My pastor has said “truth either offends or transforms you.” It is my experience that sometimes it is in the delivery of the truth that offense comes. When you go to people where they are, it is the living Word ablaze in your life that ministers to them. The Word must be planted deep inside of you, so you can minister truth and walk as a light in darkness. I want to share two stories to illustrate why ministering to people where they are at is so important.
I met a young man, and with passionate anger he made my heart sad. His anger was pure and raw. Had I been the object of his anger, I would have been fearful. Two years later his words still ring in my ears, and tear at my heart. He told me of his plea to save the life of a girl. He told of the heart that went empty to a church only to be judged for her outward appearance. That one life pulled on the lives of all around it. One person’s negative attitude, towards someone hurting and broken, destroyed her already broken spirit and damaged the lives of others reaching out for help that day. He had worked for some time to convince this small group that God held the answer. And in a moment his work, and the work Christ died on the cross for, was discarded by a judgmental attitude of a “Christian.”
Had I tried to “preach” a message to this young man, he would have shut down, and I might have been the object of his wrath. Instead I was able to minister to him where he was, and break through his hardened exterior and minister God’s love.
The second is of the life of a teenage boy who was discarded by a dysfunctional family, used by his friends, angry at the world, and found his way into a life of illegal activity. His heart’s desire was love and acceptance. He started attending a youth group and opening his heart to the fact that Christ just might love him and accept him. God was working on him, breaking through the hurt exterior. He would take a few steps in the right direction, and a step back in the wrong. As he confessed, I would tell him you can’t keep doing that, God can forgive that, He loves you. I would try to point him to people who had done those same things that were used mightily of God. He was not a Christian, at times he seemed to be the devil himself, but I could see God working in him. Then in an instance, the work Christ did on the cross, and the work the Holy Spirit had been doing in his life was destroyed when he was told by a youth leader that God had given up on him. He sat in my car and cried for hours, nothing I could say would console him or convince him that she was wrong. His life spiraled out of control and he is now sitting in adult prison.
Had I judged the teenager for his actions, it would have been easy to write him off. He had done some terrible things, but I know God loves him and has a destiny for him that he couldn’t see. I know the seeds planted in his life are still there, and I pray God sends people to him to that can continue tilling the ground in his life.
TD Jake’s once said “Whatever makes you angry is what your called to change.” The Church is supposed to be the hospital for hurting people, emergency, trauma, long-term acute care – whatever is needed to heal completely. Christ came to heal the brokenhearted; not turn them away. He came to set the captive free; not make their burdens feel heavier. He came to lead people out of the darkness; not push them deeper into it.
The sad truth is that most churches no longer reach out to help those that are hurting. We are okay with the slightly injured, but the time, energy, and love that is needed to bring healing to lives of those hurting – most find it is easier to push them away and judge their behaviors as not trying. We refuse to invest the time to help those lost through the layers of pain and hurt to minister the reconciliation and salvation Christ died to give them, but that they are too hurt to accept. Christ can work instantly in the life of a unbeliever, but sometimes it takes work to bring in the harvest. Here are steps to Ministering to people where they are:
1) You have to be on Fire yourself before you can attract people to the light or heat of God.
You can not give something you do not have. You have to be set ablaze by the Holy Spirit so you can be guided and directed in word, action, and timing as Jesus describes in John 16:13 and John 14:24. You have to immerse yourself in the Word so that the Holy Spirit has something to draw. I know many struggles with not being able to know the exact scripture reference, if you need the reference God will give it. Hebrews 4:12, John 8:31-32 and Isaiah 55:11 say it is His Word that it is living, sharper than a two-edged sword, the Truth sets people free, and His Word will not return void.
To be on fire you must stay prayed up so that you will be sensitive to the leading of the spirit. Jesus stayed connected through prayer and it is important that we do the same. The Holy Spirit will always guide us of when and how to minister if we are willing to listen. Pray for wisdom, knowledge and the discerning of spirits – God will increase these as you need them.
