Monthly Archives: October 2006

Ministry . . . With Children

I probably have more questions than answers about this. How do we minister when we have small children? I mean, how do we handle the logistics of it all? But also, what is our responsibility to make “wise” decisions about protecting our children from bad influences? And what is our responsibility to minister to those people who might be bad influences?

I sure would love to hear input from the couple of you who read this blog. 🙂 I have some ideas, but I’m not sure I’m completely right. These ideas are definitely works-in-progress.

I know someone who poured herself into an after-school program she developed for children from a local trailer park. Many of these children did not have someone at home after school to help them with homework; most of them needed tutoring and they definitely couldn’t afford to pay for it; and many of them had real physical needs — in the form of food and clothing. So this woman fed them and made sure they had warm winter coats and she formed a team of people to tutor these kids after school. She also taught them about Jesus — but first, she showed them Jesus. This is a mom of two little boys. As far as I know, her sons were part of this ministry. They attended the tutoring sessions and interacted with the children.

Some of the moms I know from Christian email digests and blogs, and some of the moms I know in real life, would not allow their children to play with these trailer park children. I mean, some of these children probably used foul language and some of them had probably seen immoral things we don’t want our children to know about. Would you take your children to spend time with them and minister to them a few afternoons a week?

I’m sure we could think of more examples to discuss.

Well . . . . here are some of my rambling thoughts on the matter.

First, not everyone is going to be called to a ministry like this. God may not burden your heart with a ministry to worldly children. God may not burden your heart with a prison ministry. God may not burden your heart with a ministry to the worldly woman next door. If you don’t feel that burden, then my advice is to continue seeking the Lord about the matter in prayer and ask Him for a sensitive heart and for Him to reveal His will for you. I think it would also be a good idea to pray for the people around you and ask God to send someone to minister to them. That someone MIGHT be you, but it might not be.

Next, if God does burden you about ministering to someone, then ask Him to reveal His will about the specifics. Does He want your whole family involved? I honestly think it’s best if everyone can be involved in some way. That’s how our children learn. It may not be appropriate to take them along to do the actual hands-on stuff, but it would certainly be appropriate to have them involved in prayer and support. Maybe you DO feel burdened to minister to the worldly woman next door (Dawn?), but you really feel God wants you to protect your children from her influence. You could have your children praying for her and making cards for her or making dinner for her or raking her leaves while she’s not home (or mowing her lawn or shoveling her driveway, etc.). You could have a child prepare a gift basket for her on her birthday (or a holiday) and leave it on her doorstep for her to find when she comes home. And you could find time every week or so to invite her to a coffee shop with you so you can become friends with her. Your children get to bless her and minister to her, yet they are protected from a worldly influence because they rarely interact with her. As you get to know her better, it may be appropriate to invite her to dinner with your family, but perhaps by then she’ll understand that foul language and lewd topics in front of your children would offend you. I think it would be OK to establish some boundaries in love once you have formed a friendship. And if you’ve been loving on her and being friends with her, then she’ll probably be receptive to those boundaries.

Another thought — I know most of us are worried about what bad influence worldly children will have on our own little sweeties. I feel like God has been working on my heart about this in the past year or so. First, I’ve been challenged to examine how much of my attitude in this area is pride.

Next, I’ve realized that often enough, my own little sweeties are the bad influence. My children are not perfect and perfection should not be a requirement for their playmates. Oh, I’m not saying I would encourage my children to be best friends with children who cuss like sailors or start fires or describe lewd information or carry porn magazines in their back pockets. But . . . I am saying that if my children play with children who are disrespectful or who say “shut up” or who have been exposed to some more of secular society than my children have, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve had to do some unlearning after being around some kids, and we usually end up having really good conversations about heart issues, rather than behavior issues. We also have had some great conversations about pride — “Yeah, that little girl might lie a lot, but have you ever told a lie?” or “No, she’s not very nice to you; but do you ever treat your brothers or sister like that?”

