A Word From Steve Jones
April 16TH, 2018
Author, John Kotter, probably the most respected voice in the world on organizational change, says that most change efforts fail. A major reason for this is that leaders under-communicate the vision by a factor of ten!
According to Kotter:
“Employee members will not make sacrifices, even if they are unhappy with the status quo, unless they believe that useful change is possible. Without credible communication, and a lot of it, the hearts and minds of the troops are never captured.” (Kotter, 1995)
Vision is critical to mission getting done.
Vision is a painting. I’m a water colour artist. Vision is a painting of a scene that produces passion or emotion in people. It is a preferred future that inspires, brings hope and, with God’s help, comes to being.
The Apostle John on Ownership
In John 10, we listen to Jesus tell the story of the hired-hands who cared for the sheep. When a pack of wolves came looking for a rack of lamb, guess who went running for the hills — the hired-hands. The owner knew the sheep by name and would risk his life for his lambs. Owners do whatever it takes to propel the mission and vision forward. Owners are willing to die for the mission they own.
Which begs the question – do I give assent to Jesus’ mission, applaud it, or do I own His mission?
One Day on “Bloody Sunday”
Six hundred people crossed a bridge in Louisiana marching to Montgomery, Alabama in March 1965 to tell the Governor that blacks should be able to vote. On the other side of the bridge stood hundreds of hateful, racist police officers with attack dogs, clubs, and tear gas. These people stopped, looked at the police, the teeth, the clubs, and they all did a “gut check”. Do I really own this vision, because it’s likely going to mean getting in harm’s way. Today we know this event as “Bloody Sunday”. A nation realized change was coming because some people were willing to die for a vision of a preferred future. The Civil Rights movement followed this blood bath.
Vision leaks amid weak leadership
Vision leaks. This is a fact. It’s inevitable in church and any organization. Most people get their ownership cue from their leader. They are willing to take a bullet as long as the leader is willing to take the first bullet. Most won’t settle for the “hired-hand” lowball vision that costs little. This vision is birthed by leaders asking people to own what they themselves are not willing to pay for. Most want to own something that costs dearly. Jesus is one example. Salvation cost Him glory. Imagine a divine being becoming a baby unable to neither feed Himself nor hold His own bladder. It cost Him His blood at Calvary. Our people wait for a leader with a vision that is costly. Are you a hired-hand or an owner?
Create a vision that is short and clear. Then communicate it like crazy. A leader’s responsibility is to articulate the organizations mission and vision. If a church member rambles on for a few minutes trying to state the vision, then your vision statement is too long. It must be an “elevator speech” that church members can give between floors in an elevator. Tell me your vision in 30 seconds or less. Ready? Go! If you can’t do it, work on the vision. If you can, start telling the vision in every way you can!
Have a blessed week,
Church Consultant George Bullard talks about the typical life-cycle of a church in North America. He said, “The average church that makes it seven years will have a life span of 80 years.” The actual closing of churches is more common than you might think. Our own Fellowship member churches have numbered around 500 for the past two decades. Many churches have been planted during that time, but many churches have also closed, and so our net gain is minimal. This is not ideal.
For another example, the Assemblies of God (USA), had 8,443 churches in 1965. Forty-five years later there were 12,371. But during those 45 years, they closed 8,153 existing churches and planted 12,049 resulting in a net gain of 3,928 churches. The closing of churches is very common.
George Bullard identifies ten stages in the life-cycle of a church.
Needs a Mountain:
This church, as it nears “adulthood” or “maturity”, needs to climb a new mountain together. It needs some fresh vision or the church will decline over the next 3-5 years
Needs an Intervention:
This church has lots of structure but less and less movement. Its traditions can/may choke out its life and reason (mission) for being. This church needs a Church Consultation with an outside party to develop some prescriptions to help redirect it back on mission. If not, the church will die sooner than later.
SO WHAT IS MY POINT?
