Tag Archives: Christian ministry

Are You Among the Least?

Do you ever feel like you are one of the least of Jesus’ disciples? Maybe your “least” means least of the intercessors, or the prophetic people, or the singers in the choir, or the teachers, or the soul-winners in your acquaintance. It doesn’t really matter what your least is: this post is for you.

I deal with feeling like the least a lot, especially when it comes to intercession or prophecy, my particular functions in the Body. I’ve gotten to know some of the people who read my blog regularly, and I tend to admire them for how succinctly they hear the Lord and how they are able to turn what they hear into such powerful prayer. And then, there is their great faith for answers. Or their ability to move boldly in the word of knowledge or personal prophecy. It’s easy for me to wonder, “What do I have to offer these folks in my writing? Aren’t they already miles ahead of me?”

That’s the way I was feeling some weeks back, and I realized I needed to get free of such a mindset. After all, doesn’t 2 Corinthians 10:12 warn us, “… But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise”? Whether we’re comparing ourselves to others and thinking we’re a notch above the rest, or whether we go the other direction and think we’re on the bottom rung of the ladder, it isn’t in line with God’s view at all.

So, as I was asking the Lord to help me break free from my little inferiority stewpot, He brought to mind John 15 — that familiar chapter where Jesus talks about being the Vine, while we are the branches — “For without Me, You can do nothing” (v. 5).

I started to see myself as one of the branches, attached to the Vine, with an abundance of other branches surrounding me, also attached to the Vine. Each of us who is connected into Jesus as a healthy branch has the same sap flowing to us — the life of His Spirit within us. And because of that continual flow to us, we each produce fruit for Him in just the right amounts. Some branches may have a few more grapes clustered on them than others, but that doesn’t really matter a whole lot, because all are doing what they are supposed to do — bearing fruit. It is only when the sap supply is cut off that the branch becomes withered and dried, so that it doesn’t produce fruit like it should.

If grapevine branches could think, would they obsess about whether they were producing as many grapes as the branches around them? I suppose we can’t really know for sure, but I’m guessing they wouldn’t. They are just enjoying being connected to their vine, the source of all which they produce.

In the same way, whatever we do completely depends upon Jesus. We can’t strain harder to produce fruit and voila! our straining suddenly brings miraculous results. It is Jesus the Vine Who makes it all happen. Sure, we have to cooperate with Him by listening to the Spirit’s promptings and acting upon them, but as long as we are doing that as best we know how in our present stage of maturity, we produce the intended fruit. It may not look exactly like someone else’s fruit, and it may not ripen as quickly, but it is still fruit, and it is good in the Lord’s eyes.

Living in performance mode has become so much the norm in today’s church scene, that most of the time we don’t even recognize what is happening to us — or how wrong it is. Here in America, our independent, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps work ethic influences our perception of self-worth: If I just try harder, I can do more for Jesus. If I can’t prophesy with all the pizzazz of Sister Susie, I’m not as valuable as she is. If I’m not a superstar with an audience of 5,000, I am insignificant.”

1 Corinthians 4:7 puts our function in the body of believers into better perspective: “For Who makes you different from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now, if you received it [as a free gift from God], why do you glory, as if you had not received it [but had somehow come up with it on your own]?”

The Lord also reminds us that each of us has been given unique purpose and custom-designed functions within His overall plan: “… Every man [or woman] has his proper gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that” (1 Corinthians 7:7).

So let’s find joy in Jesus, our Vine. And let’s rejoice that we get to be one of His branches, whether large or small, enjoying His sap, bearing fruit as He designed us to do. We can be thankful that we are part of a bigger picture, working together with all the other branches. It’s all about Jesus, not us, anyway.

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Making a Place for God’s Presence (Part 5) — For Worship Leaders

Modified Hubble Image, by Lee Ann RubsamWorship leading has got to be one of the most difficult ministry functions on the face of the planet. It is impossible to please everyone, from the senior pastor to the people in the pew. What if your pastor is telling you that he wants more Presence-oriented worship, or that he wants you to “flow with the Spirit” in worship, but you don’t have a clue how? There are some simple things you can do to get yourself there.

