|Many years ago, the words of Acts 19:9 struck me. The apostle Paul went to a synagogue to teach about the kingdom of God. Luke tells us some of those who listened “stubbornly refused to believe.” They even “maligned the Way.” Paul’s response was simple. He left them.
He didn’t engage their aggression. There’s no sense he even defended his positions. He didn’t plead with them and he didn’t soften his message. He left them and went somewhere else to find others willing to listen.
It’s not too much to say that one passage shaped a lot about how I serve in ministry. As a pastor, there’s a line I try to walk with faith and integrity. My job is to sojourn with the church. As we go, I get the joy of reminding congregations of God’s presence, pointing our attention to the glory of God.
There are those who want to take that journey. And others who do not. Now, we don’t leave those who do not. We do not run them out of the church. I don’t think less of them either. To be sure, most are not seeking to “malign the Way.” They just have other priorities right now. I pray for them as much as anyone else. We welcome them as a part of the family of God as well. For me, that’s one side of the line.
The other side is knowing that not everyone will respond to your ministry. I’ve had plenty of unsuccessful attempts to engage people in the church. What do you do then? In my mind, you keep looking for people who are ready to listen. When someone makes the decision to direct their lives to the glory of God, I need to be ready to show them how they can.
Now, let’s see how an old story puts all this into perspective.
In 2 Kings 4, a widow approached the prophet Elisha. Her husband was a prophet, but now she only had her two children with her. How could she get by? Elisha asked her, “What do you have in the house” (2 Kings 4:2)? All she had left was a jar of oil. The prophet instructed her to ask her neighbors for more jars or vessels. They provided her with more. Then she was to begin pouring her oil, the last bit she had, into the other vessels.
The oil kept coming. It did not run out!
In fact, it was only after she ran out of vessels the oil “stopped flowing.” In other words, there would have been more oil if there were more vessels.
I read that today in much the same light as what I’ve offered to you as my view of ministry. God’s abundance does not run out. But it will only pour into what’s available or open. If, for whatever reasons, we don’t bring our vessels–ourselves–we’re going to miss it. Without even realizing it, we’ll try to fill ourselves with other things.
But when you’re ready, I’m ready with you.
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