Not many people in Barrouallie know me as Pastor John, the majority of them call me “Mr. John” like the kids in town. The truth is that name fits me really well because my focus since arriving in SVG has been on building Gospel bridges into the lives of others.
- Through relaxed conversations during the week
- Ministries like Bible-club or computer tutoring
- And conversations during my afternoon walks
These relational bridges are a very important part of missions in a world where respect or trust is something earned over time instead of being demanded right away, …building them is long hard work, but definitely worth it.
After being in Barrouallie for over eight-months I’ve seen the Lord build bridges into the lives of many people (both adults and children)…and now its time for me to start using those bridges for His Glory by becoming Pastor John
Now at first there doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference between Mr. John and Pastor John
- We are both the same person (obviously) and use the same spiritual gifts
- We both have the same personality
- In both cases my emphasis is on the children of Barrouallie
- And both are part of the same ministry (Tabernacle Baptist Church)
However when it comes to goals we find a drastic difference
- The goal of Mr. John was to develop relationships for future ministry
- The goal of Pastor John is to minister in the lives of others with the Word of God
- For members of Tabernacle this would involve discipleship, counseling, or public teaching
- For the unsaved this would involve evangelism or a one on one bible study
Probably the greatest way to illustrate the difference between being Pastor John and Mr. John is the idea from Church ministry book “The Trellis and the Vine” where they encourage Churches to train future leaders by asking that “they spent at least fifteen hours a week in ministry with an open Bible.” In other words the emphasis is on explaining and applying Scripture instead of ministering to other needs, or building a relationship.
There’s no doubt eventually our relational bridge must be used to minister with Scripture (it’s called a Gospel bridge after all) but that doesn’t mean its easy to make that transition. In fact moving from Mr. John to Pastor John is more difficult than most of you would imagine.
Why? Because being Mr. John is a lot more fun
About four months ago I created a game with kids in town called “steal Mr. John’s lashing hat”; it’s actually pretty much what it sounds like, I chase kids around with my Australian leather hat hitting them on the arm (not too hard) and conveniently dropping it so that they can lash me back. Many hours have been spent playing his repetitive but fun game.
Last year got my exercise from 10k training runs, last night played “steal Mr. John’s hat” For thirty minutes…last night was more fun
— John Wilburn (@Johnhwilburn) June 17, 2016
Here’s the thing…its a lot of fun being Mr. John…but it won’t lead children to Christ. Of course that foundation does open doors for the Gospel but eventually you have to stop laying more relational blocks and do something with the ones already laid.
While the lack of fun is part of what makes this transition hard, the true challenge is entering into a Pastor John relationship with someone has a much higher risk of failure or rejection than a bridge building relationship. Anybody would be willing to have a conversation about their spiritual beliefs, but few are willing to have a Bible study together or experience the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
In the end many of the bridges I’ve built into the lives of Vincentians will end with being Mr. John because they refuse to take the next step in commitment. But I’m still called to move from a “bridge building” relationship to one that teaches the truths of Scripture.