The goal of all genuine born-again, Spirit-filled believers is to bring pleasure to God. Right? I come across so many people in ministry who are in competition with others – ‘wanting’ their ministry, wanting to be ‘someone else’, and, sadly, on occasions, willing to try and wreck other people’s ministry in order to claim that piece of ‘ministry territory’ for themselves. In my little ministry, I’ve had people try and ‘persuade’ some of the people in the places I go that their ministry would be far better for that place than mine. Sadly, for most of them, if not all, they’ve underestimated the depth of friendship that ‘place’, those people, and I, have built…
But I know what it’s like. In the 70’s and into the 80’s, I worked with Youth for Christ. It was an era in YFC when there were some amazing, gifted young men and women working for the movement. Household names before too long: many of them STILL household names – Graham Kendrick, Clive Calver, Eric Delve, Sheila Walsh, Ray & Nancy Goudie, Sue Rinaldi, Roy Crowne… and countless others. I was a shy administrator: it suited me when I began, because, being shy, it meant that mostly, I dealt with people over the phone, by letter (oh what a blessing the internet would have been in those days!!). For me, ‘success’ was getting an IBM golf-ball typewriter with three ‘balls’ – meaning three different fonts. Wow!!
As the 70’s rolled into the 80’s, those names were the ‘big platform’ people at events like Spring Harvest, and I began to get very….well, jealous is the only word I can think of. ‘Why not me, God?’: ‘Why aren’t I leading worship like Graham Kendrick?’ (God’s answer was something to the order that I couldn’t play a note of music on any instrument, nor write songs: I wasn’t a bad singer, but that was the only musical attribute I had….
And that jealousy/anger festered for a while, until God lovingly and gently battered it into me that THAT wasn’t his plan for my life….once I’d accepted that, everything changed. Christian life and Ministry was about bringing pleasure to HIM, not me. And what I thought I wanted, well – now – I wouldn’t want at all. And so began the journey I’m on. Not famous (infamous??!!), people don’t buy my books/cds/dvds (mostly because I don’t have any! – in fact, I struggle to understand why some people record what I preach, let alone me MARKET what I preach. I’ve been ‘under pressure’ from a load of people (literally) to write books, sure: but even the thought of standing at the front of a meeting, holding my book/books/cds up, and telling people they can buy them at the back, makes me shudder…. I did get commissioned by a Christian publisher to write a book about 12 years ago: so I did. I enlisted help along the way with editing it from long-time friend Adrian Plass. I thought that if Adrian’s name was on the cover (bigger than mine!) it might sell a few… :). Then that company’s editor left the firm, and my book went into history… It’s still on my computer, of course, but now, I’d want to change a bit – about 85% ‘bit’!!
And, of course, most of my life is spent with people who are poverty stricken, in places where ‘famous’ preachers wouldn’t go (too dangerous, not big enough, no honorariums/expenses). I’ve been told by a few odd (!!) people, that I need ministry as I have a problem with ‘charging’ for ministry. Hmm. The Son of Man had no home of his own, nor anyway to lay his head…and his commission to his mates, in Matthew 10 was – ‘Go’ – give everything you’ve got away – heal, cleanse, raise the dead, cast out demons – why? Because ‘freely you’ve received, so freely give’. That doesn’t mean I’m not blessed when I get a gift: of course I am. It’s vital, from places that can afford it. But try selling a book in English, at £9, in the barrio Simon Bolivar, or Los Lagos, Cali…. (40,000 pesos – a few days wages for a lot of people)… Anyway. when I began this journey, not far short of 37 years ago now, God said I was never to charge…but I’ve had ‘men of God’ tell me off because I don’t, and that I need to be ‘delivered’ of that attitude!!
Like everyone, I need money to live. Perhaps more than some people, as my annual airfare bill alone is quite substantial. I’m SO, SO blessed to have a handful of regular supporters – I get about 35% of what I need a year from them. That’s SUCH a blessing. The other 65%? Well, occasionally, I write to people to ask for help, but, you know, I HATE doing that with such a passion. I have no problem at all in raising money for Ana Beiba, in Cali: Ana Bustos, also in Cali, and others. But when it’s for me? I squirm. I sent a (small circulation) message out last week asking for help for the upcoming trip to Colombia. The trip costs around £1500-2000 all in. As I’ve got a team going, I HAVE to go(!!). I’ve received about 25% of that amount, so it’s ‘knees’ time again (an interesting experience with MY knees, too!!). Why do I want to go to Colombia? To bring pleasure to God, to bless people that foreigners would never (or rarely) go to, and to come back home hoping that the abundance of miracles I’ll see will bless, encourage, and motivate people back in the western world…. Please hear me, I’m not moaning about money: I’m grateful that, after nearly 37 years, God has provided for me: and I have no reason to doubt that he’ll do it unless or until he tells me stop doing what I’m doing.
I’m not having a gripe about money: I think those of you who know me well know that’s true. Truth is, the last 16 months have been the hardest EVER financially in those 37 years, but God’s stretching me to a new place of faith, it’s almost like right back at the start when I gave up a good salary, subsidised mortgage, and good career, to start down this road. It’s interesting that it’s like the beginning again as I approach, in 2 years’ time, my ‘retirement’ birthday!! No plans to retire here: I don’t want to, and – solely humanly – I can’t! No pension!! Life insurance, a little, but it should buy the coffin and not much else!!
I don’t want to be a salesman: I don’t want to promote myself. I’ve been told that I’ve ‘got a problem’, and need ministry, as I don’t want that. When I preach, it doesn’t occur to me, honestly, to give a ‘plug’ to the congregation/audience, about what I do: how they can support me (but boy, do I need that right now! – I’ve just lost, this week, one of my biggest supporters who has been made redundant, and it’s the equivalent of about a 20% salary drop! – but I’m so grateful for the time that person DID support me, and pray that new work comes along soon). What DOES come naturally at the end of a ‘preach’ is to ask if anyone wants prayer for healing, salvation, etc., and to move straight into it. By the time I’ve prayed for people, I’m just about the only person left in the building, so selling materials, making an appeal for support, is a wee bit pointless!
What I DO know is – that I want to bring pleasure to God. I look at friends whose ‘platforms’ are big, who get great honorariums, whose airfares get paid, probably stay in very nice hotels….and I want…. the small, back-street barrio churches in Colombia, the people who work with asylum seekers in Sweden, the students in Eastern Europe – people who bless my heart because THEY bring pleasure to God.
One of my ‘favourite’ writers is Francis Frangipane. He posted this on Facebook today:
- Beloved, loving God is not hard. We can fulfill any assignment – auto mechanic or housewife, doctor or college student – and still give great pleasure to our heavenly Father. We do not need ministry titles to love the Lord. Indeed, God measures the value of our lives by the depth of our love. This is what He requires of all true God-seekers: to love Him where we are at.
I feel very happy when people of the ‘stature’ of Francis say something I’ve been preaching for years! I used to teach this very point as part of a whole ‘Goals, Drams, and Visions’ seminar I taught for donkey’s years – be the best for God at whatever you do: it isn’t ‘competition with others’ vision. Reinhard Bonkke has a vision that ‘All Africa will be saved’. I know people called to ‘serve’ one handicapped person – it’s just as big a vision as it’s giving pleasure to God. It’s as big a dream to want to work with old people with dementia as it is to see all Africa saved. BOTH bring pleasure to God….
And surely, as I said at the start, that’s our goal, isn’t it?