Twenty three years ago, the Lord called a young, untested, would-be pastor to lead a small, struggling, congregation in an equally small semi-rural town in Arkansas. Because they didn’t know any better, the small congregation accepted the young man as undershepherd and made it their mission to turn this new ‘ministry project’ into a person God could eventually use in His kingdom-building process.
The Lord led both undershepherd and congregation on many adventures during those twenty-three years. Often, the young man would stumble in implementing a ministry or misread the Spirit’s instruction on a certain matter but each time the congregation would patiently help the young man find his way. In time the young man and the congregation began to work as one body, rightly dividing the Word of the Lord and making a great impact on the small semi-rural town.
Together, with Jesus leading the way, the young man and the congregation saw their ministry expand. People began to come from outside the small semi-rural town. Interestingly, as the Lord brought more and more people into the congregation, the young man became older and wider (yes ‘wider’ not ‘wiser’). Apparently this was something God could work with as the congregation continued to grow and impact her town and the surrounding area in a very positive way.
A new church was started, The Lord provided more worship and education space, and a new parsonage replaced the old to accommodate the addition of another child to the young man’s family. It began to look as though God just might let the man (formerly known as ‘the young, slim, man’) remain with his perfect congregation until time to retire or He sent His Son to take them all home.
But, as is often the case, the Lord had other plans. He called the man (formerly known as ‘the young, slim, man’) to another ministry. The man and his lovely bride, while still loving the congregation and happy where they were, knew the time had come to make room for the congregation’s next young man. The man knew that what Jesus had done in those amazing twenty three years was only the beginning of His plans for that special group of believers.
The man and his bride were very much at peace with the move into the new ministry. The only hesitancy came when the bride thought of the home she had occupied for almost 17 years. “I just thought we would be more ‘stable’ at this point in our life.” she said. “Yet here we are in our mid-fifties and we don’t even own a house…” The man (formerly known as ‘the young, slim, man’) reminded the love of his youth that Jesus has always more than met their needs and He would most certainly do so again.
So the congregation was told of the coming move and the man asked them to consider the possibility of he and his bride purchasing the home they had occupied for so many years. But the congregation had other ideas. After much prayer, thought, and discussion, the congregation gave that beloved home to the man (formerly known as ‘the young, slim, man’) and his lovely bride. The man has still not found words to adequately express his love and appreciation to the congregation.
Now let me tell you how Jesus showed Himself to the man and His lovely bride through this extraordinary gift.
Two days after the gift was given, his lovely bride came to the man (formerly known as ‘the young, slim, man’) and said, “God spoke to me today.”
“Really?”, the man said. “What did He say?”
The lovely bride paused and with tears in her eyes said, “He reminded me that if you had not answered His call to ministry and left all we had to go to seminary, we would have paid off our house this year.”
The man (formerly known as ‘the young, slim, man’) wept…
All that the man had ‘given up’ to follow Jesus and serve the congregation had been kept by Jesus in a way the man and his bride never suspected. And at just the perfect time, He returned it all through the generosity of the congregation.