June 17, 2009

Hold On! You Are the Equipment.

2009 1517 page23 cap LIKE ORGANIZING AND PLANNING, ESPECIALLY ITS POTENTIAL FOR accomplishing a lot when done well. Second only to executing a great plan is being in a room with a “jazzed up” team of passionate, highly focused people, channeling their energies and creativity to bring a plan together. I like the rush that comes when good organization gives birth to forward momentum.
Evangelism planning offers this kind of opportunity. The tasks of selecting ministry teams, choosing venues, ordering Bible studies, mailing brochures, working on the PowerPoints, getting the screens and projectors aligned, raising money, and a million other things it takes to pull a meeting off right—I love it all! It’s in my DNA; it’s also the Adventist way.
We Adventists are passionate when it comes to evangelism. And, understandably, we put a lot of effort into planning, organizing, and working through the complexities that go with it. We want to make sure we have all the right equipment, staff, stuff, and funds. What’s wrong with that?

2009 1517 page23Regular readers of this page know that God gives me periodic “Aha!” moments that fundamentally reshape my thinking. These moments are both uncomfortable and enlightening as God typically inserts a fresh perspective that redirects my heart toward His.
In my private worship time before God, I usually read through one of the books of the Bible, as well as other devotional materials. In recent weeks I’ve been reading the Gospel of Matthew. To mix things up, I occasionally read from different versions and paraphrases.
One morning recently I was reading Matthew 10 from Eugene Peterson’s rendering in The Message. It was a time when I was thinking and praying about what we needed to get ready for an anticipated evangelistic explosion in our conference. I knew to pull it off we needed more personnel, more money, more study materials, more equipment—more of everything.
While casually reading the Word that morning and admittedly distracted by our evangelism plans, God, seemingly out of nowhere, altered my views about some things right in the middle of my reading of Matthew 10. As a backdrop, Jesus was speaking to His disciples before sending them off on their first missionary journey:
“Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously. Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light” (verses 5-10).*
Upon reading that, I howled with laughter and delight. How did Jesus say it? “You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment.”
After all the planning and organization has been done; after all the equipment has been purchased; after all the latest technologies and satellites have been engaged; Jesus steps back and surveys it all. Turning toward each of us He gently says: “Actually, all I need is you.” Wow!

In other words, if we’re totally available to God, He could do some things through us for His kingdom’s sake that will trump any and everything experienced previously in His service.
Now, that’s not to say that we don’t need good planning and organization; and yes, we still need funding. But none of these things can ever take the place of God’s people being that which He values above all else. On those days when we get caught up in all the details of organizing and planning for His work, making sure we have everything—all the things, stuff, and equipment we think we need to do it right, God stops us in our tracks and declares: “Hold on! You are the equipment; you’re everything I need.” 
*Taken from The Message. Copyright ” 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
Fredrick A. Russell is president of the Allegheny West Conference, with headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.