Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Some Ministry Rewards Happen THIS Side of Heaven

The truth is that we will never really know the total fruit and impact of our ministry until we get to heaven and God rolls back the eternal curtain and we get to see all the ways that our service and labors of love were used by the Lord to make an eternal impact in the lives of people. But there are also those wonderful times when we get to see some of that impact now and it is those rewards that keep us going in ministry in spite of all of the challenges and, well, I’ll just say it, in spite of all of the crap we often have to endure, especially in church work. Last week I got to experience two such rewards that have me humbled and elated.

Last Tuesday Laura and I drove out to Columbus, Ohio to pick up our son, Jonathan, who had spent the summer on Operation Barnabas. We had to pick him up between 7-9am on Wednesday so we went out the night before and had dinner with a family that I lived with while in Ohio during the summer before my junior and senior years of college where I served as the summer intern youth pastor at Community Church in West Milton. They had a son named Sean who was in 7th and 8th grade when I lived with them. Sean was in many ways a wall-flower back then. But during those summers and the following years as I served as the full-time youth pastor at the same church, Sean really came out of his shell. He went on to attend Liberty University as a Youth Major and during his last two summers of college he interned under me at the church. When I then went from youth pastor to associate pastor, Sean took over as youth pastor and led the youth ministry into heights I only dreamed of when I had oversight of it.

Today Sean (pictured above) is the Vice President of a great ministry based in Columbus called Finish Line Ministry. Laura and I have financially supported him and his wife, Danette, over the past 10 years of his ministry with Finish Line. Sean not only runs the ministry operations, but he also speaks all over the country and heads their ministry in Malawi, Africa where he has travelled eleven times training African Pastors. Laura and I spent Tuesday night at Sean and Danette’s house and had a very special time seeing his ministry and just catching up on what God was doing in their life and ministry. At breakfast the next morning, Sean very genuinely shared his thanks to us for the impact we have had in his life over the years and told us that in a very real way, the thousands of people his ministry is impacting in America and Africa are a direct result of our impact on his life years ago. Wow! Some rewards really do happen this side of heaven.

Then, as we travelled home from Columbus we listened to our son talk about his summer ministry experience on Operation Barnabas. I have seen many teens go on similar programs and most of them returned talking mainly about their experiences and the relationships they built while they were gone. Jonathan talked a little about that, but the majority of his comments were describing the spiritual impact the summer had on his life…what he learned and how he has changed. I heard him share items of spiritual maturity that I don’t often hear out of the mouths of adults. Between our time with Sean and our drive home with Jonathan, my cup was running over this side of heaven!

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