I have lived long enough to be amazed at how many ways and kinds of people God uses in this grand work of inviting/welcoming others into His living kingdom.
Let's begin with the Douglass family in Springfield, Massachusetts, back in the late 1930s. At that time I had three brothers and we lived upstairs in what we called a tenement (today, of course, it was a condo!). My Dad had just bought a 1933 Dodge that was quite a treat for us all, including the neighborhood kids.
For a year, an old German lady, who could barely walk, crawled up the back stairs and left the weekly Signs of the Times. My Mom began reading them and then I. I liked the stories that connected biblical prophecy with world events.
Interesting neighbor! She would pass out her Signs to the milk man who left his bottles of milk at the back door. And to the bread man who displayed his various breads, muffins, biscuits, again at the back door—as both men did at our back door.
Her name was “Sister Scherer.” All female church members then were called “Sister” and the men were “Brother.” (When, in the passing of years, did all that change?)
And we began to get the story. Her daughter and son-in-law were embarrassed when they saw what Mother was doing with “her” papers and wanted her to stop. If they were at home, Mother would meet the milk man and the bread man at the front of the house on their way back to their trucks. But the Signs were delivered!
Eventually, Sister Scherer asked my father to take her to “her meetings” at Touraine Hall on State Street in Springfield. A young Adventist preacher, Francis Bush, was holding his first evangelistic meetings and she had no one to take her (how's that for planning?).
Sure enough, to please this dear neighbor who could barely speak English, my Dad drove Sister Scherer, my Mom and me to these meetings, one after the other! My Dad always found something else to do and it wasn't until another five years went by before he joined us in baptism.
My point? Sister Scherer did what she could! Nothing more, nothing less! On the other side, long lines of happy people will be streaming toward Sister Scherer and one of those lines will be the Douglass tribe that has really lengthened through the years!
I think of Shamgar (Judges 3:31) who delivered Israel from the Philistines. When the Lord asked him for help, I suppose Shamgar said, “Lord, you know I have nothing else to my name except this 'ox goad.'” And the answer was, “Do what you can!” Wow! Shamgar did what he could!
I know,we have heard the story many times until it may become no more meaningful than “How do you do?” But remember when Jesus and the disciples were caught in the middle of a vast crowd of around 15,000 people at the end of a busy day—with everyone very hungry and no WalMart nearby!
What was the best suggestion Jesus had? “You yourselves give them something to eat!” (Matt. 14:16, GNB),
Preposterous. really! But Jesus was serious! And so were the disciples: “All we have here are five loaves and two fish!”
Sounds like our responses today when the call to serve in the local church is made! “Hey, we only have five loaves and two fish, we don't have the training, we really don't have the time, but I will give an extra $100 for the program, I'm not good at meeting people, etc.”
But the question always is, “What do you have in your hand?” In Matthew's story, our Lord continued to give important instructions to remember: “He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.” (14:19, GNB).
Simple gospel program in action: You and I are God's reps! Only in the most unusual circumstances does our Lord use His angels in feeding the truth to men and women, boys and girls. What do you have in your hands? We are the hands of God in this world, no matter how we try to butter the bread!
So how do we begin? To someone on Medicare, where does he or she begin? The same way a child learns to ride a bike, or the teenager, to drive the car!
One of the most obvious lessons I have ever learned is that one can learn just so much about piloting an airplane by reading the manuals. Or about becoming a baseball shortstop by watching videos of Cal Ripken playing shortstop!
The best advice I give any preacher or speaker is to first nail down your proposition in one sentence, even if it is compound. May take an hour but don't start until you know for sure what you want to say. Give yourself at least three main thoughts that unfold your proposition. Now start writing, even if the typewriter or computer is cold. Every writer knows what I am talking about. And the more one writes, the easier it flows. Besides, real writing is tough work!
My point is, we learn any new skill by doing. And doing some more until you are writing like you learned typing, one click at a time until something happens and you are flowing faster than your mind can tell your fingers what to type next.
When it comes to talking “truth” with your neighbor, or parent, or spouse, you begin with what is in “your” hand. And you improve by doing, and doing some more. Everybody reading this page knows something about where he or she wants to be 5000 years from now, from the standpoint of the Big Picture that Jesus has laid out for us.
But first, take a little inventory: What is it that matters the most in your life? How did you learn it? Are you happier or more peaceful for knowing it? Then tell it in your own words as the Spirit prompts them—just like the Jesus-disciples plan: He breaks the “Bread” and you share it!
Most people don't need a truck-full of information; just a fork-full may be all they need at first. Maybe, a fork-full is all we have at the moment, but I guarantee that when we see that our little fork-full is appreciated—you dig with that fork for more and your partner is eager for the next bite.
That is, most of the time! Sorry about that, not everyone is looking even for a fork-full! Sometimes hidden issues mask what you offer, or maybe next month will be better. But the Lord has told us our assignment: “You yourselves give them something to eat!” My job is to do what I can with whatever I have in my hand! And I learn by doing, and doing again.
THE PAYOFF IS OUT OF THIS WORLD!
OH, BTW. THANKS, SISTER SCHERER, WITHOUT YOU, I WOULD NEVER HAVE MET ALL MY SPECTRUM FRIENDS!
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/3982