Just Talking by Kristen Pope

For the better part of eighteen years, I watched my father walk up to the pulpit every Sunday and talk. For more years than I would like to admit, I colored while he talked. I wrote notes to my friends in the pew next to me, worried about the boy in the pew behind me who I had a crush on, and even played on my phone when I could get away with it. I figured he was saying something important, but it wasn’t anything I wasn’t getting at home, right?

I say that he “talked” from the pulpit, because I had yet to distinguish between talking and preaching. Recently, I “talked” from the pulpit for the first time. At Pintlala Baptist Church in Pintlala, Alabama, I climbed the steps to a pulpit, not to read scripture, not to give an invocation, not to place the children for a choir performance (although those are all important things), but to “talk.” Turns out that my father does a lot more than just talk up there. Preaching has never been something I have been particularly interested in doing, but when given the opportunity, I found that I couldn’t say no. I felt an excitement and an anticipation in being able to communicate something that was truly meaningful from a text, something that we would do well to remember and that carries an endless number of narratives and interpretations. I got to do that. I shared my interpretation of scripture with a congregation and talked about the way that the gospel has uniquely spoken to me in my life, and I had the opportunity to challenge others to see things from a different point of view, the way that I think Christ saw things.

After much debate, I settled on preaching about children. To be honest I struggled with this, not wanting to fit into anyone’s stereotype of what a female preacher would or should do. However, I quickly realized that the only disservice I could do to women in ministry would be to cater to society’s expectations in any way, whether it be reactionary or to purposely fulfill gendered expectations. What I really wanted to say was about children, and so that was what I preached about. The kingdom of heaven belongs to those like children, don’t you know?

What I gained from this experience was a profound sense of gratefulness that I had been raised by a family who made sure that I never doubted my abilities, because I was a woman or for any other reason. As I sat down in the pew after preaching and the pastor began speaking about the importance of Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching, I was struck by the importance of this day for me. I have always believed that women belong in the pulpit just as much as our male counterparts, but that has taken on new meaning since I have had the privilege of being in the pulpit. Although I realized a while ago that my father was doing a lot more than talking, preaching is one of the most empowering experiences I have had thus far in my life. I have a new-found respect for the men and women who step into the pulpit almost every Sunday, and I will forever be an even stronger advocate for women who step into the pulpit, whether it be one time or ten times or every Sunday, where she might have a child who colors in the pew who thinks her mother is just talking.

Kristen Pope is a first year student at McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia. She serves as children and families ministries intern at Smoke Rise Baptist Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Ministry Manners: Extending Hospitality to Guest Ministers

“Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God” (3 John 1:5-6, NIV).

Greetings from Durban, South Africa and the Baptist World Congress in Durban! It is winter here, yet a beautiful and warm day as the sun beams brightly over the Indian Ocean.

While visiting this sacred land, I have been overwhelmed by the rhythmic sounds, African cuisines, beautiful beaches, exotic foliage, and the gracious hospitality extended to Congress guests.

The idea of ancestry and hospitality are very crucial in Africa. For example, Julius Mutugi Gathogo states:

“the Fang of Gabon believe that an ancestor passes by in the person of a stranger and, therefore, a stranger should be given a very kind and warm treatment. Similarly, the Bulsa treat strangers, orphaned, handicapped people, beggars and lepers very well because of their belief that their ancestors visit them in these forms. Generally, in most African communities, it is believed that unexpected guests are the embodiment of ancestors; hence, they are given the ancestors food. In such hospitality, it means communing with ancestors through such impromptu services to guests, hence, maintaining a relationship through the practice of hospitality.”

Paul spoke frequently about extending hospitality towards preachers. As Ralph Gower states, “It was particularly important for preachers of the time who had given up their livelihood so that they could preach the gospel. They were to be given hospitality for several days, and then encouraged to move on to another place. One could not be recognized as a leader in the church unless one was hospitable.”

