“On his tenth birthday, a sensitive boy received ten shiny silver dollars from an uncle. The child was very appreciative. He immediately sat down on the floor and spread the coins before him. Then he planned how to use the money. He set aside the first dollar saying, “This one is for Jesus.” He went on to decide what to do with the second, and so on until he came to the last dollar. “This one is for Jesus,” he said. The boy’s mother interrupted, “But I thought you gave the first dollar to Jesus.” “I did,” the boy replied. “The first one belongs to Him, but this one is a gift to Him from me.” (The Grace of Giving by Stephen Olford.)
I have always loved that story! It paints a picture of obedience to and great love for God.
Never Expected this Answer
We met with a Pastor and his church leadership team in one of the cities in the middle east. I will always remember this team! They reminded me of this ten-year-old little boy. Like the boy in our story, they exemplified a life of obedience to and great love for Jesus!
After we preached on marriage and family all day to his church, the Pastor asked us to come back that evening for a question and answer time. Delighted to do so, we came that night ready to give our best answers to their questions.
The first question came from a husband and his wife. He said to us that what he was about to ask was on behalf of everyone in the room. Probably 18 -20 people were there.
He went on to share with us that they all worked twelve hours a day, six to seven days a week. They had to work this crazy schedule to make enough money to support their families. His question was, “We don’t know how to serve the church more with this workload. What do you recommend we do?”
Immediately, our western minds got to work. Different people answered with various forms of the same thing, “This may not be your season to serve the church. You need to serve your family. There will come a time when you can serve the church more. Be patient.”
While we were all sharing our solutions to this man’s question, I watched his face to see if we satisfied him with an answer. What I saw was his countenance deflate. What we were sharing was not helping him. He seemed more discouraged than when he first asked us the question. So, I asked the translator if we could ask him more questions.
I asked the man, “What is the real trouble with serving the church? What would you like to do?”
The man replied with the best answer, “We want to work less so we can serve the church more.” We, Americans, were dumbfounded. For in most cases, we would have never heard that answer in the States!
Back home, we might have heard, “We want to work less, serve less, and entertain ourselves more.”
They Saw the Church Differently
It occurred to me that these people saw the church differently than Americans saw the church. Often, we in the states, see the church as an institution or organization. We give money to keep the lights on. We serve to keep the church “organization” operating. Essentially, “All hands-on-deck, so the deck doesn’t fall apart.” Amen?
But these people saw the church as a person – the church was their mother, father, sister, brother, child – in other words, their family. They saw the church as the Bride of Christ, a person of value who needed nourishment, constant care, comfort, and support. No one in that room would have left their children hungry. And they certainly weren’t going to leave their church that way.
Realizing they needed encouragement instead of solutions, I asked the question, “What do each of you do in this church? What’s your role?” One at a time each told how they served their church. It was amazing to see them refresh themselves as they recounted all that they were already doing. And they were doing a lot!
From what they shared, we realized these people serve because they not only love the Bride of Christ, but they feel overwhelmingly blessed by the Lord. That blessing is their motivator to give, serve, and make church life a priority.
God’s grace saved them. They found truth in Jesus. They were liberated from Iran, a place of imminent death for their faith.
They found a church of followers that became their kin. The church sustains them through the hardships; it imitates to them the love, grace, and hope of Christ.
These people found the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Like a merchant in search of fine pearls, they found their best treasure – the church! They left all, so they could dine with, abide in, and worship Jesus – the Pearl of Great Price! (Matthew 13:45-46).
How do you see your church? In what ways can you or do you view the church as a person?