About a year ago, I wrote a post about the clear call I received from God into Compassion’s ministry as a Child Advocate. There was then and is now no room for confusion or doubt.
But at some level, I apparently thought a clear call to ministry meant that God would go before me, opening many doors and leading me to pastors and ministry leaders who would be receptive, all resulting in hundreds of child sponsorships, every year. Well, dozens, anyway.
But that has not been my experience, which has left me variously puzzled, frustrated and often discouraged. What does a clear call or direction from God, mean, then, if not that the ministry will be fruitful?
Recently, as I pondered the question again, Moses came to mind. Now there was a man with a clear and definite call: Go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let My people go!
Finally persuaded to obey, Moses set out for Egypt. On arrival, he quickly discovered that God had not prepared Pharaoh’s heart to cooperate. Ten plagues later, Pharoah agreed, only to change his mind and give chase.
Many other examples can be found, but think about just a few of the obvious examples:
- Peter boldly preached the gospel message of Jesus Christ and was repeatedly tossed into jail. His call was clear: “Feed my lambs.”
- Paul boldly made multiple missionary journeys, preaching, speaking, doing miraculous things in the name of Jesus. Several times, he was thrown into prison; once he had to be let down over a wall in a basket at night to escape. Could a call from God be any clearer than Saul/Paul’s?
- Jesus Himself was God incarnate, God in human form, the God/Man. Say it however you like, He was fully God and fully Man, come to earth to show us how to live and to reconcile us to the Father. For three years, He poured Himself into 12 men whom he had hand-picked to be His disciples, and He still lost one of them. Then, accused, put on “trial” by Jewish leaders, taken before Pontius Pilate and tortured, He was crucified.
Obviously, the clearest of God-initiated calls to ministry of any kind do not mean everything is going to go without a hitch. So what does it mean?
I can’t claim to have the ultimate answer, but here’s where I am.
Any member of Compassion’s Advocates Network will tell you that getting invited to share Compassion’s ministry with many churches requires a real passion for finding sponsors and sharing all that Compassion’s ministry accomplishes. It also requires patience, persistence, and the ability to rise above what sometimes feels like personal rejection.
Obtaining an invitation from a given church, I’m told, can take three or four years of repeated contacts and relationship-building. This, I have staunchly resisted applying to myself, whether due to faulty expectations or a prideful desire to be the Wunder Advocate.
My awakening came a few months ago at a luncheon for church and ministry leaders. I had conversations with two pastors with whom I had spoken many times.
I have previously met with the home-group leaders at one of the churches and enjoy the full support of the pastors … short of doing a Compassion Sunday. The other pastor and his family are Compassion sponsors, but I have had no invitations from him.
The first of these two pastors advised me to talk to the home group leaders, again — and to expect to do so again. Repetition — the squeaky wheel.
The other pastor mentioned changes in his congregation and its focus, so I asked if those changes would mean a fit for Compassion. His answer: “Not yet, but we’re getting closer.” Ahh!
As I drove home after the luncheon, a question crossed my mind: “If I am called to be a sower of seeds, am I willing to do that?”
Hmm … well, I would really like to take part in the harvest, but … yes. I am willing to be a sower of seeds.
Wow! What a relief this is to me! I felt the pressure lift from my shoulders and from my soul.
I don’t have to worry about the results! That is not my job. I have not failed, and now I have been set free!
I can now call pastors and other church leaders without thinking every conversation should end with an invitation, because I am a sower of seeds. That is my job, and I can do it better, now, than ever before. Praise God!
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Fear of failure can be powerful and prevent the risk-taking required to share the message.Thank you for the encouraging reminders!
Vicki, I really enjoyed this post. It does seem strange that it is so difficult at times to find churches willing to allow someone to speak on behalf of “the least of these”. I think someone mentioned a while back that some churches might be worried that people would use their tithing money to support this cause. Well, would that actually be so awful? Let’s see……something new for our church or……..releasing a child from poverty?……….Hummmmmmm. I also really appreciated your perspective on sowing the seeds and not always feeling so personally responsible for every sown seed. Who knows what will come of every presentation or even request to present?