Hospitality is a vital part of the preaching ministry and can reflect an eclectic range of ministry service. William H. Willimon defines hospitality as, “the ability to pay attention to the guest.” I can’t tell you how many times I spoke at a church and was not clear on where or to whom I should to report once I arrived. On one occasion, I traveled 400 miles out of the way because my host provided incorrect information about the location.

Preaching hospitality might involve shaking hands with persons in the pews before preaching, providing a bottle of water for the guest preacher behind the pulpit stand, ensuring greeters are in place to welcome all guest, or being a gracious host and guest.

As we extend hospitality to guest preachers, here are a few suggestions a host church might consider:

Communication

  • Extend a clear invitation to your guest.
  • Explain the context of the event or service.
  • In some contexts, addressing dress/attire may be helpful.

Parking

  • Let your guests know where to park.
  • It may be helpful to have someone greet guests in the parking lot, especially if your church is larger.

Travel

  • The host church or institution is responsible for the minister’s travel.
  • Either the host or the guest can make the travel arrangements.
  • Travel arrangements made by the guest are to be reimbursed on the date of the speaking engagement.

Meals

  • It is always proper to offer to feed your guests during their visit.
  • If you will serve meals, find out if your guest(s) have any food allergies and/or preferences.
  • Consider drafting a Hospitality Form to send to your guests. This form should ask for travel and hotel preferences; food allergies and food preferences; beverage preferences before, during and after speaking; whether or not your guest will stay for lunch, will they have guests or bring ministry materials—books, CDs, etc.

Honoraria

  • Address the honorarium (if there is one) during the invitation phase.
  • Provide a fair honorarium to your guest preacher based on the time, travel, and credentials of your speaker.
  • It is best to present the check to the guest preacher once the service has been rendered.

A Word of Thanks

  • Be sure to thank your guests for their time.
  • It is also good manners for the guest to express words of gratitude for the invitation and any hospitality that was offered.

As the New Testament teaches us,”Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).

C. Lynn Brinkley serves as the director of student services and alumni relations at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Campbell and an ordained minister at First Baptist Church in Clinton. For more information about proper attire in the pulpit, check out Lynn’s new book: Manners & Money: A Manual on Preaching Etiquette.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find Out What it Means to Preach! by C. Lynn Brinkley

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)

My daughter recently graduated from high school. As at most graduations, the normal plea to family and friends was given, “please hold your applause so each graduate’s name can be heard.” The school even gave an opportunity for everyone to clap, scream, and celebrate their particular graduate before the names were called. You would think that would suffice—NOT!

There were a few guests who did not adhere to the program protocol and yelled when their graduate’s name was called. Why do some people feel they are above the rules and the rules do not apply to them? Yes, your graduate probably has a past story that makes it necessary to let the trumpet sound; but when celebration impedes the family and friends of the next graduate it is just inconsiderate. This is such a serious matter that my daughter looked up in the stands as she proceeded to the stage. She made the gesture of the “hush sign” as if to say to our family, “Don’t you all embarrass me. Even you, Ms. Manners!” Well, we did not embarrass her. We followed the rules.

A fundamental principle of etiquette according to the Post Institute is respect. We show respect not just by what we refrain from doing but also by intentional acts, such as being on time, dressing appropriately, or giving our full attention to the person or people we’re with. The Golden Rule to treat people the way you want to be treated was adopted from Jesus’ teachings on love, appreciation, and respect: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).

I am understanding, sometimes, when people outside the church fail to do things “decently and in order,” but when rules of protocol are broken inside the church, I cringe. For example . . .

I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to a funeral, and there is time allotted for designated persons to share their reflections about the deceased. These persons are asked to limit their remarks to anywhere from two to five minutes. Yet, there is always that one person who feels they knew the deceased better than anyone else, and they decide they should be allotted more time to speak even if it goes against the family’s wishes. Or, what about that person who is not on the program and invites himself or herself to make remarks or to sing a song?

I recently had a conversation with a friend regarding a worship service we attended in which the speaker was asked to speak/preach for twenty minutes. As the twenty-minute mark came, then the thirty-minute mark, then forty (it is estimated the sermon went on for about an hour), I noticed that people in the pews began to squirm, frown, nod, and some even left. The preacher failed to follow the request of the host to speak no more than twenty minutes. As a result of the preachers long diatribe, he lost his listeners, the energy left the room, the program did not end as scheduled, and the Good News was not proclaimed!

