Don’t Speak Like The Foreman If You’re Only A Laborer
Working for the Lord of Harvest
Update 7-31-19: For clarity, a man’s own local church should be heavily involved in proving him in regards to his calling. If his ordination council says “No”, he should not proceed until he’s at some point obtained a “yes”. One’s internal calling really needs to be verified by the external proving of his local church. Thus, this post is not about ignoring the scrutiny of ones call, but rather ignoring unbiblical and unqualified scrutiny.
In 2009, the Lord drew my heart toward ministry. At the time, I didn’t know any details about that. I just knew that my desire to lead others to Christ and teach the Scriptures became so important to me that my profession as a Radiologic Technologist seemed to get in the way. So, after some years of local church training, in 2012 I left my career for ministry.
I skipped over a lot of details there for sake of brevity, but over time I felt compelled to look at the Northeastern United States as a possibility for ministry. I’m from the Northeast anyway. I’ve tried living in other regions. I just can’t do it. My heart is here in the most congested, expensive, big-government-taxed-to-death part of the U.S. Honestly, there is so much to love about this place that all those awful things become tolerable. The rugged and rocky New England coasts are perhaps the best analog for life here- unyielding, challenging, and sometimes treacherous, yet at the same time beautiful and expansive. Life here is full of gems of American character. When you see them, you get a sense of nostalgia like the untold stories read in the eyes of a hardy old salt. It’s a place full of experience. Things happened here. Important things.
What many don’t know about this part of the country is its rich Christian history. Churches and pastors were here, important ones that the Lord used to give us the religious liberties we presently enjoy. So…why would the Lord lead anyone to start a church here? Isn’t it already saturated?
Well, that answer is not simple or quick, but I only want to draw out two points.
The Local Church is not eternal.
If you are a Missionary or Church-planter (whatever you call it), prepare to be scrutinized for your mission field. What I mean is, brace yourself for many people to examine your field for the necessity of you being there. If there is so much as a torn out page from a John & Romans booklet within a one-hundred mile radius of where God has called you, many will just presume that you’re not called there, you don’t need to be there, and that you only want to go there for some fleshly reason you have not disclosed. As if it’s somehow convenient for you to uproot your family and start a new life. I’m thankful that our own local church was/is fully behind us, but not all churches were. Many scrutinized.
The problem with this scrutiny is that it fails to consider the phrase that I italicized and bolded in the previous paragraph, “…where God has called you”. You see, God is the Lord of the harvest. He’s the Foreman of the Gospel job-site who decides who goes where, and when they go there. This is important to recognize because the Local Church is not eternal. Now, without getting entirely Ecclesiological on you here, simply note that the Local Church is an institution the Lord has placed within this particular age/dispensation. Someday, we’ll all be gathered together with the Lord and these local assemblies here will be no more. That provides us with proof of concept that each local church here now has the possibility of going away. While the institution is Divinely protected now (Matthew 16:18), individual churches come and go. No one local assembly is guaranteed longevity.
While that might seem obvious, think of the implications if you’re a Church-planter. It might cause worry because the natural, human fear of failure is ever present. Faith in God’s call does not erase this. It only emboldens us to move forward in spite of it. Any self-aggrandizing Church-planter who says he’s never asked himself, “What if this fails?” is likely either lying in order to sound spiritual, or too empty-headed to experience anything other than the bliss of complete ignorance. So, at the outset, the knowledge that local churches are not eternal might scare you as a Church-planter. However, we had an experience early on that put this into perspective for us.
In the city that the Lord called us to, there was one Independent Baptist church to reach a population of 40,000 people. I can’t speak to the quality of that church at all. I didn’t know anything about them. It seems a city that size should actually get several good churches, not just one for 40,000 people. However, we struggled to explain to critics that the Lord was calling us there despite there already being an Indepenent Baptist church there. People had a hard time seeing our calling as legitimate because one tiny church existed just outside the city limits but still in the same zip-code. One foreign missionary I met at a conference in Louisiana said, “God doesn’t want anymore churches in America. There are already churches here!” If that statement was any less thought through, his head would have caved in on itself. My thought was, “Who died and made him Lord of the harvest?”
