We want to preach before thousands. We want to hear of crowds coming to repentance like they did in Acts 2. We desire maximum impact. Those are all appropriate wants and prayers.
So, what does a person with dreams like that do when they have a day like this?
Up at 5am to take the 4.5 hour drive to the area of high-need ministry. We pray and talk and dream of the hopeful impact we can have on lostness in this area on this day. I, my wife and our friend arrive in time to pray and then head to the prison where we are scheduled to have 3 hours of back-to-back teaching and preaching with a large number of inmates. I meet up with my male contact that would be with me while I preach to two of the sessions. We check in and do the customary precautions before entering a facility like this.
As we enter into lock-down we hear one of the guards speaking to us over intercom, “This has never happened before…nobody wants to come to the first session”. My contact is apologetic to me and is worried I might be upset and although disappointed, I begin to prepare for hour #2. The intercom comes alive again and the guard informs us ‘There isn’t anybody for hour #2 either. We only have 2 ladies signed up for hour #3 and we are sending them in”. Uh-oh, our ladies aren’t expecting to be at the prison for another 2 hours and they have prepared to minister. We call them and they head our way. The two ladies come in and we begin to get to know them but before our ladies can get here, one of them is sent away.
Here we are, now 6 people ready to minister the gospel and we have one person to minister to. This isn’t what any of us expected when we got out of bed this morning. We could get discouraged or we could do what the wisest of the 6 of us did when she told this young lady “God has an appointment with you today”. I am reminded of the amazing story Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:10-14:
What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
The heart of God is for all but it is also for the ‘one’. On this day, the one was a woman with many wounds and much guilt and shame. As testimony and scripture were spoken in that room we saw a lost sheep carried to the throne of God. It was as beautiful of a moment as I have experienced in sharing gospel with another person.
In our strategy and in our vision we must have a vision for the masses in our city but we must never lose the face of ‘the one’. God changes hearts individually and one-by-one. Let’s keep the face of ministry singular and see that multiplied and pluralized by God’s Spirit in God’s way and God’s time. That 4.5 hour drive home late at night was a process of coming to grips with the changes that the day provided verses the expectations we had entered it with.