When doing church ministry, I was always taught to do what you are asked to do (and no more) then sit down! Some will argue that there are times when the Spirit moves and takes over the program. No arguments from me if it is in fact the Spirit (not the flesh) guiding one’s actions. At any rate, unless you are given permission by the pastor or host to give remarks, sing a song, share a testimony . . . Don’t do it! It is bad manners to go against established protocol. Let’s show a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T as we lead worship. This is what it means to me!

C. Lynn Brinkley serves as the director of student services and alumni relations at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Campbell and an ordained minister at First Baptist Church in Clinton. For more information about proper attire in the pulpit, check out Lynn’s new book: Manners & Money: A Manual on Preaching Etiquette.

To Robe, or not to Robe? That is the Question! by C. Lynn Brinkley

“Aaron and his sons shall wear them when they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister in the holy place; or they will bring guilt on themselves and die.” (Exodus 28:43, NRSV)

In last month’s blog titled, “Sunday Best, I Guess,” I concluded by stating that I would further the discussion on proper attire for worship by addressing clerical attire in my next month’s blog. As I was drafting this month’s blog, I noticed recent Facebook chatter about wearing doctoral robes in the pulpit. The discussion centered on whether it is appropriate for a person to wear a doctoral robe if the person has not received an earned doctorate degree.

My thoughts are this, why even wear a doctoral robe during worship to begin with unless the service calls for it. Wearing academic regalia for perhaps a special worship service to celebrate recent graduates would be deemed decent and in order in some traditions. But for those to whom the robe was “earned not given” (King LeBron James version), there is no need to flaunt one’s academic achievement in the house of the Lord. It is God who deserves the glory, not the preacher.

I am proud of my academic achievements and so are the persons in my church, but I don’t feel the need to elevate myself above them by showing off three chevrons on my sleeves. The purpose of the robe is to cover the preacher and promote the God-ordained office or calling of the preacher. Unless the service calls for wearing regalia, I would say—NOT!

If you do not have an EARNED doctorate or honorary doctorate degree (Earned meaning you put in the time, money and energy to do thorough research, you spent many late nights, personal sacrifices, constant prayers, and time IN the academic setting (not on the internet), from a respectable and accredited institution, where you were  “not given” your doctorate degree in less than three years time, then to wear or not to wear a doctoral robe I would say—NOT!

As a woman who has frequent opportunities to stand behind the sacred desk, I do, however, support wearing clergy attire. First, I find that a clerical robe takes the focus off what I am wearing. Given all the horror stories I’ve heard about criticism of skirt lengths, open-toed shoes, and neck-line, a pulpit robe has become my great deliverer (thanks, J. Dan Day!). Second, certain worship services just demand the choir and clergy adorn themselves in worship attire. A guest preacher would want to inquire from the host church the context of the worship service and whether wearing a robe, business casual, or Sunday best attire is most appropriate.

When priestly garments were worn in Old Testament times, these garments were highly symbolic and illustrated that spiritual leaders were anointed and set apart from others to do the work of God. “To Robe or Not to Robe” was not an option because it was mandatory for the priest to adhere to the dress code. Exodus 28:43 says, Aaron and his sons shall wear them when they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister in the holy place; or they will bring guilt on themselves and die. (Exodus 28:43, NRSV).  A High and Holy worship service would call for the preacher to wear a robe, but it also depends on the faith tradition.

At the end of the day, whether you decide to robe or not to robe, be mindful that your priestly garments have biblical significance and symbolize that you have been set apart to serve God. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:17)

C. Lynn Brinkley serves as the director of student services and alumni relations at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Campbell and an ordained minister at First Baptist Church in Clinton. For more information about proper attire in the pulpit, check out Lynn’s new book: Manners & Money: A Manual on Preaching Etiquette.

