Daily Office Readings – ( Mark 4:21-34 )

I’ve recently been working my way through the book “The Multiplying Church” by Bob Roberts, Jr. (Amazon Associates Link). There are many good ideas, suggestions, and admonitions to those of us who intend to spend time trying to raise up new followers of Christ. In the end, though, it seems that everything boils down to one simple thing: raise up people who love God and are passionate about their faith, because that sort of passion and excitement cannot be hidden.

As I read through the Daily Office this morning, I ran across the question in Mark’s Gospel which reads, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand?”

You may remember the children’s song, “This little light of mine” and remember that when it comes to our faith, we are told that we are not to hide it under a bushel. 

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine (repeat 3 times).
Let it shine all the time, let it shine, oh yeah.
Hide it under a bushel, no!  I’m gonna let it shine (repeat 3 times).
Let it shine all the time, let it shine, oh yeah.
Don’t let Satan (blow) it out, I’m gonna let it shine (repeat 3 times).
Let it shine all the time, let it shine, oh yeah.
Shine around the neighbourhood, I’m gonna let it shine (repeat 3 times).
Let it shine all the time, let it shine, oh yeah.

“This Little Light of Mine.”

In my opinion, we as churches, often do just that. In his book, Bob writes:

For too long we have viewed church members as merely the funders of religious work and the volunteers to make Sunday happen instead of the totally wild spirits they really are. How we’ve approached the person in the pew in the past is insufficient to create a disciple who will be a part of a church multiplication culture. A church that multiplies churches will call on entrepreneurial people to be a part. People who are wild at heart and willing to risk in other areas of their lives come to church and find there’s not much adventure here. pp.106

How sad that we’ve settled for a growing campus instead of striving for a transformed community. We’ve settled for what one person or a small group of leaders can do. A single preacher who is gifted enough in many areas can grow a big campus with his team. However, no preacher is “big” enough to see his community transformed without mobilizing the entire body of Christ into operation. pp.109

To start a church that starts with the society, you have to redefine discipleship. Your new focus in discipleship is to connect the entire body of Christ in a community and literally open the church up to ministry. They will dream up the initiatives, and they will implement them. The primary function of the church is then helping people live what they’re already interested in doing (because of their job, experience, skills, etc.) more than driving an ill-fitting program. pp.122

“The Multiplying Church,” Bob Roberts, Jr.

When we are confronted with an excited individual who wishes to get involved, and we try to squeeze them into existing ministries that our church has rather than taking a look at a new idea of theirs, then we have started to extinguish a light. 

Sometimes, asking people to jump into an existing ministry works, but more often it doesn’t. People may be excited about their faith, but that excitement fades when they are told to embrace the constraints and guidelines of an existing ministry merely because “we’ve always done it this way at this church.” That vetted ministry may have been dying for a reason, and throwing a new and excited individual at it will probably not bring it back to life, because their creativity and passion will have been saddled with a vision that is not their own.

If we really take on this idea that God has prepared people in our churches for ministry – ministry outside the path of ordination – then we need to be willing to let them start things up and run with them, giving them as much support as possible.

If it fails, so be it. The ministry gets shut down.

If it takes off, so much the better. Over the years it becomes another one of those things that “this church has always done.” Until the person who originally started it moves on, dies, or loses interest. Unless there is someone who shares the passion and vision for the ministry, it’s probably best to shut it down, because it may very well have served its purpose, and something new is on the horizon.

If we are the type to look inward, then we will look for every conceivable way to keep this ministry alive, even after its time has passed. We will pull, poke, prod, and cajole others to take over the ministry, simply because we don’t want to see it die. 

Over my years in ministry, both as an ordained minister and as a volunteer, I’ve watched the light go out in people as those in charge have put a bushel over their excitement and passion. I’ve witnessed as someone had an exciting vision for reaching a local college, only to be told that what they had in mind would require the church to pay more for cleaning, would interfere with events that served the existing members, and would require too much in the way of logistics. And then they were asked that if they were interested in ministry, wouldn’t they like to learn to run the sound board? Never mind that this wasn’t in their skill set, their spiritual gift mix, or even their passions. I could literally see the fire go out, the light get quenched. That is hiding the word of God under a bushel.

On the flipside, there are those that tend to look outward, outside of the church. I’ve seen someone come up, with the same excitement, with the same passion, throwing out a creative idea for ministry to the local community. And watched as the pastor fanned the flame of their excitement, listening intently to what they were saying, excitedly adding new ideas. And then, telling the person matter of factly, “I will support you in any way I can. You can use the church resources as needed. Check in with me weekly for now, then monthly. We’ll evaluate in six months, and see what needs to happen next.” That person went out and grew a new ministry  – with the help of the church – that served the local community, and it has since become a staple of the church’s outreach. 

For those in charge of churches, groups, congregations, “This little light of mine” is not just about your own personal witness, but includes the witness and excitement of those under your care. 

There may be legitimate reasons, you might think, for shutting down an excited member. Perhaps there are. In my experience, however, those reasons are all based in some form of pride or fear. They come from not wanting to share the spotlight with those whom God has placed in their path. They come from wanting to control the outcome of everything at the church, so as to show how well they have grown what God has given them, or to keep things from falling apart.

It may be human nature to live like that, but we are not called to be like those in the world around us. Instead, we are called to emulate Christ, who took a band of uneducated country folk, and turned the world upside down because he was willing to humble himself, even to dying on a cross, and then letting his disciples build on his mission and vision.

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