Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Ministry of Misfits

The past few months have been an extremely hard season for me, my husband, our family, and our ministry. People betrayed us. People turned their backs on us. People deserted us, abandoned us, and left when we needed them most. We had to break fellowship with people we have been connected to for decades. We began to question why we do this, and if we are still supposed to be doing this. We began to feel alone. Like we were the only ones who cared about the addicts that are dying in the street- dying without knowing Jesus. The devil did his best to destroy us. To make us give up. To walk away. To turn our back on ministry. To throw in the towel.

BUT GOD had another plan. A week and a half ago in North Carolina, we held a 3 day crusade with 3 other ministries. God showed up and showed out! People were healed, delivered from drugs, demons were cast out, people were slain in the spirit, people left speaking in tongues- filled with the Holy Ghost. The presence of God was so heavy that everyone who walked into that place left changed. Including myself. Things that we, and all of the people that we brought with us, would have never experienced if we would have given into discouragement and walked away. Little did we realize then, but we felt so out of place because God was shifting and positioning things. Change was happening- and change hurts. God was taking our will- and what we thought should or would be happening- and was instead making things work for His purposes.

For months, my husband and I have been feeling out of place. Like we don't belong. Like no one  really, truly understands what we go through in ministry. We have felt so unsupported, so misunderstood. Like we were the only ones fighting to keep this thing going, and questioning if maybe we weren't supposed to keep it going at all.

Proverbs 3:5 tells us to not lean on our own understanding, but to trust in the Lord with all of our hearts, and He will direct our paths. Very wise advice, but much easier said than done. Our flesh wants us to lean on our own understanding, on our own logic. We always want to know how things are going to turn out, what the future holds, why things are happening the way that they are. But if this weekend has shown me anything, it's that Isaiah 55:8 has become my new life verse- "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than that earth, so are my ways higher than your ways."

You see, little did I understand then, but God was working His perfect will together through the rejection, through the abandonment, through having to cut people out of our lives, through feeling detached and alone. You see, EVERY single pastor that was in North Carolina had been feeling the same way. They had had the same exact things happen to them and their ministries. They had people turn their backs on them, betray them, they had to walk away from people. They had felt alone and detached too. What we thought was people, was actually God orchestrating things for His purpose. God used that detachment and loneliness that was brought on by people in ministry hurting us to bring all of us together. He separated all of us for HIS purpose, not ours. He used what we had been going through to connect us with each other. To allow this crusade and revival to happen- and for the many more to come.  What we thought was people kicking us to the curb, was actually GOD positioning us where we needed to be, and removing people from our lives that would hinder His plan, so that HE can move through us as a ministry team the way that HE needs to- with no constraints, no looking towards the approval of people, no boxing in the Holy Spirit. And in order for that to happen, He had to remove all of us from where we were at, to take us to where we needed to be- and He loved us enough to make sure that people who would hinder or hurt us and what God wants to do didn't come with us.

So here we are. A rag tag gang of misfits being used by God to make a difference in the lives of the lost by preaching the gospel. Being a misfit has given me enormous sympathy and love for other misfits- the outcasted, the unloveable, the rejects, the addicts, the gangbangers, the prostitutes, those who don't fit in with "proper" society. I have a heart for misfits. And so does Jesus. His entire ministry was built on misfits. He preached to lepers, prostitutes, murderers. He was not in the synagogues preaching to the Pharisees and the "proper" people of society- because not only did He
come to heal the sick- and those who knew that they needed God rather than resting in their own righteousness and good works- but He (God Himself!), was a misfit and not accepted by the Pharisees. He knew what it was to be rejected, to be abandoned, to be mocked, to be looked down upon, to be talked about, to be persecuted.

You know where else I have heard about a rag tag gang of misfits? In the new testament. The disciples of Jesus Christ- the disciples Jesus himself called- were misfits of society. God Himself did not recruit the religious elite for His crew.  Instead, He chose what was despised in this world to shame the pride of the haughty (1 Corinthians 1:27). A shady tax collector, a violent radical named Simon, two very arrogant hotheads named James and John, those who held non-elite jobs and thus weren't seen as "worthy" in their society (fishermen), and a violent Jewish thug who persecuted, imprisoned, and helped murder the very early followers of Jesus -Saul of Tarsus- formed the inner circle of our sinless God.  If Jesus had chosen the Pharisees or Jewish rabbis to be his followers, we might have reason to doubt the unconditional nature of salvation. We might question our own worthiness or ability to win His approval or beckon His attention. But the fact that Jesus chose men such as the disciples shows that the heart of God is not swayed by human convention. No one is beyond the reach of God’s grace.

Throughout history, God has always used the least likely and the most unqualified to provoke change. The Bible is full of misfits—those who usually lost out on man's approval but always won with a God-dreamed vision. They are the ones man overlooks but God notices and plucks from obscurity.
God almost always chooses the one who wouldn't get picked to be on man's team to be an all-star on God's team (Prov. 15:25).

It is the misfits who know that we are, without a doubt, nothing without God. We know that there is no good in us at all without Jesus. We know that through our own righteousness (what a joke!) and good works, we can do nothing. Peter and John healed a man, and when the Pharisees and High Priests brought them before them to be questions, the bible says, "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus."- Acts 4:13.

What made these unqualified, misfit servants of Jesus stand out as they went about preaching the gospel was not who they WERE but who they KNEW. The message of their lives said these men had been with Jesus, and they (and everyone else!) understood that without God's intervention in their lives, they were simply unqualified fools. They were feared by the religious and powerful, because they never relied on themselves to do anything. Their entire reputation was one that made others sit up and say, "These guys have been with Jesus!" - because everyone knew it couldn't be done through their own righteousness- since they had none! Their lives showed the power of God to all- just hearing about former murderers, tax collectors,  thugs, and the non-socially elite and uneducated healing people in the name and power of God pointed people back to Jesus- because everyone knew that these things couldn't be done out of their own human power- because of how screwed up they had been!

Being a misfit is a constant reminder to me, and the people I do ministry with, that we are nothing without Jesus, and can do nothing without His power. We are well aware at how powerless and screwed up we were when He found us and saved us. It is those who God has saved out of the deepest pits that understand just howmighty He really is, and how powerless we are on our own. The addicts and prostitutes and murderers and liars and gang members and thieves who have head on collision with Jesus and become set free and transformed are aware of just how powerful God's hand really is, and just how far He is willing to reach to accept us back to Him when we repent and surrender. Misfits are able to minister to other misfits- the ones who haven't been accepted into mainstream churches, the ones who need someone to go to THEM and tell them about Jesus.

God is awakening the misfits and the unqualified. Purity is the backbone of authority, and authority is determined by brokenness. It is brokenness that keeps us from exalting ourselves in pride but rather be humble, it deepens our compassion for other's suffering and have our heart break for them the way Jesus' does, it causes us to become dependent on his mercy, provision and grace since we can't accomplish anything on our own in our broken state. In brokenness, we become desperate and surrender with all our might to the only one we know can heal us. We get to know God much better in the pit than we ever will on a pedestal. God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalms 34:18).  The spiritual depth of the does not come from degrees on the wall or memberships in prestigious God clubs but from the classroom of brokenness. God has always confounded the wise. He calls forth the available, no matter how misfitting they are.

And I am proud to be one of God's misfits, no matter what the world may think.

2 Corinthians 3: "Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."