I know the Bible verses about evil company and lying down with dogs and all that. I’m not saying we encourage our children to hang with immoral kids just for fun. I am saying we teach our children how to have compassion on people and have a desire to minister to people who desperately need Jesus. I do not want to instill a “we are better than they are” attitude. I do not want to instill a “we cannot stoop to love them because we might get dirty” attitude. If they learn that as children, how will we expect them to suddenly change their minds when they get to be adults? And if we’re not modeling it for them because we are protecting them, how will they learn? And once they are adults, won’t they have their own families to protect? So who ministers to these people who needs Jesus?

Final rambling thought —– most of us don’t blink when a family is called to foreign missions and they take their children to an entire group of people who do not know Jesus. Often these families live in the midst of people who are spiritists or who worship false gods. Often these families live in the midst of people who live immoral lives. And most Christians accept this because the family is called to be missionaries. Well . . if God is calling you to be a missionary to the wild college girls next door or to the drug addict who is in and out of jail or to the homosexual couple down the street, what’s the difference? If He can protect the missionary children in the midst of evil spirits and immoral lifestyles, why can’t He protect your children in the midst of evil spirits and immoral lifestyles?

Please share your thoughts with me.

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Christianity

Doctrine & Love

My friend Molly has had some interesting posts and comments on her blog lately. The other day, she provoked me to think some more about doctrine and love.

I’ve had some rambling thoughts about this for a while now. My husband and I even talked some about this with Ross from NTM Australia when we had dinner with him back in August.

A lot of local churches (or even large denominations) that have a solid understanding of basic doctrine — a truly biblical understanding of basic truths — have done a pretty lousy job of truly loving and serving people. As a reaction to that, there is a vast movement in American Christianity to focus on loving and serving and sort of ignore doctrine. There is this notion among many that doctrine doesn’t matter and isn’t as important as loving and serving. I think this is completely understandable. For a long time now, Christians haven’t truly loved people and haven’t truly served anyone outside their own church. For a long time now, local churches have spent all their time and money developing programs for themselves, for those within, and haven’t done much to reach out and serve those who don’t yet know Jesus. So I can understand why some Christians, especially those who were outside and ignored and under-served for all those years, are suddenly seeing all these opportunities to show Christ’s love and are getting excited about truly ministering to those outside the church.

But loving and serving and giving and going without solid doctrine is rather empty. It’s just as empty as all the solid doctrine without any love.

2 Tim. 3:16 says “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” One of the reasons the Holy Spirit inspired the BIble is so that we can understand sound doctrine.

Acts 2:42 tells us that the very first Christians “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” along with their fellowship and prayers and the breaking of bread and the wonders and signs. And thousands and thousands of people were learning about Jesus and becoming His followers.

These first Christians were definitely loving and serving people. They were selling things and sharing things and living together and taking care of each other. None of them enjoyed an abundance while a fellow believer suffered in need. This kind of love and care and putting others first undoubtedly overflowed into the way they treated people who were not believers as well. Their love and kindness was a striking contradiction to the society around them. Yet while their love was so evident, the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 makes a point of telling us that they were continuing steadfastly in doctrine.

They didn’t toss out doctrine to focus on love. And we can’t either.

Those first Christians had a sweet balance of doctrine and love. The Church today needs to find that same balance. It seems to me that many of the local churches that are very solid on biblical doctrine do a bad job of loving people outside their body. And a lot of the churches that do a great job of loving those outside the body don’t teach solid doctrine. It’s like we’ve lost the ability to multi-task or multi-focus; instead, we hyper-focus on one issue.

I just want to take myself and every other Christian by the shoulders and give a shake and say, “Come on, we can do better than this! We have the power of the Holy Spirit inside us. Certainly we can focus on both doctrine and love.”

3 Comments

Filed under Christianity

Treasure Chest

At the Extraordinary Women conference, Jill Briscoe shared a story that I have to share with you.

Last year, Jill and her husband Stuart traveled to a closed country to secretly minister to some pastors and their wives. They spent a week there. Stuart taught the pastors in one attic while Jill taught their wives across town in another attic. They slept on blankets on the floor at night and rolled up their beds each morning so they could sit on the floor to study the Bible.

