STORIES FROM OLD JOE
A funny thing happened on the way to church. No, it was actually in church a couple of decades ago. We had begun attending a start-up church which was growing by leaps and bounds and soon had a couple of thousand people in attendance on Sunday mornings. The pastor and I became good friends and encouragers of one other. I was asked to speak every six months or so. It was a place where people were hearing the news of Jesus in true and fresh ways and growing in their faith. Although I was offered jobs there several times in the next few years, I never took them.
One Sunday morning during the singing part of the church service, I was thanking God for His goodness and found myself praying. “God, if you want to use me in this church in any particular way, would you please let me know and show me?” I had no idea how or how soon the prayer would be answered.
Several weeks later I got a phone call from the pastor. He was my good buddy by this time. He was driving up from Los Angeles and sounded close to tears. He explained to me that the church board consisted of three people – the music guy, a local business man, and himself – and that the other two had just made a conference call to him saying that they had voted him out. No reason really given. Their explanation was that they had decided the church would be better with someone else at the helm for the upcoming years. They’d given him two weeks. He asked if we could meet. So two hours later he was in our home, and we prayed.
Because it was a crisis, I got on the phone right away and called about a dozen guys I had gotten to know at the church. All good guys. I told them what had happened and asked them if they’d be up for meeting with me, the pastor, and these two board members. We agreed to meet in a local real estate office. Then I called the two board members and asked them to attend.
The following evening it was a somber bunch of guys who met at the real estate office. I opened the meeting with prayer, and then asked the two board members politely, but very seriously, to explain how they had come to make such a decision. They really didn’t come up with anything more than that they had strong feelings that the church at this point in its growth would be better led by someone else. I asked if there was a moral reason the rest of us didn’t know about. They said no.
So I simply replied, looking them directly in the eye, that although they had the legal right to take that step, they certainly didn’t have the moral, ethical or spiritual right. “It was his, the pastor’s, vision to begin this ministry,” I said. “It wasn’t yours.” I looked at the music guy and said, “People don’t come to the church because of your music. Even though it’s fine. They come because this man (pointing to the pastor) followed God’s leading and all of us have grown because of his teaching and preaching.”
Then I reiterated that, yes, although they had the legal right to make this decision, they did not have the moral or ethical or spiritual right to make such a decision. After some more discussion, I closed the meeting by saying, “All of us here disagree with you and we strongly think that you two should step aside.”
They both resigned the next day, left the church, and the leadership crisis was history. In the next little while we reorganized the by-laws and set up a board which consisted of a good cross section of people, and the church continued to thrive, and even more so.
In the following years, as new people were invited to an informational meeting to explain the church, its history, and its ministries, whoever was leading the meeting would always mention that night in the real estate office as a crucial night in the church’s history.
It was only a few weeks after this ordeal was over that I was sitting in church again during the singing when I remembered my prayer of six weeks earlier. I had asked God to show me if He wanted to use me in the church in any particular way.
I’m sharing this because being available is something which God wants from each of us, and He finds surprising ways to put us to work when we are. We don’t even need to worry about being qualified. God makes that decision and prepares things ahead of time for us to do. Being available is the key thing.
When God called Moses at 80-years-old to go back to Egypt and lead the Israelites to freedom, Moses voiced five different concerns. God patiently addressed the first four of these with very good and revealing answers. But Moses raised a fifth concern – not really a concern – but a protest. He told God to send someone else. In other words, he told God he wasn’t available. It was only then that God became angry. You see, God can answer our concerns, but He can’t do anything with us if we’re not available.
Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”