[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #266 ---- 1/13/03

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From: "Bob Tolliver" <btolliver@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003 22:37:27 -0600
Standing Shoulder To Shoulder Together As We
Fight the Good Fight of Faith

A personal letter of encouragement to you, written solely to "lift up hands that hang down".

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SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #266--- 1/13/03

TITLE:  "Having A Significant Ministry"

My Dear Friend:

Today I greet you in the name of our Lord from the frigid city of Kiev, Ukraine.  We currently have about six or eight inches of snow on the ground and it is a balmy 10 degrees above zero.  And, there's nothing like living in an apartment with central heat where you have no control over the temperature in your flat.  Week-ends are always colder because the heat is turned back at that time.  PTL for long johns and other relevant attire!

I trust you are well, and are rejoicing in God's great goodness.  The longer I live, the more precious His blessings become, and the less attention I pay to adverse circumstances.  I wish I had learned that early in my life.  Bill Gaither's great song, "The Longer I Serve Him, the Sweeter He Grows" is certainly a true description of our walk with the Master.

You obviously noticed that you received two S2S letters at the same time last week.  I apologize for the inconvenience that may have caused, but we were in a situation that made it unavoidable.  The mailing system I use has a "timed" transmission feature that allows you to write your document early and have it sent at a later time.  However, when my friend Glen Stewart (owner and host of Associate.com services) tried to do that for me, he discovered it has size limits.  So, it was necessary to divide the letter into two sections.  Hopefully in the future we'll be able to avoid that necessity.

At any rate, we're back to our regular format . . . . we hope!

Jo Ann and I are now in our apartment in Kiev, slowly setting up house keeping.  We arrived with our team of university students on January 2nd, spent two days of "orientation sight seeing" where they visited the Chernobyl Museum, St. Andrew's Street, World War II Museum, and the monastery/churches/catacombs complex called the Lavra.  This has always been our first stop on these trips because we want the teams to have some exposure to significant events of history that have helped shape the atmosphere and conditions of this land.


As I've thought about today's letter, I've been faced with the reality of ending the little series on worship.  Only two series (on "Vision" and on "Having A Word From God") have received more responses from readers, so it has been difficult to consider ending this one.  However, at least for today, I have nothing further to share on the subject, although I could certainly pull out my 27 sermon series on the subject, and drag it on for a long time.  Since I'm not into that and don't want to try to impress anybody, that's not an option for me.  Besides, my thoughts today are really a true extension of worship; as we've noted earlier, scripture is clear that worship that does not result in ministry and service is not true worship . . .  it is selfish religious indulgence.

I remember from my boyhood going into many churches, both great and small, and seeing these words posted over the entry ---- "Enter to Worship.  Depart to Serve."  So, with that in mind, I want to share my heart regarding the beginning of a new path in the pilgrimage Jo Ann and I are entering.

Now as missionaries and as the pastor of a church in another land, Jo Ann and I find ourselves facing a totally new and unique ministry in a realm where we have never been before.  For example, . . .

We now live in a new culture with two distinct languages and two clearly different classes of people.  I will be pastoring a church designed for English speakers but ministering to those who speak Russian, Ukrainian, and other languages.  I was told yesterday that people from more than twenty countries attend.  Services are not held at the traditional Sunday morning time, but instead in the afternoon.  I can no longer say, "Good morning!" to the people; that's going to be a habit hard to change.

There is only one corporate gathering a week with everything else going on individually or in small groups.  We have no vehicle for transportation, so must travel by public transportation across town for church services.  Instead of services being approximately one hour in length they will be two hours or slightly more.

More significant than that, though, is the fact that this church did not formally "call" me to become pastor; that decision was made by the mission agency that provides leadership and "ownership" of the church.  As far as I know, I've met only one member of the church face to face at this writing about two hours before services begin (by the time I finish, I will have met others).  Also, my assignment here is for a designated time . . . . two years with a possible but unlikely third year.

My role as pastor is clear as requested by the mission agency.
    1.  Lead the church to develop a rapidly reproducing church planting movement through the use of house church and cell church models.
    2.  Train leaders to pastor those new churches and teach them how to train other church planters/leaders.
    3)  Lead the church to become self sustaining and call a national pastor who will lead the church into the future.

Frankly, while this is probably the most challenging ministry Jo Ann and I have ever embraced, it is clearly the most exciting.  When I anticipate just where this can go, the possibilities are mind boggling.  

Recognizing these possibilities has thrown a huge red flag in my face because I know how easy it will be to focus on the wrong thing.  It will be so easy to concentrate on the logistics, the mechanics, and the methods.  God really spoke to my heart late Saturday night about that danger.  If that's what I do, then I'll end up pastoring just another ordinary church that gets bogged down in the muck and mire of institutionalized Christianity.  It will be no different than other places.

And, I don't want that . . . . It must not become just another ordinary church caught up in "doing" instead of "being".

So, I'm asking you to pray regularly for us.  Put Jo Ann and me on your daily prayer list.  The possibilities are far too great and far too strategic to the evangelization of this city of almost three million people.  We don't need another "also meets" church to be lost in the multitude of "playing church" congregations of various persuasions.


With that in mind, here's what God put on my heart Saturday night and which I shared with the International Church yesterday afternoon.

