Wednesday, April 20

When the event is not the event

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

The events we plan are often not the real event at all. God's work takes place in ways we could never have forseen. After the dust settles, what remains is what God intended, not necessarily what we had set out to do. The event itself ends up as a "side show" for the main attraction God has in mind.

Israel Baptist Church Choir performance of "Libertado"
 Esmeraldas story. Some seventeen years ago we planned a musical choir evangelistic presentation in the northwest province of Esmeraldas in Ecuador. Long hours were spent in rehearsal. Money was raised to cover the ten-hour bus trip, hotel, and food. In short, 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 and other venues to promote the event.

On Saturday night we arrived at the rented hall--the largest venue available in town for what was supposed to be our big city-wide performance. After getting the electricity turned on, props, and sound check, instead of the hundreds of people that we expected there were less than a dozen present for the start of our musical presentation. I was disappointed to say the least. Did God not hear all the prayer, or honor all the work and effort into pulling this thing off? All that and for what? Less than a dozen people?

We went ahead and performed the program just like we had rehearsed over the past months. 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 quickly as possible and forget the whole disaster. How embarrasing!

As we packed to leave, two women approached and seemed to want to talk. I was in a bad mood and pretty ticked about the whole deal, so I turned them over to Chilean missionary Juan Lara while I went on with the business of packing up and getting everyone back on the bus to the hotel.

It wasn't until later that I again talked to Juan. What those women shared 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 were overjoyed that God had answered their prayers that evening and were looking forward to working with Juan to start the new church.

To make a long story short, a church was indeed planted, the "Nuevo Amanecer" (New Dawn) Baptist Church. Today it is one of the strongest churches in Esmeraldas impacting not only the city, but the entire province.

This past weekend was the first time we had been back to Esmeraldas since that disastrous evening. When invited to do the church planting conference, I had no idea this would be the church hosting the training. It wasn't until we got there on Friday night that our host grinned as he reminded me, "this is the church that was planted when you guys came for that concert ..." I was overwhelmed with emotion and could hardly believe all that God had done over the ensuing years as we met with the eager group of twenty-five pastors and leaders.

That night in Esmeraldas so long ago had been for us a complete failure humanly speaking. But God wasn't interested whether our performance was a success or failure, as much as he was in answering the prayers of a few women who had long been crying out to the Lord of the Harvest. God had so much more in mind than allowing us to sweep in and "bless Esmeraldas" with a fantastic weekend event. His plan was bigger than anything we could have ever imagined. Today, Nuevo Amanecer is the church most responsbile for training new leaders who are going out and starting new works all over the green province of Esmeraldas.

Since then whenever I plan a program/event/meeting, I try not to get too worked up about the numbers who show up, or the apparent visible outcome. God's ways are not our ways, nor his thoughts our thoughts. We try to be faithful to do our part. After years of these kinds of planned activities, I have learned that God's purposes often lie outside of our understanding. Often they have little to do with the event or activity we think is so important. It is not up to us to judge or measure what God does or doesn't do by our own standards.

Oswald Chambers put it well when he said, "God plants His saints in the most useless places.  We say God intends me to be here because I am so useful...God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and are no judge at all of where that is.”

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

10 comments:

Don said...

Good story!

GuyMuse said...

Thanks, Don. I understand you've had some incredible experiences yourself the past couple of weeks. Would love for someone to share some of the ideas and conclusions that came out of the meetings.

Gary Snowden said...

Great testimony, Guy, about the Lord's plans often being different than our own. Hope you and the family are doing well in these days. Blessings!

GuyMuse said...

Gary,

Thanks for stopping by. We are doing well. Hope the same for you guys. Is.55:8-11

Tim Patterson said...

My favorite line in this post... "But God wasn't interested whether our performance was a success or failure, as much as he was in answering the prayers of a few women who had long been crying out to the Lord of the Harvest."

GuyMuse said...

Tim,

You are right. We often forget that the heart of God is on people coming to Him. We confuse our "kingdoms" with His Kingdom. I remember a quote that goes It took me such a long time to see, God's Kingdom revolves around Him, not me.

The Parousia Network Cyber Cafe said...

This was brilliant! Thanks for sharing the story and for reminding all of us Who's really in charge of our plans!

Aussie John said...

Guy,

Had a similar, almost identical, experience in the early days of the first church I was called to.

It was an Easter Convention, my idea, my plans, my effort.

Your story reminds me of my own emotions, and bitter feelings, and later how we saw God doing what He wanted. A rude awakening to the fact that we needed His stamp of approval, and His Spirit as the mover.

Thanks for the reminder

GuyMuse said...

John,

Thanks for sharing. We are all pretty hard-headed, aren't we? Having things go the way we want them to seems to be the norm. But, thankfully, the Holy Spirit continues to move forward with his own agenda making all things beautiful in his time! :)

GuyMuse said...

PNCC,

Thanks for the kind words. Keep up the good work on the newsletter. I always enjoy reading what you have to share.