A Locked Gate Philosophy of Ministry

Locking the Gate

This Sunday I will be speaking from Acts 19 on the open doors of ministry and enemies of Paul.  One of the more interesting parts of that passage is in 19:8-9.

Acts 19:8   And he (Paul) went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. 9 But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.

Evidently after preaching the Gospel (19:8) some refused to believe while others were open to Salvation and spiritual growth.  Paul’s response was to draw those who were listening into a more intense discipleship ministry, and leave those whose hearts were hardened.  In practical ministry terms Paul got to a point where he refused to waste large amounts of time or energy on those who refused to listen.

In all the years since Paul’s death things haven’t really changed that much in missions

Some individuals will be open to the Gospel….

And some will absolutely refuse to believe

The challenge for us in evangelism is separating ourselves from those with hardened hearts, and calling the disciples into a deeper teaching ministry

Yesterday was without a doubt one of the worst Bible clubs since my time began in Barrouallie (maybe the worst).  It was as if EVERYTHING went wrong!

  1. Large groups of kids came, stayed for 30 seconds, and then left
  2. A boy got angry I didn’t give him a good mark and threw my water bottle
  3. One child chased another through the Church who he was sure cheated at a game (she didn’t)
  4. Two boys were sent out
  5. One got into the fetal position on the floor and started crying so I had to physically move him with one hand on his shoulder (he was misbehaving and I told him to leave)
  6. A girl walked in, whacked two other girls on the head with a plastic bottle, and walked out
  7. I ended up talking to two of the children’s mothers (only talked to one since I started Bible club)
  8. My sweeties (candy) were stolen
  9. And there were two phone calls during Bible club that I had to take

In other words it was chaos….

Now part of that could be described as children just being kids, however since yesterday I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about how to make sure these chaotic days never happen again.  And the Lord has helped me realize one of my biggest mistakes is I left the gate open.

Tabernacle Baptist Church has a white gate that is always locked, so after unlocking the front door you unlock the gate, and walk in (gives added security).  When its almost time for Bible club I will go inside and open up the windows being careful to keep the gate locked till its time to begin.  Technically the gate remains locked after we have started Bible club (I learned from experience kids like to come in and distract people partway through) but anyone who wants to come in is allowed.

As much as it hurts me, I can no longer have an open gate policy for Bible club.  Because along with those children who want to learn more about God are some who are only there for tablet time, juice (koolaid), or my sweeties.  If a child initially comes for those things its okay, but if that remains their only reason for coming there is a serious problem.

The truth is I’m a big softie who would gladly allow every child in Barrouallie to attend Bible club regardless of how they acted.  But the true damage of this ministry philosophy is the disciples who are being ignored because Mr. John is spending all of his time and energy on the troublemakers.  Eventually they will either side with the troublemakers (those are the ones who get the attention anyways) or go somewhere else to get their teaching.

In my head I have a list of five children who I’m willing to unlock the gate for today’s Bible club.  This is a big change from the groups of twelve or more I’ve been used to but in the long run this will glorify God as with the Lords help my list of disciples who are invited inside the gate grows.


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