Archives For Clint Archer

There are many ways to leave a church honorably. You could die in the pulpit. You might gracefully retire so a younger man can fill your shoes. Perhaps you feel called to another ministry, and your current elders support you in that endeavor. But there are some ways no pastor wants to be ejected from his ministry.

candle burnt out1. Burn out.

Some men don’t last in the ministry because, as Maverick was warned in Top Gun, “You ego’s writing checks your body can’t cash.” In their defense, most pastors who burn out are demanding more from their bodies, not out of ego, but out of zeal for the ministry.

George Whitefield, for example, was told by his doctor to take it easy and refrain from preaching to preserve his extremely precarious health. That night he was invited to preach the gospel to an audience in the house in which he was convalescing. He promptly hauled himself out of bed, and preached his guts out at full tilt to a packed house until the candle burned out. He then retired to bed and died.

Whitfield had responded to the chiding of his doctor, “I’d rather burn out than rust out.” Which brings us to another way pastors lose their pulpits.

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This is information is about forty-five years the wrong side of news; but it’s news to me. On July 20, 1969, moments after the lunar module, The Eagle, alighted upon the Sea of Tranquility, a solitary Presbyterian church elder celebrated the Lord’s Supper in reverent silence—on the Moon.Moon

Commander Buzz Aldrin had stashed a piece of bread, a capsule of wine, and a tiny silver chalice onboard the Columbia, and smuggled it into space with him. Before his historic walkabout, Aldrin requested a brief radio silence. He described the following moment in the 1970 issue of Guideposts magazine:

I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements.

His actions were at first kept secret because NASA was embroiled in a lawsuit with an atheist who was suing them for broadcasting a public reading of the Bible by the crew of Apollo 8 (evidence that missing the point is not limited to the religious).

When I read of Aldrin’s Eucharistic exploits, I found myself thinking, that’s pretty neat, except for one thing—that’s not communion.

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ebola virus If you haven’t read Al Mohler’s brilliant response to Ann Coulter, you need to. Or, if you prefer a version with zombies in it, read on.

Last week an American doctor, Kent Brantly, and a nurse who contracted the Ebola virus on a medical outreach trip to Africa were flown home to be treated. Ann Coulter, a (loud) mouthpiece for political conservatives opined that the misguided Christian do-gooders ought rather to have stayed Stateside and focused their philanthropy on, say, Hollywood tycoons, so the world could be reached by the inevitable trickle down effect of Christianized American culture.

No, I’m not putting words in the horse’s mouth:

If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia.”

–Ann Coulter.

Ms Coulter went on to describe missionaries as cowards who slink off to Africa rather than boldly evangelising fellow capitalists. Mohler’s reply gave a voice to us Christians who were choking on our Chick-Fil-A in dumbfounded astonishment at her suggestion. He reminded us that Jesus deployed his disciples to go into the nations with the gospel, not just stay put and commandeer the entertainment industry.

That’s why we call them missionaries, and not stationaries.

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hatfield-mccoy_pigThis is a long story, but I’ll keep it short. In 1878 Floyd Hatfield had a pig. Somehow this pig got a tiny bit of its ear bitten off or otherwise severed, or so Hatfield claimed. You see, on the other side of Tug Fork river on the border of Kentucky and West Virginia, lived a family called the McCoys.

The McCoys notched their pigs’ ears, to be able to identify them if they got stolen. When Randolph McCoy saw the notched hog in a Hatfield sty, he accused Floyd Hatfield of swine theft. The matter soon escalated into a bitter lawsuit. Randolph McCoy took Floyd Hatfield to court over the issue.

The problem was complicated in that the local justice of the peace was the honorable Anderson Hatfield. He found no evidence that Floyd had stolen the pig, and based on the testimony of one Bill Staton, ruled in favor of the Hatfields,. The case was closed. Or was it?

