Several years ago a bishop taught me an important lesson. At the conclusion of a conference, while everyone else was standing around chatting, this bishop was walking around the room quietly collecting then emptying the garbage. No one else was even remotely concerned with cleaning up the mess, and here was our respected leader doing the most menial task. (Remind you of Someone?) I sent him a note later, telling him the effect his selfless act had upon me. His response was simple, “Everything teaches.”
After I wrote my last post declaring God has been giving me a new perspective, I thought I might be done with writing about “equipping.” That afternoon I decided to convert all my posts to PDF format for storage, thinking I’d begin with a fresh slate on which to write about this new perspective. Though I wasn’t taking the time to read those 148 posts, titles or phrases would catch my attention and I would nostalgically remember writing them. I was working my way backward from the most recent and, when I finally reached the first post, I was a little shocked to see I had written it in August 2010. Almost six years I have been writing about equipping and volunteer ministry. And I had been learning and teaching about it for 15 years before that!
In the early days, I had a pretty narrow view of equipping. I had many a debate with a friend over the meaning of Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 4:11-12 regarding “equipping the saints for ministry.” My friend would say that everything apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers do is equipping the saints. I would insist that it had to be more intentional, that leaders must teach and preach consistently on the importance of serving as Jesus served, modeling servant ministry themselves, and refusing to perpetuate the clergy-centric ministry mentality so prevalent in our churches today.
As God changes the focal point of my service, I find myself wondering if my equipping days are past. And so I bring that question before God, confessing to a measure of worry and confusion. Who will I be? What platform (soapbox?) will I stand upon if I’m not admonishing and encouraging everyone everywhere to serve like Jesus? And I can feel God’s smile, his reassurance that I will always be an equipper, because everything a deacon does has the potential to equip others. I think I finally get my friend’s point!
God has brought me out of that narrow place to–borrowing the language of Samuel, Job, and David–a “broad place.” I can plant my feet here. I can spread my arms wider. I can grow here in this wide open space, while I encourage others to grow, too.
What about you? Are you in a narrow place, too? Are you afraid to make a change, fearful of losing your “self” in the process? Bring your confusion and fear to the Father-heart of God. He longs to lead you into a wide open space where you, too, can be free to be who he is creating you to be. I’ll meet you there!