Category Archives: Ministry Outside The Church

Three Apostolic Parables

 

I’m calling these parables apostolic because they define a church that sees itself as sent-ones, sent by God from heaven with God’s grace from heaven, to invest wherever God has placed us on earth.

takes an effort to experience the gifts and works of the Holy Spirit outside the sanctuary, and it’s worth every bit of it.  Three of Jesus’ parables, all in Matthew 25, tell us what sort of effort to make.  The parable of the five wise and the five foolish virgins, makes it clear that we need to stay filled with the Spirit, so we’ll be ready when a door of divine opportunity opens.  Then, the parable of the talents tells us to invest what we’ve received in Christ.  Finally, the parable of the sheep and the goats tells us where to invest:  in people, and especially in those who are needy.

It can take an effort to stay filled with the Spirit.  The main effort we need to make is to seek God in secret.  It can happen in prayer, in worship, in Bible study, in soaking, or in many other ways.

One great way to seek God in secret is to thank Him for what He’s given us in Christ.  This doubles as a good way to identify what we can invest in others as we go through the day’s activities.  In view of the riches God has given us in Christ, there is much more to every believer trhan any of us will see when we look in the mirror, until the days come when we start shining with His visible glory.

It takes still another effort to go where we can invest the riches of Christ in us, we need to go where people are.  For many of us, this doesn’t take any special effort.  A typical day will often place us with people, at school or at work, in restaurants or in stores.  But then, if we act on the words of Jesus and “lift up our eyes,” and behold Him, we often find ourselves in moments of divine opportunity.

But sometimes we need to identify the places where God is calling us to troll for divine appointments.  My Bible reading today took me to a verse in Acts that shows me God must have taught Paul where to look for divine appointments.  Here’s the quote:

They came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. “Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.  (Acts 17:1-4)

 

Paul made it a habit to use the opportunities that made best use of the gifts God had given him – everything from his Jewishness, his grasp of the scripture, and his knowledge of the customs and mores of his kinsmen, the Jewish people.

I’m sure it took prayer and heart-searching to develop this sense of mission, so that he had a customary way of looking for divine appointments whenever he was led to bring the gospel to a new territory.

Has God given you this kind of focus yet? It isn’t that we all have to be apostles, but we do need to begin to think of ourselves as sent-ones, people sent out with a God-given mission pf love, healing, and grace.  .

As you linger in His presence and step out to act on His words to you, you’ll begin to identify where you can best find divine opportunities.

I know one lady who goes to her city’s bus station week by week.  She’s also been led to give haircuts to the homeless. When I was a pastor in metro-Detroit, we often took a team of street evangelists to Clark Park on Friday nights.  Sometimes we also worked with a coffee-house ministry in another neighborhood, going out onto the streets and compelling people to come in.

Some of these assignments are seasonal.  They might last for a few days, a few weeks, or, a few months.This means God will sometimes tell you it’s time to find new ways to reach out.

It’s all part of how God will send us to the people all around us.  “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

 

Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

 

Learning God’s Timing

Twice in the past two weeks, I’ve seen God’s faithfulness as He led me in ministry encounters outside the church.  But both times might have been more powerful if I’d moved more quickly.

Episode One.  As I ate lunch in a Mexican restaurant, I suddenly sensed Jesus walking behind me and healing someone of an acid reflux problem.  I’ve sometimes gotten words of knowledge for healing in a church service, and this felt like that.

The restaurant was furnished with small tables, and each table had four chairs.  There were two tables behind me.  One had a couple who might have been in their thirties or early forties.  A younger couple sat at another table, and they had a toddler with them in a car seat.

So who was the word of knowledge for?  I didn’t know, and there were five people to choose from.  How was I to act on this word, without looking weird?

I thought about it and thought some more, keeping my heart open for more instruction if God wanted to give it.  But I heard nothing.  While I waited, the older couple left.  Now there were only three people to choose from.

I finished my lunch, and  turned to the young couple with the child.  “Pardon the intrusion.  I’m not trying to put a trip on you, ” I said.  “but I don’t know how to do this.  While I was eating, I sensed Jesus walking by and healing an acid reflux problem.  He likes to do things like that for people; I’ve seen Him do it in church many times.“

“It isn’t me,” said the younger woman.  “I don’t have an acid reflux problem.”

“I’m glad you don’t,” I replied.  “Who needs it?”

“Thank you for what you just did,” she said, “and thank you or how you did it.”

She was thanking me?  I was sitting there, thinking I’d made a fool of myself, and she was thanking me?  And her husband was nodding in agreement.