1.)  It starts with having a consistent prayer and Bible reading time. I know, I know. This is too basic, right? But we have bazillions of worship leaders across the nation who aren’t praying and absorbing the Scriptures every day — or, they do a quick five or ten minutes with Jesus. That’s not going to cut it, if you want to be tuned in to the Lord on Sunday morning.

As you pray and fill yourself with the Word, God communes with your spirit. You set yourself up to hear His voice — especially if you ask Him what He wants to say and then force yourself to be quiet before Him. You might not get immediate results, but over time, God will honor your faithfulness to listen for His voice. You will become more sensitive to Him.

2.)  Listen to Presence-oriented worship music. I have personally known worship leaders who listened to a little dab of worship music — just enough to come up with some songs for Sunday mornings. The majority of their listening was secular. You cannot fill your ears with music which does not have the Lord at its center, and then expect to catch the flow of heaven’s sound on Sunday morning.

Furthermore, while the contemporary Christian music on the radio is not at cross-purposes with worshiping the Lord, neither is a lot of it geared toward God manifesting His Presence in church services. Contemporary Christian music tends to be fairly us-oriented, talking about our struggles and weaknesses, with a little bit of “but God and His grace …” thrown in.

So, you’re going to have to fill your spirit up with worship music which not only touches your heart, but God’s heart, too. Do you need suggestions? There is so much available out there! Some great places to start are United Pursuit, Bethel Worship, Gateway, Jesus Culture, Vineyard, International House of Prayer (IHOP-KC), Robin Mark, Lindell Cooley, and Housefires.

3.)  Decide who your audience is going to be — God or man. Years ago, one of our church’s worship leaders decided to drill home to his team the importance of making God their audience. They were a very professional-sounding bunch, but although technical excellence was important to him, having their focus in the right place was even more of a priority.

Twice a month they spent an hour together simply worshiping the Lord with abandon, with no one else in the sanctuary except the Lord. God came down in there! (I know, because I snuck in to experience the Glory!)

If you want God to show up on Sunday mornings, make Him the focus of your worship, instead of how many or few people are there to hear you. Resist the temptation to let the size of the crowd influence your level of worship. Have a passion to pursue God together with the congregation, rather than putting on a performance for them.

4.)  It’s not about style … but it is about style. While people can connect with God through many different varieties of music, some songs are so busy and complicated that the congregation has a hard time taking hold of the Lord with them. It doesn’t all have to be slow and majestic, but it does have to be simple enough so people can sing with you.

One reason I love United Pursuit’s music is because the key concepts in each song are repetitive. Repetitive music with words which extol the Lord’s greatness and our love for Him tend to lead the congregation into a continuing upward spiral of devotion — which He then responds to.

Make sure the words have substance, but still make sense without having to search hard for their meaning. If the lyrics are too cryptic, they distract from focusing on the Lord.

If you can include in your lineup some songs which allow people to close their eyes, raise their hands, and just meditate on the Lord, that’s a good thing, too.

5.)  It’s not about energy or volume. I have heard worship leaders say that God likes it loud, and the louder it is, the more likely He is to manifest Himself. Music which is too soft can make people feel like they’re at a funeral parlor, but while that isn’t going to help them engage, neither will breaking their eardrums. Furthermore, God doesn’t suddenly wake up from a holy coma exclaiming, “Hey! They just cranked it up to where I can hear it way up here. I am impressed! I think I’ll go visit that congregation!” It sounds silly — but we sometimes act like that’s the way it is.

I have also watched worship leaders work themselves and their congregations into a lather of excitement and then announce that “God is really moving!” No, He wasn’t. There is a vast difference between being pumped up in your emotions and sensing the Lord’s Presence with your spirit. Being able to discern the difference comes through relationship with the Lord (see Point 1) and immersing yourself in true worship music (Point 2).