 

 

Ministry Manners: Sunday Best, I Guess by Lynn Brinkley

women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing.” 1 Timothy 2:9

It is the final week of class at Campbell University, and I had an interesting conversation today in my Introduction to Christianity course with about thirty-five undergraduate students, mostly millennials in their first or second year of college.

One of their class requirements is to visit a Christian church different from their denominational background or upbringing. Today, they shared reflections about those visits.

According to the students in my class, they prefer attending worship services in which contemporary music is sung rather than traditional hymns. They also want to attend a worship service that does not last over an hour-and-a-half. Being in a worship context with other young people is important to these students. None of this surprised me, but what I did find surprising is that the vast majority of these students felt wearing “Sunday best” attire is most appropriate for church. Based on their prior reflections and age, I guess I expected them to say, “Come as you are.” After hearing from my students, I want to pose this question, “How should one dress for church?”

women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God.

Enforcement of these New Testament principals would certainly result in the excommunication of a great number of African-American women (myself included) from churches today. In our context, dressing to impress has cultural significance. As a people, we were taught to wear Sunday best in and outside the church. “Dressing up” meant people would respect you more, you would be taken more seriously, and you would not be overlooked as “the Help.” However I must confess, the principles of dress code for church that I was taught have changed drastically over the years. It seems to have shifted from Sunday best to Sunday worst! Arguments can be made from both the Old and New Testaments as to what is deemed proper attire for church. Yet, this blog is about manners.

A mark of civility is being considerate of others. Therefore, we should be mindful about how we dress (especially for church) for what we wear could be offensive and inconsiderate in certain contexts. While in Israel, I covered my head in the holy places as a sign of respect for that context (AND my hair was braided—oh my!)

I firmly believe whether you wear Sunday best or khaki casual, it is best practice to dress decently when attending church. It goes without saying that expectations for dress will differ from congregation to congregation, but how should one dress for church?

I encouraged my students today to be respectable and considerate of others when they attend worship. First and foremost, all should feel welcomed in God’s house, regardless of dress. Preparation for worship should give less thought to people and more attention to praising God. Nevertheless, we should all be mindful of what we wear on any given Sunday. Here are a few tips I gave them:

  1. When in doubt, always dress in business casual or Sunday Best (I guess).
  2. Be mindful that your dress (wearing jeans, flip-flops, sleeveless shirts or t-shirts) may be deemed offensive in certain congregations.
  3. My former preaching professor, Dr. Haddon W. Robinson, always taught that when you preach you should dress “one notch above the congregation.”

For more information about proper attire in the pulpit, check out my new book: Manners & Money: A Manual on Preaching Etiquette.

This conversation could also be extended to address clergy attire—To Robe or Not to Robe? That is the next blog question, so stay tuned!

C. Lynn Brinkley serves as the director of student services and alumni relations at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Campbell and an ordained minister at First Baptist Church in Clinton.

Check Please! by Lynn Brinkley

“Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.” (Luke 10:7)

This month’s ministry manners blog will address the elephant in the room . . . honorariums. This topic is such a sensitive one to talk about. After all, should ministers be paid to preach the gospel? Are we not servants of our master Jesus Christ? We should serve the Lord without the expectation of earthly rewards, and in some cases this is true. However, Jesus spoke on issues of hospitality and humility in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus said, “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.”

There are several matters of preaching etiquette that can be gleaned from this text. First of all, the messenger is to be offered hospitality, which clearly includes lodging and meals. Second, and noteworthy, the preacher is encouraged to be a gracious guest. The guest is to be content with the hospitality that is offered. The focus should not be on the personal needs of the messenger but on the advancement of the kingdom. Third, the messenger is not to move around from house to house (weighing which engagements are financially better) seeking better accommodations. Finally, the laborer deserves to be paid (“check, please!”)

