Yesterday, I shared with you the conversation that I enjoyed with the UPCI General Superintendent, David Bernard. This blog is going to cover the gist of several conversations that I had with UPCI Assistant General Superintendent (Eastern Zone) Paul Mooney.
I have known Brother Mooney for quite a number of years. I suppose the first time I officially met him was around 2004 or so at an Alabama District Men’s Conference. Since that time he has preached at several camp meetings in Alabama in addition to a district conference. He is one of the most uniquely brilliant men I have ever met! He has a very gifted mind and you find that to be very obvious when you begin to interact with him because all of the times you spend with him there isn’t an ounce of wasted energy or time. He also serves dual role as the pastor at the historic CalvaryTabernacle in Indianapolis and as the president of Indiana Bible College. If ever there was an ardent supporter of apostolic doctrine and identity in this generation, he certainly falls into that category.
My interaction with Brother Mooney was at several different occasions during the Executive Board/General Board meetings that started this past Monday night (3/2/15) and went through Wednesday (3/4/15). I did not have my notebook handy when I was talking with Brother Bernard but I did when I was with Brother Mooney so perhaps there can be a little more precision than in the last post that I wrote about Brother Bernard.
Several years ago I found out that Brother Mooney was an enthusiast when it came to journals. In fact, he preached a message at the Alabama District Men’s Conference entitled “Paddle or Die” and he told about a whitewater rafting trip he took with his daughter. While he was preaching, he made reference to writing down a lot of things in his “little black book” that was always on him. He got that message when he was whitewater rafting and wrote bits and pieces of it along the way of the trip. I have been using Moleskin journals for more than ten years. That journal use escalated when I got in high gear a little over a year ago when I started writing with fountain pens. I was curious about the journal that Brother Mooney used. I discovered he uses a couple of different sizes of these journals. The brand name is Blueline. One is a pocket journal and the other is full size with the large one dedicated solely as a reading journal.
The small pocket journal is an assortment of personal thoughts, sermon seeds, Bible study ideas, editorial thoughts, reflections on the culture/politics, and people he may meet. He also will write down the content of some of the conversations that he has with people so he can remember the basic idea of what they talked about. It is used multiple times a day. He did let me see it as he flipped through the pages. The only thing I could really notice was that he wrote the date for each entry, used a variety of inks, with some were places being highlighted throughout. I felt really good about my hieroglyphics when I saw his. I couldn't make head nor tails of the content but that is what makes journals unique to the person who owns it. He mentioned that an older mentor who was a minister had been after him for 10-15 years to create a personal journal before he finally started. He said that he sincerely regrets not following through on the advice that was given to him at the time. However he has been journaling for a long time now and has multiple finished journals which he chronologically arranges when he fills them up.
One of the great advantages he has found about handwriting in a personal journal is to look back 10-20 years and read what he was thinking at the time. He said there are times that he reads it and asks himself, “What were you thinking?!” He said you can see the craziness of the things you thought but there are also solid core principles that were true in his heart even two decades ago. When reading through the old journals, he finds that there are some of the things he thought were so important then but aren’t very significant now. Furthermore, he told me that you would be surprised how your thoughts do change over time and you will see a pattern developing with your principles. He said that another key thing with these journals is that it helps your memory to re-live some of the things that you would have never remembered otherwise. Maybe the greatest thing he finds with the discipline of journaling is that his children will be greatly blessed when he passes on. They will try to understand who their father really was and the journals will solidify that legacy his life left to them. A journal is really an ink imprint of a man’s mind and it shows the direction of the soul. He said that he hoped that his children would be able to see that he was a man of great conviction and character. I don’t think there is any danger of their not grasping that. For those of us who have known Brother Mooney for any length of time, we have realized that he is a man of great and noble convictions. Furthermore he is a man who speaks and preaches his convictions and it has moved him into the place of being a leader among leaders.
The second reading journal was not with him and I was greatly disappointed that I was not able to see that one. It is a very detailed account of the books that he has read. He said that he is very meticulous about this journal. He keeps very detailed summaries of the books, writes down the quotes that he runs across, and will make notes about the need to go back and re-read a particular book for a deeper understanding of what it is saying. He practices this routine with every book he reads and is very careful about documenting the page numbers or chapter headings so he does not allow the juice of the book to be lost. He uses the reading journals in the same manner he uses his personal journals and will go back and read what he has written about the books several years later. He did recommend that I find any of the books written by Jaron Lanier and read them although he did make a disclaimer about the author. It is a book that deals with sociological issues and he enjoys reading that genre of books. Lanier wrote You Are Not a Gadget and WhoOwns the Future? Brother Mooney said that the gadget book is particularly good in content about how our obsession with gadgets is really causing us to be much less mentally sharp.
He routinely speaks in his class lectures at IBC about the need to disconnect from the electronic world. He said that we have become tied to computers, tablets, and smart phones and it is challenging our creativity. He told me to look around the room at all the people who were glued to their computers. He said that even though we use them, we are becoming clones. I think about this as I am writing this blog on a computer! He said that for him, to sit down and write with a pen, creativity starts flowing in a powerful way. He encouraged these young men who are training for ministry to write their sermon notes because it opens up the mind. He did not in any way say that we ought to ditch all of the attachments we have to the electronic world but we ought to at least remember what it is to write in a journal with a pen. This was the bulk of our conversation on Tuesday.
