Monday, March 5, 2012

My Story (Part 11) - The End of Me

Read Part 10

It was March 2005.  I was in the middle of taking another group through our Evangelism Explosion course.  Let me back track a little here.  Just before leaving Black River, God convicted me that I was not sharing Jesus with people.  In high school, I couldn't share the Gospel enough.  But after the hardening I went through in college, I had lost that burden.  In tears, I begged God to give me a burden for the lost.  A burden began to grow after that, but I fought it along the way, mostly because it would push me out of my comfort zone.  After starting at Lighthouse, I also began a 2-year ordination process with The C&MA.  One of the requirements was to attend an evangelism training event.  The one that was recommended was Evangelism Explosion.  So, in October 2002, I attended a several day EE Clinic at NorthMar Church in Warren, also a C&MA church.
North Mar Church

I had passed my ordination exams earlier in the year.  This involved an all-day written examined, followed up by a couple hour oral exam before our District leaders.  Because I was registered to attend the EE Clinic, my ordination process was considered complete and I was ordained with The C&MA at Stow Alliance Fellowship on September 11, 2002.

Back to the EE Clinic.  It was an amazing time.  I was pushed beyond more comfort zone, sharing the Gospel with people who had visited the church, as well as at a local mall.  I left that time with a clear sense that my life would not be the same.  The burden I had prayed for a few years earlier was now truly coming to life.  I began to practice and teach EE at church with great enthusiasm.  But there was a problem.

My wife and I were looking to find out how much it would cost to put vinyl siding on the house, so we had a company come to give us an estimate.  He gave his sales pitch for over an hour, and I knew everything he was going to say before he said it.  Not because I had a special gift, but because he was following the same outline as EE, but the subject was siding instead of Jesus.  I knew everything down to the point of every personal anecdote he would tell.  This, plus the limited fruit I was seeing, left me frustrated.  Now this was added to the pile of frustration building in my heart.

Ray Comfort
In a desperation to find that "last hope" program, I was doing some searching online.  I found program after program with guarantees that our church would double in size within six months, all we had to do was buy a $1,000 program.  No thanks.  Around this time, I happened to watch the movie Left Behind with Kirk Cameron.  I had heard he was a Christian, and seeing him in the movie made me curious as to what else he was involved in.  After all, there was a time in my life when I modeled my hairstyle after his!  The first thing that came up was some ministry called The Way of the Master.  Never heard of it.  As I read the description, a name caught my eye.  Ray Comfort.  Back when I was being discipled by Joe Schillero, he had given me two tapes by Ray Comfort.  They had pumped me up for years!  I took the tapes to college and only abandoned them after I learned the "real" way of doing ministry.  Remembering the passion I had in my heart when listening to those two tapes, I was shocked to see that name come up again.

When I got to the web site, the first saw I saw was an encouragement to listen to a sermon called "Hell's Best Kept Secret."  I listened to the message and was left in tears.  The sermon dealt with principles of evangelism - of moving away from slick techniques to "make decisions" for Jesus and to get back to the principles set forth in the Word of God.  In regards to evangelism, that meant using the Law of God to reveal sin to make clear a person's need for the Savior.  I felt "burned" by a program before, so I was going to take this slow, despite the conviction I was feeling.  Of course, being in the middle of teaching EE was hard, as I struggled to push the "sale pitch."

For the rest of that summer, I put the principles into practice in my own life, wanting to apply it before getting others in the church "on board."  Throughout that summer, I was at public parks and other places handing out tracts and sharing the Gospel with people - something I hadn't done in about 15 years.  I no longer felt like a salesmen.  As I talked to two guys at a basketball court, one thanked me for not giving a "religious pitch," but for actually taking the time to talk with him.

Pastor Chuck Smith
Around this same time, God brought back another blast from the past.  I came across a message by Chuck Smith from Calvary Chapel.  In the message, he gave his testimony of ministry and how he had nearly burnt out years earlier from trying every growth program out there.  He felt the Lord put on his heart to love the people and teach the Bible one verse at a time.  I had been somewhat familiar with Chuck Smith before this.  I knew the name more than the man.  During those wonderful times at Valley View, I had started to listening to other Calvary Chapel pastors.  It was interesting how God was beginning to bring back all the same influences that had once fanned a flame in my heart for Jesus, only to be replaced by the tricks and techniques I learned in school.  My focus was turning back to Jesus and His Word.

One night, while praying, I resigned from the church.  I told God that I could no longer pastor this church.  It was beyond me.  All I could do was make a mess out of it.  I surrendered the reigns of the church to Him, where they should have been all along.  My heart turned back to prayer and dependence on the Spirit of God.  My focus was on the Word of God.  I began teaching through the Bible, verse by verse.  That night in prayer marked the end of me in many ways.  Though I would only realize later how incomplete that work was!  But from that moment on, I wanted to do only what He would have me do.  Granted, I would not always get it right.  But I knew, if He was not in this work, I would only destroy it.

2005 - a defining year in my walk with Christ and in my ministry.

Read Part 12

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