Recently, I was a part of a Gathering (Bible word for "church") in a nearby home. We all approached the Lord and one another as equals in Christ (as all Christians are - there are no elevated "levels" in Biblical Christianity.)
One of the men I pastor has been a painter and handyman all his life. He has no formal Bible training but he reads his Bible regularly, prays (talking AND listening) a lot and pays attention whenever he is worshiping (in any format) with others. He is probably the best person I have ever met at being observant.
He has been faithful to walk in the pastoral relationship with me and be a friend with me for a few years.
He is deeply submitted to the Lord.
This man was quiet most of the night and then began to speak. He said something that touched me deeply.
I think that if we all choose to step into our destinies as disciples of Jesus AND disciple makers for Jesus....what He had to say will be important for us to practice. The simple, yet profound, thing he said went something like this:
“I listen to people’s stories. A person’s story tells you who he is. How people react to someone’s story also tells you who they are. I watch how people react to someone else’s story.”
What he had to say just resonated in me. I couldn’t let it go. The Lord Jesus was speaking to us through this humble man.
What he said was true: a person’ story IS who he is. So, there is that fact.
What he was modelling, though, is what really touched me.
Jesus said: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Whenever that man sits and listens to another person’s story he is quite literally obeying that command from Jesus.
As Christianity drifted off course starting about 300 A.D. something happened to the Body of Christ and it wasn’t good. The idea of clergy (professional ministers) and laity (regular Christians) came into being. This idea sets into place the idea of some sort of Christian caste system in which some Christians are better than others and, tragically, some Christians are not as valuable as other ones are – despite the FACT that Jesus spent the same price to purchase all Christians (HIMSELF).
This is a worldly concept that Jesus taught against.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12)
Note that this verse does not say that certain “special” people will do greater works than those done by Jesus. It says that any believer in Christ will do these things.
Because a caste system has been superimposed on the beautiful simplicity of Biblical Christianity, the whole concept of “ministry” has been over-complicated. As a result, most Christians believe that they can’t possibly minister the Kingdom of God to other people because they aren’t important enough, experienced enough, trained enough…. and on and on.
I listened to that man last night describe how simply he was obeying the command Jesus gave us to love one another. It was beautiful.
When we listen to another person’s story we ARE loving them. The world doesn’t care about people. Sadly, many in the Church Jesus instituted don’t care about people. No one takes the time to listen to someone else’s story.
When we do take the time to do that we are using some of the relatively few minutes we have on the earth to show someone else that we care. We spend, if you will, a precious commodity (our lives) for the sake of another person. Jesus said this:
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
While this can look like a soldier throwing himself on a grenade to save the lives of his friends in battle, it can also be something as simple as sitting quietly while someone else tells you what happened to her.
Then Jesus said this:
“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14)
It matters to people when we listen to their stories and it matters to Jesus when we do something He considers important for us to do.
I hope this short article encourages you to embrace the simple things that we often take for granted, like listening to someone else, and love your neighbor.
For the most part throughout history most people who have come to Jesus have not done so through huge events or evangelism campaigns or through regularly scheduled church services with altar calls (although, these are all good things to do.)
Most Christians in history have come to Jesus through personal, one-on-one contact.
A few years ago my wife and I were invited to a West African nation, Sierra Leone, to minister to every leader in the Baptist Union of that entire nation. Every, single Christian we met there was raised a Muslim and had later converted to Jesus.
I asked several men there how many salvations among them came through foreign missionary outreaches. Every one of them said the same thing: “None.”
They had all been born again because some garden variety Christian took the time to listen to their stories, build relationship with them, serve them and then they listened to the gospel and received Jesus as their Lord.
Anyone can do this. Lots of “anyones” already have for centuries.
May we all keep our hearts attuned to Holy Spirit, listening to His guidance as He leads us to those He has for us to listen to and with whom to become friends.
May we all do so with “no strings attached” and with no expectations. We already have everything in Christ – therefore, we don’t need to use other people to get anything from them.
“Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8b)
People are so used to being hustled by the world that they know what it feels like to be hustled by the Church using worldly schemes. They know how to shake off those schemes.
What the world is sadly unused to experiencing is simple and organic Christianity being practiced by people like us: regular ol’ Christians.
May you experience the power of God being manifested in and through you in simple ways like listening to someone’s story or helping him move or give him food – asking nothing in return.
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)