On Wednesday at lunch, Brother Mooney invited me to go with him and Brother Ron Mullings who is the Southwest Regional Executive Presbyter. We left and went to a hole-in-the-wall but knock your socks off good German delicatessen. Over the years, I have heard about Brother Mooney’s innate ability to find restaurants that are very good but are way off the beaten path. The name of this one was The Posh Nosh. They had complimentary kosher dill pickles, sauerkraut, and some kind of hard German bread that was very good when it was dipped in spicy brown mustard. I had a corned beef sandwich along with a very unique tasting potato salad that I later found out had a vinegar base to it.
The conversation to and from and in the Posh Nosh was soul-building. The recent Netanyahu speech was a topic of discussion among many of those who were in St. Louis this week and Brother Mooney mentioned the fact that Netanyahu was absolutely gracious in everything he said about America and President Obama. Graciousness is one of the marks of a great leader who is secure in his place. As the talk went on about the American and Israeli relations, Brothers Mooney and Mullings both expressed their concern about the moral and social direction of our nation. Both were gravely disturbed that the breakdown of the moral and social mores of people would have an effect on a church who did not have a strong voice in the pulpit. They noted that many of our political leaders were mocking God with their legislation particularly in the area of same sex marriage. It comes to me as I write this that God had a devil, in fact I suppose you could say it in this way that Satan is God’s devil. If that is the case and God will use evil to exalt righteousness and for good, as he did in Joseph’s case, then all of the political leaders who are moving in the wrong direction are nothing more than God’s errand boys. They will work out God’s ultimate purpose and He will triumph over all evil when it is said and done! So ABC Politician is God’s lap dog who has not a whit of power except what God has given to him. You are literally watching Psalm 2 in motion, the heathen are raging and the kings and the rulers are taking their counsel against God. Catch this point. . . God will mock them and laugh at them!
At that moment, Brother Mooney told me to urge every young preacher that I knew to believe in the integrity, clarity, and power of Scripture. It is God’s Word and it is unchanging and we are lost if we began to unravel it at the edges with textual criticism. God has preserved his written word in the Scriptures and we must preach the Word if we are to win the battle inside the walls of the church. He acknowledged that we have momentum and unity in the UPCI but if we start deviating and vacillating on our core doctrines and identity, we will never recover. He had previously encouraged me privately with some strong exhortations that I won’t go into except to say that there ought to be thunder rolling out of every preacher’s soul in this hour. If you even equivocate, you will sink your soul and the church that is dependent on you preaching the Word on a regular basis.
Once we started eating, the conversation moved on to the great value of associations and relationships. Your closest friends say much about the direction that you will ultimately take. We picked up a few more once we got there: Brother Carlton Coon (North American Missions director), Brother David Trammell (MI Dist. Supt), and Brother Ted Wagner (Honorary General Presbyter). They began to reminisce when they were younger men about some of their closest friends who were pastors. They have since washed out with doctrinal compromise and moral failure. Some are limping along in churches that are devoid of apostolic power and others have totally left the ministry. Most of the drift took place very slowly and they began to entertain ideas about what it really took to be saved and whether or not apostolic identity was crucial. Brothers Mooney and Mullings also told me that sometimes your relationships will be fluid and there will be people who step into your life in the years after middle age that will have a crucial impact on you. They will help you to live morally and doctrinally clean lives because they challenge you to live higher and do better.
On the way back to the General Board meeting, Brother Mooney said that several years ago when Brother Haney was the General Superintendent, he was unable to attend a meeting and sent Brother Mooney instead. It was a conglomerate of religious denominations and organizations. During the course of the meeting, Larry Stockstill, author of The Remnant (which I recommend), spoke on the necessity of moral integrity in the ministry. They began to go around the room and ask questions about what took place when a man in their organization was guilty of adultery and what was the length of the restoration process? Various answers came about; two years, one year, six months, and three months. One man laughingly (although he was apparently in misery having to say this) said that it used to be three months but it had dwindled down to three weeks. One group had a probation period of one month but never required the man to leave the pulpit. Finally one of the men asked Brother Mooney what the official position of the UPCI was for adultery and Brother Mooney told them that the man’s credentials were revoked and he was removed from the pastorate. He said it got very quiet but one elder minister finally said, “Well, Praise God there is still somebody left who will pull these men down and discipline them.” Brother Mooney said that of all the religious denominations represented that the UPCI was the only one who was willing to remove a man from the pulpit.
This launched a discussion about the word “blameless” which is in 1 Timothy 3 as it discusses the character of the man who is a pastor. It is of necessity that we are godly pastors and ministers who are reverent and honor the Word with every bit of the fabric of our lives. Brother Mullings then said something that I mulled over for most of the day on my flights from St. Louis. He said that the old adage from Hamlet where Shakespeare wrote: To thine own self be true; is very wise advice. He said that you have to establish some convictions in your heart that you are unwilling to compromise no matter what. These convictions are not developed with the whimsy of fads but rather in places of deep commitment in prayer and the Word of the Lord. He said a dangerous place to be is to be holy but not righteous. I thought of the Scripture that notes a “chaste virgin” (2 Cor. 11:2). “Chaste” deals with the inner purity and “virgin” deals with the physical purity. It is crucial to be pure inwardly and physically. As ministers there has to be a pursuit of righteousness that saturates all that we do.
We got back for the last portion of the General Board meeting after that. Brother Mooney told us to be careful about who we got close to because we all reeked of sauerkraut. I don’t think anybody noticed. . .
Thanks for reading. . .