SBC Life Articles

Interview with Joe McKeever


SBCLIFE: Joe, we notice this series of cartoons deals with the same scene. A little delegation of church members approaches the pastor with a grievance. You obviously feel strongly about this?

Joe: Cartoonists connect best with people when they can connect at a deep emotional level such as anger or anxiety. Editorial cartoonists often call their assignment “getting angry five times a week.”

SBCLIFE: You don’t seem to be an angry person. So, how do you stir these emotions?

Joe: No one who knows me personally thinks of me as an angry person. I certainly do not preach angry sermons or write angry cartoons. But over these fifty years of preaching, I have seen the little scenario in this series of cartoons play itself out far too often. A small group of self-important members decides to straighten the preacher out, or worse, to pressure him to resign.

SBCLIFE: Does that upset you?

Joe: It does. My passion is for the lord’s church. He wants his flock to be healthy and unified and faithful to him. But unhealthy churches are like an epidemic today. And much of it is caused by church members who do not understand the nature of the church and their role in it.

SBCLIFE: What specifically do they not understand?

Joe: That it is the Lord’s church, not theirs. That the Lord sends the pastors, not some remote bishop or even the church-elected search committees. Acts 20:28 says the Holy spirit calls the pastors as overseers of the local churches.

SBCLIFE: What do some members not understand about their role?

Joe: The typical church member thinks the pastor is there to make him happy. After all, they reason, doesn’t he serve at their pleasure? Can’t they vote him out whenever they please? So, if they are unhappy, they think, it’s a sure sign he must not be doing his job.

SBCLIFE: And the truth is?

Joe: The pastor is sent not to make the congregation happy. His role is to help them grow in spiritual health and holiness. His goal is to make the Lord happy. That’s a big, big difference.

SBCLIFE: Can a cartoon change that perception?

Joe: It can’t hurt. And it might make a few people think. And wouldn’t that be something!

SBCLIFE: What do you want to happen with this series of cartoons?

Joe: What I would love is for pastors to print them out and use with the congregation as a basis for some teaching on this issue.

About Joe McKeever
Joe McKeever is much more than just a cartoonist. A longtime minister of evangelism, pastor, and denominational servant, Joe has experienced every aspect of church life—the good and the not so good. Born in rural Alabama (near Nauvoo), he was saved as an eleven-year old boy when his family lived in the coal fields of West Virginia. He was called into the ministry ten years later at West End Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. He spent most of his ministry in New Orleans and Mississippi (serving five churches over a span of thirty-five years, with a three-year interlude at First Baptist Charlotte, North Carolina). He retired from full-time vocational ministry after serving as director of missions from 2004 to 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was instrumental in helping coordinate clean-up and relief efforts in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Joe earned the master of theology and doctor of ministry degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Margaret have three children and eight grandchildren. His life-verse is Job 4:4, Your words have helped the tottering to stand, and you have strengthened feeble knees. (NASB)

He has been a frequent contributor to numerous denominational agencies and publications, including SBC LIFE and Baptist Press. His cartoons have appeared daily in Baptist Press for more than a decade.

Joe recently drew and wrote a series of cartoons under the heading, “A Little Delegation Comes to the See the Pastor,” depicting a scene that plays itself out all too often in the life of a local church. Commenting on this series, Joe said, “This little delegation went to see the preacher. ‘Pastor,’ the chairman said, ‘You need to know the congregation is not very happy with you.’ The pastor said, ‘I’m sorry. But why are you telling me this?’ The chairman said, ‘I would think it would matter to you.’ The pastor said, ‘It does. But not much.’

“The delegation was dumbfounded. A woman on the committee said, ‘Well, if you ask me, when the congregation is unhappy, the pastor is failing.’ The pastor said, ‘No ma’am. That’s based on a false assumption that a lot of churches have. You see, the Lord does not send the pastor to make the church happy. God sends the pastor to make the church healthy—and to make HIM happy. Big, big difference.”

Pointing to the line in Genesis 21:6 where, after Sarah gave birth to Isaac, she exclaimed, God has brought me laughter (NIV), Joe said, “I believe with all my heart that God has made laughter for each of us. But some of us aren’t getting our minimum daily requirement! And we’re suffering from it.” He added, “A verse in Proverbs says A joyful heart is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22). Scientists tell us that hearty laughing releases endorphins—called ‘nature’s healers’—into our bloodstream. That’s why after a good time with a friend when you laugh and relax, you feel so elated. It’s not just psychological—it’s physical; it’s real. God is so smart.”

Joe likes to tell people, “When I was five years old, Mom gave me and my little sister Carolyn pencil and paper and put us at the kitchen table and told us to draw. I discovered I loved to draw. The next year in the first grade, the rest of the class would gather around and watch me draw. To this day, I can outdraw any group of first-graders you’ve ever met!”

“For a preacher or a writer—and I try to be both—the power to use words to make a lasting difference in someone’s life is the best gift in the world,” he added with a smile.

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