Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Permit me, if you would, some personal reflections. I'm a bit reflective today [I'll say why in a moment] so, if you're not interested in rambling thoughts and reflections it might be wise for you to stop reading and move on to other blogs. [I probably would were I in your shoes.]

Sunday...Mary and I attended the fiftieth birthday celebration of a church where I served as their first youth pastor forty-nine years ago. Great fun. Great time. Old people. [But boy was it fun hugging necks of people I hadn't seen in decades.]

Monday...I drove to Amarillo Texas to be with an eighty-five year old VTM [Vital Truth Ministries ..my non-profit ministry organization] board member who was having life-threatening hip surgery complicated by his cancer. [It went well and He's praising the Lord afterwards just as he was before. He does that all the time.]

Tuesday...I'm reading on blogs of pastors who are having problems. Some of those problems are created by the people they have been called to pastor and some are created by the pastors themselves. [Both kinds of problems have been present in my own life and ministry.]

So...I'm a bit reflective.

My first reflective thought is of my own PURPOSE in surrendering to preach in the first place. [That's a good old SBC phrase that has little to do with scripture if the truth be known.] At age seventeen I was called as pastor of my first small church. [It was a couple of years later I went to the above mentioned church as youth pastor.] With the short two-year stint in youth work completed, I began pastoring again and it continued for over forty years.

The odd thing was I wanted to travel from the beginning. My purpose was to be in local fellowships preaching whatever I was discovering from scripture. I didn't know what it was called [An itinerant ministry] and I didn't know anyone who did that except Billy Graham. He was my personal friend of course. [Just kidding.] But I was willing to take a pastorate for a short while. [It lasted over forty years.]

In 1996 my pastoral ministry ended for good and I did start my traveling thing which I will do til Jesus comes. I can say I loved every minute of my pastoring and miss it like I would miss a migraine headache. Pastors are my ministry heroes to this very day.

My second reflective thought is concerning an on-going PASSION of mine. That is to assist people in ministry in their personal life with the Lord, marriages, parenting skills and all this so they can THEN be what God intends in pastoral ministry. Who they are in their walk, marriage and family is more important than what they do in a church in my opinion.

So training pastors started for real in 1982 in Tulsa where I was pastoring and my organization [VTM] was formed. Today, I continue that in conjuction with my local church bible conference ministry as my full-time ministry. The thing I surrendered to do fifty years ago. [I needed some major preparation didn't I!!]

So..today...in churches across the country I train small groups of ministers during bible conferences where I preach at night while meeting with ministers in the day. I teach the ministers on being the peson, partner, and parent God intends them to be so they can really be the pastor God has called them to be. At night I teach the church [I'm an evangelist to the evangelized] on how to end well in our walk with the Lord and how to build relationhips with each other by sharing principles of relationships. [I'm having a ball doing it.]

My final reflective thought is about the PEOPLE who have helped along the way. My board of directors is special. It is made up of ten couples with two coming from each of my last five pastorates. It started with the guys [The gals just visited with one another off in some room somewhere.] doing all the work of ministry with me. But with a much better understanding of the biblical materials it has now expanded to all twenty people forming the working board with equal voting rights. [It's amazing how much more we get done and done right.]

These people, with one exception because of death, have been with me since the beginning. [1982] The gentleman who had surgery yesterday was the first chairman of the board. Being with him and his wife has created a bit of this reflective mood in me today. [My oh my, people is what it's all about isn't it!!]

Let me introduce them to you....

Bill and Janie Willard--Borger Texas
Joe and Linda Janeway--Borger Texas

Bobby and Margie Brown--Wichita Falls Texas
Hershel and Pat Walker--Wichita Falls Texas

Bill and Mazie Pannell--Fort Worth Texas
Billie and Jere Hardy--Forth Worth Texas

Mark and Stephanie Farquhar--Tulsa Oklahoma
Tony and Melody Lenox--Tulsa Oklahoma [new]

Chuck and Stella Andrews--Norman Olahoma
Bob and Carolyn Waddle--Norman Oklahoma

This is what my ministry is about. I'm grateful for it. If you'll notice it has wound up Purpose, Passion, People. [That'll preach.] I've had a reflective moment and am even more grateful afterward. I decided to put up that reflection. [Blog material is hard to come by you know. :)]

Paul B.

Monday, April 20, 2009


I'm always challenged with remarks that are born out of a heart that has been humbled by failure and strengthened by the Grace of God. It is that combination that I believe is so lacking in so much of the professional ministry and church life I see on the scene today. It is also that combination that, when seen, reminds us all that there are no super saints in the Kingdom. We all stand equal at the foot of the Cross.