The first day there, the pastor’s wives asked Jill what she would teach them that week. When Jill answered “Philippians,” the women became so excited because they had never been taught from Philippians before. Let that sink in. These pastor’s wives had never been taught from Philippians before.

Midway through the week, it became obvious that Stuart and Jill would have to wrap up teaching early for safety reasons. Jill was not nearly finished teaching Philippians and she would have to leave the next morning. One young woman came to Jill and pleaded, “Hurry, Jill, hurry. You must finish this book. We have to finish Philippians. We’ve never learned from it before. Hurry. Hurry.”

As Jill whispered that woman’s pleas, my heart ached for her. Hurry. Hurry. What hunger to learn God’s Word! What a sense of urgency to uncover the truths of scripture! How convicting!

Jill looked out at us and said, “Ladies, while this woman begs to be taught from God’s Word, we are sitting on a treasure chest!” Oh how true! Here I am in the United States with so many translations of the Bible and several concordances and atlases and lexicons and Bible study upon Bible study available to me. Just the other day, I received the lastest Christian Book Distributer catalog in the mail. Wow! I certainly have no excuse for not studying God’s Word!

And here I sit on this treasure chest while some young pastor’s wife in another part of the world risks her life so she can learn about Philippians for the first time. And she begs for more. Here in America, people rattle their keys if church isn’t finished up by noon on Sunday. But in some country, women will sleep on a hard floor and sit for hours and hours, hidden in an attic, desperately wanting to get through a whole book of the Bible in one week.

Hurry. Hurry. Do I feel that urgency to learn as much about God and His Word as I can?

Hurry. Hurry. Do I feel that urgency to share God’s Word with people around the world who have never heard of Jesus?

Hurry. Hurry. Am I just sitting on my treaure chest hoarding it all for myself?

Hurry. Hurry. Time is running out.

5 Comments

Filed under Christianity, missions

Ministering

In early September, I enjoyed the privilege of hearing Jill Briscoe

speak at a conference. Wow! I could sit and listen to her all day. And it’s not just because of her cute British accent. 🙂 She can open up the truths of God’s Word. I was like a sponge, just soaking in everything she said.

That day, Jill spoke about Ministry According to Jesus. This morning at MOPS, our mentor spoke about reaching out to those in crisis. She also heard Jill Briscoe speak the same day I did, and she mentioned some of Jill’s message today. It was a good reminder to me, and I wanted to share it with you.

Jesus — when He was on earth — had a ministry of presence. He came. His ministry was incarnational. He did not minister from a distance. He came.

Jill told us about the time she had just moved to the U.S. and her neighbors experienced divorce. The day the husband moved out, Jill (who did not know her neighbor very well), knocked on the neighbor’s door and said, “I just had to come.” Because of her willingness to come to her neighbor, Jill was a blessing during a very dark time.

Jill also told about taking a delegation of women to Serbia during the war there. These women wanted to know what they were supposed to do when they got there; and Jill told them she didn’t know what they were going to do. They said, “That’s not fair. You can’t take us into this war-zone and not give us a plan. What should we say?”

So Jill said, “Say, ‘I just had to come.'”

When the women arrived and began hugging and talking to the refugees, Jill asked the interpretor to go around and listen to her women and see what they were saying. The interpretor returned and said, “It’s so odd. They are all saying the same thing. They’re all saying, ‘I just had to come.'”

Then Jill asked, “And what are the refugees saying?”

The interpretor said, “That’s the other odd thing. They’re all saying the same thing too. They’re all saying, ‘You came. You came.'”

In order to minister to people, we have to be present.

At the MOPS Convetion a month ago, we were reminded that sometimes being involved in people’s lives means getting messy. It means making ourselves vulnerable. It might mean dealing with some ugly stuff. It most definitely will mean getting uncomfortable. It probably means coming alongside a friend in all her mess and yuckiness and being with her.

A ministry of presence may mean visiting someone in prison. And that can definitely be a scary and uncomfortable thing!

A ministry of presence may mean driving a friend to chemotherapy or radiation.

Or holding a friend’s hand when she is depressed and suicidal.

