Luke 6:17 "And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon."
Jesus not only ministered to his disciples, but was often out among the "multitudes." They would come to hear him teach and watch him heal the diseased among them. There was something which drew the crowds to Christ, of course, he was God in the flesh, "who dwelt among us full of grace and truth (John 1:14)." Although, Jesus would teach his disciples privately, there were several occasions where he was among the multitudes as well. There is something about Christ's ministry "being among the multitudes" which I myself am learning, by God's grace.
In the providence of God, my family moved to the Orlinda/Cross Plains, TN area to pastor a rural church. I had no ideal what God had in store for me and my family as we journeyed 180 miles north from Alabama, selling our home, and leaving our family to follow God's will for our lives. After arriving here in northern TN the reality we had left everything we knew in Alabama did not take long to set in. Several weeks, if not month passed as my children and wife would cry themselves to sleep at night missing what they knew as our home in Alabama. I was not able to console them very much, except I knew this is where God had called us to be and to serve Him.
Now, fast forward 3 years and 4 months. God has been gracious in using our family to minister the gospel of God's free grace to the people in this community. This little community where everybody knows everybody is like nothing I have really been apart of before. Just this past week a gentleman I got to know through our sons playing baseball together suddenly passed away. To my surprise, Monday I received a phone call from his wife asking me to have a part in the funeral service. I have been in the gospel ministry now for 7 year and I have never seen the turn out of people in support for a family from such a small community. The funeral service on Tuesday was standing room only in the funeral home. There was estimated 300-350 people who attended the services themselves (not counting visitation), as I had the privilege to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the people of our community.
The point I am trying to make is this; this family did not have any direct connection to our church, except our children had played ball together for the last 3 summers and we spent alot of time with this family. What I am learning is the importance of community and the building of relationships, which leads to open doors for the ministry of the gospel. I see the need (like that of Christ being among the crowds) for being among the people of our community, getting to know them more, and listening to them. People have "real" struggles and often just need someone to listen to them in their struggles. I have found myself often at a basketball game, the country market, or even a bar listening to the people. These are "real" people, living in a "real" world, wanting someone who would care enough to listen to their "real" problems and who might can give them hope.
I am grateful to God for the past 3 years and 4 months, for the tears shed, the struggles of moving my family away from our "old home" to a new place to call it our "new home." My prayer is God would allow more open doors to be used not just in the local church setting at PHBC (which is more comfortable), but to be among the people of our community to share the love of Christ, through his glorious gospel. I believe God has "more sheep in his fold, which have not yet come John 10:16)." I want nothing more than to honor the Lord and be a blessing to the people of this community for the next several years to come, if that be God's will. As one older pastor reminded me years ago, "bloom wherever the Lord plants you, for His glory."
So, I want to encourage pastors and Christians get out in your community, find places people congregate to talk and listen to the people. Perhaps it is at a local gas station, cafe, or a ball field. There are "real" people out there and they are looking for "real" answers, to life's "real" problems. As Christians we say we have those answers which are found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, so lets get out and give them the answers, to the glory of God.
One last thing, I am grateful to PHBC, a local church which sacrificially supports their pastor in order for me to build such relationship within our community to minister the gospel of God's grace. For that I am grateful.
To God Alone Be the Glory!
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