Recently I was in So. Cal. for session two of the Adventist Community Services Non-profit Leadership Certificate Program that focused on community development. I found my tribe there: teachers who have personal stories of churches connecting meaningfully with their community to the clear glory of God and attendees with dreams and experiences in the same vein.
This is why I came to work with REACH Philadelphia. Deanne and I were so inspired by the vision here that we turned down a more comfortable position out west with confidence God was leading. But after two years in this ministry house in the midst of the community we hope to reach with Christ’s love, things have not turned out as I expected. Why are there only a handful of locals attending sporadically? What have I been doing with the precious time I have here? I found myself reticent to share with the other tribe members what I’m doing because I’m disappointed by the lack of progress I see. We discuss and work and assess but are we getting anywhere?
Today I praise God for His Word that is living and speaks into our lives. In John 21:1-14 NKJV I read about Jesus’s third appearance to his disciples after a fish-less night of fishing on the sea of Tiberias. He called out from shore, ““Children, have you any food?”
They answered Him, “No.”
And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.”
In the Desire of Ages, it says these disciples were hoping to catch fish to provide food and clothing they needed. Jesus asked if they had any food and they couldn’t claim one measly flounder. He told them (against their common sense and current motivation) to cast on the right side of the boat and they netted more than they could haul in. One moment they had none, the next counted 153 flopping future fillets.
I’m sure these pros could have taught effective fishing seminars and boasted some amazing practices, but after a sacrificed night of sleep for empty work I’m sure morale was low. I’d go so far as to say that God kept them from catching fish so that He could show them something more effective, just as God is calling me (a trained fisher of men) deeper still.
Ephesians 6:12-13 NKJV says, “...we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God...” It’s not as easy as it looks because it isn’t only about what we can see. This is why I must learn to follow the wisdom that doesn’t come naturally to me from the God who knows and loves all and wants me to be successful and full of stories to tell in this work.
Ellen White says, “Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, "Follow Me."”
“There is need of coming close to the people by personal effort. If less time were given to sermonizing, and more time were spent in personal ministry, greater results would be seen. The poor are to be relieved, the sick cared for, the sorrowing and the bereaved comforted, the ignorant instructed, the inexperienced counseled. We are to weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice. Accompanied by the power of persuasion, the power of prayer, the power of the love of God, this work will not, cannot, be without fruit.”
I could restate what the paragraphs above say and hammer every point but I encourage you to simply read them again and see where you see your life intersect with the counsel. Does it? How much? God is calling me to stop doing it my way and to build trusting relationships covered in prayer and love, to humble myself and walk His way. I need to spend less time in the office and more time hanging out outside of my comfort zone. How about you?
Since my family has been here in Philadelphia we have witnessed God working amazing miracles and He has taught us so much. We’ve never been part of a church with such a high average of first generation SDA’s. Never been part of a church that has a tutoring center or throws block parties, hires interns to lead out in health or urban agriculture ministries. It’s an amazing place. But I believe we’ve just seen the beginning of what God wants to do just as the disciples, after 3.5 years with Jesus, had only seen the beginning of His miracles.
Jesus wants us to be bursting with excitement over what He’s doing in and through us but we have to follow His simple, unconventional directions/methods that cut across our natural knowledge that CANNOT BE WITHOUT FRUIT, or fish or souls. May we the fishers of men listen to His perfectly wise words.