Ministers who preach the gospel must spend a great amount of time in sermon preparation, including research, exegetical work, and the capacity to be still and listen to God’s still small voice for direction. The great African-American preacher, Dr. Gardner C. Taylor once said, “Preparation time is as essential for a pastor as for any other professional. If a surgeon is operating the next day, and he or she is invited to a party and says, ‘Well, I can’t come, I’m in surgery in the morning,’ everybody would understand. If a major league baseball pitcher were pitching tomorrow he’d say, ‘Well, I’m pitching.’ But if someone said, ‘Well, I have to preach tomorrow,’ many church people would think, ‘So What?’”

Preaching engagements also involve travel, time spent away from family, and personal expense. Therefore, it is just good preaching etiquette to offer hospitality to a guest ministers. So what does that look like?

First of all, the sensitive matter of honoraria needs to be addressed during the invitation phase. The host church/pastor should inform the guest preacher of the expectations of the service, the theme of the service (if there is one), assess any travel needs, and by all means, address the honorarium up front! (Need a guide for determining an appropriate honorarium? Check out my new book, Manners and Money: A Manual on Preaching Etiquette!)

Second, the honorarium for preaching should be presented to the guest minister once the service is rendered. If for some reason the honorarium will mailed to the guest preacher following the speaking engagement, this should be communicated during the invitation phase. In some instances, reimbursement for travel may be a separate check sent to the guest minister following the engagement. However good preaching etiquette required that the honorarium be presented to the minister immediately following the worship service or event.

Finally, value the work of the minister. Consider the time she has spent in sermon preparation, travel, and her ministry experience/credentials, and welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints.

I love to preach the gospel! On occasion, I have refused to accept an honorarium for various reasons. Yet, I have also traveled great distances, paid my own travel expenses, spent numerous hours in sermon preparation and significant time away from my daughter only to leave a preaching engagement empty handed. Good preaching etiquette values the preaching ministry, communicates the honorarium when the invitation is made, and provides a fair honorarium to the minister immediately following the preaching engagement. So please, do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain. Check, please!

C. Lynn Brinkley serves as the director of student services and alumni relations at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Campbell and an ordained minister at First Baptist Church in Clinton.

Ministry Manners: Pass the Salt

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)

I get it! Everyone is not a morning person. There are just some people you encounter on a daily basis that need space to wake-up. Allow them to get their morning java, diet coke, or energy drink. If not, you might encounter lions, and tigers, and bears—oh my!  But, even if you are not a morning person, there are some basic common courtesies you should follow “so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”

First, it is proper to greet persons the first time you see them with “Good Morning,”  “How’s it going?” or, where I am from…“What’s up, Dog!” (“Dog”-a term of endearment in the hood. Similar to Jesus calling the Syrophoenician woman a “dog.” –No harm intended). Therefore, when you encounter church or office staff, people in church on Sunday morning, friends in seminary, guests, the Walmart greeter, etc., try to extend a gracious greeting. If that is all you can handle at the moment then just extend your greeting and keep it moving! At the very least, be cordial enough to speak.

Second, it would be wise to season our tongues with salt before we preach the gospel— Why? For the same reason we put salt on our food—to make our food taste better. The better it tastes, the more we want! We need to put spiritual salt on our tongues, so when we preach the gospel, we preach it in such a way that it is desirous and full of spiritual flavor! We need to  preach so “salty” that those in the pews are hungry and thirsty to hear more about the Good News! Therefore, a preacher should avoid name-calling, venting church problems, or using inappropriate language or gestures from the pulpit, so that our proclamation is seasoned with glorifying God and not self.

Finally, the Golden Rule still stands. If you want to be shown respect, then respect others. There is a way to get your point across and communicate with others without being disrespectful. The root of a lot of church conflict is that people of the faith fail to put salt on their tongue before they speak! As a result, their speech is not loving and gracious, but cold and callous.

The Apostle Paul spoke to the Corinthians on the importance of speaking the truth in love. “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians13:1-2).

In order to serve God in excellence and model good ministry manners, we must be willing to greet others, speak the truth in love, and let our speech always be gracious.

So, would somebody please pass the salt?

C. Lynn Brinkley serves as the director of student services and alumni relations at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Campbell and an ordained minister at First Baptist Church in Clinton.