Or crying with a friend who has lost a baby.

Or bringing videos and homemade cookies to a friend whose children have the chicken pox.

Or showing up to take a young mom’s children for two hours so she can take a nap.

Or taking dinner to a widow and eating with her so she doesn’t have to eat alone.

Or going with a friend to visit her child in drug rehab.

Or inviting the teenage mom to have coffee with you once a week.

A ministry of presence could mean cleaning someone’s house or bringing someone meals or just sitting and listening to someone who is hurting. It could mean going with a friend to court during her divorce proceedings or holding a young mom’s hands as she recovers from birthing a child she gives in adoption.

Often, a ministry of presence involves silently listening.

Recently, I’ve been blessed by dear friends who have simply hugged me and said, “I’m thinking about you,” or “I’m praying for you.” Just knowing I am not alone — that I am part of a community and that others care for me — ministers to my heart.

I want to minister like Jesus. I want to show up in people’s lives.

4 Comments

Filed under Christianity

Pray for Jenna

Please pray for Jenna

and her family. Their much-hoped-for and eagerly-anticipated son was born very early and into the presence of Jesus. My heart breaks for her, though I cannot understand her pain.

It sure does make me feel pretty selfish and greedy for crying and having a temper-tantrum with God because it looks like I’ll only have six children.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, friends, prayer

Faith/Works

This whole idea about Grace has really gotten me thinking.

What about works? I know we’re saved by faith, but we are supposed to do good works after we are saved. Right?

When I mull that over in my mind, the scripture fragment that keeps being whispered in my head is “We are His workmanship!” Yes, good works will follow our belief in and acceptance of Jesus; but they will be His good works. As He works good in us, that good will overflow and spill out.

Most often, when I do good works — the kind I think a lot of us mistakenly think we are supposed to be doing — I have all the wrong motives. When I come up with the ideas and plan it all out and get all excited about doing good, most often it’s all Jennifer and very little Jesus and I’m awfully proud of myself for this good I’ve done. I’m doing all this good so that I will earn rewards or so that I can score some brownie points with my Father; and if other people seem to notice and tell me how wonderful I am, then that’s an added bonus.

That’s the problem. When WE are doing the working, then we think we deserve the praise. But if we can simply BE — be with our Father so that He will gradually take over inside us — then His goodness will flow out of us. And it’s not Jennifer doing the good works. It’s my Father doing the good works. So there’s no notion that I should get any brownie points or praise or anything because I’ll know the good works are His and His alone.

I think if we can transform our thinking from Doing to Being, then we will truly experience the freedom the Bible speaks of. Because, honestly, when we’re trying to make ourselves do good things in order to please God or pay Him back for salvation or make ourselves act holy and righteous, how free do we really feel? We might do OK for a while, but then we mess up. And then we only feel frustrated and angry with ourselves and like we’re disappointing God. But if we can just stop. Stop trying so hard and just be. Then we will be amazed at what God will do.

He loves us so much. He delights in us and dances over us with joy. He doesn’t expect us to get our own acts together and muster up the goodness to act like Him. How funny that we’d ever dream we could do it! We are His workmanship! If we’ll just stop and sit down and be quiet and let Him love us and fill us and change us from the inside out, then we will be used in many good works and we will be transformed into righteousness.

Oh, I am His workmanship, His masterpiece. YOU are His masterpiece. Meditate on that today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity

Funny

Just something funny I wanted to share.

In the car a little bit ago, my children were talking about whether or not it’s better to be a boy or a girl. The girls said it’s better to be a girl because you get to go to our church’s Ladies’ Brunch in the spring and eat all you want, and there are donuts there. (These are MY girls!) Then we said that the boys can do the same thing at our church’s Sportsmen’s Banquet.

They listed some more things, then Rachel said, “Well, it’s better to be a girl because the boys have to go to work and the girls get to stay home all day.” Before I could add that girls who stay home all day do work too, she said, “Oh, but the girls have to have the babies and that really hurts. Maybe it is better to be a boy.”

ha ha ha ha

Leave a comment

Filed under Family, Funny