When I was a young new missionary in the Republic of Georgia, I was involved in a few different ministries. Some from YWAM, but some other meetings were run by people who were with different mission organizations. In my enthusiasm, I just invited everyone I met, or let’s say the ones that seemed ready for it, to come and do DTS with us. I just wanted people to have the chance to experience what I had experienced— what it’s like to grow closer to God, learn how to have deeper relationships with people, and what it means to live faith in real life.
One day I received a phone call from the leader of one of the non-YWAM ministries I was involved with. He accused me of trying to “steal” people from his ministry… I was in shock. Also because this man was and still is a super decent, sincere follower of Jesus (as far as I know at least). I was caught totally off-guard, because in my mind there was no competition. Did it actually matter who came to what ministry? If people find something that helps them to get closer to God, then we should be excited and bless them right?
I hung up the phone feeling like I was the most terrible person in the world. In my “ignorance” I had broken this unseen, unwritten rule that no one ever educated me about, though if they had I would have said it’s ridiculous. I’m sure there are people who do this for selfish gain, people who find importance in numbers or following. But you know what I read the other day? This is truly shocking…
“It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.” Philippians 1:15-18
So honestly, even if people are “stealing” people from other ministries or whatever other crazy stuff might go on, Christ is being preached so it doesn’t matter. I mean, of course they will bear the fruit of their actions and I’m not in any way justifying it. What I’m saying is two things: that great ministry leader would have better released “his people” to follow wherever God was leading them, if they wanted to do DTS or not. And the next is, there can be some seriously screwed up churches or ministries, and God can still be working there.
This feels almost uncomfortable to write, but it’s true: I know from experience. I have found myself in several situations where there were some fishy things in leadership, the way people were practicing their beliefs, the way “lay people” were treated or regarded by leaders, I mean just so many screwed up situations. And you know what? I always learned something. Because God is ferocious in the sense that He wants to help us grow to become more like Christ. So when a situation is messy, he can pile the mess together to make a stepping stone for us to get up to the next level in our process and journey with God.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disregarding the serious issues which we see in many Christian scenes these days. I’m honestly frustrated by it many times, but I have come to realize that God is not dependent on circumstances. He’s dependent on the openness of your heart. And He will search to find any nook or cranny that’s even slightly open, so He can blow His fresh wind of love in. Maybe you’re sitting in a church where it’s all about show, but no one is truly honest about what they are going through. Or in a ministry with a leader that is using his/her fellow missionaries to accomplish the goal they have in mind, without consideration for the actual gifting/calling on those people’s lives.
In retrospect, if I was who I am today, I would have had a very decent discussion with that man who accused me. Hopefully imparting some truth, but in the end I guess we are only open to hear/see/receive what we want to— so maybe it wouldn’t have worked anyways. And in retrospect, there are many situations where it would have been healthier if I had left sooner. But I didn’t realize it at the time, and God isn’t stumped by that. He knew, He knows… and He just wanted me to grow to discover my life hidden in Christ. So He took the crap and used it for His glory (note: I’m not saying that He caused the crap, but I do believe He is able to wield it for His purposes to benefit His kids).
In any case, preach Christ people. Release people, people. Because it’s not about OUR ministry or OUR organization— it’s about the Kingdom of Heaven. If you find yourself in a sticky situation, be brave enough to leave if you know in your heart that the time is right— your days there were not in vain, just ask God to use it for your good. The same goes if you have just come out of a terrible experience, don’t waste time regretting not leaving sooner— God was pursuing you and still is, and ‘He is able to make all things work together for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.’ (Rom. 8:28)