Aug 06, 2009 by Alex Mekonnen | 4 Comments
As I reflect back on my thirty-four years of ministry and ponder Scriptural and autobiographical readings, I am amazed how often the Lord brings great things out of small beginnings. Contrary to our human ambition, God wants to work with insignificant, despised, poor, unassuming workers to manifest his power, glory, mercy, judgment and redemptive love. God actively works within human history and the universe. However, this does not mean he is rushing to show results. From what I understand, he is a God of process. And process takes time, the converging of so many factors, and it demands patience.
Our human nature craves grand results—huge budgets and buildings, large crowds, and sophisticated equipment to put our voice and image on the airwaves. Yes, our desire is to make our Lord known. Undoubtedly, we also love to be known. Many start their call to Christian leadership with mixed and unhealthy spiritual motives, and end up in heartbreaking situations and wrecked families, churches and para-church organizations. These kinds of leaders are warning signs for us and they teach us a great deal about how not to do ministry. For positive and enriching examples, let us look at a few models for “Small Beginning.”
When God wanted to build the nation of Israel, he started with Abraham and Sarah. The possibility of them having children, let alone a nation, is humanly unthinkable. The Scripture rightly describes the possible impossibility this way: “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:18-21).
Out of the “dead body and dead womb” the Lord built a nation that has played a significant role in human history. Out of this nation came judges, kings, priests, prophets, apostles, scientists and poets. Most of all, the savior of the world Jesus Christ came out of the nation of Israel. Starting from a humble beginning, Abraham became “the father of us all” (Rom. 4:16b). With unwavering faith, tested patience, hope and endurance, Abraham submitted himself to go through the divine process.
The New Covenant that we are in did not start with glamour, wealth and power. It began with a baby Jesus born in a manger. His nation was a colony. Galilee, the region where he grew up, was stricken with poverty. Jesus grew up seeing his people languishing under the Roman tax and the law of the Pharisees, and suffering from disease, hunger, oppression and injustice. He himself had no home. He didn’t establish a university or write a book. He never traveled outside of Israel. Yet, the scope and impact of his life can’t be adequately covered in books and songs. By choice and obedience, he accepted a small and humble beginning. Paul writes that Jesus “…being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6-7). Today, for Christian leaders, even for secular leaders who would like to emulate him, Jesus is an epitome example.
The biographies of the apostles and prominent pioneering missionaries of our modern time have similar background as their master. The “Upper Room,” the first meeting place of the disciples compared to the temple in Jerusalem, is like a shack in Soweto, South Africa or Kibera, in Nairobi. They had no budget, library or organizational plan. In the eyes of the religious leaders of Israel, the apostles were considered “uneducated.” Just read the book of Acts to comprehend what the apostles did in the name of the Lord, starting from a small beginning. William Carey, the father of modern mission was a cobbler. Moffat was a gardener to an English nobleman. Others were artisans, carpenters and daily laborers. Despite their small and humble beginnings, they have written an exciting chapter in Christian history.
From the latest Christian movement out of Africa, a continent known for its poverty and political and economic turmoil, I would like to cite a good example of small beginning, which now has captured the attention of scholars, pastors and seminary students. It is a movement in Kiev, Ukraine, “established in November 1993 as a Bible study group of seven people meeting in Adelaja’s [a Nigerian] apartment, the new group registered as a church three months later with only forty-nine members. Yet, by 2002, after adopting an outreach strategy that targeted the marginalized group in Ukraine society, the church had grown to twenty thousand. Over one million Ukrainians have reportedly been converted to Christianity as a result of its ministry” (Jehu J. Hanciles 2008:120).
If we stop being influenced by the corporate world and follow the pattern of the Scripture, we’ll have fewer headaches with paying debts for buildings and more productive time to enhance the kingdom of God. The fastest growing churches in the world today are based on home fellowships, are meeting in tents and under trees. The converts are baptized in rivers and oceans. Their preachers are walking miles to reach the unreached, riding on the back of mules and horses. I’m not writing this sitting on a professor’s chair with no practical experience. I was one of those preachers who walked for ten hours, climbed steep mountains and crossed valleys and rivers. I’m an eyewitness to small beginning and astonishing growth. If you are certain of your calling to ministry, trust the Lord, listen to his voice, obey him, be patient, labor diligently, run with a godly motive and keep your integrity. Both in this world and the one to come, your reward will be a hundred fold. Christ has promised and his word is infallible.