I recognize these are sobering words. Some declare we’re called to “faithfulness” and that’s it. I certainly cannot disagree. However, this declaration only gets it half right. The Bible calls the church to “faithfulness and fruitfulness.” Lives that are won, discipled, transformed, and multiplied in others. Our church stats indicate we are experiencing only modest outcomes. What are we to do with that knowledge? I visit global fields where church planting movements stagger the imagination. But this is Canada. So we believe it cannot happen here?
We all love the church, the very bride of Christ. It is precious.
Certainly, we want to present Christ, His Bride as a healthy, vibrant expression of what He called us to be and do. Then let’s talk about it. Be honest about the “state of the union” of our churches and know that our Region and Fellowship National exist to help our local churches keep on mission.
Local Church Consultation
Our Fellowship Regions have a ministry whereby they come alongside of a Fellowship church and consult and coach. The “Church Consultation” takes place over a weekend with key leaders and members in your church. Several “prescriptions” are identified and steps are determined for the church over the next 1-3 years. This intervention has been used by the Lord to help dozens and dozens of our churches pursue missional health.
Our FEB Central and AÉBÉQ (Quebec) Regions are currently testing a new church health tool, “Congregational Vitality Pathway” (CVP), which I believe has great potential to help revitalize many of our churches. The CVP is not a program, but helps prepare a church for intentional strategic ministry planning; helping local churches to pursue the marks of a “healthy missional” church. “Health” is defined as pursuing Christ and “missional” is defined as pursuing Christ’s priorities in the world. I look forward to seeing the fruit of this church health tool.
Global – Mission Consultation
Fellowship National has a ministry that supports Fellowship churches who desire a consultation and coaching on their global mission initiatives. Similar to “Church Consultations”, a staff member(s) from our Fellowship International department comes alongside your mission and church leaders over a prescribed period of time to help re-envision “your” specific global mission plan.
Why not have an honest conversation about the health of your church and what steps you can take to improve the “mission environment” this coming year. These two consultations are available as tools to help support you in pursuing mission health.
Have a blessed week,
I once heard that vision constantly “leaks” out of churches. Our churches are full of people with real lives and they quickly forget why the church exists. We keep thinking it’s all for “me”.
Any vision that comes quickly or unanimously through committee consensus will be a vision that may be approved, but not necessarily owned. And if it ain’t owned, brother, it ain’t gonna happen.
Because vision is the first thing to “leak” in our church. A vision of church health needs to be constantly promoted in our churches.
I shared “Vision Vignettes” from time to time in the churches I pastored. They were brief challenges, stories and parables that succinctly crystalized the vision of our church. Answering, why do we exist?”
I thought I might share one of my vision vignettes as a tool for you to use, if you wish. Trust it is helpful.
VISION VIGNETTE: The Harbour
Imagine with me the church as a safe, picturesque harbour.
We visit quaint harbours because:
The church and a coastal harbour.
They are a lot alike.
We come to church because it is a safe harbour.
Have a blessed week,
The Holy week begins culminating on Easter Sunday, “He is Risen!”, “He has risen indeed!”
A few years ago I heard Dr. Don Carson speak about the peculiar ironies surrounding the work Christ accomplished on the cross. I scribbled a few notes and sought to caption them in the following outline.
Let’s prepare ourselves for Easter by peeking at three “ironies” surrounding the cross and the impact they have on our lives:
1. The man who is mocked as a King is the King!
They stripped Jesus, put a cloak on his blood-stained body, a stick in his hand to imitate a scepter with a crown of thorns. What a mockery. But for the first three centuries of the early church, they spoke of Christ as reigning from the cross. At face value that seems an oxymoron, but it is the truth.
2. The man who is utterly powerless is all powerful.
Jesus becomes too weak to even carry his own cross-beam. But Jesus tells us, unless you pick up your cross, you’ll not know the Kingdom of Heaven. Our cross is a symbol of our self-denial and death to self. Our empowerment to live the Christian life only occurs when we die to self. We find power in death.
