlanta, and the ones who want to leave. I’ve been both.

Sixteen years ago, I was serving my first church out of seminary. It was small, rural and south of metro Atlanta. Our church was the product of that Southern Baptist phenomenon, “evangelism by church split.” A friend got himself recommended to the search committee of a 100-year-old church in the city of Atlanta. At the same time, he had just accepted a position at one of our seminaries. So he passed my name along to the Atlanta committee.

Long story short, God led me to northwest Atlanta. I went.

About the same time, I was learning about the strategic nature of cities in God’s redemptive plan for the nations. It seemed like a perfect fit: a city church in need of renewal, a neighborhood on the cusp of renewal, and a pastor who was hearing God talk about the importance of cities. There’s where the first big blunder happened.

Instead of embracing God’s call “to” that church in that neighborhood in that city, I chose to carry on the myth of suburban pastor commuting with the majority of his people to a building in that neighborhood in that city and then retreating to the “safety” of the suburbs. Like the majority of my people, I paid lip service to the desire to see God do something new in that church in that neighborhood in that city. I listened and nodded as the older members spoke lovingly of the church’s “glorious past,” and commiserated with the long-time members about the glory days. All the while, we met, we ate, we sang, we prayed, we wrung our hands, we wondered, we reminisced, and we went home to our comfortable and safe suburbs.

I Can’t Get This Passage Out of My Mind…

God’s been rocking my world over the last week with these words

O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood,
and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do.
Now that I am old and gray,
do not abandon me, O God.
Let me proclaim your power to this new generation,
your mighty miracles to all who come after me.

Not Really Ready, Am I?

Went with the lovely and gracious “Mrs. Just Charlie” to our favorite little Eye-talian place for lunch today. (I had just talked about getting back to the basics of church, and how the mission of Jesus to seek and save the lost must be our driving passion, etc.).

So we pull up to Provino’s and there they were, in all their redneck-hip-hop-wannabe glory: about four guys and a girl,  all of whom appeared to be in their early 20s. Standing right outside the door, smoking, swilling Budweiser longnecks.

My first reaction was something like…

Crap! Why can’t they move it somewhere else so I can get in the door?

We went around this crew and headed in for lunch. Well, it gets better. As soon as we were seated, that whole crew came in and joined another very similar crowd at a large table across the room from us.

Another young woman joined them shortly, and it became apparent that this whole bunch was celebrating the first young woman’s birthday. (Or that they were continuing to celebrate her birthday might be more like it!)

I’d like to think that the language they were using would be offensive to the young woman (with the obligatory and very evident tramp stamp), but since she was the loudest and most obnoxious, I guess not.

Every third word from her mouth began with “f” and ended with “-kin'” and there was no “rea” in between. I had almost had all I could stand when she made this comment…

S**t! I was so f**kin’ messed up, I f**kin’ woke up with nothin’ but my f**kin’ bikini top on, and my f**kin’ bottle of Everclear was f**kin’ gone!

The rest of the table laughed and commented favorably.

And that’s when it hit me. Or I should say, that’s when He hit me. Right in the face. Hard.

My buddy, Gary Lamb, often says that most pastors who say they want to reach the unchurched really don’t want to, they just want to have cool, different ways of doing church for the already-convinced.

I know he’s right, but it hit home in a big way this afternoon over a plate of manicotti and garlic rolls.

I am not really ready to advance the Kingdom. I’m not really ready to storm the gates of hell and rescue people who are far from God. I’m good with nice, decent folks who just don’t go to church. But there were people, loved by God, created and designed by Him for a great purpose, people for whom Jesus lived and died, people being passionately pursued by God, and I couldn’t handle them. My anger and discomfort soon turned to great shame and I wept over my last bit of manicotti. Sitting right there in the restaurant, I wept over people far from God, and over my lack of passion for them.

God, help me see those who are far from You as You see them. Give me patience for the things I don’t like so I can have a passion for those You love. Help me be ready next time…

Wow. Just Wow. Un-freakin’-believable…

Here are some things I bet you pastor/preacher types out there weren’t aware of, until John Killinger said so, in a presentation today in Memphis…

  • Doctrine is a “thing of the past.”
  • Pastors are reluctant to preach from the Gospel of John, preferring instead to focus on the “human” side of Jesus found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
  • We need to be “a little less certain” about who Jesus was and what he was all about.
  • Jesus did not conceive of Himself as the Savior of the world and may not have viewed Himself a sacrifice at all until the crucifixion.
  • Salvation is more about “self-fulfillment and love” than any pesky old doctrine.
  • Daniel lied.


Guess we all need to be “re-evaluating” our stance in light of this “advanced” understanding of the gospel and its ramifications.


Where Should Ministry Decisions Get Made?

On the front lines of ministry, of course! Where else?!?!?

I was reminded of this lesson again in a powerful and practical way today. I’m sure glad the “guys in the field” understand and appreciate that principle. Now if only the “higher-ups” understood the same thing, that “service” is about people and their needs, not necessarily about policy and procedure.

I’ll be chewing on that one the rest of the day today.