Much is being written on the Internet and other places about what is wrong with the Church and what is needed by Her. Whatever the answer to the question of what is wrong, no change will ever come without the combination of humility of failure and the strengthening of Grace I found in the comment recently put on my blog by a pastor who has given me permission to share those words with you again.

Rodney Sprayberry exhibits the character, hunger, honesty, and conviction to grow in grace that I would want a pastor to possess were he to be MY pastor and the pastor of MY family. Enjoy him as I did as you hear his heart. I will be saying a final word at the end.


"I cannot speak for everyone but I have had multiple conversation with brothers and sisters in ministry who are in their 30s and 40s. Their stories all have similar themes.
While in seminary we were exposed to good theology (or at least how to think theologically). There was very little taught concerning interpersonal/relational issues.

Any leadership training that we got was designed to apply to the average church. The average church had a 1950s structure/mentality even in the late 80s-90s

Don't get me wrong, this post-WW2 manifestation of church life was at one time effective. Check most church histories...and see when their "glory days" occurred. Yet, the church maintained the structure/music/leadership styles/methods even as most SBC churches experienced decline in the decades that followed.

By the 80s and 90s. The leadership models that were "effective" were gleaned more from business models rather than the Bible. Once again good leadership is good leadership wherever one finds it but, IMHO, it appears that good leadership was determined more by "nickels and noses" rather that disciple-making and concentric circles of relational impact.

So with bad interpersonal skills and faulty leadership training (either 1950s style...or a pragmatic business mentality) many of us entered into circa 1950 churches...that were stagnant and dying... because that is what one did...you started small and grew the church or moved to a larger church when God "called you" to do so.

Sometimes we even got dream jobs in successful churches. We tried to lead but we did not always do well.

We were naive enough to think that Christians were, (or at least wanted to be) in general, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually healthy. For that matter most of us assumed because we were "called" we were emotionally, relationally, and spiritually healthy. Nothing was further from the truth.

Like spiritual pornography we fantasized over every glossy airbrushed beautiful testimony of a glowing ministerial position and growing ministry given to us by a peer, book, or church growth/ leadership conference and assumed that that was what the church was created to be.

Then one day we found ourselves face to face with reality. Ministry did not measure up to what everyone said it could be. In all honesty we were drying up inside. We blamed the churches we served. We blamed the people in our churches. We blamed the devil. We blamed ourselves. In quiet moments we secretly even blamed God.

When people in ministry wake up one day and realize that most everything around is a carefully crafted facade they have a decision to make. They can continue to pretend and maintain the status quo...or they can crash and burn...or they can get cynical and get out.

Thankfully, they can also, if they choose, stop struggling to stay afloat so they can be rescued by God's Grace. (Any lifeguard knows that a panicky, struggling swimmer needs to stop struggling before he/she can be rescued!)

Many of us have been brought to this point by personal crisis. Addictions, moral failures, financial disaster, marriage difficulties, depression, catastrophic illness or job loss. We found ourselves at a place where we had to question everything and the answers we found were no longer pithy, glossy, simple, or even easy to express. Yet they nourished our souls.

We still believe that the Bible is true.

We still believe in Jesus.

We still have a heart for people inside and outside the church.

We still have questions

We still struggle.

We are still learning.

We still have good days and bad days every day is hopeful

We still want to be successful but the criterion has changed.

We still don't how all of this will shake out "vocationally" because in reality the churches we serve don't quite know what do with us...In general... they love us but!! There is, at times, for them, great discomfort when we admit to the fact that we have clay feet and that we do not always know what we are doing... or when we admit that we would rather be along side them trying figure it all out rather than our standing in the the pulpit with the proclamation of a "prescription" to help their "aches and pains, struggles and strains."

Final word from Paul.

I believe it is only NOW that one as described in Rodney's words is ready to pastor the people. Because NOW the proclamation from the pulpit will not be, as he calls it, a"prescription" but a PERSON. It is the living Lord who is as at home in any mess we create [and we do create them] as only He can be. When Jesus came to assume His humanity on our behalf it was for the purpose of living in the mess. But unless we admit the same we will not see our need of His reality moment by moment in the journey as a learner as Rodney so wonderfully writes. Well said Rodney.

Paul Burleson

Friday, April 10, 2009


One of the blessings of the Internet is the creation of friendships. I know they are friendships through words and pictures only but I've been amazed at how those can become very special.

