45 years of Ministry
Do you ever look back over your years of ministry and wonder what it all means? In recent months, nearing retirement and looking back over our years of ministry has made me reflect on its significance. My father, Ray Allen, pastored churches for 45 years from the 1940’s to the 1980’s. This summer also marks 45 years of mission ministry for my husband and me as well. If you’re feeling discouraged in ministry today, I hope my reflections will encourage you as much as they have encouraged me.
Right now, Art and I are traveling through Northwest America on what will probably be our last regular furlough. We’re visiting churches who have been hit hard by Covid and other stressful circumstances over the last few years. Our travels have also given me opportunity to visit some of the churches that my dad pastored so long ago. Some are in serious decline, but I found a delightful surprise in a church I’ve never been in before.
My Dad pastored his first church in the tiny town of Worthing, South Dakota in the 1940’s. When Art suggested we visit this church, I wondered if it would be worth it. The church no longer met in the same building as in the 1940’s and I wouldn’t know anyone. Why should we drive out of our way and give up a furlough Sunday to see a church my dad pastored before I was born? But what I found touched me deeply.
We drove up to the storefront church building on main street and went in to meet Jerry and Crystal Miller, Continental Baptist Missions missionaries who were revitalizing the church. Soon we sat in the second row, just a few seats away from a man named Mick. Pastor Jerry opened the service by introducing us to the congregation of about 25 people. My mom, he said, led Mick’s mom to the Lord 80 years ago! Lorraine, Mick’s mom, is now 94 and lives in a retirement home in town. She still remembers my parents.
Tears streamed down my face as I realized that my parents’ ministry lives on, 80 years after Dad pastored the Worthing church, 33 years after he passed on to glory. It lives on in Lorraine, and her son Mick who grew up in a Christian home because his mom came to Christ during their ministry.
Dad’s ministry in Worthing was unusually fruitful. Though about a hundred people attended the church when Dad became their pastor, only 4 had assurance of salvation. The previous pastor had preached about salvation, but never challenged people to actually go ahead and make a salvation decision. In Dad’s first year there, 65 people were saved! Imagine the trickle-down effect those initial decisions made in the families and friends of those 65 people who just needed a little encouragement to become saved.
And that was just the beginning of my parents’ ministry. Over 45 years, my parents influenced hundreds of lives. As a result, many were saved and grew in the faith. Lives changed as my parents offered biblical counsel. My parents mentored couples as they got started in ministry. As my parents became true friends of their people, some of their hearts rubbed off on others. Their lives mattered.
Are you discouraged today because your best efforts to serve the Lord are producing little visible fruit? Take comfort in this precious promise.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58. (NKJV)
We need to grab a hold of this promise because, when we don’t see visible results, it’s easy to get discouraged. We give our lives hoping to make an eternal difference. When we can see God working mightily, it’s easy to keep going. It’s always easier to remain faithful to God if we can see some evidence of the effectiveness of our ministry. But when we don’t see spiritual change in the lives of those we serve, it’s easy to give up.
We need to remember that the Lord often works in ways we can’t see. When a person “suddenly” gets saved, most often it’s the result of a variety of people praying, planting seeds, and being faithful friends. Other life changes also take time. The changes may seem sudden, but may be caused by the Lord’s quiet work in them over many years. God may be using us to do his work in them. When we see change, that makes all our efforts worthwhile. When we don’t see change, we still need to be faithful.
Today take courage in God’s promise. Our labor is not in vain. Even when we see few visible results.
May the Lord bring you fresh encouragement today. God sees your work and He is working even when you can’t see it.
Your work matters.
“For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward his name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” Hebrews 6:10 (NKJV)