Bro. Laida: My Interview with a 92 Year Old Pastor, Part 1

This is the introduction video to my interview with Dr. John David Laida. Brother Laida, as we always referred to him, was my pastor growing up. He served as senior pastor for 28 years at First Baptist Church, Clarksville, Tennessee and under his leadership the church grew every year. He served as president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and was a respected man in the community.

After retirement, Bro. Laida has remained active. He has preached almost every week since and has helped dozens of churches in transition as an interim pastor. At the time of this filming, he was about to turn 93 years old and had just taken the interim job of my home church, First Baptist Clarksville. He’s respected highly in this region for his wit, wisdom and his faithful service.

In this video, you’ll get an introduction into the beginning days of Brother Laida. It’s fascinating to hear his perspective on his earlier days of life and ministry.

This is a five part interview and this is the longest. Most will be 5 or 6 minutes in length. I hope you’ll enjoy learning from one of my mentor’s and spiritual heroes.

What did you enjoy most about his story this far?

Who is the oldest pastor you know still serving today? Honor them here.

The Initial Response may Determine the Future Recovery

Over the years, I’ve observed that many times the initial reaction to tragedy often dictates the final outcome of the situation.

I’m not talking about our split second response to disappointment, but the way a person responds in the days and weeks following the receipt of an unfortunate situation. Initially we react with emotions. That’s normal. The key is how we respond after the initial shock is gone. Ideally, as we mature, our response time should improve, shortening the reaction from the purely emotional release, which is natural, to the more confident and assured position, which is making rational decisions in spite of our emotional state.

Doing that takes discipline and practice.

Many people, it seems to me, never move beyond the emotional response and it cripples their potential for future recovery.

Let me give you an example.

Recently my oldest son Jeremy lost his job. His company downsized and, what he thought was a stable position, suddenly disappeared. He had been married less than a year and had weeks earlier purchased his first home. Jeremy is very mature for his age, so he handled the news better than some might have, but you can imagine the shock and disappointment was big for him.

For the first 24 hours he was numb, afraid, even a bit angry. I knew then that his reaction to this unexpected change of events would greatly determine his recovery period. I encouraged from the sidelines, but knew he ultimately had to own his response.

What happened? The next day he went to work. He weighed his options. He developed a plan. He took immediate action towards reaching his objective. The plans changed a few times in the coming weeks, but his resolve and confidence remained steadfast. Today he’s successfully working for himself. He’s only a couple months in, but already the signs of success are apparent. He’s recovering from disappointment into a better position, with more flexibility and job security, than he had previously. I’m so proud of him.

(BTW, if you need content development or online marketing/social media assistance, but can’t afford full-time staff, he may be able to help you.)

The initial response to disappointment or uncertainty often determines the quality of recovery.

This principle has Biblical implications. Recently I saw this principle reading about Nehemiah. Nehemiah had just learned the wall of his home city had been destroyed. His people were in jeopardy. The potential for devastation to the Jews was huge.

How did Nehemiah respond?

“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days” Nehemiah 1:4

That was his emotional response. Perfectly normal.

What happened next?

“and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”

That was his rational response. A sign of maturity.

Nehemiah knew that ultimately the protection of his people was God’s business, not his. He called upon God, because he knew that ultimately God was in control. In spite of the circumstances around him, God could be trusted.

There’s another example. Nehemiah was the cupbearer for the king. On one of his visits to serve the king, the king notices Nehemiah is not his bubbly personality as usual. The king asked Nehemiah what was wrong.

Look at Nehemiah’s response:

Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” Nehemiah 2:4

Imagine you’re standing before the most powerful man in the world and he asks you to state a request on your behalf. As we later learn, Nehemiah’s request would take him out of the king’s service. It was a huge request. How Nehemaih responded would greatly determine the outcome.

What did Nehemiah do in that moment? Verse 4 continues:

“So I prayed to the God of Heaven. And I said to the king…” (verses 4-5)

This time Nehemiah had less time to react. His initial reaction would greatly impact the quality of the response he received from the king. What happened next was greatly determined by his initial reaction.

Are you in the midst of a crisis? Have you received bad news? Are you disappointed with where your life is headed?

Your initial response may determine your future recovery.

Have you seen this principle at work?

Identity Always Precedes Activity

This is a guest post from Jeff Goins. Jeff is a writer, speaker, and blogger. Jeff has also become a friend and I’ve enjoyed the times to hang out with him. He’s a sharp young mind you should get to know. Check out his new eBook, You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One).

Here are some thoughts from Jeff:

I’ve spent too much time trying to prove something to myself instead of living into the reality of my identity.

I’ve labored and toiled, desperately trying to affirm in myself what I hope is true about me. That I’m good enough. That the world needs to hear my message. That what I have to say counts.

I’ve wasted years on this pursue and not spent nearly enough time grasping my identity as a child of God. A son. An heir.

