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Preaching in the Desert

“Arise, and go toward the south…which is desert.” Acts 8:26

Most would say this was not a good business decision.  For Philip to abandon a spiritual monsoon for a dubious desert trek flew in the face of common sense.  Why leave thousands to reach one?  But there was water in that Gazan desert that neither Philip nor his fellow evangelists knew was there.  Through this one outreach to the Ethiopian eunuch, the gospel which had been revealed to the Jews, then to the Samaritans, soon to be preached to the Gentiles, had now reached the dark-skinned races of Africa.  A huge door was unlocked and barriers of prejudice and discrimination were flattened before the floodtide of belongingness.  This agapé love was unleashed because of a man who was faithful to the call of his heart rather than the report of his fleshly eyes and ears.

I have been writing a column for this publication for over eighteen years.  That’s 216 articles, give or take a few.  I’ve written on almost every subject under the sun, although sometimes it probably wasn’t clear if I had subject!  My target readership has been ministers, laity, church leaders, students, and anyone who needed a word of encouragement or instruction.  If I were to guess, I’d say a small percentage of those targeted knew I had them in mind, and an even smaller percentage have actually read the articles.

And so the question begged is why should I write?  Why continue to put words on paper, month after month, with no accurate way to tell who and how many read them?  The answer is simple:  it the stewardship of the call.  The call of God to communicate the gospel comes from an inner motivation, not an external stimulus, and it must be preserved against any form of degradation.  Sure, it’s gratifying to get occasional positive feedback from appreciative readers, but no person with a genuine call uses the strength of feedback to spur him on to write, or preach, or teach, or sing or witness.  It comes from within.

I rehearse these facts as a reminder to every called and commissioned vessel of God.  The size of the audience you speak to, the numbers of people who read what you’ve written and the largeness or smallness of the crowds to whom you minister must not determine your faithfulness to your task.  There is something far more sacred than the catchy show tune “There’s no business like show business; nowhere could you get that happy feeling when you are stealing that extra bow.”  While the heavy population centers attract us, and for good reason, our ear must always be attuned, not to “stealing that extra bow,” but to the cry of the individual, the one, lone plaintive plea from the man from Macedonia, or the woman at the well, or Zaccheus in his Sycamore tree, or Nathanael under the fig tree.  “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” Luke 15:7.

The social and commercial paradigm in which we operate lives and dies on marketing, demographics and trends.  Our marketing acumen has grown so sophisticated that our every move is tracked by computers which profile our taste in clothing, food, cars, vacation spots, leisure activities and countless other preferences.  But we are wrong to rely on any carnal calculus to gauge the value of our work rather than clear voice of God.  Someone said recently, “Rather than a purpose-driven church, we need to be a Spirit-led church!”  May God help the Apostolic church of today never to forsake our reliance on the Spirit and power of the Holy Ghost to determine where we are to go, who we are to reach and what we are to say. 

Oneness Pentecostalism in Ohio spread into our rural countryside, to towns and villages that seemed to hold little promise of the great revivals of Los Angeles, Houston or Indianapolis.  Unacclaimed evangelists laboring in obscure farmlands began to gather a harvest that remains to this day.  Those pioneering preachers dug out congregations in Athens, Zanesville, Lancaster, Newark, Portsmouth and even tiny Crooksville, and many more, because they heard from God, not because they saw grandstands or dollar signs.  They found water in the desert.

Here’s an interesting fact about the desert.  “When rain falls in deserts, as it occasionally does, it is often with great violence. The desert surface is evidence of this with dry stream channels known as arroyos or wadis meandering across its surface. These can experience flash floods, becoming raging torrents with surprising rapidity after a storm that may be many kilometers away.” –Wikipedia. 

It could be that those with enough faith to preach in the deserts will experience an outpouring that will rival anything the big cities could see!   

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