Then I caught on.  “It’s a new year, and I live by grace, not by law – so I never make resolutions.” I said.  “But I do plan to be bolder about stepping out when I sense God doing something.”  Now they were both nodding at me earnestly.

“Reading between the lines, I’m guessing you’ve heard a few testimonies about this kind of thing, and you’re hungry to step into it.  Go for it.  It gets easier and easier, and God will teach you.  ¥ou’ll have a great time.”

“Thank you,” she said again.  I got up and left, smiling and nodding at both of them.

Episode Two.  This time I was having lunch with a friend in another restaurant, but as I looked at the two men in the next booth, I suddenly had a prophetic word for one of them.  It was based on the last verses of Ezekiel 34 about shepherds going after the sheep that have wandered away.  But how should I give the word?  What if the man wasn’t saved?  What if he didn’t believe the Bible?  What if he didn’t even believe in God?  What if, what if, what if?

While I played Twenty Questions, he and his friend left.

The lesson.  Then when it was too late, I found out that the man I had the word for was a pastor.  The word I had for him probably would have confirmed something God was already telling him.

Both episodes convict me that I need to act quickly from now on.  It’s all part of the school of the Spirit developing an instinct for timing.

Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

Testimonies Beget Testimonies

At our Gathering last Sundy, we shared testimonies over our meal together.  Lately, I’ve had several each week about prophetic ministry outside the sanctuary, but this time I wasn’t the only one.  As we shared our stories, We noted several things God is doing in us as we step out prophetically with strangers.  (1)  It’s getting easier.  (2)  God is making us more loving and less cynical/judgmental.  (3)  The manifest presence of God goes with us, and these encounters are drawing us closer to Him.

How do we evaluate these experiences?  So far, we haven’t led people through “the sinner’s prayer.”  Is it really evangelism?  Should we continue?

“Are you giving them good news?” somebody asked.  Yes.  We’re talking about what Jesus is saving them for more than what He’s saving them from.

I shared a testimony in an email and received this reply.

So many think God wants to take things away from them, but He wants to give us so much if we just say “yes” to Him.

This is why it’s important to help people pursue destiny.  It focuses them not on what they’re being saved from, but what they’re being saved for.  And that one simple paradigm shift makes a huge difference in staying power, etc.  In other words, without a vision the people perish.

So far, we’re seeing that God is giving us relationships with the people around us through these prophetic glimpses He gives us of His purposes for them.  It’s then up to us to follow through with prayer and by nudging them towards Jesus day by day.

So as God leads you and uses you,  keep sharing your testimonies with one another.  God will give you more.  Not long ago, I was the one sharing them; now a table a table full of people were sharing them.  Testimonies beget testimonies.

Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

Lift up Your Eyes With Friends, Family, Or Strangers

Lift up your eyes, whether you’re with friends, family, or strangers.  You never know what God will do.

In our Gathering a week ago, I received an unexpected flood of revelation about the beatitudes and what I call the two-story life – see http://gospelsmith.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/paraphrased-beatitudes/.

Then, a few days ago, JoAnn was facing a long day of mindless and repetitive work.  She needed to make cards and tape them to items she was preparing to display for sale.  A friend came to help her with the task.

Soon, the paper cutter and tape were  laid out on the dining table.  But JoAnn needed to go to another room to print more cards.  So she invited me to the dining table to keep her friend company until JoAnn could get back to the dining room herself.  So the friend worked and we passed the time with conversation about prophetic ministry, inside and outside the church.  “It’s all in II Corinthians 5,” I explained.  There’s the conscious effort to see people not after the flesh, but in the light of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.  This glimpse of people in the light of God’s love and grace is often enough to launch the prophetic flow.  I’ve seen it happen in church many times.”

‘But lately, I’ve been seeing it outside the church.  Jesus said it this way in John 4 when revival broke out in Samaria.  ‘Lift up your eyes and look on the fields.’”  It’s all a matter of learning to lift up our eyes.”

For years I had asked God what this phrase means.  I have sensed for a long time that a harvest has been ripe all around me, and I haven’t always had eyes to see it.  What might change if I were to learn to lift up my eyes and look at the fields?

