The late evangelist Ron Halverson tells a story where he was knocking on a door one night in Harlem New York. A young woman answered the door who grew up a pastor’s daughter, but had become a prostitute. The woman looked at the Bible in Halverson’s hand and said, “I’m not interested!” Quick witted Halverson responded as she tried to slam the door, “I know you’re not interested! That’s why I’m here!”
Granted, such an approach would not normally work, but this time it woke the young lady up to a need she had been neglecting. Sometimes we look at our mission field and think the grass is greener in other mission fields. Fact is, the green mission fields don’t need us as much as the parched fields do. The young lady, who answered the door to Pastor Halverson, may not have looked promising, but she actually needed his message more than anyone else in Harlem that night.
Once I was working in a church that seemed just as worldly as the….well, world! The youth teachers openly confessed to me, that they entertained the kids instead of teaching them, because they themselves did not know anything about the Bible. When I held evangelistic meetings the greeters were never around to hand out lesson outlines, because they went home when the meetings started! The musicians would come in and play before my presentation, and everyone would watch as they walked out and went home as soon as they were through playing. An elder in the church told me his neighbor wanted to come to the meetings and would I please give him a ride. I asked the elder why he could not just bring his neighbor to the meetings himself, since after all, they lived right next door. The elder told me he would not be coming to the meetings since he already heard it all before. It was very discouraging! I asked God why he sent me to such a spiritually parched church. God told me, because the church was my mission field just as much as the community. This changed my attitude, and instead of getting upset because the youth leaders did not know their Bibles, I took advantage of the opportunity to teach them about the Bible and Jesus. The leaders in the church became my mission field. Before long God sent other missionaries more skilled than myself, to help turn the church around. When I left, the church was not at all like I first found it. Thanks to God, and the other missionaries He sent, the youth leaders grew (and sadly some left) and there was a totally different spiritual climate among the entire church family.
I would rather have been in a church where the youth teachers knew their Bibles and the members were are on fire to do evangelism, but you know what? A church like that would not have needed me as much as this one did. While it may be easier and a lot more fun to work with people who are spiritually mature and on fire for the Lord, Pastor Halverson realized he was needed where people did not seem interested. I learned the same lesson.
When I was 11, I started piano lessons but quit after just a few weeks. A couple years ago, at the age of 48 I started taking lessons again. So I don’t like to say I actually quit when I was 11. I just took a 37 year sabbatical. When I started back up, my teacher just happened to be a college musician who I actually met a few years ago when she was only 11. She is more than young enough to be my daughter. Fact is, if I had stayed with my piano lessons when I was 11, I may have been able to teach her instead of her teaching me. Instead, at the age of 48 I began taking piano lessons from a 19 year old. She’s never said anything like, “You are almost 50 you should know all this by now.” She never said, “Look at how old you are. You should be teaching me but instead I am teaching you.” Instead she enthusiastically seized the opportunity to teach me in the here and now.
Sometimes we get discouraged when we see people in the church who we think should know more by now. Maybe they should, but instead of getting discouraged let’s seize the opportunity to teach. I need a good teacher like my piano teacher, because I don’t have it all together. I struggle with my timing among other things, so I need a good teacher. If I was a polished musician I would not need her. If everyone in the church already knew their Bibles and had it all together they would not need me. There may be more gifted musicians in the world that are easier to teach than I am, but it is because I am not a gifted musician that I need my piano teacher so much.
So if your mission field looks parched and pitiful, and you are tempted to think the grass would be greener in another mission field, remember, a greener mission filed would not need you, like the parched pitiful mission field does. If you look around your mission field and don’t see much potential or interest just remember what Pastor Halverson remembered, that’s why you’re here!
You may study this week’s SS lesson on missions here.