Honestly, we didn’t really feel comfortable coming here either. We knew about that one church. We also knew other churches in neighboring cities. We ourselves had a hard time “seeing the need”. But the Lord was leading us here, so we came.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have said to critics, “Perhaps the Lord knows something you don’t.” As it turns out, the Lord did know something that we didn’t know. The one tiny church, within the span of a few months before we landed here, saw literally all of its members move out of the state. Families moved to Florida, New York, and Michigan. The others, I don’t know. They had no one left but one man and the Pastor and his family. The one man then moved to Upstate New York. I know all of this because the pastor and I made contact after we arrived here and he told me everything. We’d never met or spoke before then, but he told me he was thankful that someone else was coming. Two weeks after we moved into town, the pastor of that church moved to the midwest. Their old dilapidated building was condemned, and no traces of that ministry remained.
My point is, had we based our calling on the usually accepted conception of “need”. We might not have come. We based our mission on the call of God, not on statistics or demographics. I don’t think people have the right to say where the needs are or are not. Only God does, because He knows things we don’t. As Lord of the harvest, He moves laborers as He sees fit. Don’t speak like the Foreman of the job-site if you’re only a laborer. All the fears we had of looking like were encroaching on another ministry were gone when realized the Lord led us here because He was leading others away. We never saw that coming. You might not either in your case.
Not all Local Churches are use by God the same way
It should go without saying, but I need to say it anyway- churches are often used in different ways by God. Every Christian has different spiritual gifts, so naturally, since churches are made up of Christians, every church is going to have varying talents.
Let me explain. I always imagined our ministry being the kind where we’re pounding the pavement downtown, witnessing on the street-corners, and bringing the down-trodden to Christ. Honestly, we have done that, but the Lord seems to bring us different results. The people we are trying to reach don’t seem to respond very often, and people we didn’t know were out there seems to find us.
In four years time, I have heard the same stories over and over again- “Pastor, I got saved years ago but I was never discipled“. “Pastor, I got saved but no one ever baptized me”. “Pastor, I went to a church for years and saw nothing but cliques.” “Pastor, my family was verbally abused for years and the pastor never apologized.” “Pastor, every sermon I’ve heard for years has been about the same couple of topics.”
While I understand, some Christians are malcontents and will never be satisfied at any church (I’ve had a bunch of those too), for the most part, the aforementioned criticisms have been made by genuine people just looking to assemble with a body of believers where it isn’t a business, isn’t a social club, isn’t like a cult, and isn’t, as one new-comer put it, “like a version of The Stepford Wives”. Some of the awful things I’ve observed really makes me wonder if some churches deserve to continue to exist and why the Lord lets them remain. He only knows.
Our little church today is a mix of some who were born again and baptized here, some who were born again somewhere else and baptized here, and some who did all of that elsewhere and just want to assemble here and be discipled. We have never, not even one time, asked people to leave their church and come to ours (or any form of that question), but the fact is, while we seek out lost people to bring to Christ, the Lord brings us believers who need something. While we seek to be a primarily evangelistic ministry, the Lord makes us a discipleship ministry. While we seek lost sinners, He bring us wounded saints. He often does things with our ministries that were not our original intention. If we really believe that the Lord builds the house, what do we do when He constructs it differently than we imagined? Well, we simply work with whatever the Lord gives. We can do no less.
If you know you’re called of God to go somewhere, let that be enough. It may not always look “needy” enough to prove its worthiness to those who scrutinize it unfairly or with human criteria. They can take a hike. You go for higher reasons than statistics or latitude/longitude windows. You go because you’re a laborer under the Lord of the harvest, and He said “Go”.