A Many have taught about ministry outside the church in the last few years, and as JoAnn’s friend kept working the paper cutter and the scotch tape, I could tell she was hungry to walk in what she’s heard.  “I think of it as a two story life,” I said.  “The first story is on earth, where we do what needs to be done, but the second story is in the heavens, where we’ve been seated in Christ.  The treasure we carry in our earthen vessels is always ready to flow with the resources of heaven.  We just have to be ready to lift up our eyes…”

“What does this feel like?” she asked.  I answered with two recent testimonies:  Two pastors had taken me to breakfast that morning, and I had given a prophetic word to our waitress.  Then, like most fishermen, I also had a story of one that got away; I told of a waitress who had simply wondered if my order was okay and had asked me, “Are you in heaven?”  “I had replied, “As a matter of fact, I am!”  But then, I should have said, “Can I get you anything?”  I didn’t think of it then, but I’ll make another opportunity, next time I see her.

The rhythmic thump of the paper cutter continued, and so did the questions.  Suddenly I realized that God Himself had foreseen this conversation and had spoken into it at the last Gathering when He had given me insights about it.  I offered one last explanation as JoAnn returned with more cards and they finished the display.  “Frankly, Jesus taught us all about it in the beatitudes.”  And suddenly, the nudge came to lift up my eyes because God had a word for our friend.  I lifted up my eyes, and there was the word.  I gave it.  A few moments later, she had to leave, but her eyes were tearful as she said, “Thank you.”

Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

Angelic Help In The Harvest

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Sometimes God nudges us with conviction – showing us something in our inheritance and inviting us to press into it.  As we respond to His nudges of conviction, we often encounter an avalanche of wisdom and revelation.

With that in mind, I’m led to reread Genesis 24.  This story of Eleazar finding a bride for Isaac can speak on another level, giving us a parable of how we might expect angelic help as we engage in the harvest, finding a bride for Christ.

To keep this article short, I’ll simply list the verses in Genesis 24 and what they suggest about angelic activity in the harvest.

 

Verses 11-12.   Elie’s focus.  Elie focused not on the angel, but on God’s covenant with Abraham.  It was God’s covenant, not an angel, that gave meaning to Elie’s mission.  The angel simply facilitated a success in three stages.

Verses 13-20.  Stage One, Selection.  A random idea on Elie’s part gave the angel something to work with to create a coincidence that would begin to testify that God was setting the whole thing up.  “I’ll ask the girl for a drink of water.  If she’s the one for Isaac, let her volunteer to water my camels also.”  And then, a few minutes later, Rebekah gave drink to Elie and his camels.

Verses 22-33.  Stage Two, Escalation.  It was important to find the right girl, and she had to be from the right family.  So after the angel helped Elie choose the right girl, the next coincidence was that she was from the right family.  If angelic help guides us to the right person to share Christ with, the escalation factor is the next step.  For Isaac, several people would have to make decisions if the bride was to come home with Eleazar and marry Isaac.  She would have to consent, and so would her family.

What began as a conversation with one girl became an opportunity to lodge with a whole family.

And while seeking a bride for the Son of God, the escalation factor applies again.  If the woman at the well was the first, the escalation factor led her to testify, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did.  Could He be the Christ?”

Verses 33-67.  Stage Three, Decision.  Rebekah and her family all had to choose for her to go to marry Isaac.  The coincidences the angel had arranged helped convince everyone that God was setting everything up.  This helped them make the right choices.

In gathering a bride for Christ, the Holy Spirit is the one who brings conviction that leads to saving faith.  But angelic help can set the stage.

Can we expect angelic help in the harvest?  If so, we can expect God to lead us to individuals who will lead us to families or groups, who in turn will hear our message.  Expect escalation.

Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  www.GospelSmith.com

Using My Prophetic Joke About Almonds

To my surprise, I made a joke and God turned it into a prophetic encounter.

 

I sometimes disapprove of my humor and my playful little jokes, but they don’t seem to bother God.  To my surprise, I’ve found Him to be playful too, at times.

Not all the time, of course.  When it’s time to be serious, He is.  But God has a delightful sense of humor.  Here’s what happened.

 

JoAnn and I decided we needed a day off, and we drove to an artsy little town on California’s central coast.  As she enjoys the knickknack shops more than I do, we agreed that I would sit in a favorite coffee shop while she poked around in stores.  I had my Macbook Air to keep me company.

Not wanting the coffee to disrupt my digestion, I thought it best to get a pastry.  It was a day off, so my diet could wait.

I saw something with almonds, asked what it was, and said, “I need one of those.  If I eat almonds, I’ll prophesy.”

“You can prophesy over me,” said the lady who runs the coffee shop, “as long as it’s a good one.”

“I stick with the New Testament guideline to edify, exhort, or comfort,” I replied.

