Kyle Rohane, editor of the Christianity Today pastors’ newsletter, used that forum to thank a number of pastors who had made a difference in his life. He summed up his column with these words.
“But to these pastors and to all of you reading this newsletter who minister in some way to God’s people, I want to say thank you. By following God’s call, you have played a crucial role in forming the lives of the people you’ve shepherded.”
I hope that each of the pastors that he mentions reads his column. I hope that they realize that at an important point in a young person’s development, God used them to shape someone’s life.
This is what it is all about. It isn’t about attracting large crowds. It isn’t about growing a huge church. It isn’t about the fame and attention that goes along with the first two.
People who have impacted me
This is a confession that most pastors would hate to make but it is a confession that I have to make. I don’t remember very many of the sermons that I heard preached. In fact I don’t remember most of the sermons that I myself preached. I don’t remember the Sunday school lessons that I listened to or the Bible classes that I sat through.
But there is something that I do remember. I remember many times when someone took some time to invest in my life.
I remember the elderly pastor who, after listening to me preach one of my early sermons, came over to me and encouraged me to continue in ministry.
I remember the relative who listened to my crazy ideas when I was in my twenties and not only encouraged me but helped me put some of them into action.
I remember the person who suggested that the church he attended pay the rent for me and my family when I was a student with a family to support. I had only attended that church for three weeks when they did this.
I remember the couple who when I lost my job at my first church showed up at our house with a gift and hearts full of concern for us.
I remember a seminary student who poured her time into my two daughters at a time in their lives when they needed an older friend.
Over the years I have been blessed with many people who have invested time, resources and energy into my life and the lives of my family.
I am thankful for everyone of them. They are a constant reminder to me that ministry is not only about the big things but about the individual opportunities that God gives us to make a difference one person at a time.
The example of Jesus
Jesus could have been much more prominent than he was. Crowds flocked to him to hear him teach with an authority that others lacked. He performed miracles and there is nothing like a good miracle every once in a while to attract people. He challenged the religious leaders and there are always people who love a little rebellion.
When you read through the gospels though what you discover is that Jesus spent a lot of time with individual people. He visited with Nicodemus when he probably should have been sleeping. In the middle of a hot, tiring day he spent time with a Samaritan woman whom everyone else had rejected. He healed individuals and then told them to keep what had happened to themselves. He comforted Mary and Martha at the death of their brother.
Jesus understood that ultimately ministry is all about individual people. It is all about making a difference in people’s lives one person at a time.
Thank you for giving to the Lord
One of my all time favorite songs was sung by Ray Boltz. It tells the story of someone who in a dream went to heaven and there people shared how their lives had been changed by what the person gave. The chorus goes like this:
“Thank you for giving to the Lord. I am a life that was changed. Thank you for giving to the Lord. I am so glad you gave.”
You can’t change a life. Only God can do that. But the wonderful reality is that while we can’t change a life, God, who does bring about the change, allows us to be part of the change process. You can’t change a life but you can be part of the means that God uses to bring about that change.
Today, tomorrow, the day after, every day for the rest of your life you can make a difference in someone’s life. I am so thankful for all those people who made a difference for me. This is the ultimate “Pay It Forward” because the only way that I can repay those people who made a difference for me is to be God’s instrument in making a difference for someone else.