To be on fire you must stay hot. The churches in Revelations chapter 2 and 3 were compromising, corrupt, luke-warm, and lost their first love. God rebuked them. When you are truly ablaze for God, the World notices. When you start to let that flame smolder or it goes out completely, they notice more. You can not be an up and down Christian, it damages your testimony and impacts those in your sphere of influence, and your sphere is bigger than you think.
To be on fire you must what God has given you.The Bible says in Col. 3:17 “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” So we must use what God gave us to reach the lost. Like in the parable of the talent s in Matthew 25:14-29, we have been entrusted by God with talents, and with a commission to reach the World. If we are not using our Talents for Him, we have buried them in the sand. We must use what He gave us, to make more in the Kingdom.
2) You must get close enough to the lost they can ignite.
We have talked a lot about the flame and being set ablaze for God. It sounds amazing, anointed and powerful. The truth is though no sane person runs to a fire to burn. They might be drawn to it by the heat or the light, but they have to be close enough to feel the heat or see the light first in order to be set ablaze.
We must go to where the people are for them to be attracted to the warmth or the light so that they can ignite with fire.
We have to do as Jesus did and move to their need. Often times we want to minister in a way that meets our need, in a place that we feel comfortable and in a time that fits our schedule, we are a people of convenience. Jesus on the other hand went to where the people were, He didn’t drive in his air-conditioned car, he walked, miles each day. He ministered first to the physical need, not just their spiritual. He ministered in a place that was not always comfortable, and was moved by compassion even when he wanted to be doing something else. You can read of few examples of this in Matthew 9:36, Matthew 14:14, Mark 1:41, Mark 6:34.
When you get close enough remember you don’t control who is ignited.
When Jesus met their need, he showed the Light and the warmth. Jesus was responsible for being obedient to step out and for maintaining the intensity of His flame. That is our responsibility also. Whether they ignited with fire depended on the condition of the recipient’s heart and the working of the Holy Spirit.
The 10 lepers in Luke 17:11-19 that were healed all received the same physical need being met, the Holy Spirit was at work, and yet only one was ignited.
When you get close enough also remember sometimes flame smolders until the condition if right before it sets ablaze
Just like in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, it is our responsibility to sow the seed, to be the light and the warmth in the dark world. We must get close enough to let our flame touch the life of others. God will send other people along to fan the flame, or call you to keep coming back to minister and fan the flame until it is set ablaze.
Saul of Tarsus had been touched by the flame. He had been enraged by it so much that he sought to put out the flame of those he came in contact with. It wasn’t until he was on a trip to Damascus that the flame had smoldered enough to ignite by God and his name to Paul.
3) There is no soul that God doesn’t want to set ablaze
Flesh compares sin, God sees all sin as evil. Sin separates us from God whether it is a “white lie” or the rape of a child. They are both evil in the eyes of God, and both make us as filthy rags in his site.
- Romans 3:23 We need to realize that we all fell short
- Romans 5:8 God was patient with us and loved us while we were still sinners.
- 2 Peter 3:9 God is not willing that any should perish
We have been called to reach the world. Remember in Matthew 24:40 and 45 Christ said “If you have done it to the least of these you have done it unto me, and what you fail to do for them, you fail to do it for me.” Never discount one. You might not be called to be the next Smith Wigglesworth, Billy Graham, or even Pastor Cass Hill, but you could be the person that is called to pour into that life that will reach millions. If you don’t use your talents to reach that one, millions could be lost.
I don’t know how God can handle the evil that some people have went through, but I know that in my sin state God saw me the same as he does the person that has been through things that I can not even fathom occurring and the same as the person who did those evil things. We need to realize that God didn’t clean people up before he accepted them. He accepted them and in that relationship people were changed. As fishers of men, we have to stop trying to clean the fish before we catch them. He loves them right where they are, and we are called to do likewise.