6.)  Prepare for the service during the week by asking God what music He would like to hear when the congregation comes together. He will be pleased that you invited Him into the decision-making process, and He will be faithful to answer — maybe by speaking directly to you, maybe through more subtle means. The Lord has specific plans for what He would like to do in any given service, and when we ask for His input into the choice of songs, we partner with His purposes. That is an exciting place to be!

7.)  Set the mood before the service. Have background worship music playing on CD which sets the tone for what you desire to accomplish once the service starts. Choose music which will make for a smooth transition into your first live song. A little thing like appropriate pre-service music prepares the soil of the congregation’s heart to enter in immediately when you and your team begin to sing.

8.)  Don’t just assume God will show up. Ask Him to. The Lord loves to be invited to manifest His Presence among us. We must maintain a holy awe of Him, where we never take Him for granted. Entreating Him to pour out His Spirit in the corporate gathering builds expectancy in us, too.

You can’t make God show up. That is entirely up to Him. If you try to develop a formula for how to bring in the Lord’s Presence you will offend Him. The song which brings worship to a deeper level one week may fall flat the next, if you’re depending on a method to manipulate God into moving among you.

The key is to make yourself and your church a prepared container, ready for the Lord to pour into. He is eager to fill our congregational gatherings with Himself, if we will make ourselves available to Him.

Previous: Part 4

Learning to Wear Your Mantle

Business Suit“God told me I am a prophet.”

OK, you’ve got the call. You have experienced some kind of an unmistakable word or experience from the Lord, where He let you in on a major purpose He has in mind for your life. Now what?

There is a process of getting from the point where God first speaks to you of your calling, to where it is a manifested reality. For some, this process starts with a succinct word, such as, “I call you to be a prophet” (or teacher, pastor, evangelist, etc.). For others, purpose unfolds gradually — a word here, a dream there, counsel or insight from another person which fits with what God already is showing you, until you are receiving understanding of your purpose along a consistent theme.

If God’s plan for you is big — and it is, no matter what He is calling you to — it will take time to forge. Very few things of value are made instantaneously, and what God is making of you is no exception.

When we hear a word from the Lord such as, “I call you to be a prophet,” it may feel like a very “now” word. And if we don’t understand that He generally works out people’s destinies as a process, we can make the mistake of telling the world who we are, and then expecting everyone else to be as impressed as we are with our new-found role. With a prophet calling, we might think everyone else has to hang on our every word and act accordingly — or else. A teaching function, in its immature stage, can lead us into annoying our associates by spewing our opinions right and left and sounding like a know-it-all.

But God makes very few of us (if any) overnight wonders. Overnight wonders are usually over … overnight. If it is going to last, a training process must be gone through, and the biggest part of that process is the refining of our character. The Lord will take us from the place where we view our purpose as being for our advantage and exaltation to where we are entirely focused on serving, loving, and encouraging others, all the while glorifying the Lord in our function.

So, how do you get to the fulfilling of the calling which the Lord has spoken over you? You start by wearing your mantle on the inside. God has spoken, you believe what He said, and you meditate on it inwardly. You spend quite a bit of time praying about it, asking the Lord questions about it, praying for its fulfillment, treasuring in your heart whatever He has said to you.

You get used to the idea, beginning to see yourself in your role, so that you think of yourself quite naturally as being whatever God has said you are to be. You spend time “being” in the spiritual realm before you ever begin to “be” in the natural realm. Figuratively speaking, you get comfortable wearing your ministry “suit” privately before you get decked out in it publicly.

At this point, your mantle is pretty much a secret between you and God. You may tell close family members what God has spoken over you. You may even talk to your pastor about it and receive his input. If you are part of a church which understands such things, your pastor should be willing to help you come into God’s plan for you. He may put you in places of service and training which will help you grow up into your God-given role.

