Or how it’s taken 30 years to get where I am today
Last August I preached for the last time at Lutterworth Community Church. Mary & I left in September to be part of a team who are starting a new church in Leicester. This is part 1 of that preach. Parts 2 & 3 will follow in the next couple of months
I want to take you on a journey today – one that spans 30 years.
The verse I chose to base this preach around is Isaiah 6
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Setting the scene
Church planting is something that I’ve wanted to do since before I was married. I’m not sure when this dream or desire really started, but it’s been with me for over 25 years
During that time I’ve had a number of mentors in 40+ years of my Christian life. I use the term mentor rather than pastor/shepherd because it encompasses far more than just spiritual pasturing.
They fall in to 2 categories: “down & dirty” – people who I have had (or still have) a close relationship with – and those who’ve mentored me at a distance – where I’ve met them only a few times but their teaching has had major impacts on my life.
The down & dirty mentors include Keith Burford who was my bible group leader when I first became a Christian, Fred Davis who led the Covenanter group I used to go to, Ralph Turner, Anthony O’Sullivan & Phillip James from South Lee Christian Church and Dennis Merry Peter Vincent from Lutterworth Community Church.
There are 2 “at a distance” mentors – John Wimber (who is now with the Lord) who had great input into my life in the areas of healing and worship and John Paul Jackson with the prophetic.
I’m basing this talk on part of John Paul Jackson’s course “The Art of Hearing God”, looking at the (prophetic) ministry lifecycle (I put prophetic in brackets because I believe this lifecycle can apply to any area of gift or ministry). John Paul called this “Called, Trained, Commissioned” and I’m going to look at God’s call (what it looks like), training (process) and commissioning (time to do it) using examples from the bible and how it happened with me.
Part 1. Called
This is not a call to salvation but a call to your life ministry.
Typically it happens in an instant, it needs a response, it happens in a number of ways & you rarely know what you are responding to. Let’s look at some biblical examples
1 Samuel 3:1-10
The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.
One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
Again the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”
Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Samuel’s call was through the voice of God. It may have been audible or in his inner ear, it doesn’t really matter – just that Samuel heard it.
Sometimes the call comes before you are a Christian. Samuel didn’t even recognise God’s voice – he thought it was Eli’s – his mentor, but he responded in the way his mentor told him to.
Lesson: Listen to your mentor and do what he suggests, he probably knows more than you.
At the time he responded, Samuel didn’t have a clue about what he was responding to – but he finds out a little of it immediately afterwards
And the LORD said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’”
Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the LORD. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.”
Samuel answered, “Here I am.”
“What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.” So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes.”
I think it was probably a good idea of God’s not to tell Samuel what he was getting in to before he’d said yes. I think I would probably have chickened out if I’d known I was going to have to say that to my mentor!
1 Samuel 16:1-13
The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”
But Samuel said, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.”
The LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”
Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”
Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed stands here before the LORD.”
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the LORD chosen this one.” Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”
So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.
Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.”
So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah.
Samuel came to anoint the next king of Israel. None of the brothers presented to him were the right one, so David was summoned. Who went to fetch him? We don’t know. David may not even have known why he was being called back home. If David had said “my place is here – I’ve got to look after these sheep” he’d’ve missed what God was preparing him for.
His call came through a prophetic word/act in the part of Samuel
Lesson: Respond to the call, even if it takes you away from what you’d normally be doing or been assigned to do by your leaders.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Isaiah was probably worshipping in the temple when he had this vision. He has a realisation of his uncleanliness, but God cleanses his lips and then calls with a question. Isaiah responds. Again he doesn’t know what he is responding to, but he’s given a clue immediately after
He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
Then I said, “For how long, O Lord?”
And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the LORD has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”
In Isaiah case his call came through a vision.
Lesson: God speaks when we’re in a place of listening – in this case in worship.
Peter, Andrew, James & John
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
This is a slightly unusual call. Not many people get called by the physical presence of Jesus, but note again they responded immediately and left everything
In 1981 I was going to an Anglican church and was part of a music group there. To be honest, I wasn’t in a particularly good place with God, it was only because I was playing guitar and singing with this group that I was still going to church. One of the group members was Fiona Godfrey. In July, her father was being ordained as a minister into the Church of England and we all went to his ordination service. I remember virtually nothing about it, except that the bishop read passage Isaiah 6.
I suddenly found tears in my eyes and something inside me said “Here I am, send me”. For many years after I’d say that this was the time God started sorting out my life – however it was more than that and I was to discover what that “more” was over many years.
The week before Easter 1982, Fiona invited me to a church in South Lee to see a friend of hers being baptised. She invited me because she thought I knew her friend. As it turned out, I didn’t, but half way through the service I suddenly through “Home”. By July I had left the spiritually dead Anglican church, joined South Lee and been baptised.
I still didn’t know at this point what God had for me as a calling on my life. That would be revealed more during the training phase but it involved hearing from Him through scripture, prophetic words and just doing what came naturally to me.
My call came through the Holy Spirit highlighting a passage of the bible
Lesson: You don’t have to be in a “good place” to hear God’s call, but when you do – respond.
The call is:
- The easiest of the three stages
- Often happens in a moment.
- Often private or shared only with 1 or 2 others.
- Sometimes a supernatural experience – dreams, visions, visitations, trances, prophetic words, voice of God (audible or in your inner ear)
- Most commonly today the inner leading of the Holy Spirit – may take longer and almost certainly needs some other confirmation
Next Month – Trained.