3. The man who cannot save Himself can save you.
Mary and Joseph named the baby Jesus; a Greek word. But the Hebrew equivalent is the name Joshua which literally means: Yahweh saves! God sent His Son to save sinners. But if He saves Himself, He cannot save others. This is another irony. One that kept Jesus nailed to the cross. Jesus cried out the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1), so that you and I would never have to cry it aloud.
Don’t let Easter pass you by this year without letting these wonderful ironies truly impact you once again.
Have a blessed week; from a fellow cross-bearer,
I recently watched the movie, The Case for Christ on Netflix. The story of journalist-turned-pastor, Lee Stobel, who journeyed from atheist to Christ-follower. His book of the same title and follow up books have sold more than 14 million copies. The movie was actually pretty good.
Easter is the Mount Everest of the Christian calendar and an opportunity to share the cap-stone of the Christian faith: the resurrection. Lee Stobel set out to disprove the resurrection, but became convinced of its truth. What other reactions to the resurrection do we find in Matthew chapter 28?
Resurrection Witnesses and Testimonials:
And those who are convinced of Christ’s resurrection, this promise:
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Do you believe this? - John 11:25-26
The Good News really is good news!
Have a blessed week,
How do you prepare yourself for worship? What, if anything, do you do to get yourself ready before the Sunday worship service?
In his book, “Stress Fractures”, Chuck Swindoll remembers a time when the demands of ministry were unbearable. He eventually brought his “hurry-up” pattern of living from his office to his home. At dinner one evening his youngest daughter wanted to say something important to him. In a hurry she said, “Daddy, I-wanna-tell-you-something-and-I’ll-say-it-real-fast!” Swindoll sensed Coleen’s frustration and said, “Honey, you can tell me and you don’t have to tell me really fast. Say it slowly.” Swindoll says he’ll never forget her response: “Then please listen slowly.” Hmmm…. Sound familiar?!
What do you do to prepare for worship? Worship should speak paramountly about our response to God. And God is certainly worthy of our worship.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God which is your spiritual worship.” – Romans 12:1
I recently asked some Fellowship worship pastors from our churches how they personally prepare themselves before a worship service. I received some great insight and solid practical suggestions. Please take the time to read the counsel of some of our “official worship prompters”. I hope you’ll consider something you read for your own life starting this week:
“I personally try to “soak” in the Scripture focus and worship themes for our services by reflecting and meditating in prayerful exchange with God multiple times throughout the week. I also spend considerable time to practice and rehearse the planned elements (musical, technical, transitions, etc.) so that I feel free to lead in a way that allows me to fully engage in worship rather than just execute a plan. I also choose to protect myself from late nights before our corporate worship services so that I am physically rested and renewed.” —Steve Cottrell, Calvary Baptist, Oshawa, ON
“The way I personally prepare before a worship service is by…. spending time in prayer meditating on the text we are focusing on that Sunday and thinking through the movement of the service to make sure I am prepared to communicate clearly the progression of worship in that service. It is a delight to be reminded by each other of who we are in Christ and what his character is and to pray for each other and for the people who will gather. —Sarah Quartel, Forward Baptist, Toronto, ON
“The way I personally prepare before a worship service is twofold. The first thing I do is ensure that I have spent sufficient time in prayer and with God the night prior and/or the morning of the service. This helps to centre me, and it ensures that my focus is in the right place. I also make sure that, as a team, we spend time in prayer together prior to the service, so that we have the proper focus going into the service. The second thing I do is to ensure that all the practical details have been looked after as thoroughly as possible. This, of course, is no guarantee that everything will go smoothly, but it allows me to place my focus where it must be, on the worship of Jesus.” — Patrick Timney, Bramalea Baptist, ON
“…I also spend time in prayer, being thoughtful of Jesus’ grace over my sin, and being thoughtful of the gift that I have to be able to lead His people in my local assembly. Then we as a team of worship leaders (tech and music) participate in a devotional time which is usually a Psalm that I have chosen to settle our hearts on God’s character.”