One such friendship I've developed is with an Australian who goes by the Blog name of Aussie John. You may have read at least one, if not all, of his several comments that have appeared on this blog. He's worth reading.

I visited his blog this week for the first time. You can do that by clicking on his name in last week's comment section. What a blessing. One post of a while back I asked and got permission to put up here. Enjoy it but be sure to note the last paragraph. Then read it a second time slowly. I did and wanted you to be blessed by it as well. Thanks Aussie John for permission.

Are You Journeying to the Wrong Destination?

What if, assuming you are a follower of Christ, after all the years you've spent faithfully attending church meetings, listening to sermons, studying the Scriptures with presuppositions which come from a particular theological position, that you find you have been going in the wrong direction and that you are actually farther from where you ought to have been going?Are you actually getting closer to where you should be? If you think you are getting closer to your destination, why do you so think?

Indeed, where, or what, is your destination?

As I think of the lives of the people I've known and ministered to for half a century, I'm aware that most only thought they knew what, or where, their destination was. I'm certain that many assumed that if they attained to the lofty heights of some church “office” such as “pastor” or “deacon”, or “elder” they were closer to their destination, whatever that may be.

Isn't it strange how easy it is to board a train, bus, or some other mode of transport, with the most sincere belief that the journey's end will result in being where you wanted to be? Yet, many have told how they set out on such a journey only to find they had been given misinformation, not only about the destination, but about the journey.

Asking most evangelicals about their destination would almost always elicit the reply that heaven was where they were headed. Death is inevitable, and for those who die in a saving relationship with God through the finished work of Christ, heaven is where it's at.

Heaven is for dead Christians!

What is the destination for living followers of Christ? What did Jesus say about that? What did the apostles say? Did they speak about regular attendance at meetings at which one person monologued? Did they speak of silent masses sitting on their posteriors, nodding their heads in agreement at the pontifications coming from a guru whom many call “pastor”? Did they ever say that “making a decision for Christ” was arriving at the destination, or adhering to a theological system, or slavishly following rules and regulations, or any number of other things we might add?

The destination for living followers of Christ is a far cry from what we have been led to assume or accept. Thankfully, many thinking followers of Christ are asking the questions and adjusting their journey to the schedule set down by the Shepherd of the Sheep, and His apostles.

Aussie John

Go to Mary's blog for an excellent review by a biblical scholar she has linked to on Youtube.

Her blog can be found here.http://rebel4reality.blogspot.com/


Sunday, April 05, 2009


Well. I've now met the man about whom so much has been written and so many have have been warned. I didn't just meet him, I had a meal [along with a dozen other of my family members] with him and I watched him interact with the waiters and waitresses which in my book says more about a person than any other thing except perhaps his interaction with his own wife and children.

I heard him speak several times and watched as his time and attention were requested by hundreds of people anxious to get a book signed or speak a word with him over the course of a couple of services. I watched him look at them as they spoke to him. I watched him give undivided attention which is so unusual for so many speakers who are often seen moving away or looking around obviously communicating their desire to end and lack of interest in the conversation being participated in at present.

I watched him as he met and conversed with three of the four of Mary and my children, their spouses, and some friends. [Only one of my daughters could not attend as she and her husband were caring for twin grandsons for a couple of days.] I watched as my granddaughter, a highschool student who isn't particularly in-to meeting new preachers, was captivated by the simple and real interest showed her though there were plenty of adults present at the time.

I watched. I confess to being a watcher of people. I'm also something of a cynic when it comes to popular preachers who are obviously making a lot of money or getting a lot of accolades for what they are doing in ministry. My trust level of professional Christians is at an all time low. I've spent some time now recovering from the pain of pretense that has been ripped away to show a darker side to many men in ministry whom I have admired. The thing that has saved me from perpetual cynicism is the honesty which has forced me to see my battles with my own "Shack." [Baggage or flesh] But I AM a watcher as a result and that is where things are with me. You can tell I'm as concerned with a man's character as I am his doctrine. BOTH are significant but I wouldn't give you the time of day for one without the other. So I did watch. What did I see? That is my report to you.

I saw a man.

He's not really much of a man in size at all. I like being around him because he's one of the few that has to look up to me physically. I'm 5'9" and he's 5'7". I'll stand next to him any day. But the great thing is he doesn't think he's anything special. He really views himself as being an ordinary kind of guy who is an "accidental author" as opposed to an "on purpose author." [Remember he wrote 'The Shack' as a Christmas gift to his six children two years ago all of whom are in their late teens early twenties.]

