A couple of weeks ago I told a story during my sermon that a friend shared with me as he explained why he entered ministry. This friend was raised in a small church and wen through all the normal career phases that boys go through: Policeman, Fireman, Soldier, Professional Athlete…. But he ended up going to college and studying Bible.
Everyone I know in ministry has a different story of their calling. God has a large bag of tricks when it comes to getting our attention.
As he told his story, my friend described how frequently the “little old ladies” at his church would tell him that one day he would be a great preacher. “God’s really blessed you with the gift of speaking up the front.” “I can see you really love God and love encouraging others. Keep it up.” These godly women saw and affirmed this teenager’s abilities and planted seeds of calling in his heart and mind. I
have no idea if those ladies ever knew the role they played in this young man’s life, but God used them to bless many through the life and ministry of that boy they encouraged each Sunday.
This weekend I was blessed to visit a little country church on the banks of the Ohio River. About 50 people worshiped together, which seemed the usual number. The building must have been half-full. This church will never have 2,000 members, the community simply isn’t large enough. But I was reminded that God loves each of these people meeting faithfully in this quaint little building every Sunday.
I found myself there yesterday because almost 10 years ago I studied the Bible with Justin. I was a campus minister in Louisiana and Justin’s wife had just started a master’s program at the university. Justin wasn’t a student. I didn’t even know if I was supposed to study with him or refer him to the “grown-up” preacher. But we studied the Bible together regularly for a year or two. To this point in his life Justin had bounced around different churches, but had grown serious about his faith and studying the Bible in his last year of college. So we talked.
After eighteen months or so, Justin moved to the next town down the highway. I studied the Bible with other students. Then I moved to upstate New York. Eventually, Justin moved back to his home in the hills of Ohio. Before long, this church approached Justin and asked him to preach for them!
That was about 5 years ago.
For a while, Justin and I would Skype each week talking about ministry and preaching. Gradually the calls became less frequent. Then they stopped altogether. It’s been several years since Justin and I last talked.
Yesterday I just happened to be in the neighbourhood. So we worshiped, and Justin preached. It was a wonderful experience.
I’m certainly not taking credit for Justin’s preaching or love of God. But I am glad to have been one voice of encouragement along his journey to this place. I never would have predicted that Justin would be full-time preaching for a church. But God didn’t ask me.
This experience reminds me that we never know how God will use the lives of people around us. Sometimes we act as though it’s our job to dispense career advice, or life coaching. Some of us may possess a gift of wisdom to speak guidance into the lives of others. However, most of us have the simple task of pointing others to Christ and letting Him guide their lives.
Are there people around you that make a point of encouraging in their walk with God? You never know what God will do with those seeds.