Monthly Archives: September 2013

Making Ministry Complicated

Making Ministry Complicated

(This is the message I gave to Call-2-Action today, a Christian business persons weekly group in our town.)

There was a woman that came to the well in the middle of the day. That’s a strange time to go to the well. It’s hot. It’s not when we need water most. All of the other women went in the morning and evening but she went in the middle of the day and she met Jesus there.

I want to talk to you about this idea that the call to action, the concept of ministry is not all that complicated. We try to figure it out, fix it up, create a mission statement, organize a ministry team, prepare the presentation, develop an objective…I’m exhausted before I ever start. It’s not that hard. First, God chooses who He uses.

Jesus said to His disciples, “I have to go through Samaria.” That’s a strange place for the Son of God to go. It’s a rough land filled with murderers and thieves. But Jesus goes there to find this woman that He chooses to use.

My Samaria was a clinic for recovering addicts in Phoenix, AZ. I had been a pastor for 20 years and a pretty darn good one. But I was all about me. The Disease to Please had eaten my soul away until all I really cared about was looking good, being successful, and making a name for myself, even in ministry. That drive for self aggrandizement let to hidden addiction, secret sin, and finally the loss of my marriage, my family and my ministry. I ended up in a room full of drunks, druggies, and sex addicts in a clinic in Phoenix, and like the Woman at the Well, met Jesus there. God chooses who He uses.

And by the way, He chooses you. The same John who tells us about this woman writes in another place, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father —to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” (Rev 1:6)

Paul says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:8-10)

The first and most basic step in finding your ministry is recognizing that it will find you. God has chosen you. He created you. He called you. He has given you a purpose. Just decide that you have been chosen and the Call to Action will become much clearer.

Well, the second thing is, God uses who He chooses. He chooses who He uses and He uses who He chooses.

Can I be honest? I probably wouldn’t have picked you. That’s okay. I wouldn’t have picked me either. Jesus and the woman have a conversation. They talk social issues. (Why are you a Jew talking to me a Samaritan?) They talk politics. (My people built an altar in these hills. Your people have the Temple. Which one is right?) And they talk religion. (I know the Messiah is coming.) And then Jesus turns the conversation to the real issue.

Can I stop here and give you a simple outline for ministry? S A L T.
– Say anything.      Just smile, say hello, be kind. You’ll be amazed at how many doors that opens.
– Ask questions.    It’s not about you. People are hungry to be heard. Do you have family? Do you like your job? Is everything okay in your life?
– Listen.  Don’t wait for an opening. Don’t formulate your response. Just listen.
– Turn the conversation to Christ.  Can I tell you about a man?

Jesus says, “go call your husband.” Her face turns crimson. She drops her head. “I don’t have one.” “You’re right. You’ve had five and the man your living with now is not your husband.” All of a sudden everything is clear. This us why she’s at the well in the middle of the day. Her shame has isolated her from the other women in the village. She doesn’t deserve to be chosen by God. Surely she isn’t fit for ministry.

Neither was David, or Samson, or Moses, or Peter, or Paul, or me, or you. But God uses who He chooses.

I was sitting in a waiting room in the clinic in Phoenix when one of the other “inmates” came up to me. “I was praying for you,” he said. “God gave me a verse for you. Zephaniah 3:17.”  (I have two masters degrees in theology and a Ph.D. in counseling and I can’t find Zephaniah in the Bible.) “The Lord is mighty. He will deliver you. He delights in you and rejoices over you with singing.” Then Carl leaned in and said, “Do you know that before you got out of bed this morning the God of the Universe sat beside you and sang over you?” and in that moment I knew I was choosed to be used.

God restored my marriage, my family and eight years ago I started Branches, a Christian Counseling Center that focuses on depression, anxiety, marriage and family issues and addiction recovery. We have nine full time counselors and we see over 700 people a month. And we never turn anyone away because they can’t pay.

Your ministry isn’t complicated. It will find you. The Greek word that we often translate as “call” is halacha and it literally means walk. People ask me about my ministry now, Branches, and I say, “Branches isn’t my ministry. It’s just something that found me. My ministry is playing with my grand kids, having lunch with my friends, being in a bible study with a group of men on Thursday morning.” Once you settle the fact that you are chosen everything you do becomes a part of your call to action.

Which leads me to the very last thing. God uses your story. John finishes the story of the Woman at the Well in John chapter 4 by saying, “And most of the village believed because of the testimony of the woman.” Hey, it’s not hard. Come see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done. Once I was blind and now I can see. You choose today who you will serve, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. God has chosen you and your story for His purpose. That’s really pretty simple. You just start telling your story and God will use you in ways you cannot imagine.

This same John, again in another place, I John 1:1-3, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched —this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” Ministry is just one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread. Ministry is not complicated. Your story is your greatest tool.

Remember the call of Moses on the backside of the desert. He comes upon a burning bush. He hears the voice of God. He gets the call to action. He doubts his ability and God says, “What’s in your hand?” It’s a staff and God turns it into a serpent, (a sign that Moses repeats in front of Pharoh). He uses it to part the Red Sea. He holds it up and the Israelites are victorious in battle. What’s in your hand? For David it was five stones. For Gideon it was a clay pot and a torch. For the little boy in the crowd by the Sea of Galilee it was a few loaves and a couple of fish. And even for Jesus with the blind guy it was mud from the creek bank. Just look at what’s in your hand. That’s what God will use. Your story.

Eric Lidel was a missionary to China in the early 20th century. He was also a world class runner, courted by his native Great Britain to run in the 1924 Olympics. While wrestling with his call in the movie Chariots of Fire he said this in his Scottish brogue, “God made me for a purpose but He also made me fast and when I run I feel His pleasure.” Remember God chooses you. He uses you. Tell your story and feel His pleasure.