Now remember I watch. I watched as he really did think of himself as ordinary. Some I've watched proclaim themselves to be ordinary but when treated that way are quickly offended that they aren't treated as special. We had an ordinary hilarious time with ordinary jokes and stories with ordinary people genuinely enjoying each other around a large table in and extraordinary fashion.

I saw a message.

I use this funny sounding phrase because it describes what I mean completely. I heard him speak the gospel. Perhaps the clearest I ever hear except when I hear Wade preach or when I hear someone one on one simply tell of the Father loving so much that He sent His Son who did the work sufficient for the Father to be justified in lavishing Grace on people who don't deserve it and the Holy Spirit creating life and sight in dead and blind people so they can respond and see that reality.

I heard him articulate the biblical concept of the Trinity as I see it in scriptures in a fashion that has convinced me that the knowledge of the Trinity is one of his strongest points of biblical theology.

[Notwithstanding his fictional and metaphorical creativity that enabled him to get across aspects of the character of God in 'The Shack' in such a way that people who have been turned off by all false religion including a false christianity or have been wounded by religious people are being opened to God's love and justice combined in the Person of Christ and the Cross event in ways I've not seen in years.]

But my wife said it best when she told me she felt she had SEEN love as she watched [she's a bit of a watcher herself] that accidental author relate to people. How odd!! That's what was said of those early Christ followers was it not?

I saw a miracle.

There is no explaining what has happened with this somewhat ordinary man with a somewhat ordinary desire to leave a written record of his own spiritual journey through pain most of which was caused by others and some of which was caused by self.

To me, it is a miracle he can be so honest. To me it is a miracle he can take the unjust criticism. To me it is a miracle that a book which is, as one of his daughter's friends said, " Way beyond your dad," could be propelled into closed nations, closed prisons, closed minds and closed peoples to the place where seven million could be produced when it all started with fifteen copies printed at Office Depot for a few family members.

I guess the greatest miracle of all is that an Extraordinary God can take a ordinary person and do unbelievable things. Maybe that's exactly what being a Christian is all about. You think?

Paul B.

Friday, April 03, 2009


Bobby Brown is my friend, VTM board member, insurance man, a layman, and the leader of a business men's bible study on Wednesday mornings in Wichita falls Texas that averages 30 to 40 men in attendance. His wife, Margie, does the same for women at the same meeting hour but a different place of meeting. Mary and I are privileged to go the 150 or so miles from Norman Oklahoma, where we live, to WFT on occasion to teach those folks as we did a couple of weeks ago.

One of those men is Ed Barnett. Ed is a friend and a retired newspaper man, among other successful business adventures, who recently wrote a letter to his home town paper which was picked up by the Dallas newspaper and, eventually, led to Ed being interviewed on Fox and Friends and the Glen Beck show on Fox. [Ed was contacted by CBS but when they found out he was going to be on Fox they declined to follow up.] Ed was using humor to bring out a point but it struck a cord with a lot of people which is to state the obvious.

I'm name dropping here because I want everyone to know I know Ed. He's my friend. :) You will enjoy his letter which is printed below.

By the way, don't forget that April 15th is tax day. [Are you as dubious as I am after paying taxes for so long that SO MANY politicians could make unintentionial tax paying mistakes?]

Here's what Ed wrote...........

Dear IRS,

I am sorry to inform you that I will not be able to pay my estimated taxes owed April 15, but all is not lost.

I have paid these taxes: accounts receivable tax, building permit tax, CDL tax, cigarette tax, corporate income tax, dog license tax, federal income tax, unemployment tax, gasoline tax, hunting license tax, fishing license tax, waterfowl stamp tax, inheritance tax, inventory tax, liquor tax, luxury tax, Medicare tax, city, school and county property tax (up
33 percent last 4 years), real estate tax, social security tax, road usage tax, toll road tax, state and city sales tax, recreational vehicle tax, state franchise tax, state unemployment tax, telephone federal excise tax, telephone federal state and local surcharge tax, telephone minimum usage surcharge tax, telephone state and local tax, utility tax, vehicle license registration tax, capitol gains tax, lease severance tax, oil and gas assessment tax, Colorado property tax, Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma and New Mexico sales tax, and many more that I can't recall but I have run out of space and money.

When you do not receive my check April 15, just know that it is an "honest mistake." Please treat me the same way you treated Congressmen Charles Rangle, Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and ex-Congressman Tom Dashelle and, of course, your boss Timothy Geithner. No penalties and no interest.


Ed Barnett
Wichita Falls

P.S. I will make at least a partial payment as soon as I get my stimulus check.