Listening: time well spent

Have you ever listened to someone talk for what you thought was a few minutes, but it turns out you had been listening for an hour or more?

It happened to me recently as I sat-in on a recording for The Grind, an Arkansas Baptists podcast where church planters share their God-stories, planting strategies, and their heart for reaching the lost. I had never been a part of a podcast before (and really, I didn’t contribute to the conversation! I was just present for the recording), but I have to say my first time was a memorable one.

For this episode, The Grinds hosts (Dave and Chad) invited a local, seasoned church planter from Hot Springs named Mike Prince. A soft-spoken man with a calm demeanor and firm yet gentle handshake, Mike seemed to have everyone in the room listening for the wisdom he might share.

He talked about hanging out at McDonald’s as a way to try and have Gospel conversations. He talked about wrestling with the people God has called him to. He talked about “coincidences” that in the end proved to be divine appointments. He talked about God saving people’s souls and changing their lives.

All the while I was thinking, What’s keeping me from doing what Mike is doing? Is it because I don’t have the burden for the lost that I think I do? 

As if to answer what I was thinking, Mike said, “Right now we have so many opportunities, but we need the workers…people who will be all in.” How appropriate it was that this was one of the last things he said for the podcast. It was like a call-to-action.

{ “Right now we have so many opportunities, but we need the workers…people who will be all in.” }

~Mike Prince, Garage Church Hot Springs 

What had felt like a few minutes in the podcast turned out to be much longer, and I think time spent with God tends to be like that sometimes. I might not have physically seen Him in the room where we were recording the podcast, but His presence was there in the words Mike shared.

Mike was speaking of His redemption for His people. Mike’s heart was echoing the Lord’s heart: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

I left thinking about what years in a prison cell must feel like to a person without Christ. This is what it’s like for the people Mike ministers to in prison. Then I thought about what a day in heaven must be like, when Scripture says, “Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10a). What a gift not just for the prisoner but for a sinner like me.

I may not be a church planter. But I’m a believer. And sitting in on this podcast was a reminder of the work that I’m called to do, too.

Listen to The Grind episode with Mike here:
By Rachel Gaddis
Rachel is a member of the communications team for Arkansas Baptists
Advertisements

God is already there

By Nicole Hutcheson 

I spent this summer on the other side of the world in Southeast Asia. Though I can’t say which country I served in, I can say it is against the law to “Christianize” the people who live there. The good news is that God is already there, even in the hardest and most closed places.

It’s illegal to share the Gospel. It’s hard. But we have to go!

My team and I had to use a lot of discernment as we talked to people, but our priority was not the number one concern—the people we met were. Someone told us during training that we were on a rescue mission, so we kept that mindset the entire summer. 

We would really want to share with someone, but the opportunity did not come up naturally in the conversation. Silently, we would ask the Lord to please open a door. So many times I was praying that specific prayer, and the door would open right in that instant.

Relying on God

We had a neighbor in one of the cities where our team was staying. For several weeks we visited with her, but the opportunity to share the Gospel never came up.

On our last night in the city, we were having dinner with this woman. I was sitting on the edge of my seat asking God for his help because we still had not shared the Gospel.

Then my teammate sneezed. The woman turned to her and said the traditional “May Jesus bless you,” but in her language. When I heard her say his name I asked, “Would you tell me what you just said?” She said it again, so I asked, “Do you mean Jesus Christ?” In that moment we shared the entire Gospel with her.

{ Later, our team talked about how God just used a sneeze to share the Gospel! }

Also about the midpoint of our trip our team was struggling because we hadn’t seen a lot of fruit from our work. We knew that the Lord was faithful—that we might just be planting seeds—but we were praying and hoping we would see someone come to know him.

We had the day off from work, so we were spending the day at the beach just paddle boarding, relaxing, and having a good time with our team coordinator and his family. One of my teammates went down the beach to buy coconuts for us, and he realized the guy he was buying from had a Bible verse on his shirt.

He asked the man if he knew what the shirt said and meant, and when he answered “no,’’ my teammate shared the Gospel with him. The man accepted the Lord on the beach right there! The guys went back later and talked with him, studied the Word, gave him a Bible, and really solidified that faith.

It was just the coolest thing to see that, but this moment spoke to more than that. We were trying so hard to be faithful and wanting things to go the way we thought they should, and when we least expected it God moved into that man’s heart and changed his life.

God is definitely moving in this nation! (For a similar God story, be sure to checkout Lee’s post “God is still on the move” about a divine encounter with a member of the Arapaho Tribe.) 

Sharing the Gospel is more than telling

Last September, I was reading in the New Testament and God told me I should checkout church plants in our area. I thought, “That would be cool. Ok.” A few days later, my Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) campus minister, Lee Woodmansee, told me that a local church planter would be speaking at one of our events.

It was Lee Kemp. After he spoke, I introduced myself and told him, “I’m coming to your church on Sunday.” I’ve been going to Forefront Church ever since.

After I got back from Southeast Asia, I was sitting at Forefront and very distinctly God told me, “This is what you’re going to do. Go out and make disciples.” In order to go and make disciples, we have to have to create a place to come together.

standing-on-mound
Nicole (left) with members of her team.

We can’t ignore that fact as believers. We can’t just go and tell people about Jesus. We have to see it through! We need people to grow with new believers, to come beside them, and walk with them through life. You get that that discipleship and community through church.

To me, it’s not about becoming a “church planter.” It’s just part of my call.

Attending Forefront, I’ve kind of seen how church planting works. I’m pretty sure that will be my future in international missions: planting a church with local believers and knowing the church and their outreach will continue even after I leave.

I don’t know how I will get to that point, but I think it’s a biblical truth. That’s what we should do. One of the things they say in East Asia’s underground church is this: “Every member of a church is a church planter, and every church planter plants churches.” 

College, missions, or both? 

I’m not on the field right now, and that’s hard! I’m now a senior at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. I know I’m supposed to finish school, but I also need to play an active role in missions work.

We had one lesson this summer that was about different aspects of missions, like praying for and mobilizing missionaries. What that looks like for me as a college student is telling people about my experience, encouraging them to do international missions, and explore those options with them.

At the same time, I just completed the first step in a long application to become an IMB Journeyman. I had kind of written it off as too big of a commitment (two years), but after a summer of serving with Nehemiah Teams I am convinced this is what God is telling me to do. So I’m praying he will see me through again!

Want to learn more about Nehemiah Teams? Be sure to checkout the “Team Work” CP Share story!   

Nicole’s video diary