Thursday, April 28, 2016

Packing & Planting

Today I was watching the Exponential Conference via live stream and listening to Mark Batterson, Brian Houston, and Matt Chandler speak to church planters.  As I listened to the vision being cast for taking Jesus to those who don't know Him, I started to feel sad and a little guilty that I'm not involved in church planting.

I attend a church that believes in a multi-site structure and has started two satellite churches.  I guess that qualifies as church planting.  But I'm not really involved in that, and, truthfully, my involvement with Operation Christmas Child keeps me so busy I don't serve much in my local church.

But as those sneaky thoughts of guilt played around in my brain, I suddenly realized the precious shoeboxes we're blessed to pack through Operation Christmas Child are the very tools often used to plant seeds that grow into church plants around the world in many different countries.

These sweet kiddos in the picture are some of the 70 graduates from The Greatest Journey discipleship course at a church in Colombia.  I was blessed to be there last May to see them get their diplomas and New Testaments.  The pastor told us they'd planted the church six years ago and never had more than four children in their children's program until they had an Operation Christmas Child shoebox distribution last spring followed by the discipleship course.  Now these 70 children brought their families to their graduation ceremony and that Sunday morning 25 people made decisions to follow Jesus.

Since I was a child I've had a heart for missions and as I was growing up I affirmed I would be a missionary nurse to Nepal.  Instead, I struggled with clinical nursing--only working three years full-time after graduation--and got married and had three children.  I never went to the mission field and after struggling on several short-term mission trips it's pretty clear to me I don't have gifting in cross-cultural ministry.  I've always felt a sense of failure about that.

Then along came Operation Christmas Child and our merciful God was able to marry my love for missions with my love for bargain shopping and allow me to come alongside Him to minister to children around the world without leaving my own city.  How great is that!

I read a great quote by Craig Greenfield this week: "I have found that if I pray for God to move a mountain, I must be prepared to wake up next to a shovel."  I've prayed for decades for God to move the mountains and turn people's hearts to Jesus and now, through Operation Christmas Child, God handed me a shovel.  Isn't it marvelous that He invites us into this work with Him?

In 1 Corinthians 3:6,7 Paul wrote, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything but God who causes the growth."

The speakers I heard today had some advice that applies to any ministry.  Brian Houston from Hillsong encouraged his listeners to be themselves and not try to replicate someone else's ministry.  That's so true in our Operation Christmas Child lives also.

God has work for you and He has work for me, and only by His grace He causes growth.  We may not get to see the harvest but we'll keep packing and planting in faith.

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