And frankly, I’m tired of it. It’s exhausting and pointless. I’ve given up on proving things (to me or you) and started surrendering to who I am. In the process, I’ve learned two lessons:

Lesson #1: You are not what you do.

Your identity comes from some place deeper than your resume or list of accomplishments.

This is important, because in a culture of competition, it’s easy to get lost in the rat race. To chase the horizon and never catch it.

So many people live out of their false selves, constantly performing for an invisible audience and never feeling satisfied.

This will leave you dissatisfied and disillusioned. The way out is to trust what God says about you is true:

  • You are accepted.
  • You are righteous.
  • You are forgiven.
  • You are loved.

Lesson #2: What you do comes from who you are.

This is related to the first, but still worth stating, because so many people aren’t doing this. They’re living out of some fake place of pretense — a facade, a front. And everyone can see it, but them.

The way out of this is to stop lying to yourself. To admit you are who you already know you are:

  • A writer.
  • A dreamer.
  • A plumber.
  • A dancer.

Whatever it is that you were made to do, it’s time to stop hiding and start believing. And then, once you believe, it’s time to do it.

So many people are waiting for God to tell them what to do with their lives, but I believe God is waiting for those people to be who he’s made them to be.

Are you still living life with a performance mentality? Or have you finally given yourself to be who you are? If so, what are you?

Faith Obeys, Without Knowing How

But Samuel said, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.” The LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” Samuel did what the LORD said.1 Samuel 16:2-4a NIV

God sent Samuel to annoint David king. He was removing Saul from power. It was a dangerous and scary assignment and it made no sense. Speaking against the king could bring death, but not only that, Saul looked like a king. David was an unknown kid. Samuel was naturally afraid. Wasn’t there some other way?…Samuel must have thought.

God’s plan was made. He wouldn’t budge because of Samuel’s fear. God never leads by popular opinion, so Samuel obeyed.

That’s what faith does.

When Samuel obeyed God, EVEN THOUGH it didn’t make sense for him to do so, he was exhibiting his faith in God. Faith always moves without seeing or understanding. Faith is always prior to receiving the complete picture or having all the answers. Faith precedes victory. Every time.

If we want to please God, we have to obey Him when it makes no sense to do so.

Years ago our family traveled to our nation’s capital on vacation. I have spent considerable time in the city, as a college intern and during my political and business days. It is one of my favorite places to visit. Our boys had never been. I told them that this would not be an enjoyable trip…at least not for the first few days. At nine and twelve years of age, and not being musuem people, I knew they would be bored at first and I wanted to prepare them.

I was right. I told them, however, that if they would obey me, they would be glad they had been once the trip was over. By the time we left Washington, DC, both boys were sad to say goodbye to the city. They had fallen in love with it. The twelve year old even said he wanted to attend a college there. (He obviously later changed his mind.)

That is the way it is sometimes in our Christian walk. Obeying God, following Him, and carrying out His plan, especially when it contradicts our own, is not always the first thing we want to do. It won’t even make sense sometimes. But, as we obey God, and He works His will through our obedience, God blesses us in ways we never expected, and we begin to experience what it means that “all things work for good for those who love the Lord”. (Romans 8:28)

Samuel didn’t want to go find David, but he obeyed. And, guess what? God knew what He was doing. Duh!

And, God knows what He is doing in your life too!

You need only to trust and obey!

In what area of your life are you most having to walk by faith these days? 

12 Words of Encourgement for Pastors (Or Other Leaders)

I love pastors. Each week, through this blog and my personal ministry, God allows me to partner with dozens of pastors, helping them think through life and ministry issues. I’ve learned that many pastors struggle to find people who will invest in them and help them grow as individuals, leaders and pastors.

Recently I had a pastor ask me for my “best advice” for other pastors. Wow! That’s hard to say. I’ve learned so much through the pastors who have invested in me and by experience. It’s hard to summarize all that I’ve learned. It could probably fill a book or two…but at least more than one blog post!

I put some thought into the question and decided to come up with a list of encouragement, one that I would give to all pastors, to answer his question. I’m sure there’s more (and you can help by adding yours), but this post is at least a start. Of course, wisdom is transferable to other fields, so change a few words around and I’d give this advice to any leader…some of them perhaps to any person.

Here are 12 words of encouragement for pastors:

Choose your friends wisely…but choose friends. Don’t attempt to lead alone. Too many pastors avoid close friendships because they’ve been hurt. They trusted someone with information who used it against them. Finding friends you can trust and be real with means you’ll sometimes get injured, but the reward is worth it.

The church can never love your family as much as you do. Your family needs you more than the church does. They can get another pastor. Your family doesn’t want another you. You’ll have to learn to say “no”, learn how to balance and prioritize your time, and be willing to delegate to others in the church. (You may want to read THIS POST from my friend Michael Hyatt on saying “no” with grace.”