Whether you have a pastor who can help you or not, there are multitudes of people who can, via books, conferences, and the Internet. Are you called to bring supernatural healing? You need to prepare by learning from those who have gone before you — Smith Wigglesworth, John G. Lake, Kathryn Kuhlman, and Charles and Frances Hunter, to name just a few. You will also want to hang with people who are involved in healing ministry right in your area — perhaps becoming a member of a healing rooms team. It is the same with whatever ministry you are supposed to fulfill — learn through teaching and active participation as much as possible.

As you continue to consciously wear your mantle inwardly and do what you can to mature and prepare, you will see your ministry function begin to take form outwardly. It may not happen quickly. It could take years. But God will get you there, as you believe and are obedient to Him. Eventually your calling will become a solid fact in the natural realm. You will move in it on a regular basis, people will recognize what you have been given to do in the Kingdom, and they will be blessed as you walk it out.

Patience, a humble servant’s heart, and a teachable spirit are the keys to coming into God’s role for you. If you will submit to His refining process, the day will come when you will fully function in the ministry which He has designed for you to carry out.

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

Look Out and Get Ready!

I was praying this morning for a person who has a definite call of God on his life, but who is probably considered one of the “little people”  — one who would not be voted as “the most likely to succeed.”  As I prayed, I felt that God was giving me encouragement for many of you who are in the same boat:

If you are one of the faithful ones who know what it is to stay close to the heart of God, yet you feel insignificant, I have a word for you:

Look out and get ready, for God is about to use you.

History reveals that time and again, God has chosen the most unlikely people to accomplish His strategic purposes.  Seeing that His Word lays this out as His normal mode of operation, this should not overly surprise us, yet it always seems to. 

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many who are wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.
          — 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

The Lord is speaking to prepare and position yourself by continuing to align with Him — staying close to Him, ministering to Him by listening to His heart-cry.  Believe the things He has spoken over you, no matter how long you have been hearing without seeing the result, and no matter how “small in your own eyes” you may seem.  Staying small and keeping Him big is what will propel you into being used for the Lord’s mighty purposes.

Look out!  Get ready!  He is about to use you.

He Must Build It

“Unless the Lord builds the house, they who build it labor in vain….”Psalm 127:1

Recently, God spoke to me through this familiar verse about the place I am in.  It’s a place many of you are in, too.  We’ve been faithful to the Lord and to the people around us.  We’ve done the best we could, we’ve taken the high road when no one else knew, and we’ve weathered many storms.  And still we wait to see the desired results.

At first glance, it may look as though the verse is speaking negatively: “Well, you’ve sweated your way through, but if God doesn’t lift a finger to help, it’s all for nothing.”  But what the Lord was whispering to me went something like this:

“You know what I’ve spoken to you.  And you’ve always known it couldn’t be accomplished unless I did it for you anyway.  The success of it has never rested on your ability.  When the Lord is the architect and project manager of your dreams, He will see to it that they happen.  You can rest in the security of knowing I will build it for you.”

The place of waiting on Him, helpless in His hands, yet knowing He is completely faithful and that He will act on our behalf, is the most secure place of all to be.  He has promised numerous times in His Word to never let us down.

So often, we hear God speak a plan or a promise into us, and then we start grunting and groaning to make it happen.  Sure, He expects us to take whatever steps are needed to cooperate with or to prepare for what He has said.   But most of us tend to go far beyond preparing or cooperating.  We strive, and we climb, and we fret.  We look for “progress” and when we don’t see it, we plummet into discouragement.

All the while, He wants us to come to such a place of fearlessness and trust in Him that we can look squarely at the difficulties and say, “Ha! God, You’re the only way I will ever be able to see my dreams come true anyway!  I can’t do much about it without You.  Here, You build it for me.”

And then we rest, knowing with unshakable faith that He will do what He has said — because of Who He is.

(Originally written for An Encouraging Word, the devotional outreach of The River Church in Appleton, Wisconsin.)