— Corey Brown, West Park Baptist, London, ON
“I know this seems like a no-brainer – but my Sunday morning begins on Saturday night. It’s been a priority since I started leading worship 20 years ago to begin the preparation process on Saturday evening. My wife and I have a standing arrangement that we do not book anything on Saturday night – we often turn down invitations to events and dinners for the sake of preparing ourselves for Sunday morning. Although I have chosen the music and plan the service a week in advance, and had our time of musical rehearsal on Thursday evening, the Saturday evening is still critical to my preparation. This often includes going through the order of service, any notes I have on transitional “words of worship” between songs, some prayer time, etc. My wife and I may watch a TV show together – and then I’ll make sure my clothes are ready to go and I am in bed early.”
— Paul Turner, Emmanuel Baptist, Barrie, ON
“The way I personally prepare before a worship service is by getting to the church building at least a half hour before anyone else. We typically practice at 7:30 on a Sunday morning, so early mornings can be difficult. However, when I’ve been able to give myself at least 30 minutes of quiet time with the Lord, before people show up, and chaos of work begins, I find I am much more energized, patient, and focused as I serve the church on a Sunday morning. — Jacob Elliot, Grandview Church, Kitchener, ON
“The way I personally prepare before a worship service is by having 15 minutes of prayer time with the praise team, sound technicians, and individuals from our church prayer team. Sunday mornings are incredibly busy for me, so we schedule 15 minutes of prayer (30 minutes before the service) to help us take our focus off accomplishing the task of music ministry and instead to focus on the why of music ministry, and the who (God) of music ministry. I can lead with peace and joy when I have given the outcome to God and have fully committed the service to His Will.”
— Daniel Dayton, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Bloomfield, ON
“The way I personally prepare before a worship service is by praying over and meditating on the day’s Scripture text, walking through the sanctuary picturing the congregation’s faces and situations, carefully aligning my thoughts and heart to the worship service’s “takeaway” of the day, then recounting that to the team and reminding them to point to Christ in an encouraging way before a time of team prayer.”
—Dan Salmon, Westney Heights Baptist, Ajax, ON
“The way I personally prepare before a worship service is by thinking about and praying for the people that I will be leading. It is easy to make things all about me, especially in worship ministry, but it’s paramount to contemplate how everything will best serve the congregation. This includes new people walking into church for the first time, students and young people in the service, families and children, old faithful saints that have been worshipping here long before me. Throughout my preparation I want to be asking, “How can I bless them and point them to Jesus most effectively?” and praying, “God, open their eyes to see the beauty of the Gospel in a new and fresh way through this service.”
— Luke Cuthbert, Summerside Church, London, ON
“Preparing for a worship service is a week-long process for me. My best preparation times are at the piano, worshipping by myself. I find that if I just try to “engineer” a song set and a service on paper or on the computer, it often falls flat. But if I worship alone and feel the presence of the Lord myself, the service seems to come alive by the Holy Spirit working through the team. Just before we lead our service, we gather our music and tech team together as one, to pray for each other, and for the hundreds who will attend the service. We often serve communion to each other. This alone has changed the working relationship of our team, and has ramped up our spiritual preparation.” — Gary Sharpe, Forward Baptist, Cambridge, ON
“The way I personally prepare (when I’m preparing properly!) is by taking time alone, often in the space we’ll be worshipping in. With the upcoming gathering in mind, I will take time to read, pray, and meditate on the truths we will be touching on in the service, asking that God work in all our hearts and minds as we meet in His name.” — Ben Smith, Bonnyville Baptist, AB
“The way I personally prepare before a worship service is by… making sure all the details are cared for so that I, the worship team, and other service participants can truly enter into worship and meet with God. If my heart and mind are clouded, I will be forced to “go through the motions” rather than experiencing the Lord’s presence. Through prayer, through preparation, and staying sharp with God, I can experience the ‘peace of God’ (Phil. 4:7) which puts me in a right place to lead on Sundays.” — Lee Brubacher, West Highland Baptist, Hamilton, ON
Romans 12:1 qualifies the word “worship” with the word “spiritual”. This is the Koine Greek word “logikos”, which we translate into English as logical or reasonable. In other words, in view of God’s “mercies” bestowed generously upon us, it is “reasonable” to render a wholehearted devotion when we praise God. Worship is logical when I ponder the goodness of God’s character. God is worthy of my worship. It is something I do; want to do.