If you protect your Sabbath day, your Sabbath day can better protect you. You’ll wear out quickly without a day a week to rejuvenate. God designed us this way. Take advantage of His provision. Take time to rest. You may not rest like everyone else…for me rest doesn’t mean doing nothing…but you need time away from the demands of ministry regularly. Lead your church to understand you can’t be everywhere every time. You owe it to yourself, your family, your church and your God.

You have influence…use it well. The pastorate comes with tremendous power and responsibility. It’s easy to abuse or take for granted. Don’t. Humility welcomes the hand of God on your ministry.

No amount of accountability or structure will keep you from temptation if you’re heart is impure. Above all else, guard your heart. (Proverbs 4:23) Avoid any hint of temptation. Look for the warning signs your heart is drifting. Keep your heart saturated with God’s Word and in prayer.

Let God lead. You can do some things well. God can do the impossible. Whom do you think should ultimately be leading the church? You’ll be surprised how much more effective your leadership will be when it’s according to His will and not yours.

If you can dream it, God can dream it bigger. Don’t dismiss the seemingly ridiculous things God calls you to do. They won’t always make sense to others or meet their immediate approval, but God’s ways will prove best every time.

Keep Jesus the center of focus in the church. You’ll never have a money problem, a people problem, or a growth problem if people are one with Jesus.

Your personal health affects the health of the church. Take care of yourself relationally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This, too, requires discipline, balance and prioritizing, but if, to the best of your ability, you strive to be healthy in every area of your life, as a good shepherd, your people will be more likely to follow your example.

The people in your church deserve authenticity. Not only will be honest about who you are help keep you from trying to meet unreal expectations, but it will help the people in your church be transparent with you and others. Don’t be someone you’re not. Be someone worthy to follow, but make sure you’re living it…not just teaching it.

You’ll never make everyone happy. If you try, you’ll be very unhappy…and very unproductive.

Now, make this post better. As you can count, there are only 11 here. I’m counting on you to add your best number 12.

What word of encouragement do you have for pastors (or other leaders)?

Hug a Soldier!

Have you hugged a soldier today?

You may not be able to hug one, like I’ll be able to do at church today, but you can say a prayer for one (or many). You can thank God for those who gave the ultimate price for freedom. You can never forget that someone (many) died so that you can worship freely.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Thank you God, for freedom, to worship, to live, to know you!

Who are the soldiers, present or past, you are thankful for today?

10 Thank You’s to My Pastor’s Wife

This is to my wife.

It could be to anyone married to a pastor. It’s hard work.

In fact, I’ve said this before, but it may be the most difficult job in the church at times.

But, this one is to my wife. (You’re welcome to read along.)

I’ve also said this before…I have the perfect pastor’s wife. Younger pastor’s wives, if you want to learn how to do it, I’d submit my wife as an example.

As we venture out again on a new journey (There have been many in our years together), I’m reflective on the reasons I’m thankful for my pastor’s wife.

Cheryl,

Thank you for following me where God leads me…without complaining. Usually you are ready to walk by faith before I am. I couldn’t and wouldn’t do this without you.

Thank you keeping confidences. Thank you for biting your tongue when someone complains or criticizes unjustly. Thank you for knowing more “junk” than most people should, and never sharing it with anyone, yet being my closest confidant.

Thank you for being my biggest encourager and never making the church wonder where your support is. Even when the message stinks, you pretend it was wonderful!

Thank you being a safe place…even letting me blow off steam at times. Ministry is hard. I’m glad my wife has big shoulders upon which to cry at times and an incredible faith to point me back where I belong.

Thank you for believing in me when no one else does. You were with God and had me in ministry long before I could see what God was doing. You still believe I can do things of which I’m not so confident.

Thank you for knowing me best yet loving me most. Okay, contrary to public opinion :) , you know I’m not perfect. Far from it. Yet, your love is always undeniable.

Thank you for putting our marriage before any human relationship. At times, that’s meant you had to say no to others so you could say yes to me. Thank you for the sacrifice. Thanks for helping build a marriage and family life the church can easily follow.

Thank you for loving people and Jesus so passionately. The church knows it. Everyone knows it. You fully reflect that in all that you do!

Thank you for being a protection for me. You sense things in people and ministry that I can sense.

Thank you for respecting me unconditionally. You understand the frailty of a man’s ego and know it’s my greatest need and you fill it completely.

Thank you for being my pastor’s wife.

Give a shout out to your pastor or minister’s wife/spouse here! (Better yet, also send her/him a card!)

