Sunday, November 9

The event is not the event

The mind of man plans his way,
But the LORD directs his steps.
(Prov. 16:9)


More often than not, the event we plan and carry out is not where the real Kingdom action takes place. While we may plan our programs, the real work of God often takes place on a completely different level. We have our purposes; God has his own. When all the dust settles, what remains is what God intends, not what we set out to do. The event itself ends up as a "side show". Not the main attraction.

Esmeraldas story. Years ago I remember planning an evangelistic musical choir presentation up to the northwest province of Esmeraldas in Ecuador. We had rehearsed long hours, and spent months raising money to cover transportation, lodging, and food for some forty people to make the ten-hour bus trip. Countless hours of prayer, rehearsal and performance details were invested in the Esmeraldas outreach event. Once we arrived, even more work went into door to door publicity and a few mini-concerts held at local schools to promote the event.

On the Saturday night of what was supposed to be our big city-wide performance we arrived at the rented city hall--the largest venue available to us--to find less than a dozen people present for our evangelistic musical presentation. I was upset to say the least. This had to be a joke God was playing on us. All that prayer, effort, money, work, and for what? Less than a dozen people!

We went ahead and performed the program just like we had rehearsed. The choir outnumbered the audience four to one! At the end of the presentation, an invitation was made for people to make a public decision for Christ. I wasn't surprised when no one came forward. All I wanted to do was get out of there as soon as possible and forget the whole disaster.

As we packed to leave, two women approached and seemed to want to talk. I was in such a bad mood, and not feeling very "spiritual" (I was pretty ticked about the whole deal) so I turned them over to the local national missionary who was standing nearby and went on with my business about getting everyone back on the bus to the hotel.

It wasn't until later that I talked to the local national missionary who had indeed talked with the women. What they had told him is that for YEARS they had been praying for someone to come to Esmeraldas to share the Gospel. Their "dream" was that God would somehow plant a church in their city. They expressed to the missionary that they felt God had answered their prayers that evening.

To make a long story short, a church was indeed planted with that small group of people who showed up that night. After only a few months the church became the strongest Baptist church in that whole region of the country, and continues to this day to impact Esmeraldas for Christ.

What had been for us a disaster that night in Esmeraldas; for God, was his answer to the prayers of a few women's prayers. God had much more in mind than just a weekend event, He had in mind planting His Church in a needy and forgotten province of Ecuador.

And to show you just how awesome our God is, one of those two ladies who approached me that night, is today, the prayer coordinator on our church planting team in Guayaquil. Her prayer ministry, not only started a church in her hometown those many years ago, but today continues as an active team member helping us start dozens of churches all over Guayas and the surrounding provinces. The last time I was with Fabiola, before coming to the States on furlough, was to observe as she trained a room full of pastors in the steps to start new churches: the first step being the indispensable role of prayer!

Whenever I plan a program/event/meeting, I try not to get too worked up about the numbers who show up, or the visible outcome. We try to be faithful to do our part, but after years of events, I am convinced God's purposes often lie on the peripheral edges of our original intentions. It is not up to us to judge or measure by our own standards.

Oswald Chambers put it well when he said, "The idea is not that we do work for God, but that we are so loyal to Him that He can do His work through us."

In your own life and ministry, have you seen instances where the event is not the event?

4 comments:

Joe Cross said...

Outstanding story Guy! What if instead of just planning big evangelistic events, we always had this same end in mind...of planting a church or a movement that would continue to move the Gospel forward in that place.

I love how that wasn't necessarily your intent in this story, but God made it His.

GuyMuse said...

Joe,

Thanks for stopping by and for your appreciation of what, I too, think is a remarkably encouraging story about the way God works, in spite of all that we do to get in the way!

to-obey-is-better said...

Just this morning, my husband and I were talking about a recent "event" that took place in our country of work.
About twenty families received new homes from our group (imb)...these families are nomadic, are the poorest of the poor, and had lost their homes in a storm. At this time, no "church" has started, but our hope is that the Lord will use this gift and who it came from (people who love Jesus) and he'll grow that knowledge into a knowledge of Himself as they read the Bibles they've been given and as local believers follow up in the coming months.

Then to read this story tonight, just affirms to us that God can and does take those small things (or small numbers of peoples reached) that we (humanly) think can't make much difference and can make something glorious out of it.

We pray He'll do the same here!

Thanks for sharing!

GuyMuse said...

To-Obey-Is-Better,

Thanks for stopping by. I clicked on your blog and enjoyed reading through several of your latest entries. Much of what you share is similar to our own experiences, especially some of your "Life Here" observations! :)

I am increasingly convinced that most of the real Kingdom work that is taking place, takes place in unexpected ways than those we plan for and execute. Hence, this post, "The Event Is Not The Event". What I am learning is simply to trust God to bring about his purposes and accomplish his will. Sometimes he allows me to see what it is He is doing, but other times not. In the later cases, I remind myself it is His Kingdom, and He doesn't owe me any explanations. I am a servant. The servant doesn't question the Master--but it is nice, when the Master allows us a "peep" into what He is doing!