Vicki, thanks so much for sharing your heart! Many seeds are being planted because of your faithfulness! In the Lord, when we are faithful, we are successful, so keep on! You are doing a wonderful thing!
May the Lord continue to bless you in your efforts to be His hand extended.
Thanks Vicki…I needed that! I am a relatively new advocate and sometimes get worried about getting the “best” results. I’m glad you are helping us remember that the results are not up to us. Our job is to remain faithful!…so awesome 🙂
Thanks for the post, Vicki! It’s great to get a new perspective so I won’t feel like I failed if I don’t get children sponsored at one of my presentations.
Thank you all so much for your comments! I knew I couldn’t be the only one who struggled with this; still, it’s nice to hear from others who do or have!
Sara, did you attend the 2007 Advocates Conference in NY? I will never forget Wess’s making the point that our job is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, in the direction that God has set for us. That helped me, for a while, until I got down, again.
Lisa–thanks for sharing that angle, too!
Mary, I used to ask pastors (on first contact) if I could do a Compassion Sunday in their church. Then I heard someone translate that through a pastor’s ears: “I want your pulpit, your time and your money.” Great door-slammer! :o) If you do become an advocate, know that terrific training is available in all aspects of Compassion’s ministry. Take advantage of such training, so that you’ll have a good grasp of the various ways a church can partner with Compassion. Then, when you have an opportunity to talk with a pastor, you can say, “We have these ways…; which avenue do you think would be most feasible for your church, and of greater interest?”
Kees–Move to Florida? Is that near Nineveh?? It would take a clear call of God to get me there! :o)
Britt and Chuck, thanks for your words and encouragement! I remember, too, a friend of mine pointing out, one time, that many seeds must be planted to grow a flower.
I hear the call on me to plant some more seeds!! God bless every one of you!
Awesome post…I echo your same sentiments. As an AC I make it a point to tell my new advocates that it is not so much about the results but rather the action. All we can do is plant the seeds “for the least of these”- that is our role. God will provide the harvest. Thanks Vicki!
“I apparently thought a clear call to ministry meant that God would go before me, opening many doors and leading me to pastors and ministry leaders who would be receptive, all resulting in hundreds of child sponsorships, every year. Well, dozens, anyway.”
Hmmm…this sounds familiar – I too thought the same thing. I was disappointed, and began to think I “heard” God’s calling me to be a child advocate all wrong.
I read a book called “The Simple Path” by Mother Teresa and one quote has stuck with me-
“We are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful.”
After I read that, I felt the huge weight off my shoulders. Isn’t it amazing how God speaks to us?!
Vicki, GREAT POST! And keep on sowing those seeds!!!
I think back to my first introduction to Compassion when I was 18 years old. It was at a Christian concert. The lead singer who spoke that night was fantastic, but I wasn’t in a position to be a sponsor at that point in my life and I didn’t sign up — and who knows, he may have gone home feeling discouraged that he didn’t reach more people.
But the reality is I NEVER forgot his presentation — and years later when I was in a position to start contributing to an organization, Compassion International was the FIRST place I went to.
That musician planted the seed. He played an important role in teaching me about the problems faced by children in poverty. So whatever feelings he had about his presentation and its effectiveness that night — the reality is it had a powerful impact and a long reach.
You’re an example to me of an advocate, who is amazingly fruitful. Have you considered moving to North Florida, so you can join my team? Actually…. Arizona, lovely cacti, the beautiful desert…. Now, that would take a calling to leave that!
Thank you for this post. I have been thinking about becoming an advocate but have not yet decided to do so. I was recently discouraged when I asked a Pastor I knew if I could do a Compassion Sunday at his church and he never even got back to me (even though he told me that he got my email and would get back to me.) Anyway, thank you for reminding me that the results are not up to me but that I need to do what God calls me to do anyway.
This reminds me also of our calling to spread the Gospel, that I need to share Jesus but that the Holy Spirit is responsible for convicting and converting.
Thanks for the change in perspective. I often feel that I have to be a part of that harvest and feel like I failed if that did not happen. I will be working on changing my perspective.
Another good example of a person who had the call of God but did not achieve the world’s definition of success was Jeremiah. God called him and gave him an important task, yet no one ever wanted to listen to him.