Friday, November 6, 2009
God is able to do Immeasurably more...
I once had the joy and privilege of hearing George Verwer give a series of sermons on missions at a Missions Conference. As he spoke one thought kept running through my mind. How did he do it? From scratch, he built a missionary organization, Operation Mobilization (OM). Todate, OM has been the channel through which more than 100,000 people has served in the mission field. The ministry’s ships, Logos II and Doulos (see above picture), still navigates the world’s oceans, distributing Christian literature and delivering the gospel message in various languages and in various forms wherever it docks. Even as I write, OM has commissioned a new mission ship, LogosHope, even though George no longer helms OM. OM currently has over 4,000 missionaries spreading the gospel in over 100 countries, and counting, on this planet. That is really a wide-spread and far-reaching ministry. I don’t think even George had any inkling of the mighty ways God would use him in ministry for over forty years.
After listening to George’s messages delivered at the church conference as well as at our church, the following are some reflections on how George did it. Or perhaps I should say how God did it through George.
George made himself available. From the moment of his conversion, George availed himself to whatever ministry was open to him. He shared the gospel with his college mates. During his summer holidays, he would, together with his friends, travel to Mexico and distribute copies of John’s Gospel. George knew that Christian living was dynamic and based on action for God’s kingdom. Obedience to God did not mean sitting in an office, dreaming big visions and then waiting for the ‘right moment’ to get them done. George bloomed where he was planted and did what he could, whenever he could, wherever he could. He knew the secret of obedience was to get up and go. It does seem to have a simple ring to it – God calls, George goes. The same possibility exists for us. Will we respond in the same way?
George had a ‘Kingdom of God first’ mindset. I guess I should be glad that I was not a local church or denominational leader when I attended the conference. Listening to his plain-speaking ‘tell it like it is’ manner, I would probably cringe when George pointed to strictures and rules that tended to isolate or separate the local church or denomination from other co-labouring organizations. I think, George always thought first of whether an action had an impact on God’s kingdom first. To him, an action’s positive impact on God’s Kingdom was more important than judging whether the action was ‘politically correct’ or if it conformed to the church system and rules. George’s attitude echoes Paul’s words in Phil 1:18, “What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” We could do with such a mindset in ministry by concentrating on the major issues that unite us rather than be distracted by the minor issues that threaten to divide us. To paraphrase what George said, “we can have unity in diversity.”
George was a team player. While most people saw George as Mr. OM, I doubt George saw OM as a one-man-operated agency. It was awesome to know he already had an army of tens of thousands of people backing him up in prayer regularly. Yet, after the first talk, he still stood outside the door, diligently giving out prayer letters to enlist even more prayer warriors. Even when he started out handing out gospels, he did not do it alone but with a team. George mentioned people whom he brought along on his trips. With them, he cultivated a Paul/Timothy relationship, mentoring them for leadership. George has now passed the OM baton to others and moved on to holistic ministries reaching out to the abused and marginalized. Yet, OM continues to thrive and expand its ministries. This is perhaps the greatest legacy of George’s team attitude, something we should emulate. Will the ministries God has entrusted us with thrive after we are gone or will they collapse because we did not do our part to ensure other people could carry the baton too?
I am also very sure George did not just keep the ministry going through passion, charisma and drive. Rather, he knew that it was God doing the work through him. All he had to do was obey. As his website says, George walked ‘emphasizing the need to worship God, live in fellowship with one another by walking in the light, and live a disciplined life of victory as forgiven, repentant, Cross-centered Christians.’ George as been doing ministry now for fifty years, and counting. That is a lifetime for most of us. He is a good example about walking a life that pleased God and doing the things that were close to God’s heart. We many never achieve the harvest that George did but let us emulate his life and attitudes anyway.
For more on George Verwer, please go to www.georgeverwer.com