Recently I had the great privilege of speaking at a memorial service after the passing of a family friend. I saw this man come to begin a relationship with Jesus just a couple months before his passing and it was important to me to be there, even though I knew almost none of his family. He and his wife retired about 10 years ago and had lived in various places up and down the east coast in their RV since retiring. At the memorial I was introduced to one of their good friends that they had met during their campground travels. His name was Wayne. Wayne had extended stays in a few of the same campgrounds as my late friend, and they had developed a good relationship over the years.
After welcoming everyone to the memorial service and saying an opening prayer, I invited Wayne to come up and eulogize our late friend. Wayne started by explaining that he wasn’t a preacher, but that he was “just a child of the King”. Wayne then went on to describe in his distinctive southern voice how they met and had become good friends, sharing humorous anecdotes along the way. But after a few minutes Wayne began sharing about how he spoke to our friend many times over the past few years about Jesus. He explained the gospel in simple terms, just as he had with our friend in recent years. As he spoke, I kept thanking God for the encouragement that I was receiving through Wayne. This man was speaking with boldness, clarity, conviction, and an honest legitimacy that often isn’t available for clergy. It’s not that vocational pastors can’t speak to this legitimacy to the ears of a listening audience, but sometimes it is easier to establish this legitimacy in the minds of an audience when it is a lay person delivering the message. You see, when I have gospel conversations with unbelievers, most of them are thinking “yeah, but it’s your job to say that… you’re a pastor.”
Wayne’s words encouraged me, and they fell gently on the ears of everyone listening. Partly because of his clarity, but partly because he wasn’t seen as one who had to share because it was his vocation. He wasn’t sharing a scripted line, but a heartfelt and personal testimony of God’s grace. What Wayne lacked in the way of formal seminary education, he leveraged by speaking candidly about his own faith. Wayne had obviously been a faithful student of the Bible over the years, and his words of grace seemed to flow effortlessly from his heart.
I’ve thought a lot about Wayne since that memorial service, and I’ve thought a lot about how everyone of us who follow Christ have the same responsibility to testify to God’s grace through Jesus.
The Bible speaks to this clearly. Consider 1 Peter 2:9 where all who have been redeemed by Christ are called a “royal priesthood”. The priesthood is not just the clergy – the vocational pastors. The priesthood is all the redeemed. And all the redeemed are called to be ministers of the gospel in our unique contexts. Some priests are called to serve as doctors, some as waitresses, same as retail workers, some as truck drivers… and some are called to serve on a church staff. But we’re all called to serve as priests.
The last words of Jesus are a call-to-action for all his disciples. In his Great Commission Jesus says for his disciples to go and make other disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). Did you know that’s why the mission of CBC is what it is? We are called to magnify Jesus Christ by making disciples who advance the mission of God among all people. What is the mission of God? I just referred to it in the Great Commission. It is to make disciples. So, in other words, we are called to make disciples who make disciples. That’s what we’re called to as the collective priesthood.
What kind of steward are being of God’s grace?
We are all stewards of the grace of God. The only question is how we are stewarding this gift. We have the message of redemption, but are we sharing it for the sake of God’s glory and the eternal security of the people we do life with? Consider Wayne. Wayne took seriously his stewardship and he took advantage of the opportunities God appointed for him to speak to our friend. And you know what, God used Wayne’s faithful witness to till the soil of our friend’s heart.
This reminds me of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he writes:
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers.” (1 Cor. 3:6-9a).
God was at work in our friend’s life. First through Wayne and then through me. First in Florida and then in North Carolina. The Lord used Wayne and he used me, but it was the Lord that was at work all along. The Lord’s sovereignty is on display in situations like this. Wayne planted, I watered, but our sovereign Lord of salvation was giving the growth.
I want to exhort you, dear brother or sister, to make yourself available to the Lord today, for His name’s sake. Engage the Word of God today and regularly that you may be armed with the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17) and “as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” (6:15). We have the tools to be equipped for ministry… the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16), the church (Eph. 4:11-12), and the Spirit of God (Matt. 28:20; Acts 1:8). We must choose to arm outfit ourselves with all that the Lord has provided for this work, and then we must choose to engage in His work.
You’ll never feel like you’re adequately equipped for all the possible scenarios that you play out in your mind, but we’re still called to be good stewards of the grace of the gospel wherever we’re at. But take it from me, one who was “just a child of the King” doing lay ministry for years before becoming a vocational pastor just 5 years ago: the Lord is faithful and able to work through your feeble attempts to serve Him. His power is made perfect in our weakness. He is the sovereign Lord. He is looking for us to suit up, to make ourselves available for His work, and He’s faithful to provide the grace we need.
Wayne identified himself as “just a child of the King”. The faithful witness of that one “child” has been an encouragement to me and a blessing to others he has ministered to. I hope it serves as an encouragement for you today as well.