Biblical worship is something I do. It is not so much a state of being (pagan worship) but a verb. The 19th Century philosopher, Sorën Kierkegaard, put it this way:
“In Christian worship…. God is the audience, the congregation the performer and the minister, choir and other leaders are the prompters.” The congregation is not the audience, but the performers. We do not come to the 10:00 a.m. service to observe and spectate, but to participate.”
A big “Thank you” to the Fellowship worship pastors suggested ways to prepare ourselves to actively celebrate when we gather with our church family to praise and extol our great God and King.
Have a blessed week,
I recently learned of a wonderful way in which one FAIR donor was seeking to raise funds for our Fellowship humanitarian and relief appeals. I’d like her to explain, but first…
Our current FAIR appeal is called Brightening Smiles.
We are seeking support for our mobile dental clinic in Cambodia. Oeut and Nhep Pech have cared for thousands of patients in rural villages in Cambodia, hundreds have come to Christ, over 50 dental students have been converted and four churches have been planted since 2007. Their ministry has been extraordinarily fruitful!
The FAIR mobile dental clinic receives no funding from the Cambodian government. I visited them a few years back and watched Nhep and dental students do extractions, fillings, and other dental procedures. Each patient also received a clear presentation of the Gospel. It was a fascinating day of practical Gospel penetration in a very remote Cambodian village
A FAIR Easter Offering
Would you consider an Easter offering for this FAIR appeal? Either yourself personally or your church? To find out more and get access to promotional materials like a poster, bulletin insert and video for Brightening Smiles,
A Creative Way to Support a FAIR Appeal
I heard from Averil Smith (Lansing Avenue Baptist Church, Sudbury, ON). She and her husband Mark serve on the pastoral team at Lansing. She is a busy mother of two and an artist. She decided to use her artistic skills as a means to fundraise for future FAIR appeals. I asked Averil to explain:
“At the Fellowship National Conference in 2016, I heard about the Philippines: Rebuilding Innocence project and my heart was deeply troubled. Back in my hotel room, taking in the amazing view of Niagara Falls, I began to dream. I had attended a few social painting events in Sudbury and thought it would be fun to teach a class myself. Would people really pay to spend an evening painting with me? Could I help alleviate some of the pain and suffering of these children? With the full support of my husband, and the encouragement of my adventurous sister and some enthusiastic friends, The Paint FAIR Project was born.
“I hosted painting parties in my home every Monday evening in February, “the month of love,” to introduce people to the concept of step-by-step painting instruction in a social setting. Participants paid $30 to attend; $5 covered the cost of supplies and $25 was given as a charitable donation to FAIR.
“Over the year I taught twenty-seven parties, ranging in size from two to 30 participants, including children all the way up to seniors. Together we raised $5,000 for various FAIR appeals. In addition to raising funds, we also spread awareness about FAIR and the plight of the people it supports, enjoyed fellowship, and created beautiful art.
“FAIR is on the front lines bringing the Gospel and hope to some of the world’s deepest needs. Please consider the resources God has placed at your disposal: talent and time, people and passion. What will your project be?”
Thank you Averil, for using your God-given talent to bless so many children in the Philippines. So many more of us could follow Averil’s example and mobilize many more people in giving to future FAIR relief, development, and justice projects. Please start today by thinking how to encourage others to give to our current Easter appeal, Brightening Smiles.
Thank you for generously giving.
Have a blessed week,
I recently had one of those moments when I had to carefully re-read an email to discover if I had read it correctly.
One Fellowship church had just sent their entire weekly offerings, for the month of January (2018), to another Fellowship church in need. Grandview Church (Kitchener, ON) sent Ecclesia Church (St. Jérôme, QC) $107,350.70. Yes, you read that correctly.
