The head of a missionary family
our local congregation is supporting spoke at our church recently, telling us
about their work in southeast Asia. Seeds, he said,
grow best where the soil is all busted up.
That is what life is like where he and his family are living and working
- all busted up. The
ministry, and its results, aren’t exactly what this missionary family
It reminded me of my first
ministry, a cooperative effort between several churches to do outreach in the Hispanic community. Most of the people on the committee didn’t
understand the Hispanic culture, so when I asked one of the pastors if I could
hold an Easter service at that church, I was told I had to guarantee a minimum
of 30 people in attendance. The
reasoning was I had to have a certain number of people to serve as ushers, to
take the collection, to read the Scriptures, etc. and to collect enough of an
offering to pay the organist.
I couldn’t help this person
understand that many Hispanic congregations are quite small, especially at the
beginning, and don’t follow the formal structure of our Anglo worship
services. Oftentimes there is no music
but the clapping of hands, or a single guitar.
The answer was still no, I couldn’t use the church.
I wonder how often we start a new
ministry or outreach with preconceived notions of how the results should (or
must) look. When the soil is all busted
up, the seeds have a better chance to grow, but the crop might look different
than we expected. It doesn’t make it wrong.
Jesus certainly sowed seeds in
many unexpected places - a Samaritan woman, Zacchaeus, the woman caught in adultery, a Syrophoenecian
woman, a couple of centurions. After his
death, when his apostles believed only Jews should receive the good news of
Jesus, God changed the game plan - first with Paul and then with Peter’s vision
of the descending cloth.
While drawing up a mission plan
for a new ministry is important, I think it’s just as important to be open to
new and unexpected ways that ministry might develop and look. Instead of counting it a failure if things
develop differently than we planned, it’s important to evaluate and even
appreciate those different developments and prayerfully consider how God is
leading us. Our plans are not
necessarily God’s plans. And our ways
are not necessarily God’s ways. I’m sure
that Paul never planned to establish the church in Europe with a group of women
at the river in Philippi, but that is what God provided. And despite Jonah’s protests, God cared about
the 120,000 people in Nineveh.
“For surely I know the plans
I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm,
to give you a future with hope.”
We thank you, Lord, for the
opportunities you give us to minister in this world. Help us to remember to look at each other
with your eyes, not our own. If we will
just follow you, and trust in you, the kingdom of God will grow and
prosper. Help us, we pray. Amen.