 

Can prophetic ministry begin with a joke?  In this case, the joke got me to open my mouth.  Often, God is ready to flow through us, but we need us to open our mouth so He can fill it.  See http://www.squidoo.com/open-your-mouth-to-flow.

I tend to be shy, but my little joke about almonds led me to volunteer to prophesy.

Why almonds?  Years ago, I was joking about the opening lines of Jeremiah.  “Jeremiah, what do you see?” God asked.  “I see the rod of an almond tree,” said Jeremiah, and this vision was the start of his prophetic ministry.

I used Jeremiah 1 as an excuse to eat a chocolate bar full of almonds, claiming that it would stir up my prophetic gift.

So now, more than a decade later, I was joking about almonds and offering to prophesy.

 

I ate my pastry and drank my coffee, and the lady who runs the store neared my table.  “The almonds did the trick,” I said, “and I really did see something.”  Then I gave her the word I had received.  By the time I finished, she said to me, “It’s pretty accurate – right on.”

 

So now I thought I’d better explain.  The last thing we need is an almond cult.  “I have to tell you I don’t get spooky about almonds.  It’s just a little running joke I play with God.”

She laughed heartily.  I think it touched her, that someone would have a friendship with God that would be so tender that it would leave room for a long-standing joke.  But the word I had for her was not a joke; it was an affirmation of her care for the poor.  Apparently she had given and had cared.  I hadn’t seen it, but God had and He told her He had noticed.

 

So it took a joke to get me to open my mouth.  But once the flow started, God moved on from he joke to the serious part.

 

 

Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com

 

 

 

Overflow Communion Glasses

It isn’t that the communion glasses overflowed.  It’s that Margaret, one of my four crazy friends, went to a few thrift stores to buy small glasses we can use for communion at our Gatherings each Sunday.  But the Holy Spirit overflowed as Margaret shopped.  She decribed it in an email.

 

Hi Stan and JoAnn,  I thought that it might interest you to know that one of your crazy friends is using your comment about liking to use real glasses for communion as an “opener” for witnessing.

Yesterday I went to 6 thrift stores as I went about my errands. I was looking to build a set of glasses for your house church. Unfortunately there were very few really small glasses (I haven’t given up of course).

However in explaining what I was looking for and why, I was able to use it to lead into talking about the Lord and about what the communion service is really about. Had several opportunities to witness.

 

In particular one young woman became very excited about the idea of taking communion in this way. She is on fire for the Lord and is about to set up house with a group of other Christian women in SLO.  She is going to lead them into making this practice of sitting around the table and honoring the Lord’s death and sharing with one another about Him a part of their communal life. She is also going to start assembling  sets of communion glasses  and small dishes to give them as birthday or Christmas gifts because she says she knows how much her friends will be so blessed as they take communion together, honoring the Lord and sharing about Him, that they will want to continue it throughout their lives.  She was so excited with what she saw ahead that I realized that God was dealing with her and opening an aspect of ministry for her (one to one and in small groups) where she could be an encourager and nurturer/teacher. As I spoke to her I remembered your teaching  about speaking into stranger’s lives regarding an aspect of what the Lord plans to do through them.

 

This morning on waking I got one of those butterfly nudges – so tentative and easily missed, which is one of the ways God gives me instructions regarding my day, and it was to pray for Joan, one of my stepdaughters. I couldn’t get anything specific so I phoned her. We had a prayer time and sweet fellowship by phone, then I told her what I had been doing. She also was very excited about the concept of taking communion in her home with friends. She is about to start  a study group and this idea caught on with her and she is planning to get the glasses immediately. We all know that it is not about the glasses, but is about honoring the Lord and making the “remembering the Lord’s Body” not just a  Sunday requirement but a part of when we come together at all sorts of times. It can lead to deeper sharing, to meaningful prayer for one another, and to listening to and ministering to the Lord with a depth and sweetness that goes beyond structured services and routines.  See what you have started?

On the practical side – the selection of small stemmed glasses was limited, but because people behind the counter were caught up in the idea and enthusiastically helpful, I ended up with quite a few functional (but not what I had in mind) small stemmed glasses. I have washed them and will bring them for you to select from and build your own set. I thought about the mismatching, but them it occurred to me that we are such an assorted bunch – tall, short,  – all different types and personalities, but having in common the content of the Savior, just as the mismatched glasses will carry the blood of the Lord representing His gift common to all of us. Also – who knows how big the group will get and we may need quite a few glasses.

 

This is rather long-winded but I hope that it blesses you. Love, Margaret.

 

Stan Smith  ::  © 2011, GospelSmith  ::  http://www.GospelSmith.com