A few years back, Grandview entered into a partnership with this young church in Québec, an hour north of Montréal. Some of you have heard me challenge you to enter into a “7 x 7 = 1” partnership. Seven partners for seven years to establish one French church plant. In the past three years, 110 partners across Canada have partnered with church plants in Québec. It’s a wonderful story for which we praise God.
A Word from Pastor Bob and Pasteur Jacob
I asked Pastor Bob MacGregor (Grandview) and Pastor Jacob Mathieu (Écclésia) to comment on this recent “love gift”:
Grandview Church sanctuary
“Grandview is one of many churches that have partnered with sister churches in Quebec. Our particular partnership is with Ecclesia in St Jerome. This young congregation stewards a strategically located, but badly rundown, facility in this spiritually-needy city. Their vision and “crazy” faith has reminded our fifty year old congregation what it was like to be on mission for God, a mission that must always be renewed. While at National Conference in November 2017, some of our leaders had breakfast with Pastor Jacob Mathieu. We learned that our partners had grown weary in their good work and that renovations were stalled due to funding. Our elders took it personally and soon found ourselves infected with the same “crazy” faith we saw in them. We announced on Sunday that all offerings received in the month of January would go to Ecclesia. The total amount given was $107,350.70. The announcement was met with tears of joy and shouts of praise in both of our congregations. This is fun!” — Pastor Bob MacGregor of Grandview (Kitchener, ON)
“‘Our elder board voted to give all our January offering to Ecclésia,’ said the Chair of the Mission Board to me over the phone a few weeks before Christmas. ‘That might represent up to $80,000’. That’s when I stopped breathing. ‘We see God moving in St. Jérôme and we want to help you finish your building project.’ Ever since we had started our construction project to transform the old REX theatre into a city outreach centre I had never doubted one bit that it was an amazing opportunity to reach the 10,000 student population that live and study there and much more. However, after two years of fundraising and construction, and still $195,000 to go, many in our church, including me, were starting to get discouraged. That phone call from Grandview was like the voice of Haggai and Zechariah to me and our leadership team: ‘You guys finish the job. This is not a human endeavour: the living God is drawing Québécois to his Son, Jesus Christ!’ I still cannot find the words to praise God for the love He pours in English- and French-speaking hearts towards the lost sheep of Canada. All to His glory!" — Pastor Jacob Mathieu of Ecclesia (St. Jérôme, QC)
I love this story. I wanted you to know about it. This is an example of the Fellowship family working together to advance God’s Kingdom in Canada and beyond. We are stronger TOGETHER. This story models our Fellowship National motto: “SERVE, UNITE, THRIVE”. United together in mission, we serve one another, and thrive in winning the lost to Christ.
My dream has been, since we changed the Fellowship paradigm in francophone ministry in 2015, to see English and French Canadians love one another. We’ve not done a very good job at that as Canadians. But, in Christ, we can model a new way. It has been very gratifying to see so many churches and donors in Ontario, Alberta, and other places enter into Seven year partnerships to see French churches planted in Canada’s biggest mission field, Quebec.
My next Québec Vision Tour is June 4-6, 2018
Join in with Grandview and Ecclésia and enter a partnership with a new church plant. Twice annually I take leaders or donors on a 48-hour “Québec Vision Tour” (QVT). You get yourself to the Montréal Airport and I care for your accommodation, travel, and food for two days traveling to seven to eight French church plants. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will direct you to the church plant He wants you or your church to begin a partnership and growing relationship with over the next seven years.
The next QVTs are June 4-6, 2018 and October 15-17, 2018. Contact me if interested, and I’ll send you more information. Please watch the brief video ( CLICK HERE ) to learn more about joining my next QVT.
Have a blessed week,
Compelled speech, value attestations, and religious rights thrown under the bus seem to be in our Nation’s headlines on a weekly basis these days.
I heard recently on the radio that several doctors lost their bid in an Ontario Court to not be compelled to refer patients for doctor-assisted suicide. In June of 2016, Canada’s MAID law enshrined doctor assisted death as the right of every Canadian. Some doctors fought for the right not to participate nor refer patients to other medical practitioners who would assist in their patient’s death. These doctors lost their fight. The judge admitted their “religious rights” were being violated for the greater good of society. My heart sank.
