Trying to Discern the Ways of God
“Just as you do not know in what way the wind nor how the body develops in the womb, in the same way, you do not know the work of God who does all things.”
“The Spirit blows where He wills and you hear the sound of Him, but you have not known where He goes and when He goes away. Thus it is with all who have been born from the Spirit.”
The bottom line is that there is much we do not know. But just like the farmer who will never plant if he is always trying to predict the winds, so too we can be if we try and discern every possible variable and outcome of an action. Do I do this or do I do that? Should I live here or should I live there? Should I go on this mission trip or should I remain home and continue evangelizing my neighbors? And the list of questions goes on.
In many denominations, those who are recognized as having a call to serve on the mission field are expected to raise their own funding and support. That notion has often struck me as rather odd because it is built on the assumption that if one has a calling to a certain kind of ministry then one also has the gift of raising money to do so. And, while that may be the case for some people, I am not convinced that is the norm. I think that a better model is that when one is identified as having a calling to such a work then others, who have the gifts of raising money should come alongside of said person and ensure that the ministry is supported — and then the person perhaps make up the difference in terms of his family’s needs by taking a job and “tent-making”?
While my wiring is more geared toward ministry, I have been grateful for those people who have come alongside of me through the years whose gifts and calling is to be resource-minded who can help make that ministry an ongoing reality. At the same time, while I was ministering to the homeless at Gateway Rescue Mission while in seminary, I also worked a trade to make sure the bills got paid. And, when I served Westminster Presbyterian Church, just out of seminary, I also served as a chaplain at a Christian school. Serving bi-vocationally in ministry is not a bad thing and has advantages in many ways (if for nothing else than the fact that the congregation then takes more ownership of the work of ministry rather than dumping it all on the guy that gets a paycheck. Certainly, serving full-time at the church as I do now has advantages as well. The key is to learn to trust God’s provision and the fact that there are parts of the body that function differently — and if the body works together properly, all parts can work as they are designed.
The challenge is developing the trust that both can work side by side toward the same goal. All too often, though, what happens is that one or both sides thinks that their aims will be threatened by the other. Usually, the ministry-minded folks think that the resource-minded folks are stifling their work or the resource-minded folks think that all the ministry-minded folks want to do is to run the church broke. A better way is for the resource-minded people to bless the desires and aims of the ministry-minded folks and say — “run as hard and fast as you can in your calling, but here are the boundaries that we can continue to support this work.” And then for the ministry-minded people to learn to trust the heart of the resource-minded folks, knowing that we are all “on the same team” or more accurately, are part of the same body.
Here’s the place where trust comes in. The ministry-minded people and the resource-minded people will never truly understand the other. They might sympathize on a certain level, but the people are different enough that understanding will be no more present than a hand’s ability to understand the role of the hip or visa versa. In Solomon’s words, though, we are reminded that God works all these things out — and he does so not for our glory, but for His. And so, when both sides come to the table for a discussion, both sides need to come with the recognition that the goal of God’s glory is the same, though the means may be different, and that they are part of the same body.
No, we are not going to understand how a baby is formed in the womb, but that doesn’t stop us from having babies. And we don’t know which way the wind will blow and so, when it is time to plant, we plant. And we do not know many things in the grand scheme of God’s plan and design, but what we do know is that God is sovereign and has ordered all things according to the counsel of his will…and folks, if we cannot trust God’s design, what are we doing in the church?