By Joe McKeever
Two scriptures need to be up front….
“Sow your seed in the morning, and do not be idle in the evening; for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.”(Ecclesiastes 11:6)
“And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:9)
Half the ministers I know are sitting in judgment on their own work. And it’s not looking good for them.
They decide the Kingdom work is not going very well, feel guilty because they are so ineffective, and grow discouraged. Instead of giving their all day in and day out over a long life of service and obedience, they turn inward, give less and less of themselves, while the visible results they so long for become more and more scarce.
You’re not the judge, just a worker in the field of the Lord.
Now, get back out there and trust that the Lord knows what He was doing when He assigned you to this corner of the Kingdom.
Jeff Christopherson could tell you. In an article “Re-defining success,” published in the Fall 2012 edition of “On Mission” (pastors’ edition), the publication of Southern Baptists’ North American Mission Board, Jeff talks about something that happened to his father Allan.
In the 1960s, his parents, Allan and Helen Christopherson were living in Prince Albert, Canada, where Allan cleaned beer storage tanks for a brewery. The low pay had a special benefit: free beer. As a result, alcoholism was rampant and Allan succumbed to its hold.
In 1967, Allan and Helen found themselves at a drive-in theater watching “The Restless Ones,” a Billy-Graham-produced movie with a strong evangelistic thrust. Toward the end, Mr. Graham extended Heaven’s invitation for the audience to repent and turn to Christ. In the solitude of their car, a 1958 VW Beetle, the Christophersons held hands and gave their hearts to Christ.
As the movie ended, a man in a suit and tie took the microphone in the drive-in and invited anyone wishing to respond to the Lord to come up and pray with him. No one came.
But Allan Christopherson quit his job, learned a new trade, and got active in serving the Lord. Under the leadership and tutelage of Pastor Jack Conner, they started a new church.
Now, fast-forward a full generation. Allan was one of a group sponsoring Franklin Graham for a meeting in Saskatoon. The chairman of the planning session welcomed everyone, then invited anyone whose life had been changed through the ministry of Billy Graham to take the mike and share his/her story.
Even though he kept telling himself “You’re just a welder,” Allan Christopherson began to speak. He told of watching “The Restless Ones” in the drive-in, of the commitment he and his wife made in the car, and the church they had started, and how both their children were now serving the Lord starting new congregations in Toronto and in Chile.
Allan said, “I do not know how many hundreds of lives are now in the kingdom because my wife and I went to the movies that day.”
In the silence that followed his testimony, an elderly man took the floor. Through his tears, the old gentleman said, “Allan, my name is Tom Dice. I am a retired family counselor in the area. I want you to know something. God asked me to bring that movie to Prince Albert. I rallied my friends and colleagues, and we really expected great things to happen. Night after night we played the movie and night after night I stood before the audience and asked them to respond to Christ. Night after night I went home very disappointed.”
“Until this day,” Tom Dice said, “to my knowledge, nobody ever responded. I thought my project was a failure. I wondered if I had heard God right in the first place. But I did hear him, Allan. I now see that it wasn’t a failure.”
The men hugged. The old man wept, “Now I see. Praise Jesus, now I see.”
(The note at the end of the article identifies Jeff Christopherson as NAMB’s regional vice president for Canada and the Northeast. This is an excerpt from his book Kingdom Matrix: Designing a Church for the Kingdom of God; Russell Media, 2012.)
Same issue of On Mission, something else struck me.
The cover story told of Matt and Attica Hess, a fine young couple who are leaving their home in the Deep South to start a church in Toronto. From Collierville, Tennessee, the article said. And I sat up straight.
I know the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Collierville. Chuck Herring.
The article by Sara Shelton told how Dr. Herring and his thriving congregation in this western Tennessee city were praying for leadership from the Lord concerning beginning a new work somewhere in North America. Meanwhile, Matt and Attica who are former staff members of FBC Collierville, were pastoring a church in Mississippi and seeking direction from the same Lord.
The article reads, “The Hess family found their focus specifically drawn to Canada, a populous yet severely underserved region in North America. After a trip to Toronto confirmed their love for the nation, Matt and Attica decided to step out on faith and set to work preparing themselves for a move to the city to plant a church. But they would not do it alone.”
Chuck Herring, who treasured Matt and Attica, saw the answer to his own prayer in them. His church would bring this couple on staff as “church planters in residency,” a position created especially for them.
The article goes on from there. But it’s the Chuck Herring connection I wanted to call to your attention.
I was pastor to Chuck and Darlene Herring when they were young marrieds and he was a football coach in high school.
After leaving Columbus, Mississippi, they lived in another small town and continued growing in Christ. In time, the Lord called him into the ministry and they moved to New Orleans where they enrolled in New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Chuck earned masters and doctorate at NOBTS. They pastored First Baptist Church of Richland, MS, just below Jackson, and then moved to Collierville.
To paraphrase Allan Christopherson’s testimony to the Franklin Graham leadership team that day, “I do not know how many hundreds of lives are now in the kingdom because of this couple.”
You touch a life and they move on and touch others. Only Heaven can keep score. Only God can trace the mustard seed beginnings into all its limbs and branches and leaves. And that’s how it should be.
Paul wrote, To me it is a very small thing that I should be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.(I Corinthians 4:3-4)
In the field picking cotton on our small farm, we children kept wanting to leave the work and go “weigh in,” to see how much we had gathered. Dad or an older brother would put a stop to that foolishness. “There will be a time to weigh in. But not yet. Keep at it. I’ll tell you when.”
Good advice. Now, pastor, get on with your day. Remember, God is faithful.
Joe McKeever is retired missions director for the New Orleans Baptist Association. Before that Mr. McKeever pastored churches in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and North Carolina.