The Lure (And Danger) of Fame, by Shawn Lovejoy

This is a guest post by Shawn Lovejoy. Shawn is a friend and the Founding and Lead Pastor of Mountain Lake Church, the Directional Leader of churchplanters.com and the author of the newly released book, ‘The Measure of Our Success – An Impassioned Plea to Pastors”. God has used Mountain Lake Church and churchplanters.com to become one of the most influential church planting ministries in the world, and Shawn gives Jesus all the credit. Shawn loves his wife, his kids, the church, pastors, college football, and PlayStation3. In that order. He lives near Atlanta, Georgia.

The Lure (and Danger) of Fame

No pastor would ever admit to the desire to be famous. Our hearts are deceitful, though, aren’t they? Most of us care far too much about the number of Facebook friends, blog readers, and Twitter followers we have. We keep a secret eye on how many times our wisdom is retweeted, and we feel validated and important if we can write an article, speak at a conference, or gain a voice in a larger forum. If we’re honest, often times our desire for “growth” and “influence” is really just a desire to be noticed and affirmed, isn’t it?

Pastors, are we trying to get people to follow us or follow Jesus? The church has too many pastor-followers as it is. Every one of us looks more glamorous from a distance. We all look dirtier up close. I know many famous pastors, and they’re not nearly as perfect as they seem…. or talk. I’m not either. Before I decided to write this book, I had to ask myself, “Why do I want to write this? What do I really hope to achieve?” I must strive every day to keep my motivations in check, because “pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). Fame simply cannot be the measure of our success.

All of us are tempted to measure success by the world’s standards. However, if we do, it ill cost us. It has cost us. It has cost me. I’ve allowed false measures of success to drive me to insecurity, isolation, loneliness, anxiety, and discouragement. Have you ever been there? I bet you have. When we succumb to the temptation, we must repent. We must tear down the idols in our hearts and lives. We must find a new standard of measurement. We must live for an audience of One. We must rediscover His measure of success.

Pastor, is this an area of struggle for you? How are you measuring your success?

I love Shawn’s heart for pastors. I’ve personally benefited from his encouragement and friendship. Shawn is a passionate Kingdom-builder.

Get this book now:

The Measure of Our Success: An Impassioned Plea To Pastors, available today on Amazon.

3 “Weights” God Uses to Develop Spiritual Muscles

I’m a runner, but in recent years, following the advice of “experts”, I’ve disciplined myself to include weight-training in my exercise program. I’ll admit, most days I don’t like it. I’d prefer running outside to lifting weights in a hot gym any day, but I can feel the positive results it brings when I discipline myself to do it. Developing and maintaining muscles, especially at my age, doesn’t happen simply by running. (And, BTW, that’s not my arm in the picture. Mine is much bigger :) )

God has ways of developing our spiritual muscles. As with any muscle-building, it’s often a difficult journey to get the desired results. Sure, God builds us through prayer, Bible study and His presence in our life, but my faith building has not always been that pleasant of an experience.

As I’ve observed, God seems to use:

Tests – “After these things God tested Abraham” (Genesis 22:1). In the past couple years, I’ve received numerous job opportunities. I believe God often gives us tremendous latitude in our career choices, preferring to concentrate His will more on who we are rather than what we do, but I think some of these opportunities may have been tests to see if I would follow my will or God’s will. Each of them caught my attention, but later, after wrestling through them with God, my discernment was they were not where God would best use me at the time.

I’ve often been guilty of doing things my way, only to regret them later. I’ve been tested many times and, when I surrender what I want to His will, I’ve eventually passed the test. It hasn’t always come immediately. I’m slow to obey sometimes, but when I’ve eventually yielded to Him, things turn out best. In those times, I always learn something about myself and my character as it relates to God.

Temptations – The Bible is clear that God does not tempt us (James 1:13), but God uses temptation to teach us about ourselves, about God, and that our dependence is to be on Him. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Even Jesus was tempted. “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 4:1) How much more you and me?

Temptations are all around us everyday. God strengthens our trust and obedience in Him as we learn to handle them in a God-honoring way. Thankfully, He always provides the strength in Christ to overcome temptations. “and God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Trials – I’ve said many times, we are either in a trial, just coming out of a trial, or will soon be in a trial. I’m sure I heard someone else say that years ago, but I don’t remember who said it first. It certainly has proven true in my life. If it’s not our personal trial, it will be someone close to us. Some trials are bigger than others, but all are used of God for some divine purpose. “These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:7)

Learning to allow suffering to draw us closer to Christ, rather than further away takes faith and discipline. We learn to rest in His care, even when the circumstances around us scream at us to turn to worry and fear. During trials we remind ourselves of who we are in Christ and the future He has planned for us. We allow trials to produce in us the hope found only in knowing Christ personally. “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)

Do you want your faith to grow? Do you want to trust God more? Are you ready to have a hope that surpasses the darkness the world can bring? It may not always be a pleasant experience, there is some “weight-training” involved at times, but it will always be worth it.

How is God developing your spiritual muscles these days?

I’m not saying my list is exclusive. How else does God develop us spiritually?