Ministry Manners: Grammar, Gestures, and Gadgets by Lynn Brinkley

“But all things should be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:4

In 1 Corinthians 14:40, Paul instructs his readers about proper decorum for exercising spiritual gifts in worship. As an apostle, he encouraged the church at Corinth to ensure that all things that pertain to worship should be conducted decently and in order. The words and actions of those who lead from the pulpit should model godly leadership and reflect excellent pulpit decorum. For this month’s ministry manners blog, I want to suggest three areas a preacher should be mindful of while leading worship from the pulpit—grammar, gestures, and gadgets.

Grammar: The most educated persons in church often sit in the pew and not the pulpit. Therefore, preachers should be mindful to speak clearly, try to eliminate excessive use of pause fillers like, “er, an, uh, and (yes, sometimes) ‘amen.’” And by all means, try to pronounce words correctly! There are numerous online resources that can assist with pronouncing words correctly; so there is really no excuse for the twenty-first century preacher to mispronounce even difficult biblical names such as Mahershalalhashbaz!

Gestures: We all make gestures as we preach whether we are conscious of it or not. Gestures can be a good thing particularly when gestures emphasize what we are trying to say, but be mindful of gestures that might be distracting to others. I have observed preachers who sway constantly as they preach, or bend over the pulpit for support. I have heard others make awkward sounds, or place their hands in their pockets, and even on their hips (you go girl!). One gesture in particular that may be offensive is finger pointing. This gesture often “points to blame or accuse” and might indirectly communicate, “I am better than you!” At the end of the day, gestures are useful. Especially when they come naturally and support what we are trying to say.

Gadgets: I have adopted “iPad preaching, and I love it! However, I have come to learn that preaching from my iPad does involve some risks. When using my iPad, I am always afraid that I forgot to turn off sounds, alerts, or other notifications that might distract me as I preach. An electronic device should be a help not a hindrance in preaching. If using an iPad causes you to lose your place or stumble over words, iPad preaching is not for you! If, however, you are comfortable preaching from your iPad, I HIGHLY recommend that you take some important steps. (1) Bring a hard copy of your sermon with you into the pulpit in case of a technological malfunction. Better to have your manuscript and not need it, than to need it, and not have it! (2) Be sure to turn off all alerts. Perhaps, put the device on airplane mode. It would be poor pulpit etiquette for a device to make a sound during your preaching (3) I believe the Bible should be elevated when reading scripture. Use your iPad for preaching, but allow the congregants to see you hold up a leather-bound Bible as you read the text. I teach a basic Christianity course to young college students who are required to make a church visit as part of the class requirements. One area of feedback I often get from these students is that the preacher failed to read scripture from the Bible. Some even say the preacher never took their Bible into the pulpit (Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!).

Good pulpit etiquette dictates that a preacher will monitor grammar, watch gestures, and secure gadgets. “Let all things  be done decently and in order.”

C. Lynn Brinkley serves as the director of student services and alumni relations at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Campbell and an ordained minister at First Baptist Church in Clinton.

Ministry Manners: Titles in Church and Academia by Lynn Brinkley

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” Mark 8:27-29

Jesus posed this question to disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Well, I pose this same question today, particularly, as it relates to titles in the church and academic setting. Who do you say that I am? Well, it all depends on who you ask…

If you grew up in “my hood,” you certainly call me, “LL!” Very few use my first name, “Carol.” In high school, my Latin teacher called me, “Helen of Troy.” The Campbell Divinity School community has given me the following names—“D-Brinks, Binky, Condi, Sunshine, Mama, LynnaBeth, and yes…Olivia Pope!” My pastor calls me, “The Closer.” My cousin, “JK,” has called me “Vera” (from the TV show Alice) most of my life. Finally, (I will be brave and put it out there) my dad has always called me, “Little House Kitten” (DO NOT repeat that)!

Since earning my D.Min., I have adjusted to being called “Dr. Brinkley” by students accustomed to calling me, “Lynn.” Nevertheless, I am trying to embrace this title and proper protocol in the academic setting, which brings me to this month’s Ministry Manners topic, “Titles in the Church and Academia.”