As I went through all the thoughts and imaginations of my first Sunday "on the job", God reminded me of Paul's commentary to the Corinthian believers when he said, "When I came to you, I didn't come with persuasive words of wisdom and knowledge, but rather in the work of the Spirit and in power."  The text is found in I Corinthians 2:3-4.  

Three primary thoughts crossed my mind as I read the expanded passage from chapter 1:18 through 2:13.  The Lord made it clear to me that . . . .

1.  The Focal Message Must Always Remain Constant  (1:23; 2:2).  No matter what else I do, and not matter what else I may teach, one theme must always rise supreme to the surface ---- it is the crucified Jesus Christ Who is the only answer to the people around us.  It isn't the church, the mission sending agency, our humanitarian efforts, our work with orphans or addicts, our English classes, or even our doctrine that can draw people to Christ.  It is Christ alone, and that must remain firmly in place as the primary message of this ministry.

It must also be in your ministry.  If you're focusing on anything else more prominently, you're messing up.

The Holy Spirit also reminded me that . . . .

2.  The Primary Method or Strategy Used Must Always Be More than Human  (2:3-4).  Whenever you are developing strategies for ministry, you are faced with two realities . . . . the terrestrial and of the celestial.  Unfortunately, too many people in ministry (both vocational and volunteer) focus so much on the human that they overlook or even abandon the spiritual.

While it's certainly true that we'll be continuing the English classes for those wanting to learn the language, and we'll continue doing many other outreach projects, and even adding some, the underlying truth is found in Paul's remarks differentiating between human wisdom and divine revelation . . . . between human knowledge and divine insight . . . . between the work of the flesh and the work of the Spirit . . . . between the supernatural power of God and the carnal energy of man.

It will be far too easy to settle for pencil pushing, nose counting, organization building, and manipulation.  These gracious people are known for loyally following their pastor's leadership.  Can you imagine the travesty of my getting so caught up in the world's way of doing things that I lead them down a blind path???  That thought horrifies me.

I must settle for nothing less than revelation of God's will in preference to simple human intelligence.  I must have divine insight instead of mere academic knowledge.  I must have wisdom from God rather than understanding derived from logic and scholarship.  I must have the anointing power of the Holy Spirit rather than my limited resources of motivation and energies.

You must settle for nothing less in your ministry as well . . . . unless you just want to be another "also ran" person.

Finally, the Lord reminded me that . . . .

3.  The Motive of My Ministry Must Be Singular (2:5).  Now, ultimately we know that our primary purpose for life is to glorify God in all that we are, that we have, and that we do.  And we know our primary task as believers is to be obedient to Christ in all aspects, particularly in living holy lives and carrying out the Great Commission.

However, as a spiritual leader of others, no matter whether it's as a Sunday school teacher, a professor, an usher, a missionary, a pastor, or any other assigned role, the reason we declare Christ as the only answer and we rely only on divine resources from God is so that the faith of those to whom we minister will rest only on the power of God to change their lives and not on the wisdom or schemes of men.

This is one of the great failures in the contemporary church.  We lead people to believe that the key to their success is going to be their own efforts, or (perish the thought!) it's going to be us . . . . as if we're some divine hero to whom they must go for all spiritual sustenance.

Paul would rise from his grave if he knew just how the Church has for centuries debased the Name and Power of Jesus when he clearly declared, "We have this treasure in clay pots so that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us!" (II Corinthians 4:7).

Take time to read II Corinthians 4:1-11.  It clearly reinforces what I've shared with you which God has spoken to my heart.
    1.  Christ alone is to be the focus of my ministry, no matter how great or how small.
    2.  My source for effective ministry must be the supernatural power of God.
    3.  The motive of my ministry must be that those to whom I minister will rest their faith firmly and securely on the power of God and nothing else.


"How did the services go?"  

Well, they were incredible.  The church had been without a pastor for nearly two years, and the attendance had dropped significantly to usually less than 50.  Yesterday there were some 100 or more there.  The music was wonderful, our team did the best yet with a set of four musical numbers and two testimonies, the people were excited, Jo Ann and I were excited, and we were warmly and enthusiastically welcomed in the traditional Ukrainian way ---- a red rose for Jo Ann, and salt and fresh baked Ukrainian bread for the two of us.  Those expressions were humbling and warmed our hearts more than words can tell.

Following services there was an informal reception where we had the opportunity to meet many people . . . . invalids, professors, refugees, computer specialists, people from the diplomatic circles, Peace Corps volunteers, folks who work with HCJB radio in Ecuador, and so many others.  We met some of the neatest teens today and a young couple (American/Ukrainian) who are the youth leaders.

Our hearts are full.  We cannot contain nor express our feelings.  It was a great day.

Now ---- pray for us this week.  I will be teaching five hours a day all week at St. James Bible College while the team ministers in numerous villages and churches in the region.  They will be in orphanages and homeless shelters.  Jo Ann will be bouncing back and forth between the team and me, while also trying to add more supplies and household items to our apartment.  It will be a busy week.

We cherish your friendship and your prayer support.  We thank God for you.  We pray that this week will be a week filled with blessings, and that at least one will be the Lord's special signal just for you as to how much He cherishes and loves you and has the best in mind for you.  Have a great week.  And, . . . . be encouraged!

In His Bond,

Bob Tolliver -- Rom 1:11-12
Copyright January, 2003
Life Unlimited Ministries

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