Encouraging every light in the candelabra to shine
I couldn’t wait to get home from Vacation Bible School. The pastor gave a salvation message that was brilliant. I loved his simple approach. Expectantly, I asked my grandkids, “What did you think of the lesson?”
Josh, age eight, surprised me by answering, “I didn’t understand a word he was saying!”
No matter how well delivered, sometimes words aren’t enough. God uses variety to communicate with His people. He doesn't use cookie cutter style messages. Each one is different to reflect the differences in the hearers. His word is chockfull of examples. There is the parting of the Red Sea, the vine that grew up and sheltered Jonah from the heat, the tongues of fire over the disciples’ heads at Pentecost and the rainbow set in the clouds – just to name a few.
God uses visuals like the burning bush or the giant hand that wrote on the wall during King Belshazzars’ unholy feast. He uses a variety of ordinary people. Abigail, an ordinary woman married to a fool, was used to keep David from shedding blood. Daniel, a young boy and a slave, was used to instruct a king.
God has equipped today’s church with all of the people and gifts necessary to communicate truth in a way that will reach all people. To rely on one person using one gift is like trying to row a boat with one oar. God uses variety and God loves variety.
Look at a family, for instance, and you will find a score of differences. My husband loves a service that has drama, a movie clip or other form of visual illustration. My mom is deeply moved by music. Whenever the quartet sings at her church, we all hear about it. My son notices if the worship team has no drummer. My son-in-law perks up at any sports analogy. Some people love imagery, others a humorous tale, some are deeply moved by testimonies and the list could go on and on. Likewise, the gifts represented by the members of a church go on and on.
So why do we strive to look and sound the same?
It’s a trend that I can’t help but wonder about. We have somehow gone from the glory of Solomon’s’ temple to churches with as much visual intrigue as white out. Our singers sing the same songs. They play the same instruments. What if our musicians were a group of kids playing trashcans? They draw quite a crowd in New York City! I’ve seen them. Why are we so intent on blending in? Why must our walls be white and our pews neutral?
Maybe our candles are afraid to shine. After all, who wants to be a candle in a sea of fluorescent lights?
In Exodus 35: 4-10 Moses calls the people together with instructions for building the temple. They are to bring gold, silver, wood, purple and blue linen, skins from sea cows dyed red, various stones and spices. Moses called on all the craftsmen to do the work for a tabernacle that was in a tent!
Do we no longer have craftsmen? Are all of the modern day artists gone? What if we were brave enough to allow people with unique gifts to use them openly with abandon? What if teachers, no matter how quirky their style, taught without using a standard cookie cutter style curriculum? What if the organizers organized? The leaders led? The builders built? The plumbers plumbed and we celebrated the variety of gifts that God has lavished on us? Is it possible that men would stop being bored, women would stop being tired and people would come just to hear, see and experience the word of God?
Would we be worshipping in a modern day version of the Sistine Chapel?
I once sat in a business meeting where people were voicing loud objections over the building of a sound booth. The thing that struck me as ridiculous was that the person who wanted the sound booth built was the man who was in charge of the sound in our church and he was donating all of the materials! The people who were objecting didn’t know a thing about sound.
It is time to put Satan in his place. His methods have remained the same down through the generations. He has always tried to extinguish the light of the gospel and what better way than to put a lid on the gifts that God has given His people for the building of the tabernacle and the furthering of the gospel.
Let's launch a counter attack. Here are some suggestions:
#1. Train Leaders-Nothing is more important than the selection and training of leaders. Jesus spent the majority of his time with three of the disciples. They were in training. Many times, Jesus would take Peter, James and John with him to pray or when he went to someone’s house. They were being prepared to build his church. Over every business meeting there should be a well-trained leader and peacekeeper to circumvent the attacks that most of us have witnessed during these meetings. We need a leader over every ministry that knows how to encourage people to use their unique gifts and willingly allows them to shine.
#2. Make room for new laborers-If someone has been in a position for a very long time and a new person expresses an interest in that ministry, team the two individuals up. When oxen are being trained to pull they are harnessed together with an experienced ox so that they learn to pull without the full burden of the load. This will allow a new surge of ideas to present themselves but also maintain some continuity to the ministry. But again this will only work with well-trained leaders.
#3. Take a team approach- Embrace a team approach to ministry. Encourage people to follow up a message with questions. Matthew 13:19 When anyone hears a message about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.NIV
When I was a leader for our youth group, we would teach our teens to follow up with their friends during fellowship time by asking questions like, “What did you think of the message?” “Did you understand what he was talking about?” Many times this simple approach was instrumental in bringing teens to the Lord. What a fantastic privilege to be allowed an opportunity to explain a message and lead a friend to salvation! Does your church have a fellowship time after the service? If so why not teach people to use it and increase the impact of a message? Why should we stand idly by as the enemy snatches the seed that was sown due to a lack of understanding? Phillip was sent to the Ethiopian eunuch not to preach but to explain to him what he was reading.
God gave me the privilege of leading two of my grandchildren to the Lord. It happened because I asked, “What did you think of the lesson?” and God gave me an idea for demonstrating the presence of sin in our hearts by adding pepper to a glass of milk and using another untainted glass of milk to show the pure heart that He wants to give us. If God can use two glasses of milk in the hands of a grandma, just think what He could do with all of the gifted people in your church!
Hi Darlene: This is wonderful. There is a new Christian newspaper on the west coast looking for writers/submissions and this looks like something they might use. It was in private messenger from firstname.lastname@example.org for "The Level Digest"
This was an awesome article - you made some excellent points and made me stop & think (that's always a good thing)!
The ONLY thing I would suggest is that above the #'s 1, 2, & 3 I would put a title or heading, such as "Leadership", "Two are better than one", or "Teamwork". I just think it would stand out a bit more but they were all wonderful points! Just my .02.
Very well written. I loved it!
Thank you for this. I think this insight applies to our home family as well as our church family. A reminder as a busy mom to celebrate and encourage ALL the different gifts-even those I don't enjoy!
This is wonderful! You are so right. Do you mind if I print and hang it on my office wall? I want to keep in mind just how special each of us are, and it's not only ok to be different, but necessary.