Recently, I had a conversation with a student who referred to two of our professors as “Barry and Larry” (Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my)! It is just bad manners for a student to refer to a professor on a first-name basis. Even if you know a professor personally outside the classroom, unless permission is granted to ALL students to use a professor’s first name, it is best practice to address your professor as “Dr.” or “Professor” in an academic setting.

I extend this conversation to proper use of titles in the church. Through my experience preaching cross-culturally, I have come to recognize most black and white churches view the use of titles in the church differently. In white churches, it is common for a pastor to be called by his or her first name. In most African-American churches, the pastor is called “pastor,” “Rev.,” or “Dr.” Why the difference?

Historically, black churches were the one place in which people of color could have status, position, and respect. Black congregants celebrated the academic and leadership achievements of its members that were often invisible or ignored in larger society.

Whether I preach in a black or white church, I strive to honor what they honor. But at the end of the day, in both church and academia, we strive to honor the one whose title is above all, Jesus Christ, Lord of All!”

So, who do you say that I am? . . . I am who I am. #C.LynnBrinkley
C. Lynn Brinkley serves as the director of student services and alumni relations at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Campbell and an ordained minister at First Baptist Church in Clinton.

Ministry Manners: Saying Thank You by Lynn Brinkley

Ministers and manners? Surely, there is no need to have a conversation about ministry manners. For if anyone should know how to conduct oneself properly in public, it should be a minister. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but when it comes to displaying good manners, ministers can be the worst!

Have you ever noticed a minister chewing gum in the pulpit? How about a minister sitting in the pulpit with her skirt above her knees? (Lions and tigers and bears—oh my!) Have you ever visited a church and no one greeted you? And tell me this, preacher… has someone ever neglected to say to you, “Thank you for leading worship today. Here is your honorarium.”? (Been there!)

Ministry manners is a indeed a much needed topic of conversation. And today, BWIM is rolling out this new monthly blog series. The topic is of great interest to me—so much so that I wrote my recent doctoral thesis-project on the subject, Manners and Money: A Manual on Preaching Etiquette. This manual is presently in the process of becoming a book that will be published next spring. In preparation for my first book, I will use this monthly blog to share a few matters of etiquette that I address in the book.


 

Saying Thank You

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Collosians 3:17

Giving thanks is imperative when people extend kindness to you. We give thanks first to God, then to those who serve us in word or deed.

I remember one Sunday when I preached at a church out of town. I was filling in for the pastor who was on vacation. I had to travel a great distance to the church. I preached in two services that morning, and when it was all said and done, the pastor never called, never sent an e-mail, never wrote a brief note to say “thank you.”

Like me, Jesus experienced the “ministry of ungratefulness.” In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus healed ten lepers. These lepers begged Jesus to have mercy on them, and he did. The lepers were healed instantly! But only ONE out of the ten returned to tell Jesus “thank you!” It should not have been difficult for all ten to tell Jesus thank you for such a major gift—the gift of healing! Honestly, most of us tend to remember to say thank you for major gifts or major acts of service. But when we remember to tell others thank you for the small things, this is a hallmark of civility!

I recognize many people do not write personal letters these days. It seems to be a lost art. Yet technology is here to help us all! A two-minute phone call, an e-mail, a Facebook post, a text, or a tweet makes it easy to tell someone how much you appreciate their service. But thanks be to God for those who still hand write notes of thankfulness.

I was reminded of how significant personal notes can be. I preached recently at a women’s conference that was led by the pastor’s wife. She was the host, and she did an excellent job making sure all of her guest preachers felt welcomed. A week after this preaching engagement, I received a note from the pastor of the church. The pastor did not attend the Women’s Conference, but he deemed it necessary to thank me for my leadership and participation. So here’s to you, Pastor Terry Henry and Jacqi Henry and the members of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, for modeling good preaching etiquette!

C. Lynn Brinkley serves as the director of student services and alumni relations at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Campbell and an ordained minister at First Baptist Church in Clinton.