Bill Staton was later killed–supposedly in self-defense–by two McCoy brothers. Around that time Roseanna McCoy was courting Johnson Hatfield and the McCoys arrested the young man for bootlegging. The Hatfields rescued him by force. But then Johnson Hatfield abandoned the pregnant Roseanna McCoy, and married her cousin. Later, Roseanna’s three brothers killed a Hatfield (I forget which one). The Hatfields then hunted down the McCoy brothers, tied them to pawpaw bushes and pumped them with lead. The Hatfields were arrested, but mysteriously got away with no punishment. So, the McCoys used political connections to reinstate the charges. In retaliation the Hatfields burnt down a McCoy cabin. Two McCoy children were killed that night, and eight Hatfields were arrested (one of them hanged). Well, to cut a long story short, the notorious Hatfield-McCoy blood feud raged bitterly for decades, claiming a dozen lives from both families. Eventually the governors of Kentucky and West Virginia intervened, and even the US Supreme court got involved! Like I said, it’s a long story.

I have no idea what happened to the pig.

What I do know is that when family feuds turn violent, the end is never initiated by the feuding families. The dispute must be settled by the intervention of supreme powers.

I’m about to begin preaching a series of sermons in the shortest book of the OT, namely Obadiah.

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This is a précis excerpt from Holding the Rope: Short-Term Missions, Long-Term Impact

I felt called to Botswana. Actually I felt called to date this girl, and she was going to Botswana, so for me the call was just as clear. I was a freshman in college, a spiritual neophyte but this opportunity was for an all expenses paid trip—thanks to the widow’s mites and other donations. Ten days of roughing it in Africa, including four days of overland travel in 4×4 Land Rovers. It was a Camel adventure for non-smokers, a way to beef up my passport stamp collection, and a chance to serve God under the gaze of the girl I liked. I was sold. So, armed with four hours of training and the Roman’s Road freshly memorized, I over-packed my knapsack and joined the band of brothers and sisters who would take the gospel to the unreached masses in the Kalahari dessert. Whoever said being a Christian wasn’t fun?HTR

Kalahari Conundrums

The adventure was not exactly the way I had pictured it. Four dusty days in a Jeep seems a less glamorous journey now that I’ve experienced it. Since none of the vehicles had air conditioning, I selfishly opted for the convertible. I soon discovered that the most under-appreciated tool on my Swiss Army knife is the toothpick. I frequently employed it to exorcise from my teeth the legion of tiny bugs that lodged there as we zipped through the dunes like a brood of determined sidewinders being force fed with fauna all day long.

The six days that we were with the missionaries were even more challenging to my city-slicker constitution. Water took forty minutes to pump manually and transport back to the compound. We bathed in a steel drum, the entire grimy team reusing the same water. During the day under the blazing sun we dug and hoisted, mixed and measured, in order to erect a corrugated tin roof shelter that would function as a gathering place for the six or seven local believers who met weekly with the missionaries. In our prayer letters we labeled that project “building a church” but it was so shoddy that I suspect it cost the missionary some personal funds after we left to improve it.

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In the shadow of the movie’s release, I thought it apropos to regurgitate this (one of my first) posts…

This annoying little book is not going away. Upon hearing his 4-year-old claim that he had visited heaven and met Samson and a blue-eyed Jesus, Pastor Todd Burpo encountered the same challenge all parents of toddlers frequently face. When my boy claims that he is actually Superman I wrestle with an identical dilemma: Do I just smile and play along til he grows out of it, or do I write a book sharing the claim with the world? What to do, what to do? 

Pastor Burpo didn’t chicken out and opt for the condescending smile-and-nod approach most of us lazy dads do. No, he employed a literary agent who successfully lured Thomas Nelson Publishers into eventually putting 1.5 million copies into print. (If anyone can get me that agent’s number, I’m very interested!) Dad exploited assisted his boy to polish his story, and Nelson presented their newest father-and-son trophy as the very yellow “Heaven is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back.” It shot to #1 Bestseller for non-fiction.

The NY Times ran an article facetiously titled “Celestial Sales for Boy’s Tale of Heaven.” In it there is a priceless explanation of why reputable literati types would stoop to promoting this project. Patricia Bostelman, the vice president for marketing at Barnes & Noble admitted: “When you buy the religion subject, you are presented with many stories about heaven, personal experiences about …the afterlife,… But what was unusual about this book was that it was the story of a little boy. It deactivated some of the cynicism that can go along with adults capitalizing on their experiences.” In other words, when you rub shoulders with the gullible folk who “buy the religion subject” you are bound to meet shameless kooks who try to profit from fanciful lies. But this one we could promote, because it will sell. And why will it sell? Because the picture of a little boy will “deactivate” some of the normal discernment that might hinder sales.

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