“FROM ORDINARY TO EXTRAORDINARY”
June 29, 2007
“We have a need for someone who lives nearby to provide housing for one of our guests,” announced Tony Dale, one of the facilitators for the regional house church conference which had begun that evening.
I looked around expecting others to volunteer. No one did. Eventually, after a prompting by the Holy Spirit, I raised my hand. Thus began an inspirational and thoroughly enjoyable, six-day adventure into the heart of God and His will for His servants. I had been regularly praying for some time that God would provide ministry opportunities for me outside my normal sphere of influence and that I would be alert when such occasions arose, but the Lord’s answer and His timing caught me by surprise. Since the last of our children had left our home months ago we had plenty of room for an overnight guest.
“He can stay with us,” I offered as I moved forward to meet the man in need of a night’s lodging, wondering why someone would register for a three-day conference without a place to stay. When I discovered he was traveling totally by faith, trusting in God to provide, my curiosity was turned into admiration.
Greg is an unassuming, free-spirited, youthful-looking, middle aged man with a passion to serve others and a deep personal faith in God. What started out to be one night’s stay turned into an entire weekend as the Lord knit our hearts together and our relationship blossomed into Christian love. On Monday Greg was unable to get a flight home and he ended up staying in our home until Thursday afternoon. The extra time together proved to be a blessing as we learned more about this simple man whom God was using in mighty ways.
He is given to wearing colorful, loose-fitting tunics, normal clothing for the central African nations where he ministers. Yet aside from his clothing there is nothing about the man that would cause you to take a second notice. He has no seminary degree, carries no titles, owns few earthly belongings, and commands no widespread following, at least in this country. He has a small heating and air-conditioning business headquartered in Indiana which doesn’t come close to meeting his personal needs. What little profit he gains from this, if any, is immediately turned over to his mission concerns.
He has been divorced by his wife, disfellowshipped from his home church, and generally ignored by the Christian community in this country. He works for no sending unit other than the Holy Spirit and serves under no official covering other than the body of Christ. He is in most respects a truly ordinary man, yet God is using him in a remarkable way to transform at least four countries in the heart of the Dark Continent. Just three years ago he was approached by a missionary in his home church and told he had gifts which the Lord could use in Africa. After receiving confirmation from God, Greg stepped out on faith and traveled to the nation of Burundi where he began a teaching ministry.
About two years ago, following the leading of the Holy Spirit, he began to work with a native evangelist with whom he started a house church. Soon the one church became three, grew to seven, then fourteen, then twenty, then forty. The growth overwhelmed Greg and his ministry partners and they scrambled to train pastors fast enough to keep up with the demand for more churches. In some cases churches were multiplying in their first week of existence! Just this year they have expanded into three additional countries planting new churches in Rwanda, the Congo, and Tanzania. To date he can count over three hundred churches which have begun in a little over two years, although he admits he doesn’t really know for sure. These new churches are growing and reproducing so rapidly they cannot keep track and so he has given up trying to do an accurate accounting. It is precisely at this point, when a movement is experiencing rapid expansion, growing exponentially in a manner impossible to quantify, that we can call this a true church planting movement.
Thousands have been won to the Lord and testimonies abound regarding miraculous healings and demonic deliverances. It is significant to note that not long ago this region of Africa was embroiled in a devastating genocidal war which took the lives of millions of people while the world, for the most part, stood by and watched in relative apathy. But God is not indifferent to the cries of these hurting people. What man seems unable or unwilling to accomplish, God is doing by dramatically transforming these countries from the inside out by first changing the hearts of the people.
“But that is Africa,” I hear you saying. “God won’t act in the same way toward us in this country. Besides, Greg is a very special individual who the Lord is using in a unique and powerful way under extraordinary circumstances.”
Excuse me, but here is where you’ve got it all wrong. There is nothing special about Greg. He is a very ordinary man, but he had ears to hear the heart of God weeping for Africa and he had the faith and courage to answer the call. I ask you, does God not also weep for this country? Does His heart not ache for those who are lost no matter where they may live, whether in the lap of luxury or the pit of poverty, in the relative peace of the western world or in the throes of tribal warfare? Would it surprise you to learn that I have felt the heart of God weeping for Northern California? And that I am far from alone in this feeling?
“Then why has He not poured out His power on this region for revival?” you ask. “Why do we not see hundreds of churches being planted in the Bay Area and Northern California?”
Maybe it is not so much due to God’s favor on one area or lack of the same on another, but rather because not enough of His children have answered the call to the mission field right here. In actuality we are beginning to see many new churches planted throughout this region. God’s power is already being poured out in many areas of Northern California although we are not yet seeing the exponential growth of His kingdom which Greg is experiencing in Central Africa. But I believe such growth is on the way. Over and over the Spirit keeps telling me, “Urgency, urgency, urgency!”
Perhaps God is unwilling to wait for expansion to take place using the traditional models of church planting—researching the need, engaging in a demographical study of the area, recruiting church planters, assessing and training those recruits, preparing a detailed strategy, raising the necessary funds, sending in an advance team to scout out facilities and make contacts, producing a marketing campaign. The traditional approach can take up to two years and cost half a million dollars. It would appear God may have a better plan—choose an ordinary individual, someone who looks less than qualified, bless them with the necessary gifts, speak into their hearts, give them a burden for a particular region, lead them to the methods used in the New Testament for planting churches (Mt. 9:35-10:20, Mk. 6:6-13, Lk. 9:1-9, Lk. 10:1-20), and let them know all the resources they need are waiting for them in the harvest.
God’s plan removes the excuse so many of us have used in the past. “The Lord chooses those rare individuals who are especially qualified, gifted, called, and trained to send to the mission fields,” we conveniently rationalize. “The rest of us are given the task of providing the funds for their needs and praying for their success.” But what if the Lord intends to call us all into His ministry? All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… — Mt. 28:18-19. Notice this command is based upon the Lord’s authority and our obedience. Nowhere is this qualified to apply to just a few specially gifted individuals. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. – James 1:22. For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. – Phil. 2:13. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. – Phil. 4:13.
What if His strategy is to qualify and empower those who are called, rather than call those who already appear to be qualified and especially gifted? Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. – 1Cor. 1:26-29.
If history is any indication God seems to delight in calling those who are the least likely candidates to accomplish His mission. Just ask Gideon whose clan was the weakest in his tribe and he was the least in his family. Just ask David who was the youngest and smallest of all his brothers. Just ask the twelve disciples who were all uneducated, ordinary men (with the exception of Judas, that is, who was the only one of the twelve who appeared to be qualified in human terms). How can we possibly claim that God’s methods are any different today than they have been for the last four millennia? All of which brings us down to you.
It is my conviction that everyone who is reading these words has been called into a specific ministry by their heavenly Father. The question is not whether you have been called, but where, and to whom? Whether you feel qualified or not makes little difference to God, nor is He overly concerned about your past nor worried about your apparent lack of talent. Your heritage doesn’t matter. Your family tree doesn’t matter. Your birth order doesn’t matter. Your denomination doesn’t matter. Your home church doesn’t matter. Your IQ doesn’t matter. Your financial resources don’t matter. The only thing that really matters is your willingness to follow where He leads. All it takes is the courage to lay aside the assessment which has been placed upon you by yourself and others, and listen to what the Lord is telling you.
As I have learned this week from Greg, God is wonderfully capable of taking the ordinary and using it to create the extraordinary. What do you suppose He desires to create through you?
Lord, grant us ears to hear and the faith to obey!
Bill, just an ordinary child of God preparing for the extraordinary