Thursday, June 29, 2017

Unexpected Lessons in Ministry

Lessons in Ministry

Are you exhausted from constantly striving to do good? Do you feel like you've been obedient to God's call on your life, but are discouraged because you aren't seeing any fruit? Have you been praying and praying for a loved one with no answer and no change in their behavior? Maybe you've been asking "what's the point in all of this?"

I have to admit that's how I sometimes feel about this writing thing. I love it and I know that God planned for me to do this and the words that I write are directly from Him, but sometimes it's a lonely journey. Recently, though, I received a gift that has really challenged my perspective. 

John Farmer was a man who I never had the pleasure of meeting, but I feel as if I know him. You see, he was a writer too and his son blessed me with a collection of his words. His writing is genuine and simple, but so powerful. Without having known him at all, I can tell you that he loved God, he loved his family, he loved others and he loved to make people laugh. As I read through his book, I found myself both laughing out loud and inspired to love and appreciate others more. 

What was most surprising about receiving a copy of John's book and hearing his story and the story of his family is what I learned about ministry.

God uses even the smallest of ministries

John Farmer is not a household name. You won't find multiple books written by him on the shelves of bookstores. There aren't any interviews featuring him on Youtube. Even still, his work is meaningful and it's finding its way to the people God intended it for.

In the midst of ministry and our Christian walk, it's easy to obsess over the numbers. The number of people we lead to Christ, the number of good deeds we do, the number of dollars we give, the number of followers we have. We can become so focused on measuring our success by these numbers that we forget what we set out to do in the first place.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't strive to reach as many people as possible, but the Bible tells us that there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. The pressure to reach millions is unnecessary pressure. If 100, 50 or even just 1 person is all we ever reach, Heaven is expanded and God rejoices. 

I love the quote from Mother Teresa that says, "if you want to change the world, go home and love your family." 

Sometimes the people that God has planned for us to minister to are the people who are right in front of us.

It's obvious through his writing that John's family was incredibly important to him. His faith inspired his son, who inspired me and I hope this message inspires you. The living out of our faith has a domino effect. Never underestimate the impact you make by simply loving the small number of people God has entrusted you with.

God's timing is not our timing

As we serve God and use our talents to further His kingdom, our tendency is to want to see the fruit of our efforts immediately. Sometimes we do, but most of the time we don't.

 "What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful in its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end." Ecclesiastes 3:9-11
I love verse 11, "people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end." 

I'm reminded of Ruth whose faith and loyalty earned her a place in the genealogy of Jesus, though she never met Him on this side of Heaven. And Moses who never actually stepped into the promise land, but through his obedience to God played a major role in leading the people of Israel there. 

Sometimes our reward is what we leave behind. 

In the front cover of John's book he wrote:
 "Never miss an opportunity to be a positive influence on young people with your proper actions, sincere pats on the back and words of encouragement."

He left a mission for all who read his book and it's being fulfilled even now by his son as he shares his father's encouraging words with others. 

There will be times when the fruit of our efforts comes days, months even years later and there will be things that we do in this life that we never see the results of, but God promises a harvest in due time if we do not give up. Just know that due time rarely comes on our time.

His ways are not our ways
I'm sure that he had many hopes for his writing, but I don't believe "Big John" knew the legacy his words would leave.

He didn't know that a student from his substitute teaching days would become a pastor, move to this small town and start a church. 

He didn't know that his son would become a doctor, move to that same small town and be baptized by that same pastor.

He certainly didn't know that I, a nurse who works with his son, would attend that same church and end up with his book in my hands. 

But God knew all along and that's what I love about Him. He knows every detail. Where we'll live, who we'll meet, our careers, our dreams, our fears, our failures. He knows it all and he weaves it all together in His perfect plan to bring us all a little closer to Him.  

 So if you're feeling weary in whatever it is that God has called you to do, I want to leave you with a little prayer of encouragement from John himself:

God, I hope that as I write, my pen you'll move along and give me the proper choice of words to make for the heavyhearted, a song.
Yes, please help me mix enough mischief in to lift the downhearted with a lurch,
but please help me mix a message in to reach those out of reach of church.
For not everyone uses a family pew; some sit on an old bar stool.
So please guide my pen as I write to tell them of the Golden Rule.
And certainly while I'm doing this I also inspire,
for those who are already lifted up, to lift up a little higher. 
And for those who have deafened their ears and don't try to listen,
please help me to live a shining example, that in their eyes will glisten.
Not an example of spit and polish or of ceremony fire,
but one of brotherly and sisterly love and concern for all mankind.
And God please help me to live each day so that when my final lines are writ,
Saint Peter won't look up and say,
"Hell! Here comes another hypocrite!"
-John G. Farmer


  1. Beautiful, important thoughts here. I am going to try and soak this in to my very being.........

  2. This is so encouraging! I love that he wrote this in verse. Makes it catchy and more memorable. Heaven forbid that I be seen as a hypocrite by either God or man.

  3. Thank you for sharing. This was very helpful to me as somewhat of a newbie to writing/blogging. It's very easy to discouraged when it doesn't seem like the work I put in has the return I want. I needed to be reminded too, that sometimes it's not the stranger on the other side of the screen that I need to reach, but someone sitting right next to me at church. Grateful that His timing is not our timing and His ways are not our ways!