While getting read for my first meeting during a quick two-month furlough a few weeks ago I came downstairs and asked my father a very important question…do you think I should bring Kev?
Kev for those of you who don’t know is the name of an inflatable kangaroo I used to bring while sharing my burden for Australia with Churches. One reason for bringing Kev was to have fun with kids because all the good little boys and girls got to sign him with a permanent marker. But the real reason for my bringing him was connection with people.
Every missionary knows when speaking at a Church the most important thing to do is get people to visit your display table. There you can give out prayer cards, start a conversation, get them to sign up for a newsletter and pretty much start a relationship. Because of this many missionaries use something that draws attention to their table; whether its something from the mission field, food, or a laptop showing pictures. Kev was my attention drawer and he did an excellent job, I always loved watching the excited expressions on people’s faces as I walked in with him.
That time though Kev stayed home and not just because there aren’t any kangaroos on the island since everything else on my display table was Australian. No he stayed home because I didn’t want it to all be about me.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we view ourselves as psychological cups filled with emotional needs (to be loved, feel successful, etc). This isn’t a bad thing because God created us with this desire to be loved. The problem is many people (myself included) become so focused on filling our psychological cup with the love or acceptance of others people HAVE to love us if we are going to survive. Eventually we will begin turning to social media to fill our cups because people don’t give the love we crave.
A few years ago I learned Satan also loves to twist something that should glorify God like a ministry presentation until its all about my cup…
One challenge for missionaries when visiting a Church (particularly one that can support you) is making yourself memorable. Most of the time unless you’re in a missions conference the people will see you for about an hour to an hour and a half so you quickly have to find a way to stick in their mind (oh I remember you, you’re the guy who ___________). I know this sounds like your selling a ministry, but it’s necessary since there are so many missionaries going to foreign fields.
Along with Kev to make things memorable God has given me the gift of connecting with people through public speaking. This is strange because I’m an introvert by nature but put me in front of a crowd and suddenly I turn into an extroverted story-teller. This gift for public speaking helped me share the burden God has placed on my heart for Australia in a very powerful way.
Originally those ministry opportunities were created to equip Believers in local churches so they could reach their own mission fields and gain their prayers. But later Satan started filling my heart with pride and the presentations goal was to connect with others in an emotional way (therefore filling my psychological cup). It took me a while to realize those services had become more about “the John show” than my burden for Australia.
I can remember driving home from a meeting one night in a bad mood and beginning to think about it. “Why am I so angry when the Lord gave me a wonderful opportunity to share His call on my life?” Eventually the answer came….not enough people came to my display table after the service. While driving on the highway I immediately confessed to the Lord my sinful pride in gauging the success of a ministry presentation on how many people told me I did a good job.
While putting together a ministry presentation before coming back from St Vincent in February the Lord helped me make equipping others for missions a focus instead of my own ministry. This doesn’t mean I don’t share my own needs or burdens of course, but the end goal is encouraging Believers to reach those in their own religious mission field like Barrouallie. And in this way pour myself into others instead of expecting them to fill my own cup.
Not that it’s always easy
Recently after a ministry presentation everyone but one or two people completely ignored my display table and it did hurt a bit. But on the way home I reminded myself it wasn’t about how many people visited my table, instead it was about how many were reminded of their calling to share Christ.