Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: DREAM (01/02/20)
TITLE: Big Dreams That Weren’t Big Enough...
By Noel Mitaxa
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Back in 1982, in my first ministry, our church was growing, and I was drawn to the idea of double-column display advertising because I didn’t want anyone to miss out on the life and the joy that was happening. I found that the editor of the local paper was also enthusiastic, especially when he told me what an advertising contract would cost!
Through my suddenly-frozen smile, I thanked him, and mumbled something about our leaders needing to approve it.
Back home, it hit me that no matter how attractive the ads would be, the whole town couldn’t fit in our chapel, so I quickly called back: “What would it cost to place a weekly column of good news?”
With his reply, “No cost at all,” warmth returned to my smile, and marked the beginning of a weekly column that began spreading, and which now connects with people across the world – in numbers that no church building could contain.
A move to my next church birthed a vision for the five small, struggling churches in the city to sell up in order to buy the now-empty tenpin bowling centre, so we might embrace a city-wide vision as our mission field. A fantastic dream, but despite my prayers and efforts at persuasion, church leaders remained unmoved – just like the churches.
Was this dream from God? Absolutely, because—without consulting me—another denomination took the exact same step, and its ministry continues to expand.
Soon afterwards, sitting in my car at the lookout which affords views across that city, I asked God, “Why not use me for that?”
It was then that I sensed his urge to look further afield – to the whole nation. But that was all: no micro-wave switch to start anything new; nor—for a Baptist pastor—not merely a matter of adding water!
I was invited to a conference on sports ministry three years later. Sports ministry!! What kind of escapism could that be? I could just imagine reaching for the sports pages first of all – and justifying it as sermon preparation (Yeah, sure!)
However, the emcee’s opening words instantly hooked me with its potential: “Most Aussies today find their fulfillment in some kind of sport or leisure, and unless the church reaches their heroes with the gospel and with pastoral care, we will continue to be sidelined!”
Within six months, I had stepped into this ministry: negotiating sports chaplaincy appointments; organising outreach events so sports fans could meet Christian athletes and find that Christianity is not just for wimps or for losers; editing a sports magazine; sharing the vision with various churches, and feeding those who respond to the ministry back into them; producing TV spots for testimonies from Christian sports figures and participating in sports camps for kids; as well as my own football and speedway chaplaincies.
Thirty years later, I look back on serving God among people who would have no idea of which church they avoid most conscientiously. Through regular interaction with them, God keeps me attuned to the needs and hopes of spiritually-homeless people in ways that might never have come my way if my embryonic big dreams of pastoring large churches had come true. With all the necessary internal demands of those churches, I might have unwittingly subverted John Wesley’s inspiring maxim – “the world is my parish,” to – “the parish is my world!”
And who knows what the next big dream will be – or how much bigger it might need to become?
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