D7. VARIOUS MINISTRIES AND OCCUPATIONS
SPIRITUAL MINISTRY WITHIN HCCN
The emphasis of our whole existence however, was still the salvation of souls and the building up of the people of God, especially so for me. As I said earlier, at a certain time we were supervising some fifteen home cells, totalling more than 150 members, so we attended a different cell or visited different cell leaders just about every night of the week, giving guidance as to how to conduct their cells and of course also counselling and encouraging them. We also assisted them by counselling members of their cells for the cell leaders were of course not on the level of trained pastors and did not have answers to all the questions they were facing. We thoroughly enjoyed this work and by the wonderful grace of God, we saw some good things happening in most of the cells and saw them multiplying as new leaders emerged from their ranks.
It was there that I realised the importance of developing leaders within every group of people to whom one is ministering. If one does not do that, one’s ministry will stagnate and one will be ministering to the same group of people, over and over, for the rest of one’s life, which is not what God wants us to do. In the natural run of life, a man marries a woman and they have children, who in turn marry and have children and so it continues up to the day when the original husband and wife may become great-great grandparents and then pass on into glory. That is what a fruitful couple does. In the Spirit we should do likewise and are able to accomplish a hundred or a thousand times more.
In the course of our ministry we learned these valuable lessons which stood us in good stead later in life. During our earlier ministry as evangelists doing outreaches, we had ministered to people, as it were, from a distance. We presented the Gospel to them, led them to the Lord and then handed them over to local pastors to nurture them in the Lord, but now we had made a very personal contact with all sorts of people and were amazed at the depth of corruption of human nature, but also of the terrible pain and anguish Christians went through while going around with a smiles on their faces.
I was always under the impression that professional people, because of their studies and the responsibilities they were bearing in the course of their professions, would be lifted to a level where they would recoil from using physical violence within their marriages. My perception was that it was just below their dignity to do so. Now that we got to know such couples personally, I was astonished when they confessed to hitting one another with their fists and wrestling on the carpet till one got the upper hand and held the other down on the floor! Goodness me! I could have believed that tensions arose within such marriages causing them ultimately to divorce, but physical violence! I had to keep a straight face and just contemplate texts like Jeremiah 17:9: “Corrupt is the heart above all things; who can know it?” (How important it is for the Lord’s counsellors to have large ears and very small, tight-lipped mouths so as to be found reliable to be entrusted with such embarrassing, inside information, not giving way to temptation to spill the beans.) On listening to such a confession one had to ask the Lord for a special anointing of grace and humility to serve these dear struggling children of God as a servant, from the bottom upwards and not from the top downwards. One had to be quiet for a couple of minutes, reflect on the secrets of one’s own heart, which God, by grace, did not reveal to others and then, with eyes filled with tears, counsel them as led by the Holy Spirit.
On counselling couples who were going through marriage related struggles, we repeatedly discovered that the root of the problem usually was a poor relationship with God. One also had to be very careful not to have a one-sided approach. The judicial rule of: “Audi alterem partem,” (hear the other side) applies equally to Christian counselling. When discord erupts within a marriage, the wife is normally the first to approach her Christian leader in tears, telling how she suffered under this brutal husband. Men, especially Christian men, normally tend to feel compassionate towards the weaker sex and are easily moved by their tears and sobs. I am no exception and often made the mistake of then being biased in favour of the wife when setting out to counsel the couple. My unfavourable attitude towards the husband would be strengthened by the fact that he might tend to be sulky and uncooperative because of the fact that he resented his wife revealing confidential matters. The Lord, however taught me and I gradually developed a more balanced approach and would, from the outset, tell the husband that I appreciated the fact that he might feel offended by his wife bringing their problem to us, but that I thought some good might come of it by us bringing the whole situation before the Lord and would therefore appreciate to hear his side of the story. What also helped was the fact that Martie always, but always, accompanied me when counselling a woman. Though I would lead such a session, she would have ample opportunity to give input and often came up with very valuable insights. As I said, we normally discovered that the root of the problem was a poor relationship with God and we would spend most of our time counselling them on how to put this right and if they were unwilling to do so, we would refrain from any further marriage counselling for it would be in vain. There were of course cases with one of the partners at least 90% at fault in which case, after having spoken to the “guilty” partner, we could only encourage and pray for the other one. Our congregation also did much by way of premarital courses and counselling and marriage seminars to build healthy spiritual homes.
Finances was another area of Christian living that caused stress, shame and, when not dealt with, could land a marriage on the rocks. Our congregation very seldom rendered financial assistance to non-members, but when it came to long-standing members who ended up in some sort of financial quagmire, we went a long way in assisting them to recover. In the beginning we would, for instance, buy them groceries and pay as many of their bills as possible. Should their predicament continue for a longer period, we would insist on their submission to financial counselling by some of our experienced businessmen or other people equipped to do so. They would be required to submit a detailed report concerning their debts as well as their monthly income and expenditure. We would then assist them financially for a longer period on condition that they stick to our monthly recovery plan. Some benefited in this way but there were those that stumbled from one ditch into the next and sometimes left our congregation to join up with some other where they were unknown and would be helped all over again. They just never learned the lesson that you cannot spend what you are not earning. They somehow believed that if you were a Christian, the Lord would not only provide in your needs, but also gratify all of your greeds. A number of businessmen also allowed their imaginations to soar way above reality and would not be counselled by those that had walked the long, demanding, sacrificial road to well-earned success and material affluence.
