God has called me to work with others in simultaneously running three enterprises that are notoriously difficult to run. I don't think I would ever willingly choose to do this. At times it feels like trying to keep multiple porcelain plates spinning on top of bamboo poles the way those Chinese acrobats performing in circuses do. The only distortion to this parallel is that these Chinese acrobats get to work with really thick poles and specially molded plates. A church, a Bible College, and a Christian Radio Station are individually tricky enterprises to manage. If you ever need your faith in God boosted, I recommend trying to manage just one of these particular enterprises. If you could do with a little faith-boosting right now, you might want to read on.
I deeply admire Pastor Bill Hybels. He has built a great church and a history-changing organisation. His gift of faith is obvious. I love the way he communicates pastorally and intimately with his church about what they are doing and the faith steps they are taking. He very frequently uses the expression, "Only God!" Time and time again I have seen these particular enterprises I help to run struggling for the necessary resources to do what they are called to do, and yet time and time again I have seen "only God!" come through.
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
When God called Kim and me to Legana in 1995, we had no idea what we were coming to. We discovered a church of 17 members that hadn't been able to pay its pastor for several months. In the previous 12 months, two people had committed suicide. It was meeting in a dusty, cold, War Memorial building with really poor acoustics. Added to this, it was thousands of dollars in debt to trade creditors. Just before we arrived they were in discussions about how they could close the church! We are now in our 18th year of pastoring Legana. Over that time the church has grown, acquired buildings and equipment, established ministries beyond its four walls, and funds a missions program that supports missionaries and agencies around the world. And is totally debt-free. We now have a dedicated team of staff and volunteers that ensure that we continue toward fulfilling our mission as a church. Only God!
In 2003, I was asked to manage ICI College Australia. Despite being one of the world's best Distance Education providers of Theological, Biblical, Ministry, and Missions, training, it had not been run well. Student numbers had dropped off considerably. Cash reserves had been fully expended and debts accrued. Unfortunately this is an all too common story when it comes to Bible Colleges. But with the help of a very special lady, Mrs Sari Kuronen, we were able to re-establish ICI College and turn it around. Sari finished up around 2009, and eventually Kim stepped in to become the administrator of the College. Today, ICI College has students in every state of Australia from many denominational backgrounds and affiliations. It was audited by the international accrediting agency, the D.E.T.C. back in 2006, and granted DETC accreditation along with 4 other Australia Distance Education tertiary providers (one of which was Melbourne University). It now has no debt and a modest reserve.
¶ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
Second Corinthians 9:10
Then in 2011, I was approached with a request to take over the management of Launceston's 105.3 WayFM. It had amassed huge debts and become nearly insolvent. Again with a small band of helpers we set about to save this valuable radio station. Within 18 months we were able to clear its outstanding debts and trim back its costs. We are now in the thros of getting into a sustainable postive cashflow. It is constant work. It is constant praying. It is constantly seeking God's help and trusting Him. And time and time again God comes through just in time. Only God.
Each of these three enterprises might sound disconnected from each other. Indeed, they each require a different skill-set to keep them focussed on their mission. They each seem to be doing totally different things. A church is a community for the Word to shape, a Witness to bear, and for Worship to be offered. A Bible College is a provider of education, training and equipping for more effective service for Christ and His world. A Christian Radio Station broadcasts messages of hope, truth and inspiration through music and messages. Three different "whats". Even the "hows" are different. A church is led by a pastor whose main job is not to do the ministry, but to equip others for the work of ministry (so that the church is not "pastor dependent") and to help fascilitate the pooling of gifts within the church community. This is why our church relies not just on the pastor doing "everything", but on everybody contributing their gifts, ministry, abilities and talents in order to function.
¶ For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
First Cor. 12:12
A Bible College's "how" looks quite different to a church's "how". A Bible College provides qualified teachers to teach, train and instruct students through the use of written material and recorded lectures. This teaching is then tested and examined (which I don't think a church could do and continue to exist!). And a radio station's "how" simplistically described as broadcasting. But in order for its broadcast to be a broadcast, it has to attract listeners, keep listeners, attract sponsors and donors, recruit suitably qualified staff and volunteers to serve as announcers and a support team.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
Second Corinthians 5:18
The "whats" are different. The "hows" are different. But the "why" is the same. In fact, a casual read through our church's 20+ year old Constitution, and you'll actually read it (prophetically) accommodates each of these three enterprises! It could do this because the "why" is shared by all three.
Over ten years ago, Pastor Phil Hills prophesied over our church in a Sunday night meeting that God was going to give us a voice beyond our building. Who could have imagined how profoundly fulfilled this prophecy was to be fulfilled? Only God.
We certainly rejoice at these three wonderful opportunities to spread the Gospel and bring glory to God. For me though, the "why" of these three enterprises causes me to view them as one mission. Our Great mission is informed by the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. As a church we are frontline means for fulfilling this "why". Our church is a community of believers who pool our gifts and abilities to care for each other, love and worship God, to reach out with the Gospel, and to teach and train believers to know and grow in their walk with and service for Christ. It is in this community of believers that I am able to contribute my meagre gifts of preaching and teaching and others are able to contribute their gifts of giving, mercy, music, administration, and leadership.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
The fact that our church can carry out our mission where we continue to help people find purpose and meaning, help to strengthen marriages, help to support families, and bring hope to people who feel that life is cruel, is due to one fact: only God.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Because our church's mission includes teaching and training, and because ICI College is one of the best Biblical teaching and ministry training providers, it makes pefect sense that the two enterprises complement each other. In fact, one of our young men, Rhys, who gave his life to Christ in our church, has completed the ICI College course- The Christian Life Program (which is 18 subjects). He is now completing - The Christian Service Program. I am extremely proud of the hard work that Rhys has done and know that God has His hand on Rhys for a powerful future. Rhys is not the only one either. But neither is our church the only only church with such students. How did this happen? Only God.
As we press on into our future answering the "why" with zealous service of our Saviour, we could be fooled into thinking that we are not making progress. Afterall, followers of Christ are now being mocked and ridiculed in the mainstream media, the Parliaments of the land, and the lecture halls of our accademies. How shall continue to answer the "why" of our existence? Only God? How shall we continue to seek to persuade people of their need for The Saviour and encourage them to repent and trust Him? Only God. How shall we continue to help people to be taught and trained for Christ? Only God. How shall we continue to broadcast hope and truth and raise the monthly funds needed to do so? Only God. How shall you become the strong, secure, mature person God wants you to grow into? Only God. How will you find the finances to pay your mortgage, your car, your electricity, while trying to raise a family, finish your education, and save for your retirement? Only God. How will you prepare your soul for eternity while most of your attention is on the now? Only God. Churches need God. Bible Colleges need God. Christian broadcasters need God. Only God. You need God, only God.
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.