A Call for Conscience Campaign (February - March)
This should concern us all. Physicians and medical practitioners no longer (at least in Ontario and possibly elsewhere in Canada) have freedom of conscience or religious rights to refuse participation in assisting people to end their lives. Their rights should be defended.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) with the Coalition for HealthCARE are calling on all people of faith to a “Conscience Campaign”, especially in Ontario, in February and March 2018.
The following plea comes from the EFC:
Today in Ontario:
Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other caregivers are compelled to participate in euthanasia against their moral convictions, by providing an effective referral for their patients. Euthanasia advocacy groups are threatening court action against faith-based hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices unless they allow euthanasia on their premises. Only a third of the population has access to adequate palliative care, which leaves many without real choice on end of life issues.
Please take the time to review a short, >three-minute video< that introduces you to physicians and nurses who are being forced to choose between their conscience and their careers.
How you can help:
Have a blessed week,
There is a scene in the movie “Gandhi”, where Gandhi, a young lawyer in South Africa, is walking a boardwalk with a white clergyman. Walking and talking together in public was against all proper societal decorum in the Apartheid state. During their chat, a young man accosted them for being together. His mother yells from her upstairs window and the ringleader leaves the two friends alone.
As they continue their walk, the clergyman exclaims their “good luck”. Gandhi is surprised by this view of what just happened and says, “Good luck? I thought you were a man of God.” The clergyman replied, “I am, but I don’t believe God plans His day around me!” The audience around me laughed at the comment. It’s a common attitude that in everyday life, God isn’t really interested in giving us divine guidance in the little stuff of life.
The Bible’s record shares a very different reality. Over and over again we read of God choosing to plan His day around those He chooses.
In one of my favourite passages of Scripture, 1 Samuel 3:1-10, we learn of God speaking to a young boy. Young Samuel lay on his cot in the Temple when he hears someone call his name. He rose and ran to his old master, Eli, thinking he had called him. However, the third time young Samuel comes running to Eli’s side, thinking he had been beckoned by his master, Eli realizes what’s been happening. He tells Samuel to tell the voice, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” And so begins one of the most remarkable relationships our Heavenly Father would ever have with one of His children.
God was heard clearly by an innocent, humble child. God’s voice is best heard by the humble.
Moses probably holds the all-time record for lengthy conversations with God. Why Moses? The possible clue is found in Numbers 12:3 which says, “Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth”. There is an obvious close connection between his humility and his close working relationship with God. Wisdom literature tells us, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,”(Proverbs 29:23), while the Psalmist (David) in Psalm 25:9 writes, “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” Pastor A.T. Pierson was personal friends with C.H. Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, George Muller (wrote his biography), C.L. Scofield, Adoniram Judson and he was the elder statesman of the Student Missionary Movement that influenced thousands of the early 20th Century. He commented on Psalm 25:9, saying:
“Humility is a real preference for God’s Will. Where this holy habit of mind exists, the whole being becomes so open to impression that, without any outward sign or token, there is an inward recognition and choice of the Will of God.
“God guides, not by a visible sign, but by swaying our judgment. To wait before Him, weighing candidly in the scales every consideration for or against a proposed course…. Is a frame of mind and heart in which one is fitted to be guided; and God touches the scales and makes the balance to sway as He will.
“BUT OUR HANDS MUST BE OFF the scales, otherwise we need expect no interposition of His IN OUR FAVOUR.”
What this 19th Century Bible commentator is saying is God’s preferred vehicle of choice in making His Will known, His “still small voice”, is a humble follower of Christ. A believer who displays a meek mind and life. A mindset that God can “sway judgment” or open up to His “impressions” or “tip the scale” and make His voice clear.
God loves to speak to the unassuming, the humble:
Some uneducated fisherman from a back water Roman province who become spiritual Kingdom builders.
God’s tendency is to clearly inform the unpretentious, those who are careful to not tip the scale. The humble hear his voice.
Have a blessed week,