Some members, whom God had blessed with much material wealth, gave liberally to the work of God but unfortunately there were also those that were very tight-fisted, fearful of giving away too much and being reduced to poverty – so they lacked in faith. There were also those that just loved to see their bank accounts and other assets multiply day by day and month by month. Greed is a deep-rooted vice that is very difficult to be eradicated from the one that has nursed it for a lifetime. Such a person, when being baptised to signify the death of his old nature in Christ, spiritually speaking, raises one hand in which his purse is clenched, well above water level! My view in this matter has always been that there is no sin in putting in all one’s effort to make as much money as one can, on condition that one wisely invests one’s profits in the Kingdom of God, retaining just enough for a decent living and enjoying some pleasures as led by the Holy Spirit.
In guiding Christians to spiritual victory, we have continually been amazed at God’s incredible patience with His children. There were those that had deeply ingrained problems (sins) which, notwithstanding all our counselling and prayers, were not resolved. These “problematic” children of God would, however, continue attending a home group as well as congregational meetings and when we met them many years later, they had changed remarkably for the good. One would then see the love and joy of the Lord in them. Oh, the persistent grace of God that never gives up on us.
During those years of ministry we also saw the value of home groups (cell/life groups) in effecting spiritual growth in members of the Body. Under the guidance of a well-trained and somewhat matured cell leader couple, every member receives individual care, learns to pray and speak his thoughts in public, gets the opportunity to minister to others and learns from other’s strong and weak points. The New Testament churches were in fact mostly such smallish groups of Christians that gathered in homes, not in large public buildings. The Lord Jesus very often met with small groups of people. Congregational meetings where thousands of people gather to worship the Lord and receive teaching and other ministry have their unique place in the building up of God’s people and so have the smaller house meetings.
Probably one of the areas where God taught us most, was not in our ministry to man, but in our ministry to God. Pastor Ed Roebert, the founder of the Hatfield Christian Church, laid much emphasis on praising and worshipping God in the course of meetings and imparted this precious spiritual understanding to all of us. Our own congregation, Hatfield Christian Church North, followed his example and we would normally stand up and spend about three-quarters of an hour in praising and worshipping God. Some of us would raise our hands, even sway our bodies when the Holy Spirit came upon us and flooded our hearts with joy. Then again tears would course down our cheeks as we were humbled in His presence. Such times of intense praising and worshipping of God, laid the foundation for the subsequent effective ministering of His Word.
If someone would ask me what the greatest thing was that I learned in the course of my association with the charismatic movement and especially with the Hatfield Christian Church, I would without hesitation reply: “Not the preaching, nor the ministering of the gifts of the Spirit, but the praising and worshipping of the living God.” That is the basis of all Christian ministry. First of all, learn to minister to your Creator, God, Father, Deliverer, Councillor and Friend, and then be led out by the Holy Spirit to minister unto man or to pray for your own daily needs. Martie and I are still doing it daily. Apart from having our, let’s say one and a half hour, of quiet time every morning, we spend a half to three-quarters of an hour together to praise and worship the Lord in song, and in speech which the Holy Spirit lays in our minds or makes us quote from His Word.
A church that does not practise intensive, Holy Spirit led praise and worship, misses the heart of interaction with God, and its members will always be aware of an unquenched thirst deep within their spirits. In the Old Testament, sacrifices of animals and of sweet smelling incense were brought to God, which was fitting for that time, but think of it: what can our God do with an animal? But our praise and worship rise up through the atmospheric heaven, through the starry heaven, into the dwelling place of God and reaches and pleases Him immensely where He is sitting on His throne. It is no wonder that once we have so blessed Him in a way that is acceptable to Him, He then pours down blessings of all kinds upon us, filling our cup with good things, providing for all our needs and using us to minister effectively to the people around us. May our dear Lord, by His Spirit inspire us more and more to become real worshippers that will, in these last days when his Name is abused by the world, uplift Him higher and higher by our praises.
Flowing from and going hand in hand with praise and worship, were the “soaking meetings” we had. During such times, we refrained from ministering to one another from the Word of God or by means of the Gifts of the Spirit. All we did was to praise and worship God for awhile, then sit quite still for some time, sometimes on the carpet with our backs against the wall, waiting on the Spirit to work within our hearts and bring to us a perception of the nearness of Christ, also working within us humility and a submission to the Holy Spirit. These were some very precious times during which we felt as near to God as the disciples did on the mount of transfiguration.
Oh, there is so much more to experience of our living God, but in our modern society we are in so much of a hurry, going nowhere, that we often ride roughshod over the promptings of the gentle Spirit of God, rather than to be quiet, sit still and allow Him to minister to us.
“BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.”
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