During my before-Christ” years, I was trained by my family and schooling to be a businessman. I shared my family’s expectations. I felt it was my destiny to build a business, make a profit, manage others and be successful in the world of commerce. Then my life changed and my plans changed.
I was drafted into the service of the Commander of the Universe. When I responded to his call to be a missionary, I had some different expectations of what my new life of service would be. I would go door to door and preach on street corners. I would hand out tracts, do errands and show care that others might know God’s love through me. After training for the ministry, that was generally the way my life was for the next decade and a half.
Then came the Jews for Jesus ministry. Suddenly I was caught up in planning, managing others and making myriads of business decisions concerning property, the reading of contracts and whether it was good stewardship to use one particular bank or another. Ironically I found myself doing the business things I had thought I had put behind me. I’ll make no bones about it. I would rather be preaching and teaching, but I intend to keep on serving where I am needed and do what is necessary.
Involved in the concerns of running a mission, I am alarmed to see a different trend among Christians. It is easier for Jews for Jesus to find people who want to write songs, do artwork and preach from the pulpit than it is to get anyone willing to sweep the floors, stack boxes and address envelopes. In the past few years we have had eight or nine different janitors to keep our San Francisco office building clean. I have been perplexed as to why it has been so difficult to find the kind of person who doesn’t mind staying after hours to vacuum the carpets and empty the wastebaskets.
In discussing this problem with business people who operate offices and plants, I find that they have little trouble finding employees who are willing to do the humble work in commerce and industry. I asked one businessman’s advice as to why we were having this problem. He mused for a while, then answered, “I guess that if people want to work for a mission, they also want to have the glory of being a missionary.” “The glory of being a missionary?” I gasped in shocked surprise!
You see, to me there has never been any glory in being a missionary—at least not in being a missionary to the Jews. The people to whom God has sent us regard us at best as a nuisance. Some become very angry. One rabbi even declared that we were doing the same work as the Nazis.
Even to the Church we are “displaced ministers.” Some Christians even regard us as moochers. None of us who are involved in the day to day problems of Jewish evangelism have ever felt a sense of glory or status. For the most part, we are doing a work that most other Christians do not care to do or for which they would rather not develop the capability. Ours is a humbling ministry—one of being sent to those who would be just as happy if we never came. It is a tedious task of talking to many to find the few who will listen.
In a sense, this is also true of the pastorate. A minister is not the master over his congregation, but the servant of his flock. He must constantly be available to meet their needs. My understanding is that those who are called to be ministers and missionaries are called to be servants. We must be available to the people we serve at their convenience, not ours.
Not only that. All who are called of God and are Christians are expected to serve others. Jesus told the disciples: “Ye call me Master and Lord; and ye say well; for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:13-15).
Our faith is a personally exhilarating experience. Yet if there is any exaltation, it is exaltation due the Lord. If there is any joy in the Christian life—and there is indeed abundant joy—it is not joy in getting what pleases us or doing what pleases us. It is the joy of pleasing our heavenly Father and knowing that we have his approval. Unfortunately, many Christians are losing sight of this important fact.
The “secular success syndrome” has hit the Church and hit it hard! We tend to publish the testimonies of highly placed celebrities rather than the humbler saints of God. We have developed our own celebrity-star system whereby we exalt and identify with the highly placed rather than the lowly.
In truth, the saintliest people are often the most humble. They are the real heroes in the Lord’s army. They are the faithful few who teach the little ones about God—and wipe a few runny noses in the process. They are those who change diapers in the church nurseries, wield paint brushes and hammers on Saturday work days, carry groceries to shut-ins and drive them to medical appointments. They clean church kitchens, arrange flowers and catalog books for the church libraries. They do it all without fanfare or reward, knowing that their efforts are a service to the Lord they love. They regard it a privilege to do small things for a big God—to accept lowly duties before his exalted majesty. Perhaps they can do this because they have a greater sense of God’s presence than do those who aspire to positions of recognition and status. One who truly senses the transcendent holiness of the Almighty can never comfortably give or receive human glory.
I think of Moses, awed before the burning bush. Once he had seen God’s glory, could he ever cower before Pharaoh? I think of Isaiah in the Temple the year that King Uzziah died. Overwhelmed by a vision of God’s glory, the prophet could only fall on his face in abject repentance and humility. Truly coming into God’s presence makes a person humble.
I crave that kind of humility, regardless of my position of leadership and responsibility. I would rather be a little David with a sense of the target than stand tall like a Goliath who fights in the wrong army and becomes the target. If, through lowliness, I can be closer to God, then let others manage minions and preach from high pulpits. As for me, it is enough to be a doorkeeper in God’s house, a porter in his place of holiness.
Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time (I Peter 5:5b, 6).
EDITOR’S NOTE: In case you are wondering who those people are on the front of this newsletter, they are Keen Chico, our Headquarters Building Manager; Wanda Almlie, our Hostess/Chef; and Melanie Cooke, Jr., Kindergarten Teacher at First Baptist Church International Christian School.